Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Five things to do & see in Winchester #CreativeWinch

I have been to Winchester just a couple of times in the past - once to visit the amazing Christmas market with my cousin and his family and once (wait for the thud of the name dropping) for a press trip to the River Cottage Canteen for lunch with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Winchester is a beautiful city, voted many times one of the best places in the UK to live because of its surroundings, culture and lifestyle, and as such is much loved by celebrity chefs looking to open branches of their restaurants.

All the big names in the High Street can be found here too along Winchester's mostly picturesque shopping area (there only seems to be one mall tucked away leaving the main street unsullied)

Winchester

All good news then if brands you recognise are your thing but I'd urge you to check out some of the independent traders, restaurants, bars and cafes in the city where you might discover some real gems.

Now you know it rarely takes me long to get round to food and I'm pleased to report that Winchester is a real foodies paradise.

Top of my list of things to do and see in Winchester is:

Eat Out

Just a short walk will turn up lots of interesting places to eat and drink ranging from cocktails and coffee plus light lunches at the beautiful Cabinet Rooms opposite the Theatre Royal.

The Cabinet Rooms Winchester

They do pre-theatre suppers of course but I was excited about the purchase of a glorious glass absinthe fountain which will be available to customers very soon!

Absinthe fountain The Cabinet Rooms, Winchester

Are you a fan of pies? You simply have to visit Piecaramba where there are mouthwatering pies aplenty and a fabulously quirky place to eat them in. The sign on the door says "Come in. We're Awesome" and I have to agree.

Piecaramba Winchester

Piecaramba Winchester

Now shhh! I'm going to tell you a secret. Very close to Winchester clever people are growing wasabi. No really! I can't tell you where but if you want to sample it at its best you need to head to Japanese restaurant, Kyoto Kitchen.

They offer a special Winchester Roll,  which they claim is the world's first sushi roll to use wasabi leaf instead of seaweed. The wasabi is of course the locally grown stuff and the fish is locally smoked trout.

Looking for a rising star? I reckon Olly Biggs could be a name to watch. He opened Forte Kitchen with parter Naomi Beamish and together they have created a beautiful space in which to eat simple rustic British food prepared with care and flair.

The Forte Kitchen Winchester

Well, I say simple British food - there is ham egg and chips but it's honey and orange roast ham with free range eggs and hand cut chips.

You could also choose Pork & Chorizo Scotch Egg, Red Pepper Ketchup & Alresford Watercress Salad or Grilled Sardines, Toasted Focaccia, IOW Tomato Salad, Lemon & Parsley Dressing.

I'm planning on heading there for breakfast one day - their pancake menu alone makes my mouth water.


It wouldn't be right to write about Winchester and not mention the history. So second on my list is:

Explore the Historical Sites.

From the majestic cathedral to the ancient buildings lining the streets there is so much to explore in this city which has roots back to the iron age around 150BC. The Romans came and went, the Angles and Saxons set up shop here too. There are city gates, a jumble of architectural styles including medieval and Georgian and a host of ghost stories of course!
Winchester Cathedral stained glass windows


Jane Austen is one of the City's most famous residents- her grave is in the cathedral where you could spend hours admiring the ceilings, windows and other sights. Until September 2017 you can find benches from the Sitting With Jane public art trail  in the city.

Jane Austen Sitting With Jane trail

You have to go and see the statue of King Alf -Alfred the Great and you can even buy chocolate featuring his face at the chocolate-lovers paradise that is Chococo.

I'd advise a trip to the Tourist Information Centre at the start of your visit where you will find lots of information about where to go and what to see. You can even book a guide. We enjoyed a whistle stop tour with one of the official guides who was very knowledgeable and interesting.

Attend a Festival

Whatever time of year you visit Winchester, it's like to co-incide with a festival of some kind including music, crafts, science, comedy, beer, gin, Christmas, literature and arts. 

