Traveling with a baby is definitely not an idea of fun for many. I have in the recent weeks, cancelled plans because I just cannot be bothered packing the nappy bag, arranging for substitute clothes and making sure that every tiny thing is up to speed while we are out. But going out actually is not just wonderful for a growing baby (change of scenery is supposed to stimulate and develop their senses) but it is extremely essential for the parent too who can catch a break. So without further ado, here are some places in and around Hampshire that are baby and pushchair friendly.

Virginia Water, Surrey: 

Baby's day out

Located on the southern edge  of Windsor Great Park near Ascot, Virginia Water Lake Reservoir is a great place to enjoy a scenic and pleasant walk. The lake  forms the heart of the affluent Virginia Water village and was created from a water body that existed in the 17th century. The circuit around the lake is about 4.5 miles or 7.2 kilometers and consists of both paved and natural path, this makes it a perfect place to enjoy a pleasant walk with your baby in a pushchair. What makes the walk interesting is the number of eye-catching features that gives character to this place. You will find a luscious cascade, a 100 foot totem pole, replica of a ruined city which was imported from North Africa (pictured above) and so on. I felt that showing these things to the baby was really making her happy whilst stimulating her senses. The best part of the park? It is free (except for parking charges) and is open from 8AM to 7PM every day.

South Sea Beach, Portsmouth: 

south sea beach. portsmouth

I love the sea side and wanted my little one to get acquainted with it at the earliest. Her first beach stop was the South Sea beach, Portsmouth. Although a shingle beach, it has a very tantalizing affect. The beach is made of many  different types of stones, scattered and littered. There is a paved way just outside which makes it easier to navigate the place with your pushchair. There are two piers–the south parade pier and the Clarence Pier; the sites are now amusement centers. On a nice summary day, you will find people enjoying kite flying, para sailing and BBQ. The South Sea is a perfect place to enjoy a nice picnic with your loved ones. Just make sure to wrap your little bundle of joy with layers as the sea side can get cold and windy even during summer.

Royal Victoria Country Park, Southampton:

Image Source: Wikipedia Commons, Hethurs

Image Source: Wikipedia Commons, Hethurs

I love open spaces and gardens and I have realised that taking the baby out to a garden is a great way to calm her down. The Royal Victoria Country Park located in Southampton is a 200 acres mature woodland and grassy parkland, with a small shingle beach. The Park is an ideal place to enjoy some weekend relaxation and leisure with your family.  The park’s ancient woodlands, large open spaces, boardwalks and ponds makes it a great place to enjoy a stroller friendly walk with your little one. From 1863 until 1966, the site was home to the Royal Victoria Hospital. The Hampshire County Council acquired the place in 1969 and opened the park to the public in 1970. All that remains of the hospital is the chapel, which acts as a heritage centre providing history of the hospital. This park has greenery, expansive open spaces and plenty of eye-catching birds and mammals that makes the visit all the more interesting for your baby.

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I cannot believe that I have been this MIA, I don’t think I have ever gone without posting at least 2 posts each week since starting this blog but finally nature is taking a toll on me and as my due date nears I feel my energy is zapping out like crazy. I feel a little ashamed to admit this: but I am no super mum-to- be as I thought I would be. Traveling, walking and exploring a new place is something which still cheers my exhausted senses and this Easter break, as long distance travel is now out of bounds, we decided to explore the beautiful Cliveden Gardens located in Maidenhead, Berkshire.

A thriving Tulip garden

A thriving Tulip garden

Near the Water Garden

Near the Water Garden

Set on the banks of River Thames, Cliveden House is an Italianate mansion which was once the home of Nancy Astor, an American born British politician and her husband. Today, the House has been turned into a luxury hotel. Yes, it is as luxurious as luxury comes but we were interested in the outside this time. The entire estate extends to 375 acres (1.52 km2) of which about 180 acres (0.73 km2) comprise the gardens whilst woodland and paddocks comprise the rest.

