Andover alongside the River Anton in north west Hampshire is today a modern shopping and business centre but in fact dates back to 950 AD when Hampshire was the centre of the Saxon Kingdom of Wessex and King Edred had a hunting lodge built here. Andover’s past industries have included milling flour in the six watermills in the town, wool processing and iron works. In the eighteenth century it became a stop on the Exeter to London stagecoach route. The town has been providing accommodation to travellers ever since. To find out more about the town’s history you can follow the Heritage Trail either as a self guided walk or on a guided walk.
Andover is one of the main shopping centres in this part of Hampshire and has a good choice of pubs, clubs, parks, lakes, woods and nature reserves. Street markets take place on the High Street every Thursday and Saturday. Around the town is a wealth of countryside to explore. The North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and its chalk downlands are to the north, and flowing down the west of the county is the River Test – world renowned for its trout fishing in the clear waters of the chalk river. Just 4 miles west of Andover you’ll find The Hawk Conservancy Trust who run daily birds of prey flying demonstrations in three different flying arenas.
Andover Museum traces the history of the town from its Saxon roots to the present day. Themed rooms take a look at different aspects of the town’s history including the natural history of the area and archaeological finds dating back to the Neolithic period including a Bronze Age collection of amber beads and weapons excavated from a Saxon cemetery. The Museum of the Iron Age looks more closely at the story of Danesbury Hill Fort to the south of Andover. Actual finds are exhibited along with reconstructions and models to help bring this aspect of ancient history to life. The industrial history of Andover covers a period of development for the town but also a scandal. Find out more about The Andover Workhouse Scandal that brought to light the appalling conditions at workhouses that inmates had to endure. The museum also hosts changing art, craft, photography and history exhibitions in the gallery.
The Lights Arts Centre
The Lights is a modern purpose-built arts and entertainment centre hosting regular comedy nights, dance and drama. The Lights contains a 242 seat auditorium, sprung floor dance studio, arena hall, conference room and workshop studio. There is also a bar and cafe area for drinks, lunches and snacks throughout the day. The Lights Wine Bar opens at 6.30pm on performance nights and opens out onto decking in summer.
Rooksbury Mill Park
The grounds around one of Andover’s watermills are now managed as a nature reserve. Rooksbury Mill was a working flour mill up until the twentieth century. Today you can visit the grounds where the River Anton runs through the park. If you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of water voles, kingfishers and dragonflies.
Whitchurch Silk Mill
Just to the east of Andover is the small country town of Whitchurch where you can visit Whitchurch Silk Mill, the only working silk mill in the country open to the public. Have a go on the looms and find out how the fine threads of silk were woven into the fabulous period clothing popular in the 1820s onwards. The mill continues to weave silk today mainly for restoration projects and period costumes.
The Test Valley Way & River Test Fly Fishing
The Test Valley follows the line of the River Test which runs through the western countryside of Hampshire. The clear waters of the chalk stream of the River Test is renowned for its excellent trout fishing. The River Test flows for twenty miles in Hampshire through the villages of Stocksbridge and Romsey. It was on the River Test that fly fishing was founded when Frederick Halford worked up the dry fly fishing techniques that underpin flying fishing today.
Museum of Army Flying
The Museum of Army Flying sits just south west of Andover and tells the story of the army and their use of all manner of airborne craft. The museum’s collection contains aeroplanes, gliders, helicopters and experimental aircraft as well as archive photographs, medals and uniforms. Not only can you see these on display, but you can have a go on the attack helicopter Apache simulator! There’s also Explorer’s World specially for the children with computers, a drop-in drawing area and ball pit.