9 of the best things to see and do in Christchurch
PUBLISHED: 09:56 26 May 2015 | UPDATED: 09:56 26 May 2015
Embracing both coast and countryside, and yet within easy reach of the New Forest, Christchurch is a delightful riverside town which celebrates its rich history, waterside location and vibrant food scene with relish
1 - An inspirational Emporium
Christchurch has a wealth of interesting independent shops to browse and the newest of these only opened in mid April. Christchurch Emporium combines the individuality of a village fete with the creative style of a boutique store all under one roof. ‘Not on the high street’ is the main inspiration behind this new enterprise on Bridge Street which features 90 small businesses. From bespoke pieces and upcycled treasures to art works and French patisserie, you can buy direct from artists, designers, makers and bakers.
2 - Shakespeare in the garden
This July Bournemouth Shakespeare Players will be presenting their 37th open air Shakespeare play in Christchurch. This year’s production, The Merchant of Venice, will be performed in Priory House Gardens from 14-18 July and 21-25 July.
Tickets and information available at bshakespearep.org.
3 - Christchurch by water
Christchurch Harbour is a bustling scene of activity during the summer months. ShoreSports Watersports School, located on Mudeford Quay, uses the harbour’s safe and shallow waters to teach sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and stand-up-paddleboarding (SUP) (shoresports.co.uk).
For the less adventurous the Mudeford Ferry operates every 15 minutes during the day in British Summer Time, winter weekends and school holidays (mudefordferry.co.uk). The ferry runs from Mudeford Quay to Mudeford Sandbank and beach adjacent to Hengistbury Head. Here you will find Mudeford’s famously picturesque beach huts (which sell for eye-watering prices) and beautiful golden sands to bask on as you watch the yachts bobbing on the waters beyond. From Mudeford Sandbank you can go up river by vintage boat to Christchurch Quay, Wick and Tuckton where you will find the pretty Tuckton Tea Garden. There are also options for evening harbour cruises with fish and chips and wildlife cruises. Visit their website mudefordferry.co.uk for more details of cruises.
If you want to explore further afield Adventure Voyages operate a fast boat for trips to the Needles Lighthouse off the Isle of Wight. Check out adventurevoyages.co.uk for details of tours and experiences available.
4 - Chilling out in Christchurch
Located on the banks of the River Stour, the Captains Club Hotel (Wick Ferry, Wick Lane)is a smart modern 4 star hotel with 29 rooms, all boasting river views, and an award-winning restaurant. The cocktail bar has an extensive menu, with unique twists on classic cocktails from martinis to mojitos. The onsite spa includes a hydrotherapy pool, sauna and range of treatments. If you fancy something extra special book a trip on the hotel’s 34ft luxury motor cruiser ‘Nauti Girl’ between April and October. For more details visit captainsclubhotel.com.
The Kings Arms Hotel in the heart of town (18 Castle Street) has recently had a stylish makeover. Relax in The Bar with a locally inspired cocktails or browse the fabulous low food miles menu. Headed up by Chef Patron Alex Aitken, the restaurant has been awarded the prestigious Michelin Bib Gourmand for the last two years. The ’15 Mile Menu’ offers early dinners (6-7pm, Monday-Saturday at select times of the year) the opportunity to enjoy three courses for just £15.More details can be found at their website thekings-christchurch.co.uk.
The Kings’ sister hotel, the Christchurch Harbour Hotel & Spa (95 Mudeford), combines superb facilities and a spa with spectacular views of the harbour and Dorset coastline. Alex Aitken oversees its two restaurants – the recently refurbished Upper Deck Bar & Restaurant and The Jetty, which is perched on the water’s edge. In the superb spa you can indulge in a huge range of treatments, or if you fancy something a little more active, explore the harbour on the hotel’s very own kayaks and paddleboards. Visit christchurch-harbour-hotel.co.uk for more information.
5 - Creative Family Fun
The Clay Studio (1 High Street) is a pottery painting studio and café which gives you the opportunity to paint one or more of their 300 different items – from plates, bowls and jugs to money boxes. If you have a new family member their First Impressions option enables you to capture your baby or toddler’s hand or footprints in those early years. It’s a great place for all ages to have some creative fun but if you want to get more serious about it, they also run monthly workshops to introduce new techniques and ideas. Visit theclaystudio.co.uk.
