For the first time this year last Sunday, the weather felt like spring. In fact, this year is already flying past and we will soon be in April in a couple of weeks. Last Sunday, the bloke and I headed back down to near Basingstoke in Hampshire (where I used to live) in order to meet a group of friends for Sunday roast lunch at a pub. Because of busy schedules, we booked the day toward the end of November. One member of the group is going back to China this week for approximately a month, and the others are particularly busy with their young children. Seeing everyone again was very nice, and we had the loveliest weather on Sunday to top it all off.
The day before, one of my university friends from America flew over for work and seminars. We met up in the evening, and I would have invited him to lunch if I knew we would be able to get an extra seat on the reservation. Every visitor to the United Kingdom must experience a traditional pub Sunday roast.
The pub we visited is located in Odiham in Hampshire, and it is called "The Waterwitch". It's located in a beautiful listed building from the 17th century with little nooks and wooden beams and a lot of natural light. Each litttle area was decorated in its own style with a different beautiful wallpaper section that was either vintage or country-themed. I loved some of the wallpaper patterns here.
The pub is also located along the Basingstoke Canal and has a beautiful and large garden at the back. I lived in Basingstoke for ten years, and I regret that I had never walked along the Basingstoke Canal or paid a visit to this pub. We actually did not eat out too often, but we were located in the centre of Basingstoke so always opted to dine on our doorstep.
The bloke and I are always the first to arrive. I hate being late, and 'on time' means ten or fifteen minutes early to me. When everyone did turn up, we opened the Prosecco to celebrate my citizenship that I received a few days prior to our get-together.
I also ordered a cheeky cocktail, which was called "Winter"-something. I forgot the name, but it contained cranberry, Vodka, and another type of juice. It was refreshing.
I ordered the roast turkey, and the bloke had roast beef. Two of my friends are vegetarian, so nut roasts and alternative vegetarian options were catered for. The other two ordered fish dishes. The roasts came with all of the vegetables and were tasty.
To start, I had a tomato soup, which I had started to eat before I realised I should take a photograph, and I also had the 'chocolate dream' for dessert.
During lunch, one of my friends mentioned that he and his girlfriend intended to go for a walk after lunch. I invited myself along because a walk is always a great idea. I didn't even know there was a canal behind the pub, and a castle was mentioned. At understanding castles and a canal walk was in order, I was 'in'. I did not have shoes suitable for walking in the mud, but I love walking and castles, and I just wanted to get out and enjoy this beautiful spring day.
The first glimpse of Basingstoke Canal included seeing many visitors rowing boats and a walking trail along the side of the canal. A map of the walking trail is located at the bottom of this post. We had a leisurely stroll along the canal for approximately half an hour before we arrived at Odiham Castle. We saw many visitors in the row boats, fields of sheep, ducks, spring flowers sprouting, and an abandoned and rusty old canal boat.
At North Warnborough, we passed a few back gardens of houses and came to a lock where swans were swimming and where we saw a pony and a horse. A lot of people were giving the horse attention.
We walked for another couple of minutes before we saw a glimpse of Odiham Castle in the spring sun.
Upon arriving at the entrance, we saw that we were not the first visitors. A local company conducts canal boat charters to/from Odiham Castle, and they were stopped in front of the castle to have a look.
Odiham Castle is an octagonal castle and is also known as King John's Castle. It was built by King John during his reign. He only managed to build three castles, and he chose this spot as he had visited it in 1204 and it was halfway between Windsor and Winchester. It is now a ruin.
The castle took seven years to complete and has a two-storey keep (the ruin) and a square moat. It was completed in 1214. The following year, King John either rode from this castle or one at Windsor in order to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede. Last year was a big year for the Magna Carta, so the castle received a couple of plaques to commemorate it.
The castle suffered damage by the French in the 1200s. It was granted to King John's daughter. It became a prison and it was used as a hunting lodge in the 15th century. In 1605, it was described as a ruin. In 1792, the Basingstoke Canal was built through the castle grounds and bailey.
The archways and remains of the grand fireplace could be seen as well as the location where the wooden floor beams would have rested.
The castle is made of flint.
The castle was free to visit, and we probably spent twenty minutes walking around it and reading the information panels around it.
On the way back, we were greeted by the horse. We decided to take a different way back to the pub where our cars were located. Most of the trail along the canal was fine, and we managed to dodge the mud puddles, except there was one large area of mud about three metres long that was impossible to avoid, so the bloke and I did get our shoes muddy.
Walking back through the town of Odiham enabled us to see the town and see a different view. I'd driven past and through Odiham before, but we never stopped although I had been tempted to explore it. Odiham has many attractive Georgian buildings.
One red door had a fantastic doorknob and letter box, and the house was named "Christmas Cottage".
I was also happy to see the spring flowers in bloom. Daffodils and tree blossoms are common here.
Right before we arrived at the pub, we passed a couple of residential streets that were named after people who had served in the military and had won medals. I thought this was a nice monument to them.
When we arrived at the pub, we stepped inside to have a pot of warm tea before parting our separate ways. Although the day was beautiful and I was kept warm by walking, a pot of tea helped to warm me and give me some new energy.
To enjoy a pleasant circular walk along the Basingstoke Canal to Odiham Castle, you can follow my crude drawing in black line on the map below. This is the route that we walked. We headed clockwise along the canal to the castle and then walked back through North Warnborough and Odiham High Street before returning to the pub.
Let me know if you know of any nice country walks around Middlesex or London that involve a nice pub/restaurant or afternoon tea as I would love to try them out.