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8 Reasons why Winchester should be your getaway destination this half term

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Half terms - we all love them. A chance to catch up on sleep, finish that coursework, or visit the family dog.

But why should that be it? You won't have half terms forever, so why not use them to your advantage? Yeah, Benidorm is a laugh, but one of my fondest memories of first year was heading on girly trips to new places in our very own United Kingdom.

So if you've spent up most of your savings booking a mad one in Ibiza this summer, why not take a break from the hustle and bustle of university life by heading to the Winchester.

No, I'm not talking about the pub where Shaun and the gang hold up in the face of a zombie apocalypse in Shaun of the Dead, though perhaps that could be my next article. I'm talking about the quaint English city of Winchester - County Town of Hampshire. Why, you ask? I'll tell you why:

1 - Bollards don't just have to be bollards; they can be works of art

Yes, you heard that right. Whilst most of us walk past bollards on a daily basis without giving them a second glance, Winchester council decided to make them into little works of art. With everything from the Mona Lisa to a community bollard designed for the London 2012 Olympic Games by the Winchester & District Young Carers, these bollards are something else.

2 - The zoo

I don't know anyone who doesn't appreciate a day at the zoo. A whole park, dedicated to little & big creatures, for all to see. If that's not enough of a reason to go, then I'm sure I'll swing your vote by telling you of the new arrival. A pygmy hippo. I've never seen a pygmy hippo, but I have seen a hippo, and the thought of seeing a teeny tiny hippo is just too much to handle. Between 27th May to the 4th June, there's even a stamp collecting activity with the chance of winning an annual membership for two adults & two children!

3 - Who doesn't love a good market?

That's a serious question. Whenever you visit somewhere new, if someone happens to mention a market, you go, it's like a law or something. But this isn't just any market, if you catch it on the first Sunday of each month (which you will if you go the last weekend of half term) then you will be greeted with the Vintage & Retro Village market. They have records, clothing, the lot.

4 - You can't forget about Jane

Any literary lover knew this one had to be here. That's right, you can visit Jane Austen's home-come-museum and if you are still sat there wondering who Jane is, you're in luck. Between 13th May - 24th July, Jane Austen's House Museum will be running an exhibition exploring the very question - Who is Jane Austen? They're also running 'Jane's Winchester: Malady and Medicine', which looks specifically at the final chapter of Jane's life and it won't cost you a thing.

But if you're not much into reading then don't fear, why not enjoy a spot of afternoon tea, music, craft & writing workshops, or even some open air theatre? 

5 - Pre-summer festivals

Okay, so it's not quite summer. But don't let that put you off Winchester's finest. On 20th May, you could be getting your clogs on and swinging a sword to some Morris music and if you're confused by that, then read the next line. There'll be Morris dancing, sword dancing and clog dancing for entertainment, along with Winchester Musicals and Operatic Society and some other choirs and orchestras. So if you want to have one of the most brilliantly odd days, then head down to this FREE festival.

If you've still got some Morris dancing left in you, then you can go to Alresford on the 21st May - for a free food festival (think about the tasters!) with crafts, music & a jazz band, you can even hop on a steam train to start or end the day with a ten-mile ride. If that last sentence really got you excited - then go between 10th & 11th June where visitors to the Watercress line get a proper feel for railway life during the war.

Finally, there's the brand new festival, Winchestival, which promises stand-up, music, kids entertainment and of course the good stuff - local ales, cocktails and street food. Adults £18, Child £10 & Children under 5 FREE.

6 - Picnic

It may seem simple; perhaps even a thing of the past. Well why don't we bring it back? Picnics are great. Think about it, everything from pork pies to strawberries & cream all wrapped up in a straw basket, laid atop a wool picnic blanket, which you're sat on whilst baking in the southern sun. Tempted yet? You've plenty of spaces to decide where to plonk yourself, such as Abbey Gardens, Avington Park, or Winchester City Mill - which is supposedly frequently visited by otters. Yes, OTTERS.

Do you know what else goes with picnics and otters? Bikes. If you're a pedal enthusiast, then take part in Winchester Criterium on 11th June, where you can get involved or sit back and watch the stunt show!

7 - You can't eat outside if it rains

Yes, but I've thought about this one too. If you're less outdoors-y and more bistro-y, say no more. As an avid foodie, I wouldn't dream of taking a trip without first doing proper research and Winchester doesn't disappoint. There are plenty of quirky pubs, bars and restaurants with stunning architecture, but for me, there are two clear front runners. The Old Vine won Hampshire Hospitality Awards for both its food and use of local produce, but if it's the proper olden timey experience you're after, then look no further than the Chesil Rectory which, much like The Old Vine, prides itself on using local produce whilst dating back to 1450.

8 - Lots of room for activities

Spend one week in Winchester and you could go from joining a special Winchester Cathedral tour to laughing at James Veitch's hilarious new show Game Face at Winchester Discovery Centre.

If it is comedy you're after, you could also head to the Comedy Night at Guildhall Winchester (bar open all night!) or brush up on your history knowledge with Horrible Historieslive stage performance at the Theatre Royal on the 29th & 30th May.

As well as having a Discovery centre, Winchester also has a science centre, where you can visit between 26th May - 5th June for live science shows & demonstrations for £12 an adult, £8.40 a child (although if you book online you can even get 10% off).

If that's not enough excitement for one week, you could also head to Gilbert White's House for the second annual Nature Festival. which involves more fun activities and (unspecified) stalls!

9 - They have a fair for hats...

If it weren't my job to ellaborate, I'd say I didn't need to. Between 30th June & 2nd July, Hat Fair returns to Winchester. I can't even begin to describe the utterly brilliant madness, but imagine the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, then stretch it accross Winchester. And is if it couldn't get any better - it's also completely free.

For more information & tickets go to www.visitwinchester.co.uk

 

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