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Haslemere 2014: where to eat, shop and visit

PUBLISHED: 16:38 19 March 2014 | UPDATED: 16:38 19 March 2014

Despite its size, Haslemere retains a village atmosphere of sorts

Despite its size, Haslemere retains a village atmosphere of sorts

Archant

A quaint market town on the Surrey, Hampshire and Sussex border, Haslemere is a great destination for independent shops and escaping to the countryside

A potted history...

As you might possibly have guessed, the name Haslemere derives from the ‘hazel’ tree and the word ‘mere’, meaning a lake.

Granted a charter by Richard II in 1393 and confirmed by Queen Elizabeth I a couple of hundred years later, the town celebrates this status every other year with a special Charter Fair. What is more, we’re in luck, as the next one takes place this year on the May bank holiday, Monday May 5.

The local church, St Bartholomew’s, is itself steeped in history dating back to the 16th century, although the only original part of the building that remains is now the bell tower.

In the 1700s, polling records show a good variety of tradespeople in the town with the obvious blacksmiths, wheelwrights and carpenters mixing with ‘soapboilers’, ‘hoopshavers’ and even a couple of ‘peruke makers’*… (anybody guess that one?).

The railway arrived in 1859 and now serves the town on the Portsmouth to Waterloo line.

Another key date was 1898 when Haslemere Cottage Hospital opened with just four beds. Still going strong today, it is now a busy NHS centre.

These days, although a bustling shopping town, Haslemere still maintains a friendly village atmosphere with a thriving community spirit.
* Oh, and that peruke maker? They made wigs for gentlemen…

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Food & drink…

A sprinkling of independent cafés and the usual chains cater for the quick bite on the go or you can try one of the many pubs and restaurants.

The Inn on the Hill at Lower Street (01428 642006) has a meat display where you can choose the size and cut of your own made-to-measure steak.

Meanwhile, the Georgian House Hotel (01428 656644) in the High Street offers a Pie Parlour with a warning on the menu that tells you to “open the pie at your own risk as delicious smells can take you places a pie shouldn’t be able…” Yes, quite…

Just nearby, Hemmingways (01428 656904) is a coffee shop-cum-gift shop-cum-wine bar and quite the centre of social attention we’re told.

A short drive from the town centre, you’ll find the sprawling hamlet that is the Lythe Hill Hotel & Spa (01428 651251). Surrey Life visited for February’s magazine and you can read the review here.

Sadly, one of the stalwarts of the Haslemere dining scene, the Poacher’s Pocket, closed in the autumn.

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Shop till you drop…

Haslemere has a huge amount of independent shops jostling for attention along the High Street and into Charter Walk, with just about anything from fresh fish at The Good Fish Shop (34 West Street) to a new basket for the dog at the Haslemere Pet Company (13 High Street) or a trip down memory lane at The Haslemere Sweet Shop (70b High Street). This last one has a fabulous Dickensian frontage with rows of old fashioned sweet jars behind leaded windows. Indulge yourself with some chocolate covered raisins or good old Dolly Mixtures…

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Out and about…

An absolute must for any visitor, local or otherwise, Haslemere Educational Museum’s exterior belies the extent of the exhibition space inside (240,000 geology specimens at the last count), with something to interest just about everyone – and not just indoors.

In the summer there is a working beehive in the gardens, plus a circular woodland walk with a kids’ bug hunt and Minibeast Mountain if you dare… and if you do visit, check out Arthur the Siberian bear and the giant Japanese spider crab. Arthur is now such a celebrity he even has a locally brewed beer named after him.

There are loads of things going on in March this year, too, from a National Trust exhibition all about Black Down (until Sunday March 2) to Cole’s Colourists – paintings from Christopher Cole’s Art classes (Saturday March 8 to Saturday March 22).

If you’re the outdoor type, try the Haslemere Town Trail – complete with children’s quiz to keep them happy as they toddle round – the details can be found at haslemere.com/vic/walks.html.

If those walks aren’t quite long enough for you, you need Swan Barn Farm. Owned by the National Trust and described as ‘a quiet retreat of woodland only 30 seconds from the High Street’ you can have a go at the 64-mile long Serpent Walk (take your blister plasters!).

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Notable tales…

The Victorian poet Alfred Lord Tennyson spent the summer months at Aldworth House at Black Down, just outside Haslemere. With beautiful views over the Sussex Weald and Downs, he famously wrote in his poem Prologue, To General Hamley: “You came, and looked and loved the view, Long-known and loved by me, Green Sussex fading into blue, With one gray glimpse of sea.”

For another useful bit of pub trivia, Woolworths arrived in the town in 1951 but was the only Woolies in the UK not to display the classic trademark red colour in their signs as “a concession to the surroundings…” Presumably to stop the locals seeing red (sorry...).

A small claim to fame literally puts Haslemere on the map as one of only 68 county tripoints in England. The counties of Surrey, West Sussex and Hampshire all meet just to the west of the town.

Surrounded by beautiful countryside, Haslemere also marks the start of the famous Greensand Way walking route, which ends, 108 miles later, at Hamstreet in Kent near the coast. With stunning views along the way, it’s well worth the effort. Download a route guide from the Surrey County Council website at surreycc.gov.uk.

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Getting there…

Located on the Waterloo to Portsmouth line, Haslemere has excellent rail connections, and is also served by a good bus network (numbers 70 and 71). If you are driving, head out along the A286 when you leave the A3 at Milford; Haslemere is just 15 miles later. Car parking is good with a large area near Waitrose just off the High Street. Or if you fancy arriving on foot, there’s always The Greensand Way...

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