Blackwood Forest is only a short drive from Winchester, but turn off onto the bumpy track near Micheldever and you feel you’re a world away.
As well as offering over 270 hectares of Forestry Commission woodland for anyone to enjoy, it’s also home to Forest Holidays’ luxury self-catering cabins, which are built right among the trees. Luxuriously kitted out inside, dog-friendly and with soaring windows to take in the woodland views, many of them boast outdoor hot tubs too.
In Beech Class at St Swithun’s Junior School, Romily and Saffy, aged five, are beside themselves with excitement, as their chicks have hatched and are cheeping from the classroom incubator.
Saffy skips off to make a chick from feathers and a loo roll while Romily proudly tells me the best thing about school is getting messy, especially when she’s doing pizza-making.
Thea, who wants to be a firefighter ‘because you can spray lots of things with water’, is counting money in the role-play area, and Milo is deep in concentration practising his writing in a card for his ‘very beautiful’ mummy.
With one-to-one support teacher Christine, Holly is chattering away in a combination of Makaton and speech, reading labels from pretend presents to work out who they belong to.
Winchester gentlemen can shop for stylish British-designed accessories at The Mantique in Stonemasons Court, off Parchment Street.
Founded by Liz Raffles and Jon Walker, The Mantique has a range including well-priced Knomo leather messenger bags, briefcases and organisers, Alice Made This cufflinks, British Boxers underwear and nightwear, Beaumont & James umbrellas, and gentlemen’s grooming products from London Beard Company.
Tel. 01962 867777. www.themantique.com.
Over 60,000 visitors are expected to converge on Winchester on the first weekend of July as over 200 performances in 20 different outdoor sites take over the city for Hat Fair.
An enormous range of performers are taking part in the festival from the primary schoolchildren who will open the festival with a parade themed around Roald Dahl to the 80-year-old performers of an installation called Bed.
Highlights include an Urban Astronaut ‘space-walking’ 20 feet in the air, children giving adults haircuts, a roaming Grassman wearing a suit grown from real grass and the UK première of a stunning dance performance by Collectif A/R from France.
Actress Sarah Parish has a busy morning. I meet her at home, just outside Winchester, where she’s sporting gym gear, without make-up, and clutching a take-out coffee from Caracoli yet still managing to look effortlessly stylish. She’s just come back from a planning meeting at No.5 Bridge Street, where she’s hosting a charity dinner, and is full of apologies for being five minutes late.
Actor husband James Murray, who first met Sarah on the set of Cutting It, is home too, on a break from a three-part TV series, while Sarah’s on a breather from a post-war period drama about a Parisian fashion house for Amazon Prime.
“I play an American heiress and it’s all rather glamorous, with wonderful costumes too,” she says. “Over the years I’ve done a lot of very unglam parts, so it’s nice to be able to get all dressed up.”
Jamie Dean manages Church Paddock Fishery in Bedfield Lane, Kings Worthy.
He says, “Church Paddock Lake had been in the family for many years as part of wider farm land in the Worthies. My dad taught me to fly fish there when I was about five and the family stocked the lake with trout, initially just for our own use.
“In 2011 we opened Church Paddock as a business, allowing me to share my enthusiasm for the sport with other people.”