Set in the heart of the Test Valley, the wetlands that encase the small town of Stockbridge provide a natural, historic and culinary backdrop unlike any other.
Under a two hour drive out of London and accessible by train from Andover or Winchester the idyllic location offers a welcome change of pace for city dwellers as well as an opportunity to stretch your legs and recharge your batteries.
A number of artisan shops line the high street which traverses a total of five river streams.
Guided walkways can be found on either side giving you a chance to explore the rich natural habitat of the surrounding Marsh which is home to wet grassland and fen-like vegetation, with herb-rich hummocky areas that have become a haven for bird species such as moorhens, kingfishers, mistle thrush and reed buntings.
The primary waterway, the River Test, is known to be one of the best rivers for fishing in the world, supplying locals with deliciously fresh salmon and sea trout. Such is its reputation that fishermen from across the country journey to ply their trade in its waters.
Others, like me, are simply happy to enjoy their produce wedged between an English muffin and Hollandaise sauce first thing in the morning.
Sat in the heart of the town, the 200 year-old Grosvenor hotel takes pride of place among Stockbridge’s many pubs, cafes and restaurants.
Everything is within walking distance of the hotel, so once you have dropped the car in one of the many parking spots available you are free to explore the local surroundings.
My advice would be to take a stroll on one of the trails that set out from the high street. The poetry walk was a particularly good find. Comprising of ten poems that are set in metal plaques you can discover the town’s natural beauty at the same time as reading the verse of those who have paid homage to it.
After a significant refurbishment, the rooms at the Grosvenor boast a fresh, modern and homely feel.
The beds adorn crisp white linen with duvets that will swallow you up whole. Mozzo coffee and Twining Teas are stationed in all the rooms and Molton Brown toiletries can be found in abundance.
If you are lucky enough to bag the Hayloft Suite you will be treated to kitchen facilities, a dining area and a freestanding bath at the foot of the bed that can be enjoyed with your favourite TV show.
Fishing is certainly at the heart of The Grosvenor’s offering.
Sat above the porte-cochère is the meeting room of the much-famed ‘Houghton Fishing Club’, which dates back to 1822 and is the most long-standing private fishing fellowship in Britain.
Dubbed the “club you cannot join” by Country Life membership is both exclusive and elusive with the current member number sitting at a mere twenty-five.
Those who fancy something a bit dryer could consider an Outside Day offered by the hotel. There is both driven and walked up shooting, as well as deer stalking on The Grosvenor Hotel’s doorstep.
Food and drink 4/5
Under the stewardship of head chef Neil Cooper the Grosvenor has completely revamped its menu, putting a keen focus on fresh, local produce.
The modern British menu includes a Stockbridge Smoked Trout starter with the fish done two ways. A pea and trout mousse with beetroot cured salmon sits alongside smoked trout toast, which is to die for. Scallops are also available to enjoy served with black pudding, apricot, hazelnut and pancetta.
For main course a venison dish of roast haunch and stew is a real touch. The rich, chunky pieces of meat sit on top of a smoked potato puree, while side dishes of stew and bitter chocolate jus round the dish off.
Breakfast in the morning is a similarly indulgent treat, with all the classics on offer. You would be well advised to order the eggs Royale with smoked trout, it is an absolute delight.
Try to get up early. The Stockbridge Marshes are best enjoyed at sunrise, when a mist as white as lace covers the meadows.
Jack was a guest of The Grosvenor, Stockbridge. Rooms at the hotel start from £85 per night.