The city has been dubbed #Ginchester and with some fine gin being produced in the area it deserves that name. I sampled quite a lot of the very lovely Twisted Nose gin, distilled a short distance out of the city, and a few of the other very different gins from that distillery - more on that in another post!

I'm a well known fan of cocktails so I'm putting  Monday February 5th 2018 in my diary - that's the start of Winchester Cocktail Week!

Stroll Along the River

The river Itchen flows in several different channels through Winchester, some of which come close enough to Winchester Cathedral to have caused serious problems to the building's foundations in earlier years. Famously Portsmouth dockyard diver William Walker spent many hours a day for six years from 1906 in a waterlogged trench helping to repair damaged foundations - there's a memorial statue for him in the cathedral and he is credited as the man who saved Winchester Cathedral.


River Itchen through Winchester

The main channel flows through Winchester City Mill and to the east of the city's Roman walls, along a promenaded reach known as "The Weirs".

We walked this stretch and I was blown away by the beauty and tranquility of the area. We started at the mill and wandered past the castle and back towards the cathedral.

Live and Work There

This is slightly tongue in cheek but in all seriousness if you are looking to relocate you could do worse than Winchester. During our visit we chatted to two of the city's new Ambassadors, Kay May  and Gary Whiter who told us how great the place is to live and work, especially if you have a creative side.


Kay who is Director of External Affairs at Winchester School of Art is new to the Visit Winchester #CreativeWinch Ambassador campaign, along with Madelaine Smith (Literary Ambassador). 

Kay said: “Winchester is a city of art, home to stunning public pieces sculpted by artists such as Gormley, Frink and Kemp. It is a place of work for an increasing number of gifted artists and the creative industries. I can’t wait to start showing visitors my favourite art pieces around my favourite city.” 

Winchester’s other Creative Ambassadors who are all also local residents are Pat Davies (History Ambassador), Gary Whiter from the Cabinet Rooms (Food/Drink Ambassador), and The Spitfire Sisters (Music/Fashion Ambassador). 

#CreativeWinch aims to reveal the alternative - even hidden - side of Winchester’s rich cultural scene. Focusing on the city’s past, present and future by asking Ambassadors to share their inside knowledge on a range of cultural activities, including food and drink, music, history, literary and theatrical arts.   

The team of Ambassadors will promote Winchester in a number of ways – including providing their perfect Winchester itinerary for visitors to follow, access to their expertise for visitor questions, regular “Twitter Takeovers”, and offering bespoke one-to-one guided tours based on an Ambassador’s specialty - sharing the reasons as to why they love Winchester and believe it’s the perfect English city. 

Much of the content is available on the Visit Winchester website http://www.visitwinchester.co.uk/creative-winchester and the social channels @King_Alf on Twitter and King Alf on Facebook, where it is collated under the hashtag #CreativeWinch. 

Winchester museum

Ellen Simpson, Head of Tourism at Winchester City Council said “We are very excited to add two new Ambassadors to our #CreativeWinch campaign. They will help highlight just what a vibrant and creative city Winchester is, and build upon the great successes we have had with our other Ambassadors."

She added: "Those of us who live and work in Winchester are well aware of the unique vibe of Winchester – a place where dramatic history buffs up against a deep sense of learning and culture. With plenty of attractions to visit, an ivory-tower vibe, independent shops and a variety of restaurants serving Avant Garde food, we cannot wait, through the voices of our superb Ambassadors, to share this with the wider world.” 

Madelaine Smith, Winchester Literary Ambassador and manager of Winchester Poetry Festival added “Winchester is home to numerous literary heroes, and is the setting and inspiration behind a multitude of novels and poems; from John Keats' ode 'To Autumn' to a couple of Sherlock Holmes stories such as The Adventure of the Copper Beeches. I’m excited to encourage new audiences to see just what this beautiful city has to offer, and work with other Ambassadors to showcase a little of the alternative side of Winchester.”

Disclaimer: I visited Winchester as a guest of Visit Winchester for the purpose of this honest review.



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