Houghton Lodge and its Tea Rooms in the Test Valley, Hampshire

Houghton Lodge and its Tea Rooms in the Test Valley, Hampshire

Houghton Lodge is a delightful combination of beautiful gardens, close-mown extensive lawns and parkland surrounding the impressive Houghton Lodge.

Built on the banks of the River Test at the end of the eighteenth century it is believed the lodge was intended to be used as a hunting lodge. Its idyllic setting has made it the ideal venue for the making of films and television series and in 1994 the BBC filmed The Buccaneers here and the landing stage they built then is still there. Visitors can spend some time here enjoying the tranquil setting and the antics of a large family of swans.
The Landing Stage on the River Test in Houghton Lodge Gardens, Hampshire  8171233
The Landing Stage on the River Test in Houghton Lodge Gardens, Hampshire

Houghton Lodge in the Test Valley, Hampshire

This lodge was acquired by the Busk family at the beginning of the twentieth century and has been the private residence through six generations of this family. The current owners, Sophie and Daniel Busk, are keen to share their beautiful gardens and unique home with their visitors. Houghton Lodge is the best example in Britain of a Cottage Orneé. Cottage Orneé translates as decorated cottage. It is an architectural style that embraces a building and the landscape around it. This was done at the lodge by the use of French windows. When these are opened the house and grounds merge together. A covered veranda achieves the same effect during inclement weather. The high chimneys on the roof of the lodge indicate it was once covered by a thatched roof and these chimneys would have kept the sparks away from the thatch. Several open days are organised throughout the year which include a tour of the lodge.
Houghton Lodge in the Test Valley, Hampshire  8171230
Houghton Lodge in the Test Valley, Hampshire

Houghton Lodge Gardens in the Test Valley, Hampshire

Houghton Lodge Gardens include a large kitchen garden surrounded by a chalk cob wall. Chalk cob is a natural building material and the wall here is probably the most complete wall of its kind that is still used for its original purpose. These walls were built high and topped with loose tiles to deter intruders. The central features of this garden are a bubbling fountain and an old well. These are surrounded by flower beds. Beyond these beds is a vegetable garden and a Heritage Orchard. Against the wall the fan-trained fruit trees, benefitting from its shelter, hang heavy with fruit in the summer months. Borders bursting with the colourful blooms of diverse plants including several varieties of dahlia skirt the outside of the walls. Beyond the two gates in the wall parkland rolls away towards the river skirting a pretty pond. Three alpacas live down here in their natural meadow home.
Inside the Walled Garden at Houghton Lodge Gardens in the Test Valley, Hampshire  8171218
Inside the Walled Garden at Houghton Lodge Gardens in the Test Valley, Hampshire

Houghton Lodge Tea Rooms in the Test Valley, Hampshire

Afternoon tea is an English tradition often associated with gardens and Houghton Lodge is no exception. Tea, other hot drinks, light lunches and cakes are available in their tea rooms. The main tea room occupies a converted cow shed. The walls of this building are also fashioned from chalk cob. It spills into the Orangery (originally a greenhouse) that overlooks the walled garden. During the summer there are also tables and chairs outside the tea room in the garden. The Tea Rooms are under the management of the Honesty Group a new kind of business with the aim of simply being honest about food. What is in it, where it comes from and how it is cooked. Their business encompasses restaurants, bakeries, hotels and a cookery school. Honesty provide a cream tea for the themed afternoon tea events that have been introduced at Houghton Lodge this summer. The themed tea a Botanical Affair involved the introduction of a new gin, Mayfly Gin, distilled using the water from the River Test and the botanics that grow on its banks.
Afternoon Tea at Houghton Lodge Gardens in the Test Valley, Hampshire  8171287
Afternoon Tea at Houghton Lodge Gardens in the Test Valley, Hampshire

Tours and Talks at Houghton Lodge Gardens in the Test Valley

Houghton Lodge is only open to the public when hosting special events including its own open days. However, it is available to book for weddings and other special occasions. They will also accept group bookings for private tours of the lodge and gardens. These tours are guided by the owner of the lodge. Private talks given by a member of the gardening team on specialist seasonal topics can also be arranged for groups (minimum ten).
The Walled Gardens at Houghton Lodge Gardens in the Test Valley, Hampshire  8171301
The Walled Gardens at Houghton Lodge Gardens in the Test Valley, Hampshire

Forthcoming Events at Houghton Lodge in the Test Valley, Hampshire

Tuesday 2nd September 3.30pm – 5pm, tickets £25
One of the Afternoon Tea Series, this event will combine a lovely afternoon tea with a masterclass in the making of the perfect cup of tea. The Art of Tea with tasting experts from the award-winning Birchall Tea company is great experience for lovers of fine tea. Each guest will receive a box of Birchall’s flagship Great Rift Breakfast Blend tea.

Friday 20 September 2019 Private evening talk: The Queen Mother at the Castle of Mey. This private evening event will take place in the stunning Chinese Dining Room in Houghton Lodge. It will include champagne, canapés and evening entry to the gardens. Former equerry, Jeremy Mainwaring-Burton, will give a very entertaining, illustrated account of what it was like to stay at the Castle of Mey as one of the Queen Mother’s guests. Tickets cost £55.00 per person which will contribute to the conservation and restoration of the beautiful historic house. Tickets can be oooked here.

Sunday 29th September 2019 is Apple Day at Houghton Lodge Gardens and will be celebrated with Morris Dancers, story-telling, juicing, and a talk on heritage apples and pears. This annual event takes place in collaboration with Sparsholt College. In the evening there will be a Wassailing Event (ticketed) when the apple trees will be blessed to ensure a good harvest the following year.

July 2020 Music on the Test – an afternoon of music on the banks of the River Test – bring your own picnic.

2020 Open Days including a tour of Houghton Lodge. The dates will be on the website soon, don’t delay as they fill up very quickly.
Grotto in Houghton Lodge Gardens in the Test Valley, Hampshire  8171255
Grotto in Houghton Lodge Gardens in the Test Valley, Hampshire

Where to Stay in the Test Valley, Hampshire

Houghton Lodge Gardens itself offers some unique self-catering accommodation beautifully fashioned from old farm buildings. The Apple Rooms, a row of rooms all named for a different apple offer well-appointed rooms incorporating a sleeping area, and eating area, kitchenette, and bathroom. I stayed in the Oragne Pippin Room and enjoyed the luxury of lounging in a large slipper bath while watcing television. The small town of Stockbridge and its independent shops are bursting with fresh, local produce.
An Apple Room at Houghton Lodge, Stockbridge Hampshire   5014055
The Cox’s Orange Pippin Room at Houghton Lodge near Stockbridge in the Test Valley

How to Get to the Test Valley, in Hampshire

Much of the charm of the picturesque Test Valley is the lack of large towns. The M3 motorway does penetrate Hampshire but does not encroach on the Test Valley which is traversed by narrow country lanes and the occasional dual carriageway so a car (with a sat nav) is essential. For the more adventurous there are local bus services including Stagecoach whose bus services link Winchester and Salisbury with Stockbridge, the nearest town.

This article was based on the personal experience of Valery, an ExperiencedTraveller.