6 - Down on the Farm
Staying on a local foodie theme, Owls Barn Farm in the village of Sopley to the east of Christchurch has been home to a family run farm shop since 1995. Here husband and wife Lizzie and Ron offer traditionally farmed free range produce. Their animals thrive on a natural diet of grass, hay and cereal feeds and by using traditional hanging methods the quality of their meat is exceptional. The couple are proud of their New Forest Marque which indicates free range produce, produced within the boundaries of the New Forest, including their pigs which feast on acorns in the Forest and feature in their New Forest sausage. Local fruit and veg come from Sunnyfields Farm, near Totton and Sopley Farm - so you can find all your Sunday roast needs under one roof. (01425 672239/owlsbarn.com)
7 - Stompin’ all over the Quomps!
Now in its 21st year, Stompin’ on the Quomps is one of the largest smooth jazz festivals of its kind in the UK and its free! It returns to the Quomps, a grassy area on the banks of the River Stour, on Saturday 1 August. The festival line-up for this year can be found at stompin.org.
8 - Celebrating local artists
Open daily from February through to December, The Hayloft Studio and Gallery (14 Wick Lane) holds three Collective shows - in spring, summer and Christmas- featuring locally made arts and crafts. The venue is also available for hire to CADArts (Christchurch and District Arts) members (cadarts.com/hayloft).
Volunteer group CADArts are running a Living Craft event at Christchurch Priory Church on 8-12 June. This popular biennial event features a wide variety of crafts including cane, rush and seagrass work, stained glass, wood turning, jewellery making and china painting. There will opportunity to purchase original locally handcrafted items. The exhibition is open between 10am and 4pm daily and admission is by donation to the Church. (3.30pm finish on Friday).
9 - Landmark attractions
For a great aerial view of Christchurch it’s well worth taking a Tower Tour of the town’s most famous building, Christchurch Priory (Quay Road). Call 01202 485804 in advance to check if tours are available as its subject to weather conditions. The Priory also run a special evening guided tour exploring areas of the ancient building not normally accessible to the public including crypts, belfry and roof space. The tours last three hours and cost £10 per person. Booking is essential on the same number above.
Another famous local attraction is Highcliffe Castle. Dating back to the early 1830s, the Grade I listed cliff top mansion is a fine example of the Romantic and Picturesque style of architecture, which flourished at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. A large amount of medieval French masonry for the building was shipped from France and this, along with the Castle’s Gothic revival features and ancient stained glass, makes it look a lot older than it really is. The Castle was rented between 1916 and 1922 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the charismatic founder of Selfridges, as his country home. He is buried in St Mark’s graveyard Highcliffe, next to his wife and mother.
The Castle is open daily throughout the summer, while the Tea Rooms and Grounds are open all year. The venue hosts a regular programme of events visit highcliffecastle.co.uk for more details.
Let’s Move to Christchurch
The interest in property in Christchurch is reflected in the 9% rise in sale prices there in 2014 compared to the year before. The average home in town and surrounding area will now set you back £289,286. Most of the sales were detached properties which, on average, sold for £404,060. Flats had an average sold price of £185,300 and terraced properties averaged at £267,662. Christchurch, with an overall average price of £310,422, was similar in terms of sold prices to nearby Mudeford (£304,928), but more expensive than Burton (£270,242) and cheaper than Highcliffe (£330,835).
Looking at current properties for sale across the area, there are some good new build retirement homes options on the market and also a number of bungalows, a popular option for retirees, priced between £150,000 and £755,000.
For those seeking a property with oodles of character Burton Cottage has a tale to tell. This Grade II Listed thatched cottage in Burton was once home to the Poet Laureate, Robert Southey, a friend of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In 1834 Robert Southey wrote the children’s classic The Story of the Three Bears (now better known as Goldilocks and the Three Bears).
This delightful property is on the market with Palmer Snell (01202 499469) with an asking price of £800,000.
Pricing information from rightmove.co.uk (average prices correct as of April 2015).
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