Alresford, Cricket, The Watercress Line and much more.
The little town of Alresford is a place of immense charm. Illustration by Victor Spink
Of ancient origins — it has traces of Roman buildings — it belonged to the Bishops of Winchester in the 12th century, but since the Reformation it twice suffered destruction by fire. However, by 1736 it was again rebuilt, and retains its quiet and elegant Georgian flavour to this day.
In the Middle Ages a dam was built on the river Itchen as part of an abortive scheme to make it navigable to Southampton. Now the town is divided into Old and New Alresford by the A31 road.
At 27 Broad Street, was born in December 1787, the author and poet Mary Russell Mitford, whose best-known work, Our Village, portrayed the life and times of rustic folk — some say as perceptively and brilliantly as her more famous Hampshire contemporary, Jane Austen, dissected the lives of the gentry of their time.
To lovers of cricket, and its history, Alresford is well-nigh sacred. In the meadows watered by the small tributary river Alre the youth of the town enjoyed cricket in the 18th century. Several Alresford players were members of the original Hambledon Club.
Mary Russell Mitford summarised it neatly when she wrote: “Hampshire is the Greece of cricketers,and Alresford the Athens.
The Watercress Line is the marketing name of the Mid-Hants Railway, a heritage railway in Hampshire, England, running 10 miles (16 km) from New Alresford to Alton where it connects to the National Rail network. The line gained its popular name in the days that it was used to transport locally grown watercress to markets in London. The railway currently operates regular scheduled services, along with dining trains and numerous special events throughout the year. The line is also well known for its extensive facilities, friendly staff and the quality of restoration work performed at Ropley MPD.