Test River with the Whitchurch Silk Mill on the left. Hampshire, England, UK

The River Test and Whitchurch Silk Mill in Hampshire England UK ()

Nestled along the valley of the crystal-clear waters of the River Test, just a short distance from London lies quaint and historic Whitchurch, Hampshire. Home to literary legends, unique shops, breathtaking views and scenic trails, this little enclave is bursting with day trip opportunities.

Positioned on the banks of the river, the Whitechurch Silk Mill is the UK’s oldest silk mill. It has been operating in the same stately Georgian brick building for over 200 years and now serves as a “living museum.”

It is the only place in the United Kingdom at which visitors can still see silk weaving in person. Skilled and talented weavers (also known as weaver tacklers) craft beautiful silk products on stunning historical looms. The experienced crafters take preserving this heritage skill quite seriously; each must earn a degree in textiles before beginning apprenticeships at the mill.

The mill’s fabrics can be seen on film (notably on Kate Winslet’s hat in ”Titanic”), at fashion houses around the world and in the Silk Mill’s gift shop. Jane Austen fans may be excited to know that the mill will be weaving special ribbons in collaboration with the Jane Austen House to celebrate the author’s 250th birthday in 2025. Be sure to take note of the original cast iron water wheel and the 200-year-old clock that is still wound by hand each week.

After touring the mill with a knowledgeable guide (the volunteer guides are fantastic and eagerly share behind-the-scenes information), the cozy café and duck pond offer a fantastic opportunity for parents to caffeinate and enjoy a delicious treat or two while children feed the animated feathered friends. Duck food is available in the visitor center for only one pound.

Tickets are available on the Silk Mill’s website and annual passes are available. The scenic Mill Trail connects directly across the street and with walking circuit options ranging in distance. My personal route favorite is the walk through the storybook pastures of Bere Mill Farm on the way to Saint Nicholas church and the Fulling Mill. This branch of the Mill trail will also lead visitors to one of the area’s most favored businesses, Bombay Sapphire . Also, down the road is the Watership Down Inn.

If you find yourself in need of a bit of quiet and the crowds of London have left you desiring the picturesque countryside, a day out in Whitchurch and its surrounding areas just might be the tranquility you seek. Accessible via direct train from London’s Waterloo station or by car via the M3, M4, A34, and A303, the area’s attractions make for lovely stops on the way to Bath, Winchester, the New Forest, or the coast.

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