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Winter in the country

From shooting to geocaching, Lucy Higginson,the former editor of Horse & Hound magazine, revelsin the many ways to enjoy the season outdoors in the latest edition of the Winkworth Country Life special.   Summer' It’s overrated. Honestly.The ground is too firm for cantering, the dogs are beside themselvessearching for shade after everywalk, you’re barely allowed to shoot anything and, instead of wearing figure-improving tweed, one is expected to come over allbody conscious and wear short sleeves. Roll on October, I say. Despite the factthat most properties for sale are photographed (for understandable reasons) inspring or summer, it really pays to consider what winter will hold for you ina country house—after all, it can last agood seven months. To answer this, you must of course consider what different members of your familylike to do. Enjoy shooting, beating or working a gundog' You’ll need a county pepperedwith shoots, which means it’s most likelyhilly. Does someone in the family hunt' Ifso, how big and brave are they' Huntinghas changed, and not just because of thenew laws—these days, most hunts havea ‘mounted nanny’ to chaperone those who’drather not jump anything too monstrous (orindeed, who’d rather not jump at all),although there isn’t much point in payinghandsomely to follow a Formula 1 pack ifyou don’t want to put your foot to the floor. Even the most vile winterweather can be survived if there’s a goodplace to eat nearby to reward the hardyafter a cold, wet walk or ride. That said, it isn’t essential to take up fieldsports to enjoy a rural winter. Ask me tochoose between entertaining children ina cinema or leisure centre on a winterSaturday afternoon or going to gather androast chestnuts (last winter’s crop wasexceptional), and I know which I’d plumpfor. Ancient woodland is great for chestnuts—Stour Wood, in Manningtree, Essex,is a particularly good place to go foragingand, while you’re there, you can also enjoya spot of bird watching. The National Trust is also slowly growingwiser to the fact that we enjoy visiting country houses and estates in winter, too, andmothballing fewer properties, which is welcome news. Some of the Trust’s bestgardens really come alive in frosty weather—Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire,Stowe in Buckinghamshire and Mottisfontin Hampshire spring to mind—and are theperfect place to enjoy a bracing walk, afterwhich you will want to head straight fora cup of tea and a good meal.   I can vouch from long personal experience that even the most vile winterweather can be survived if there’s a goodplace to eat nearby to reward the hardyafter a cold, wet walk or ride. A good arrayof pubs, independent cafes and farmshops-cum-tea shops can really help make thoseSundays special when houselights (orwaterproofs) are required pretty much allday. It’s a brilliant—and valid—excuse toeat your way round the local hostelriesbefore defining where to look for your newcountry property. But most major winter events in the countryside revolve around exhilarating racesand point-to-points. The most traditionalof point-to-point races takes place onBoxing Day in the New Forest, in whichriders and ponies can take any route theywant to reach the finish line from a startingpoint that’s kept secret until just before therace begins. You can also find other racesto attend by looking up the fixture list onwww.britishhorseracing.com. If all this sounds a little too 18th century,there also are more high-tech ways of enlivening winter in the countryside, such asthe increasingly popular and surprisinglyaddictive geocaching. Taking part is easy:you use a GPS to hunt out amusing little‘treasure boxes’ tucked away in hiddenlocations across the countryside. Once youfind a box, you can take one of the itemsstored in the cache—often small toys, stickers, or stationery—so long as you leave oneof your own in exchange (see www.gagb.org.uk for more details). But if downtime in the countryside foryou is all about switching off electronicdevices and getting into the fresh air, hereare three counties where you can make themost of the chilly weather the traditional way.   Cracking wintercounties Sussex Sussex is an area with excellent rail linksto London, obviously, but is gloriouslybeautiful in every season, too. UnlikeDevon and Surrey, Sussex’s softer hills lendthemselves well to tobogganing, mypersonal tip for Britain’s next big winter sport diversification (surely it’s got to beonly a matter of time until farmers startfitting button lifts'). The South Downs are home to somefamously good shooting, such as therenowned Angmering shoot, and Sussex,home of Goodwood and Hickstead, is alsohugely horsey, with three racecoursesand six hunts.Best of all, Sussex is also the bonfire capital of Britain, with many thousands ofpeople attending these events and it boastsa 10-week long bonfire season, no less. Surrey Some people dismiss Surrey as the countywhere stockbrokers recharge themselvesand their iPads, but hear me out. Surreyhas surprisingly good countryside and isvery well supplied with equestrian centres.There’s decent shooting and, although youwill probably want to explore neighbouringSussex and Hampshire to find the widestrange, Bisley has internationally renownedshooting facilities, open year round. But where the county really scores reallyhighly is for its winter racing at Kempton,Sandown and Lingfield, including someof the winter season’s showpiece races,such as the King George at Sandown onBoxing Day. Devon (and Dorset) Although this is everyone’s favourite summerdestination, you can’t really fault Devon andDorset—or the West Country as a whole—in winter either. The region is crammedwith hunts, shoots, and a rich array of cafes,country restaurants and pubs, as well asplenty of well-kept footpaths. Cheltenham racecourse, which hostsfive excellent race meetings through theautumn and winter, including the hugelypopular Countryside Raceday on November14, is an easy day trip.     This article is taken from the latest edition of the Winkworth Country Life Special. To get a copy, visit your nearest Winkworth office.

WINKWORTH_autumn country life
From shooting to geocaching, Lucy Higginson,the former editor of Horse & Hound magazine, revelsin the many ways to enjoy the season outdoors in the latest edition of the Winkworth Country Life special.
  Summer' It’s overrated. Honestly.The ground is too firm for cantering, the dogs are beside themselvessearching for shade after everywalk, you’re barely allowed to shoot anything and, instead of wearing figure-improving tweed, one is expected to come over allbody conscious and wear short sleeves.

