10 reasons to love Haslemere
PUBLISHED: 11:33 15 January 2018 | UPDATED: 09:16 16 January 2018
Located at the tripoint with Hampshire and West Sussex, Haslemere has always been a fiercely independent Surrey town and harbours a number of surprising hidden gems. Visit and you’ll soon see what has, through the ages, inspired writers, artists and residents alike
1. The Penfold Pillar Box
High Street, Haslemere
We thought we’d start you off with a teaser in the town. See if you can find this much-loved famous hexagonal pillar box that’s tucked away near the upper end of the High Street. Designed as a competition entry by John Wornham Penfold, a surveyor and architect who lived in the town in the mid 19th century, it is adorned with acanthus leaves and balls. It proved too expensive to reproduce commercially and so the town proudly boasts the only remaining example.
Oh, and here is a clue if you’re looking for it. It’s not red but a beautiful subtle green…
2. St Christopher’s C of E Church
Saint Christopher’s Green, Haslemere,
One of Haslemere’s two parish churches, St Christopher’s shares the same rector with St Bartholomew’s in Tanners Lane. The church, built in the late 1800s, is a fabulous example of the Arts and Crafts movement of the time. Designed by the architect Charles Spooner, the interior has splendid detailing including a rare hardwood barrel ceiling to give perfect acoustics inside. The church is open for about 150 days a year so check before you go, but look especially for the oak fittings – pulpit, choir stalls and organ casing, and the beautiful painted triptych for the high altar.
3. Black Down Walk
A lovely winter trail through the nearby Black Down hills. Starting at the National Trust’s car park at Tennyson’s Lane this is a circular walk through wood and heathland. Apparently this Lowland Heath is rarer than the Amazonian Rainforest and is home to the Dartford warbler, nightjar and woodlark – let us know if you spot one! Ancient flints from thousands of years ago have been found in this area together with two Bronze Age burial sites and evidence of early settlements. A pdf of the route can be downloaded here.
4. Swan Barn Farm
Collards Lane, Haslemere
Describing itself as: “A quiet retreat of woodland and pasture only 30 seconds from Haslemere High Street”, Swan Barn Farm has to be on a list of places to visit – even to just pop in to soak up the atmosphere. There is a short walk starting from the town’s famous medieval dipping well where Hannah Oakford, the town’s last public water carrier, charged a penny ha’penny to deliver a bucket of water to your house. This walk is just under two miles and goes through some lovely areas of coppiced woods, meadows and streams back to the town centre. Check the link above for details.
5. Haslemere Hall
Bridge Road, Haslemere
This arts venue is the town’s centre for entertainment with musical theatre, live music performances, ballet and cinema screenings. There is a full schedule of events right through January including several performances of the panto Aladdin – in case you somehow managed to miss it over Christmas – as well as live via satellite a production of Rigoletto from the Royal Opera House on January 17. Also, if you’re stuck for something to do on New Year’s Eve you may still be able to get a couple of tickets for the party at the hall. Starting at 9pm the dress code is “white, glamorous and glitzy”. Brando is providing the music and there is an after party at The Apple Tree.
6. West Street
Haslemere is particularly well off for small, independent shops and there is a wealth of them just off the High Street. Seabrights, at number 34, is a butchers and fishmongers that specialises in locally produced meat as well as fish from sustainable sources. Right next door you can pop into Bread of Heaven – a fabulous bakers that produces hand made bread and confectionaries (“You order, we bake, you sing, we dance!”).Have a look at the website too – it is slightly unusual. A few steps away, at number 16, you can complete your gourmet shopping at The Haslemere Cellar – described as “a fine wine and cheese shop that really knows its onions”. There are loads of other shops here too, so take a stroll and stock up.
7. Hemingways of Haslemere Coffee Shop
48, High Street, Haslemere.
Time for a cup of coffee and a sit down? This delightful little independent offers lot more than just a cup of tea or coffee – there is a huge range of food – paninis, hot and cold snacks, cakes and pastries during the day and a wine bar in the evening offering much more. With live music events, open mic nights, cocktail nights and Check Mate Sundays (bring your own chess board and challenge someone) and Scrabble evenings you won’t be stuck for something to do. If it’s a really nice day you can sit outside continental style and watch the world go by at your leisure.
8. Haslemere Educational Museum
78, High Street, Haslemere
Much more than just a museum – although the exhibits are astonishing in their own right. Where else can you see a giant spider crab, a genuine Egyptian mummy (with his toes still visible) and Arthur the bear – the museum’s much loved centerpiece? There is a huge range of interest here including geology, human history, European peasant art, natural history and loads more. Look out for the splendid skeleton of the flightless Moa Bird – now extinct – that once lived in New Zealand. The museum’s founder, Sir Jonathan Hutchinson, snapped it up at an auction in 1897.
9. Anti Tank Pyramids
A285 between Haslemere and Grayswood, near Higher Combe Road
Just to one side of the A285 between Haslemere and the nearby village of Grayswood is a set of concrete pyramids dating back to the early years of First World War. Each standing a couple of feet high they were placed in strategic positions around the county in fearful anticipation of a German invasion. Designed, literally to stop a tank in its tracks, they were thankfully never put to a real test. They were recently in danger of being uprooted and destroyed but were saved as an important historical military feature by local resident and former army colonel Toby Sewell.
10. Grayshott Pottery
School Road, Grayshott
Recently celebrating its 60th year, the pottery has developed into a centre of excellence of art and ceramics with a gift shop, events and workshops, and a kiln café serving breakfasts, lunches and teas. An absolute must is one of the free guided tours that take visitors on a Journey of the Clay showing exactly what happens to a lump of grey clay through to the final work of art – taking in slip casting and jollying in the process. Fancy a go yourself? The centre runs pottery throwing classes as a one day course using a potter’s wheel – check the website for details.