There are quite a few cluster of gardens like the Parterre, themed gardens and of course the woodlands. We started our journey from the Clock tower (pictured below) and after a nice walk reached the Water Garden–a pretty little landscaped garden.

Weekends breaks in UK

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The central feature of the water garden is a diminutive pagoda that was purchased in the 20th century. The Pagoda is flanked with beautiful foliage in a every colour you can imagine whilst few Bamboo trees and wisteria gives it a Chinese Garden look. This was definitely a popular spot of the estate and it was easy to see why (see my second picture below). The sparkling stream, the leafy trees, beautiful blooms and the intimate pagoda gives it a rather romantic vibe.

Cliveden Gardens, Berkshire

 

 

Cliveden Gardens, Berkshire

The Cliveden Gardens also gets its character from well-etched sculptures placed strategically in its various nooks and crannies. I have been quite fortunate to explore various gardens in UK from the Chelsea Physic Garden in Chelsea, London to Oxford Botanic Garden but this definitely has to be one of the most beautiful landscaped gardens I have visited so far.

Run by UK’s National Trust, this place is also quite child-friendly with several rides and attractions exclusively for the kiddos–perhaps this is the reason why it is so popular with families. We could not explore the Woodlands this time but the fresh, leafy garden punctuated by beautiful Spring blooms was just what the doctor ordered and I cannot wait to go back.

Hope you liked this post on Cliveden Gardens and would visit the place at least once. Please don’t hesitate to give your likes and comments and don’t forget to follow me. I always follow back 🙂

 

As I mentioned here, Cotswolds is a gentle haven for travelers, wanderers and those looking to connect with themselves. Every village will leave you a bit surprised, happy and relax your weary mind. I have already mentioned about the three popular villages of Bourton on Water, Lower Slaughter and Chipping Campden. Here, I continue with other lovely villages and various attractions we had the pleasure to explore couple of weeks ago.

Stow-on-the-Wold:

Cotswolds attractions

Cotswolds attractions

 

Located on top of an 800 ft hill, Stow-on-the-Wold is a small market town and civil parish. This village was once the business centre of Cotswolds as several exquisite fairs were held here which attracted the best of local business. The first annual fair was established in 1330 by King Edward III. It was held for seven days every August but by 1476 was replaced with two five-day fairs.

The aim of these annual fairs was to establish Stow as a place to trade, and to take control of the unpredictable passing trade. These fairs were located in the square, which is still the town centre. Today, this square is filled with a plethora of antique shops, specialty wool shops and indigenous fashion shops. Stow is definitely a paradise for treasure seeks. Unfortunately, by the time we reached here most of the shops were closed which meant that my purse did not get any chance to become light.

Another main attraction of Stow is the St. Edward’s Church (pictured above). I am one of those people who finds an ancient church (and even cemeteries) extremely romantic and this 11th century Church is certainly one of the most romantic Churches I have ever visited. It is intimate, cosy and a strong sense of character to it. Definitely not to be missed.

Blockley:

Cotswolds

 

The village of Blockley was once the centre of silk production with several silk mills burgeoning here since the 18th century. The legacy of its silky past continues with most street signs named as one mill or the other and its collection of golden hued buildings.

blockley church-7

Cotswolds

Aside from the rather enjoyable walk along the beautiful countryside; take a trip down to the charming Norman Church (SS Peter & Paul Church) located at the centre of the village. This Church dates back to 1180 and was featured in last year’s TV series Father Brown. It is again a rather inviting Church with an intimate garden and cemetery which will instantly transport to a bygone era.

Broadway:

broadwaypastures-7

broadway-7

 

Located in the English county of Worcestershire; Broadway is often referred to as, “Jewel of the Cotswold.” Known for its sheer beauty and magnificence, several writers and artists like Oscar Wilde, Claude Monet, English textile designer William Morris and English composer Edward Elgar had made Broadway their home to draw inspiration from its beauty and location.

