As UK gears up for another spring, I can’t wait to breathe in the fresh, sun-shine filled air, take in the lovely daffodils that are springing up in every street corner and once again explore the lovely, dense, wild woods near my vicinity. If you are coming to UK or are in UK, I urge you to explore the wild, uninhibited woodlands UK offers. Here are my top three favourite picks from Hampshire.

The Vyne Woods, Basingstoke:

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unfiltered blue skies-7

 

I love the tranquility, serenity and the promise of unexpected that woodland represents. The Vyne Woods situated in Basingstoke, Hampshire definitely encapsulates all these qualities. Basingstoke is notorious for being a place where nothing much happens; but this woodland wonder will change your mind. It is perfect to stroll around and exercise those tired limbs on a sunny, lazy afternoon. Adjacent to the stately Vyne gardens and the House; a 16th century country house; the Vyne woodlands is a place where you can easily and happily lose yourself to the untamed charm of nature. There are many walking trails that criss-cross these woods. And don’t be surprised if you come across owls, woodpeckers and even red Deer whilst you are walking. We had a taste of the unexpected when there was a flurry of action as a herd of deer passed us without any fair warning and out of nowhere but then that’s the beauty of wilderness it strikes when you least expect it. The 3.5 mile walk is great to enjoy some walking meditation accompanied only by pristine, untamed and unflappable nature.

New Forest:

New Forest

Every spring/ summer we have a ritual to explore this unspoilt and pristine ancient woodland either by walking or cycling. The New Forest is not actually “new” it was named “Nova Foresta” and was the hunting ground of William the conqueror way back in 1079. This 193,000 acre of land has 143 miles of walking/ cycling track. Needless to say, there are a number of endless routes and we are often surprised to discover a “new” path every new season. As you tread along its beautiful path, you will come across a plethora of picturesque villages, stately tea-rooms, gurgling streams and everything in between. And if you get tired of walking in woodland you can always visit the town of Lymington, check out a section of Solent Way or take a stroll along the beautiful coast line with magnificent views of the Isle of Wight. It is definitely my favourite place to get a whiff of fresh air and relax after a busy week.

West Wood, Winchester:

 

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

 

With its gently rolling arable farmland, small blocks of woodlands, dense and rich beech plantation, this 251 hectare freehold woodland, is a classic English beauty. Adjacent to the Crab Wood Nature Reserve this beautiful woodland area is also home to range of birds and animals like Roe deer, rabbits, stoats and buzzards. It is also packed with other rare flora and fauna as well as wild flowers like bluebells (which comes out in spring) and is a perfect place for getting to grips with nature.

Stratford-upon-Avon, situated on the river Avon in the English county of Warwickshire, is decidedly an idyllic town. Best known to be the birthplace and hometown of William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon is a town where time meanders slowly, cut off from the cantankerous spirit of a bustling city. As you enter this town’s winding little streets you will notice that Shakespeare still continues to dominate the place. The five Bard-linked properties: Shakespeare’s birthplace ( image below), Nash’s house, Hall’s Croft, New Place and Anne Hathway (Shakespeare’s wife) Cottage remains the heart of this town and it continues to draw travelers from all over UK and world even now.

Shakespeare's House UK attractions

Our first stop was Henley Street, where stands the famous landmark—Shakespeare’s birth house. It is quite easy to spot the house. Among the plethora of new age shops, tiny, intimate cafes and teahouses stands a half timber house where Shakespeare was born and brought up along with his brothers and sisters. As you enter the house, you will first notice a hall of fame which includes names like Judi Dench, Star Trek’s Patrick Stewart and former Doctor Who David Tennant, all of whom have enjoyed acclaim in Shakespearean roles at Stratford in addition to their on-screen stardom.

