Harriett and Heidi butterflies lr wallabies lr

L-R: Harriett and Heidi point to an unusual butterfly and wallabies at New Forest Farm Park, Hampshire

By Tim Saunders

A holiday in Hampshire is something to be embraced.

The county has some fascinating links. Peter Sellers was born in Southsea, Jack Dee was educated in Winchester and Jim Davidson lives in Stockbridge. My wife always says that Mr Davidson was fantastic in Aladdin at The Mayflower in Southampton. But Brian Conley played a brilliant Buttons in Cinderella, the theatre’s recent pantomime, and he will be starring in Barnum at The Mayflower throughout 2015. The Mayflower Theatre is a wonderful art deco venue that has seen many celebrities grace its stage.

Hampshire is also a popular location to film with Worzel Gummidge and Howard’s Way both shot here; in and around the Wallops and The Hamble, respectively.

This affluent part of the south east is a large county with three cities: Winchester, Southampton and Portsmouth.

We stay near Wickham, from which it is easy to visit all three of these cities, if we wish. The house is a pleasant Victorian terrace cottage with three bedrooms so large enough for us to relax and not get under each other’s feet.

Experiences create memories and we hope that our daughters will remember them when they grow up. So with that in mind we venture to New Forest Wildlife Park.

The weather turns to rain but that doesn’t matter. Even though it’s winter there are still some magnificent butterflies to be seen and all undercover, which is extremely welcome. Harriett and Heidi are mesmerised, as are we, by an enormous pale blue variety that will not sit still so unfortunately we are unable to take a photograph. By the time we head back outside the weather has slightly improved and we enjoy seeing a surprising variety of wildlife that ranges from otters to wild boar, wallabies and wolves. You certainly don’t expect to see these in Hampshire. Back inside there are ferrets and hedgehogs and even barn owls and badgers. It’s a real treat for the girls.

On another day we visit Port Solent on the way to Portsmouth and have a relaxing stroll around the complex. It’s the perfect location for a family get together where Harriett and Heidi have chance to meet up with their grandfather. “This wasn’t here when I was young; the developers have done a good job and there are a variety of shops,” says my father, who lived in Gosport and Petersfield in his youth. “In fact just over the water a German submarine got stuck in the war and it remained there until the 1960s.”

We dine at Prezzo, the Italian restaurant. It’s nice to know that diners can rely on finding good food and friendly waiting staff. Heidi (1) finds it difficult to adjust to her new surroundings at first and it is reassuring that other families with temperamental young children are also present so we don’t feel too self-conscience. The background music helps to take attention off our irritable youngest daughter. But once the food arrives Heidi is in her element trying everything she can. Although we have ordered her own set meal from the children’s menu including garlic bread it is mummy’s goat’s cheese salad that truly captures her attention while Harriett helps me tuck into my crab cakes and garlic mayonnaise, which are very moreish. The bread board is a tasty accompaniment. Convivial surroundings and delicious food see us while away three care free hours. Admittedly Harriett and Heidi get bored and take to walking about and trying to help the waitresses clear the tables but they don’t mind. Caroline and I opt for a carbonara main course while grandpa has a risotto.

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