HAMPSHIRE: Shawford and Winchester


The cast of Jack and the Beanstalk at The Theatre Royal, Winchester

By Tim Saunders

The little known village of Shawford on the outskirts of Winchester is famous for two things. Firstly, it has the longest railway viaduct of over 2,000 feet in length and 40 feet in height. Secondly, its village pub The Bridge Inn was chosen as the location of the cantankerous Victor Meldrew’s hit-and-run death in the final episode of BBC comedy One Foot in the Grave.
The Bridge Inn is an idyllic riverside retreat for nature lovers and ramblers. Located in the tranquil village of Shawford beside the beautiful River Itchen – a Site of Special Scientific Interest thanks to its array of protected species. Ramblers can often be seen along the Itchen Navigation Heritage Trail, one of the best chalk rivers for wildlife in Europe. Bordering the magnificent rolling chalk downland of the South Downs National Park, The Bridge country pub is a welcoming haven. As we tuck into our lunch a fellow diner who lives in the village says: “The house next door to us is only lived in for a few weeks of the year because the owners mainly live in Dubai.” The average house price in Shawford is over £850,000.
A few miles down the road lies the city of Winchester home to its famous gothic cathedral, which opened in 1093 and Winchester College, the oldest public school in the United Kingdom still to be using its original buildings. The novelist Jane Austen died in Winchester in 1817 and is buried in the cathedral. While staying in Winchester in 1819, the Romantic poet John Keats wrote "Isabella", "St. Agnes' Eve", "To Autumn", "Lamia" and parts of "Hyperion" and the five-act poetic tragedy "Otho The Great".
We have enjoyed many walks around Winchester in our time savouring the old historic buildings and narrow streets. A marvellous way to see an aerial view whole of the city is to walk up to the top of St Catherine’s Hill on the outskirts some 220ft high. This land is owned by Winchester College and is ringed by the ramparts of an Iron Age hill fort.
Comedian Jack Dee grew up in Winchester. He was at The Pilgrims' School, a prep school that lies between Winchester's great cathedral and the college. He went on to attend Montgomery of Alamein, a local comprehensive school and then Peter Symonds College, also in Winchester. Jack has performed at The Theatre Royal, Winchester. We visit the restored Edwardian theatre with its 400 seat auditorium to see another famous Jack – Jack and The Beanstalk.
Our two daughters Harriett (4) and Heidi (2) are kept entertained for the duration of the performance. “We particularly liked the dancers,” they both say in chorus. Those dancers are exceptional at such a young age. For me the giant was the best part because I was not expecting him to be so large and it left me wondering how he was operated.  Julian Eardley, who appeared in the BBC’s The Green Green Grass was Dame Dotty Trott. One of his memorable lines that saw the audience burst into laughter was his politically incorrect “I thought fairies lived in Brighton”. Rosanna Miles, who appeared in The Grimleys with Brian Conley, was Jack’s feisty girlfriend. Our daughters continue to talk about this performance.
There are various acts and shows appearing at The Theatre Royal Winchester this year including Barry Cryer and Colin Sell on April 8 and Al Murray on September 14 and 15 and children are sure to like Peppa Pig’s Surprise on April 23 and 24.

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