In the Courtyard, between the reception centre and the House, you would see costumed actors performing snippets from some of the best-known plays. The managers who run the show today have made quite an effort to retain the authenticity of the house; you will notice how the parlour, the hall, Shakespeare’s dad’s workshop and bed chamber are furnished as they might have looked in 1574 (unfortunately, there is a no photography policy). An exhibition runs which tells us about the times gone by and explains how part of the house became a public house in 1601. My favourite bit of the house? A literary graffiti featuring autographs of literary gems like Ivanhoe’s writer Walter Scott’s signature. This, I thought truly made the house a literature haven.

stratford-upon-Avon UK attractions

UK attractions Stratford-Upon-Avon

From here, we headed towards the Holy trinity Church in-between stopping at the Stratford Upon Avon Canal, which was built between 1793 and 1816. A spot to enjoy some peace and quiet, the Canal does not offer much except wind-swept trees looking rather stupendous in twilight, clear water, panoramic view of the town and a peaceful silence to keep you for company.

The Church and the canal is separated by an intimate garden. A gurgling stream giving out a beautiful reflection of the Church, evening winter mist hanging around its vicinity and tall, almost kissing trees on both sides gives this place an almost eerie feeling but it somehow added to its uninhibited, natural charm.

UK attractions travel

Holy Trinity Church UK travel attractions

The Holy Trinity Church also popularly called Shakespeare’s Church is the place where Shakespeare is buried. The Church has an attractive approach; with its pathway lined by trees that represent the tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles. Holy Trinity Church was one of the first churches in England where an admission fee was charged; even in 1906 visitors were asked to pay six pence each to enter.

Shakespeare, apparently died on his 52nd birthday of a fever which was said at the time to have been the result of a ‘merry meeting’ with fellow poets Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton. It is believed they all drank too much in that meeting.

Holy Trinity Church, UK attractions

As night was falling rapidly, we decided to call it a day and started our way back home but we walked past the old town briefly stopping before Hall’s Croft formerly the home of Shakespeare’s daughter Susannah and her husband Doctor John Hall. This White painted carved house lends the street a dignified character; it also feels that the place is slightly struck in a time warp with vintage style houses flanking its sides. Wondering how Shakespeare’s lineage ended? The death of childless Elizabeth (his granddaughter) in 1670 brought Shakespeare’s direct line of descent to an end.

UK travel attractions

Stratford-Upon-Avon is a town steeped in history, natural beauty, legacy and literature. It is also the town where theatre continues to mushroom. The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) runs four theatres here: the Courtyard theatre, the Royal Shakespeare theatre, the Swan theatre and the other place. Unfortunately, because of time constraint we couldn’t experience the theatre scene but that gives me a reason to go back.

Situated on the undulating valleys of Derbyshire (Dale district of Derbyshire), is a little known gem—Bakewell– quaint little market town, known for its tantalizing walks, cycle paths and mouth-watering puddings. Nestled on River Wye, Bakewell is a firm favourite with adrenaline-junkies, bikers and cyclists as well as poets, lovers, painters, bird-watchers, artists and of course, the true vagabonds.

River Wye

River Wye

As soon as you enter Bakewell, a  rapidly changing skyline welcomes you—undulating valleys, beautiful foliage, old houses turning into small delis, shops and pubs; eye-catching meadows and greenery in various hues teasing your senses. You are likely to feel like walking into a picturesque postcard.

The old bridge

The old bridge

A Vintage Wrangler

A Vintage Wrangler

Bakewell is steeped in history; legend has it that town was probably founded in Anglo-Saxon times. The Bakewell Parish Church, a popular attraction and Grade 1-listed building, is said to have been founded in 920, and has a cross which dates back to 9thcentury – reason enough for its heritage status. The popular Bakewell market was established in 1254, while its five-arched bridge over the River Wye, also Grade 1 listed, was constructed in the 13th century. With so much history around, it is hard not to fall in love with the town.

Bakewell is known as one of the best walking destinations in northern England and it’s an honour not wasted. Wander along the banks of the river Wye littered with snowy winter leaves and aquatic birds happily crackling away on its water, or through the town’s many delis and vintage shops. The melancholy parish church sitting atop the hillside is a breath-taking sight and is a treasure trove of many little wonders: wooden shields, pre-Raphaelite windows, the sanctuary and altar.

