Historic market town nestled in the Test Valley, surrounded by the beautiful English countryside. Romsey has caught my eye and captured my heart.
Because its flippin’ gorgeous! Romsey is a beauty, full of Instagram worthy corners, pretty streets, green spaces and indie cafes and boutiques. Romsey has also pulled off the tricky balancing of centuries of beautifully preserved history with a bustling, modern feel. Add to that welcoming locals, dog friendly everywhere and streets strung with bunting. I don’t know what more you could ask, really?
Oh wait! I do know what more you could ask. My Romsey best bits. I’d love to share. In absolutely no particular order, here we go..
1. Romsey Abbey
Or, to give the old place its full title The Abbey Church of St Mary and St Ethelflaeda. That doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue though, does it? Whatever you want to call it, this site has been home to a stone church and/or a nunnery since circa 1000 AD. It’s survived civil war, black death and long periods of neglect.
Today it’s a lovely place to explore, inside and out. Admission free, donations welcome.
2. Historic Buildings
Romsey Abbey is a beauty, but it’s by no means the only historic building worth a look. Romsey is full of them. Many of them beautifully preserved and kindly repurposed- like the former Corn exchange, now a branch of Barclays Bank.
Elsewhere in Romsey you’ll find Medieval homes, a Tudor cottage, a Victorian era former gun shop, a mill, a highly embellished terraced home that was used as a showcase for a local stonemason. Wander the streets, wander through time. Take your camera, you won’t regret it.
3.Homes & Gardens
I say take your camera (or just your phone, I think a lot of people just use phones now?) but it isn’t just the big old historic places that are worth capturing. There’s also loads of beautiful homes and gardens. Victorian terraces , grand Georgian homes, beautiful wisteria clad houses with balconies…so much loveliness.
We’re all friends here so I’ll just admit it. I am a proper property lurker. It started out online with Right Move and the like but now it’s elevated into real life lurking as well. I just love seeing and capturing beautiful homes and gardens. I’ve no idea if this is frowned upon or if there is any etiquette to this sort of thing. I hope if I’ve ever been spotted by a resident, they take my interest as a compliment. I’ve not been chased off. Yet.
4. River Walks
Pretty streets are all well and good but if you want to be by the water, it’s an easy stroll down to the river via the handsome Saddlers Mill. Lovely place to walk, some great access to the water if you have a dog with you. FYI, Romsey dog walkers are a friendly bunch. If you meet over the dogs at the river, you’ll likely be chatting for an age. But that’s nice, isn’t it? Especially after all the distancing we’ve lived with.
5. War Memorial Park
Created out of meadowland and funded out of money collected for a WW1 War memorial, this place is everything a traditional town park should be. Highlights include a war memorial, a restored Victorian bandstand and a Japanese field gun. You’ll also find a lot of colour here; in the pretty planting, the cheerful park cafe and via an eye catching mural by Hampshire artist Hendog.
6. Romsey War Horse
Located within the Memorial Park, but I think this one deserves its own mention. Created by Hampshire born sculptor Amy Goodman, the War Horse memorial was unveiled in 2015. This is Romsey’s tribute to the war horses of the First World War.
During WW1, the land just outside the town held a vast Remount camp. Over three years, the camp trained 120,000 horses to prepare them for service on the battlefield. Post war, the camp was demolished and the rubble used to prepare the ground of the War Memorial park. In a really lovely touch, four horse shoes recovered from the battlefields of France are set below ground within the footings of the statue.
7. The People
Have you heard the old idea that people are friendlier ‘Up North’ and more reserved the further South you go? Well, if that’s true- which it isn’t, in my experience- Romsey is definitely an exception. Talk about friendly locals. All the people I’ve encountered have been lovely.
We’ve met chatty dog walkers, experienced an amazingly warm welcome from independent department store Bradbeers and encountered a lovely lady who spotted us trying to find a parking space and divulged the secret of getting parked in town on market day ( I don’t think I should share it here though, I suspect it’s a bit frowned upon by some).
As well as being friendly, the people of Romsey are a good humoured bunch. So much so, many of them appear in Romsey The Movie. It’s a rip roaring, hilarious romp through the history of the town. Accuracy not guaranteed.