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Friday, 11th March 2016
The day started cold and very foggy - by the time we had packed clothes into suitcases and cats into baskets the fog had mostly gone, but where the fields were turned earth they steamed as if they were cauldrons. Ginny left her coat as we went to drop off Tabitha and Amelia at Auntie Phyllis's, not many cats apparently resident there at the time. So we returned to home camp before setting off on the way to Hampshire.

We had an easy journey down to Hampshire, stopping at South Mimms and patronising KFC there, then let the Satnav (for some reason the spell checker corrects this to saunas) kindly lead us to East Meon. Well not so kindly - here as elsewhere the Satnav thought it easiest to take single-track anonymous country lanes which stressed me out. Some bewilderment when we reached the farmyard of Drayton Farm, at 3pm which is the earliest we could, and weren't sure how to gain admittance to our holiday cottage. A dog on a plastic leash, and two cats, looked at us but refused to help. We didn't have to wait long to be advised that we needed to park round the side, and the door of the cottage had been left open for us!
And a very nice cottage it was too! Complete with towels and toilet rolls and tea and coffee and Scrabble and Skribble and shortbread biscuits and bottle of wine! And comfortable sofas to read Tim Powers' "Medusa's Web" on. It is a working farm, and as neighbours we had several barns of ewes and frisky lambs - their bleating was tolerable. There was a smell of fuel right by the boiler - but I found the cottage very comfortable.

For the evening meal we went to Ye Olde George Inn in East Meon, which is an enchanting village. A decent hill with a decent Church overlooking, a stream running through it, old flint walls, centuries old buildings. Wonderful. We were too early for the Inn to open (6 pm), and then too early for them to serve food (6.30pm). Only by chance did we realise you could order before 6.30pm, if they said that we missed it. Good real fire, food upmarket so perhaps we should have ordered sides of vegetables too as well as the main dish.
The next day (12th March) after breakfast (Ginny did the eggs well done) we went to Hinton Ampner, a National Trust place. Georgian style place built in the 1960s, not massive but full of eclectic beauty and porcelain and semi-precious stones embedded into wood. Plenty of fine topiary in the gardens but we couldn't walk far as they were afraid of the damage from footfalls after rain. Had a dubious sausage roll - the jacket potato looked far better. Then onto Jane Austen's house at Chawton, saw the 12-sided small frail table on which she wrote and rewrote her masterpieces. A different era. She and Cassandra left school at 11! Then onto another kind of temple - Sainsburys in Alton to get ready meals for the evening. We played Scrabble.

On the Sunday we navigated to a car park in Winchester with only a hiccup or two, but were baffled how to enter Winchester Baptist Church until one of the congregation took pity on us. Most of the people were away but there were still enough there for a good service. I found it difficult to cope with having a not quite with it woman behind me who coughed and sang wildly.

Virginia and I made a big mistake for lunch, going into an Art Cafe. The student type looked at us as if we were stupid, and didn't help at all - we should have walked out but instead got mugged for a miserable sandwich unaccompanied by crisps or salad. Silly us.
We also shouldn't have gone to the Winchester Science Museum - really one for the kids. We sat through a show on the creation of the universe from a Big Bang theory - most people get what they believe from what they hear most often, they couldn't derive what they believe from first principles. For us a waste of money but for the kids plenty to play with.

We then had a lot of exercise walking around the extensive Marwell Zoo. It had tigers and cheetahs and leopards, all perhaps bored witless but at least at less risk than in their native habitats. Our feet were sore afterwards.

In the evening we dined at the Thomas Lord pub in West Meon. He was the Lord of Lord's cricket ground, explaining the cricket themed adornment. Upmarket fare, the desserts were more artistic than filling. A dog friendly place, they had a water bowl down for the canines. A door bell rang when the kitchen had dishes ready for the waiting staff to take through to the tables. But pleasant atmosphere, a solid village presence.
We returned to Winchester on Monday 14th, discovering Ginny's near side front tyre had a slow puncture so called breakdown people out later on return to East Meon. Winchester was a nightmare of closed streets and car parks and attractions like King Arthur's round table. Happily easy to walk around, smaller area than Marwell Zoo. Saw the imposing cathedral, with Jane Austen's tomb and ornate stonework and monuments to the dead. An alive place of active worship which is good. Schoolgirl party blocked off seeing an old illustrated manuscript Bible for a while. We hit a Sainsburys and Marks & Spencer's for supplies.

Green Flag came soon after we called them in the afternoon - detecting the spare tyre was cracked, and a nail in the current front tyre. So off to Petersfield. Petersfield Exhaust and Tyre Services fixed the tyre for a reasonable price, £17.95 to my surprise! I felt dumb afterwards having let them have Ginny's house keys to be able to drive the car into their workshop. But at least a working tyre now!
A far smoother trip into Portsmouth on the Tuesday and straight into the best car park which had plenty of space. A ripoff price of £32 for all the attractions, but having come so far not much option. We did HMS Warrior first and then HMS Victory - both very similar, and very different. Both had tiers of gundecks, small kitchens and surgeries and stores. HMS Warrior both more modern and more headroom, locker-room like areas holding the kitbags. HMS Warrior also had engines in it which were turning like the heart of the world. Also did a museum displaying figureheads upstairs, quite a range.

On the way back to East Meon we stopped at the Seven Stars at Stroud for a decent lunch. The shared bread was OK but not the best, main meal reasonably priced, very friendly staff, well laid out, toilets great. Downside was one noisy woman intent on sharing what she thought of various films and TV with everyone else in the restaurant including plot twists. I felt like recommending "Dread" to her.
On the last full day we got to Uppark only just in time for a taster tour of the house at 11am - the NT website is rather out of step with what's happening on the ground. I found what was below the stairs (splendid housekeeper's room, safe for silverware, kitchens, wine cellar, nooks and crannies) much more interesting than the usual upstairs rooms of pictures and china. Uppark House is stood like Darien on his promontory, looking out across rolling valleys. A subterranean complex of tunnels linked the house with the two service buildings for cooking etc, Ginny found it quite a labyrinth. Damp too.

Uppark had a HG Wells connection, his mother was an unsuccessful housekeeper here (got sacked in the end), HG Wells used the house for a book, he even played with the elaborate dolls house that a Fetherston-Haugh bride brought with her to the house. We had jacket potatoes - had to send them back as got tuna rather cheese first time round.

We then eventually found Butser Ancient Farm despite the satnav (which also betrayed us again into a gauntlet of one-track roads to return to East Meon rather than straightforward faster motorways). It had already been discovered by several coach loads of school children - whose nap sacks laid around the reconstructed roundhouses. Either that or the Anglo-Saxons were more advanced than I give them credit for. I found the wattle and daub more interesting than the Roman villa ready with do it yourself mosaics for the kids.

Dined again at Seven Stars, liked the jam pudding with custard.