It’s only natural that your stomach starts to growl after giving your limbs so much exercise and this is the place for all food lovers – particularly the sweet connoisseurs amongst you. Bakewell is the birthplace of the famous Bakewell pudding. There are many little bakeries all claiming to be the origin of the pudding; ditch the need to find out the truth because all of them are equally good. Also don’t forget to sneak a peek inside the famous Rutland Arms Hotel, where Jane Austen penned her legendary work Pride and Prejudice. Maybe the writer inside you will come alive.

Bakewell has something for everyone. It is a paradise for those who wish to discover vintage charm, eat good food, or simply wander the many cobblestone paths and meditate amidst the valleys and parks.

(There is no direct transportation from London to Bakewell. So, it is advisable to start early. Take an early cross-country train from Kings Cross and head to Sheffield; from here there are plenty of buses heading to Bakewell)

 

Bath

Bath

A famous legendary story around the city of Bath, Somerset in South-West of England is that the first human activity evidence was found during 8,000 years BC. The place had an air of mystery around it, with steam emerging from a green, hot, lush swampy area. Prince Bladud father of King Lear, had contracted leprosy and was cured after bathing in the hot muddy waters. In gratitude, Bladud founded the City of Bath around the springs in 863BC.

Today, in the 21st century these springs continue to draw the travellers, artists, lovers and poets. And why not? With its quaint high street, cobbled lanes, velvety gardens, niche boutiques and Roman honey-coloured buildings feasting your eyes in every corner, the beauty of Bath has to be seen to be believed.

A UNESCO world heritage site, Bath was named as “Aquae Sulis” by the Romans in AD 43. Britain was notorious for colonising other nations but many, many moons ago Britain was a Roman colony. In AD 70, the Romans built a reservoir here around the hot springs before building a sophisticated series of baths and a temple dedicated to the goddess– Sulis Minerva. As a religious shrine and bathing complex, Aquae Sulis attracted visitors from across Britain and Europe, making Bath a popular destination.

 

Ancient artifacts

Ancient artifacts

 

Goddess Minerva

Goddess Minerva

With a very distinct air to it, Bath is very different from other English cities. A great walking city, it is a slice of Rome in England. Well below the modern street level, the Roman Baths are known for four main features: the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House and the Museum.

The bath complex is a remarkable example of engineering as well as Roman art and architecture. Once completed in the 4th Century, it housed five healing hot baths, swimming pools and cold rooms, sweat rooms heated by an ingenious early plumbing system. The Great Bath at the centre, became quite a spot. Here, the surrounding statues of the Gods would float eerily in the clouds of steam.

Bathing, during that period, was a ceremonial ritual where one socialised with each other and even carried on business. Today, the museum gives you a taste of Roman life with actors dressed in various characters around the bath area.

Roman Architecture

Roman Architecture

 

Terrace View

Terrace View

the main spring

the main spring

The buildings above street level date from the 19th century and are made in the Georgian style. From the Roman Bath, I went to the lush-green Prior Park Landscape Garden, just across the Roman Bath . An intimate 18th century landscape garden, it gives you sweeping views of the city.Built by entrepreneur Ralph Allen with advice from poet Alexander Pope and Lancelot Brown, it is also very close to the famous Palladian Bridge, one of four in the world. A stream tinkling with clear, cold blue water breaks the harmony of the green landscape.

From here you can clearly see the Bath Abbey, an Anglican Parish church founded in the 7th century. A fine example of perpendicular Gothic architecture, the Abbey is characterised by sculptures of angels climbing to heaven, peal of ten bells, 52 windows and a large stained glass window. But its beauty lies in the fact that it easily blends in with other Roman buildings in the area.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey

palladian bridge

palladian bridge

 

 

A slice of Rome?

A slice of Rome?

If I had to get lost in some place; I would choose Bath for its mesmerising beauty and tranquility. Roman Stoic Philosopher, Seneca,stated once, “travel and change of place impart new vigour to the mind.” Bath, would be the perfect place if you’re looking to bring  your chutzpah back.