Broadway is flanked with a mix of Tudor, Stuart and Georgian buildings which lends this place a brilliant charm. Today, it is also another thriving centre of arts and antiques and hence it makes perfect sense to browse through its craft and antique shops for unknown treasures.

When you are here don’t forget the Snowshill Manor, a perfect spot to enjoy the unblemished green marshy plains surrounding this village and losing yourself to the pristine beauty of nature.

Hope you enjoyed this post on Cotswolds. Thanks for reading. As always likes and comments are most welcome. And don’t forget to follow me 😉

With its honey-chocolate coloured cottages, soft undulating farmland, picturesque villages, narrow cobbled roads and crystal clear streams, Cotswolds is a place which will fiercely compete for your attention and will win without much ado. According to Wikipedia, “The Cotswolds are a range of hills in southwestern and west-central England, an area 25 miles (40 km) across and 90 miles (145 km) long. The area has been designated as the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

“Quaint” is a word that springs in my mind every time I think of Cotswolds; there are a cluster of villages consisting of cosy, little cottages and buildings built in stone and surrounded by farms and farmland. A perfect place for wanderers, lovers, artists, dreamers and poets to get lost in the beauty of unadulterated, pristine nature.

We reached Cotswolds after an hour and half journey from Hampshire. It is quite easy to know that you have reached Cotswolds because the roads become decidedly narrow and have a rolling terrain here; where ever you turn you can spot either green, marshy farmland or tall deciduous trees forming a gentle canopy. Cotswolds, hence is a haven for drivers, cyclists and bikers.

But don’t be put off if you are an avid walker (like me); Cotswolds is definitely a place where you can walk for ages without a nary of tiredness to bring you down. It is next to impossible to explore whole of Cotswolds in one trip and here I bring to you six of the best villages we visited during our mini-break.

 

1)     Bourton on the Water:

Broughton on water village, cotswolds attraction

Known as the Venice of Cotswolds; this little village is one of the most popular destinations here and a big tourist attraction. I was actually going to give it a miss precisely for this reason but thank God I did not. Cotswolds’ main river—River Windrush—passes through this village and the crystal clear stream lined with carpet-soft lawn and shaded by tall, mature trees gives this place an understated charm.

A perfect place to enjoy a lovely picnic along the banks of the stream; Bourton on the Water has a decidedly romantic vibe to it. Enjoy the lovely walk around the stream or simply take out your mat, spread it across the lawn and take in the blossoming spring flowers, the beauty of the leafy neighbourhood and simply do nothing.

model village cotswolds attractions

 

Cotswolds attractions

Don’t miss the model village when you are here. Kids (or those who are young at heart) will definitely love the model village—this Grade II listed landmark has 1/9th scale replica of the village. Fine detailing and fascinating workmanship brings out the uninhibited charm of the village.

2)     Lower Slaughter:

cotswolds attractions

 

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Don’t let the morbid name of the village put you off. This village is famous for having the most romantic street of UK (2011) and it is a well-deserved title. Once again the river Windrush criss crosses this village and there are several walking paths you can take; we decided to stick to one near the stream with green tall trees on one side and perfect box sized, beautiful cottages on the other.

When you are here the Old mill (now a shop) on the end of the village is a must-visit. The beauty of this village you can still see signs of ancient life and traditions as well as modernity in one stop. Definitely a place not to miss.

3)      Chipping Campden:

chipping campden cotswolds

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Slightly further from other villages; Chipping Campden actually shares its border with Warwickshire—Shakespeare’s County. Another quintessentially pretty village; it is definitely bigger than the other two.

This small market town is notable for its elegant terraced High Street, dating from the 14th century to the 17th century. It was once a rich wool trading centre in the Middle Ages, and the place enjoyed the patronage of wealthy wool merchants. Today the high street is filled with a myriad of tea shops, pubs, ingenious shops and antique centers (not your average high street; thank God), this village is a perfect place to fill the fuel with some proper locally made cakes and sweets as well as walk properly.

