NORTH HAMPSHIRE: Andover

Gordons House Andover lr Heidi feeds a lamb at Finkley Down watched by Harriett lr
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By Tim Saunders

Holidays can provide quality time for watching the children grow.
We discover this during our stay at Gordon’s House in the historic market town of Andover in the beautiful Test Valley. Booked through Sykes Cottages the well proportioned Victorian semi-detached property in a quiet road has three good sized double bedrooms and a sizeable garden. “We have Sky and wi-fi here,” says owner Janet, as she greets us with a delicious homemade cake. “We also have a cinema room…” And this really does set the accommodation apart from the competition. Needless to say the kiddiwinks enjoy watching CBeebies on the large television in the sitting room as well as Toy Story 3 from the BluRay collection. Caroline and I discover The Legacy, a thoroughly addictive Danish series – so good we have to buy the DVDs.
During this holiday Henry decides that he wants to start walking properly, forcing us to purchase his first pair of shoes. He then confidently strolls off down Andover high street holding our hands as he leads the way. Prior to going away his sleep patterns had changed for the better so that he was sleeping through the night. We feared that this might change when confronted with a new environment. But thankfully he keeps his routine despite sleeping in his travel cot; only generally waking once for a night-time feed. We all enjoy a good night’s sleep on comfortable beds and the property is clean throughout. Pretty much everything has been thought of for a relaxing, enjoyable stay. The dishwasher is a welcome sight for me, too. Well positioned, the house is only a short stroll away from the town centre, which is great for us, meaning we can leave the car parked for much of the week on the driveway.
When we do venture out we visit Finkley Down Farm, a short drive away. Here we enjoy a full day of activities that include pony rides for Harriett (6) and Heidi (4), feeding the animals and even holding rabbits. This is the stuff of childhood memories. Henry might be too small to appreciate the animals but he certainly enjoys the extensive play area and while Harriett and Heidi hurtle down the zip wire he potters about on the slides and climbs where he shouldn’t.
The love of nature is further enhanced by a trip to the Hawk Conservancy Trust at Weyhill, again not too far away. Here we discover a surprising respect for the vulture; not a particularly likeable creature - or so I thought. But we learn that they hunt as a team and share with each other. We also learn that owls eat other birds as well as small mammals including hedgehogs. This last point is a shock because firstly we have just discovered that we have a hedgehog in our garden and secondly I have spent time building an owl box in the hope of helping to preserve the barn owl. We are still mulling over what to do.

Holiday reading:
The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon (8 to 12 years) 368 pages hardback. Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 978-0062320940. Price: £12.99
Three children: Archer, Oliver and Adelaide plan an adventure to rescue Archer’s grandparents who have been lost ‘atop an iceberg’ in Antarctica. Despite being an American book, with subsequent American spellings, it is extremely well written, thoroughly enjoyable and a gripping read. The illustrations also by Nicholas Gannon are captivating. It is hard to write humour but Harriett and Heidi have laughed on numerous occasions at the trio’s exploits. “Nobody wants a teacher like Mrs Murkley,” says Harriett.

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