Roll on October, I say. Despite the factthat most properties for sale are photographed (for understandable reasons) inspring or summer, it really pays to consider what winter will hold for you ina country house—after all, it can last agood seven months.

To answer this, you must of course consider what different members of your familylike to do. Enjoy shooting, beating or working a gundog' You’ll need a county pepperedwith shoots, which means it’s most likelyhilly. Does someone in the family hunt' Ifso, how big and brave are they' Huntinghas changed, and not just because of thenew laws—these days, most hunts havea ‘mounted nanny’ to chaperone those who’drather not jump anything too monstrous (orindeed, who’d rather not jump at all),although there isn’t much point in payinghandsomely to follow a Formula 1 pack ifyou don’t want to put your foot to the floor.

Even the most vile winterweather can be survived if there’s a goodplace to eat nearby to reward the hardyafter a cold, wet walk or ride.
That said, it isn’t essential to take up fieldsports to enjoy a rural winter. Ask me tochoose between entertaining children ina cinema or leisure centre on a winterSaturday afternoon or going to gather androast chestnuts (last winter’s crop wasexceptional), and I know which I’d plumpfor. Ancient woodland is great for chestnuts—Stour Wood, in Manningtree, Essex,is a particularly good place to go foragingand, while you’re there, you can also enjoya spot of bird watching.

The National Trust is also slowly growingwiser to the fact that we enjoy visiting country houses and estates in winter, too, andmothballing fewer properties, which is welcome news. Some of the Trust’s bestgardens really come alive in frosty weather—Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire,Stowe in Buckinghamshire and Mottisfontin Hampshire spring to mind—and are theperfect place to enjoy a bracing walk, afterwhich you will want to head straight fora cup of tea and a good meal.   I can vouch from long personal experience that even the most vile winterweather can be survived if there’s a goodplace to eat nearby to reward the hardyafter a cold, wet walk or ride. A good arrayof pubs, independent cafes and farmshops-cum-tea shops can really help make thoseSundays special when houselights (orwaterproofs) are required pretty much allday. It’s a brilliant—and valid—excuse toeat your way round the local hostelriesbefore defining where to look for your newcountry property.

But most major winter events in the countryside revolve around exhilarating racesand point-to-points. The most traditionalof point-to-point races takes place onBoxing Day in the New Forest, in whichriders and ponies can take any route theywant to reach the finish line from a startingpoint that’s kept secret until just before therace begins. You can also find other racesto attend by looking up the fixture list onwww.britishhorseracing.com.

If all this sounds a little too 18th century,there also are more high-tech ways of enlivening winter in the countryside, such asthe increasingly popular and surprisinglyaddictive geocaching. Taking part is easy:you use a GPS to hunt out amusing little‘treasure boxes’ tucked away in hiddenlocations across the countryside. Once youfind a box, you can take one of the itemsstored in the cache—often small toys, stickers, or stationery—so long as you leave oneof your own in exchange (see www.gagb.org.uk for more details).

But if downtime in the countryside foryou is all about switching off electronicdevices and getting into the fresh air, hereare three counties where you can make themost of the chilly weather the traditional way.

 

Cracking wintercounties

Sussex

Sussex is an area with excellent rail linksto London, obviously, but is gloriouslybeautiful in every season, too. UnlikeDevon and Surrey, Sussex’s softer hills lendthemselves well to tobogganing, mypersonal tip for Britain’s next big winter sport diversification (surely it’s got to beonly a matter of time until farmers startfitting button lifts').

The South Downs are home to somefamously good shooting, such as therenowned Angmering shoot, and Sussex,home of Goodwood and Hickstead, is alsohugely horsey, with three racecoursesand six hunts.Best of all, Sussex is also the bonfire capital of Britain, with many thousands ofpeople attending these events and it boastsa 10-week long bonfire season, no less.
Surrey

Some people dismiss Surrey as the countywhere stockbrokers recharge themselvesand their iPads, but hear me out. Surreyhas surprisingly good countryside and isvery well supplied with equestrian centres.There’s decent shooting and, although youwill probably want to explore neighbouringSussex and Hampshire to find the widestrange, Bisley has internationally renownedshooting facilities, open year round.

But where the county really scores reallyhighly is for its winter racing at Kempton,Sandown and Lingfield, including someof the winter season’s showpiece races,such as the King George at Sandown onBoxing Day.
Devon (and Dorset)

Although this is everyone’s favourite summerdestination, you can’t really fault Devon andDorset—or the West Country as a whole—in winter either. The region is crammedwith hunts, shoots, and a rich array of cafes,country restaurants and pubs, as well asplenty of well-kept footpaths.

Cheltenham racecourse, which hostsfive excellent race meetings through theautumn and winter, including the hugelypopular Countryside Raceday on November14, is an easy day trip.
    This article is taken from the latest edition of the Winkworth Country Life Special. To get a copy, visit your nearest Winkworth office.

Related posts

Winter in the country

From shooting to geocaching, Lucy Higginson,the former editor of Horse & Hound magazine, revelsin the many ways to enjoy the season outdoors in the latest edition of the Winkworth Country Life special.   Summer' It’s overrated. Honestly.The ground is too firm for cantering, the dogs are beside themselvessearching for shade after everywalk, you’re barely allowed to shoot anything and, instead of wearing figure-improving tweed, one...

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October 20, 2014

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