Starting from the old Market Hall is a 4 mile loop trail which will take you through the village streets as well as woodlands nearby. I was quite surprised to know that the Market Hall is centuries old because it has still kept its original style and structure intact—definitely a feat in this race  for development.

I will bring you the next three beautiful villages of Cotswolds, the various attractions and where to stay in the coming days 🙂

Hope you enjoyed this post and would give Cotswolds a try. Don’t forget to Like, Comment or Follow me, I always follow back.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Pride and Prejudice is one of the best novels and that Jane Austen is one of the best writers of all time. Interestingly, Austen was born and bred in Hampshire (for most part of her life) and Hampshire served as an inspiration for many her novels.  So, this weekend I decided to trace her footsteps and visit places where she lived. Our first stop was the village of Steventon, located between Basingstoke and Overton. Jane was born in this picturesque village and spent the first 25 years of her life.

En route to Steventon

En route to Steventon

Characterised by green, marshy farm land on both sides, sheep grazing lazily its luscious pastures and dotted with cosy thatched homes; Steventon is as idyllic as it can get. Jane was the seventh of eight children, the second daughter, born to the Reverend George Austen and his wife Cassandra. She was born on 16 December 1775 at the Steventon rectory.

St. Nicholas Church

St. Nicholas Church

Jane like her literary heroine Elizabeth was an avid walker. She was often seen walking the marshy pathways of this quaint village; carefully observing people and their mannerisms. In Steventon, she wrote the first drafts of Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. The Steventon rectory stands no longer but the St. Nicholas Church where Jane’s father worked as a clergyman is still the pride and joy of this village. Jane along with her family attended this Church regularly to listen to her father preach. Dating back to 12th century, it is a small, simple building that has retained its old-world charm.

As soon as you enter this Church, a warm, comforting silence envelops you and fragments of medieval wall painting will immediately catch your attention. Surprisingly, unlike Avon where you can see vignettes of Shakespeare’s life clearly; there are very few signs that prove Austen’s origin but a spire has been added since Austen’s lifetime, bearing a wind vane in the shape of a pen in her honour inside this Church.

When the Rev Austen decided to retire, he chose to move to Bath, when Jane was in her mid-twenties and the family stayed here for a period of five years till Rev Austen’s death. After her father’s death, the family was in a precarious financial state; they stayed briefly at Southampton before moving to Chawton village; another quintessential English village in Alton.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/ Rudi Riet

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/ Rudi Riet

The Chawton Cottage served as Jane’s final home from her 1808 till her fatal illness and subsequent death in 1817. Jane settled into her writing here and also became a published author whilst staying here. This Cottage still holds the interest of many literature aficionados. Don’t be surprised if you come across a bunch of tourists from different nations all hoping to get to know their favourite author slightly better.

This charming 17th Century cottage is characterised by thatched roofs, quiet green of the village as well as brightly coloured flowers of the garden. Austen lived here with her mother, sister Cassandra and good friend Martha Lloyd. Inside the modest cottage, you will see Jane’s favourite spot—the tiny table where she etched her beloved characters.

Whilst writing occupied most of Jane’s life here; the house was also frequented by her brothers, her nieces and nephews. To these children, Jane and Cassandra were loving aunts and Jane who was also an accomplished pianist would play songs for them. A daily routine was incomplete without hearty family meals, long walks and chatting and sewing in the evening. Jane’s favourite spot was the alcove in the ladies’ drawing room where she would often sit and see the village life go by.

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral

Whilst Jane’s mother and sister were buried in the nearby Church; Jane who died at the age of 41 was buried at Winchester Cathedral.

Surprisingly, there is very little history about Jane’s life and particularly her tryst with Hampshire but every devotee who takes this Jane pilgrim is humbled by her simple life but then that’s how life should be—simple yet fruitful—isn’t it?

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