From 2 to 5 June, everyone in the UK will come together and celebrate the Queen’s 70 year reign, with an extended Bank Holiday.
To celebrate this unprecedented anniversary, events and initiatives will take place throughout the country and it will provide an opportunity for people on this side of the channel to also join in the fun.
For those thinking of popping over to the UK to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee one good spot to head for is Stonehenge which is among the many venues holding special events in the nationwide “right royal knees up.”
The historic site, run by English Heritage, will hold an event with “merry monarchs, hands-on activities and fresh-air family fun.”
The 5,000-year-old Stonehenge monument in the south of England has been examined by scientists for centuries and the monument’s mysterious past has spawned countless tales and theories.It is said to be the world’s most famous prehistoric monument.
If possible (and to get the most of a visit from Belgium), it’s good to stay a night or two and an excellent base for any such stopover is located not too far away (30minutes/27km) at Norton Park, near Winchester, a destination which is, in itself, pretty historic.
During Edward the Confessor’s reign, Norton Manor is said to have been owned by a great Saxon Thame. After the Norman conquest, the Manor passed to Walter de Langton, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield.
The present house, probably built by the St John family in the 16th century of red brick and tile, was subsequently developed in the 19th century to become Norton Manor and, In 2000, some £3.6m was invested in its refurbishment.
Fast forward a bit and, in March 2005, Quintessential (QHotels Collection) acquired Norton Manor and the property was again developed, renamed Norton Park and a £14m investment transformed the property to how it is today.
In 2007 the bedrooms were all refurbished but many have retained original fittings and are complemented with beautiful antique furnishings. Among the original Manor House outbuildings that still exist are the stables, coach houses and the 16th century Tythe Barn. The 400-year-old barn is now often used for conferences, functions and weddings.
Q Hotels Collection invested a further £100,000 in 2011 to enlarge and enhance the spa with the addition of five extra spa treatment rooms.
Today, Norton Park has 165 rooms, of which 13 are in the 16th century Manor House. In total, the grounds cover 54 acres with a lake, all ideal for woodland walks. There are, in fact, two lakes on the estate and both are home to a range of fish, birds and wildlife including its own extended family of Canadian Geese during the early summer.
The owners support the British Bee Keepers Association and there are two bee hives within the grounds.It is also proud of the extensive variety of plants, animals, birds and trees in the hotel grounds.
It may not be its most talked about “green” subject but Norton Park also has a very sophisticated sewage plant that copes with the waste from its rooms, leisure club and restaurant.
The restaurant, conversely, is something that is very much a hotel “talking point”, on account of the good hearty British fayre it serves, all at reasonable prices.
The “Scene” resto boasts a lovely choice of classic dishes such as lamb and duck, along with some fine wines and beers.
If you fancy something of the less British classic variety then, not too far away is a terrific Indian restaurant serving some fantastic food.
Spices and Spirits, at Basingstoke, located just 20 minutes away by car, is a multi-award winning resto that’s bounced back from pandemic enforced closure and is now packing ‘em in.
Opened about three years ago, it was forced to close due to the health crisis but reopened four months ago.
The Indian-born owners, Nitin and Anushree, are rightly keen to emphasise that this is not your traditional curry house but a place for authentic fine Indian dining.
The spices used in the kitchen give the food a real kick or, as Nitin likes to say, the “wow factor.” The added spice levels doesn’t mean the food is hotter, just more flavoursome.
This resto is all about a great ambience, great food and great service and it is easy to see why it’s won so many awards in such a short space of time, most recently being voted the best resto in the city (out of 176, no less) and No.2 in the whole of the county. That is some accolade.
The 70-seat resto, curiously tucked away amid a small shopping mall with free parking outside, is small and intimate and features some fine artefacts, including an antique door shipped over from India.
Nitin’s wife is particularly passionate about cooking and takes charge of things in the kitchen while her husband looks after things front of house. They are ably supported by Polish-born Jarek and Prafful.
People travel up to 60km to eat here and, based on the sheer excellent quality of the food, it is not difficult to see why.It is, without doubts, well worth a visit.
Back at Norton Park, things are now gearing up for the spring which brings a mass of bluebells, daffodils and snowdrops particularly around the Manor House ground and down to the lake along with cherry blossom on the trees at the south end of the Barn Lawn. At this time in particular there is an abundance of wildlife particularly around the lake.
In summer, the lawns are manicured and plants and flowers bloom. It is probably at this time that it is best remembered.
But, really, Norton Park is a beautiful place to visit at any time of the year as it changes in dramatic fashion with the seasons.
The peaceful grounds offer an array of opportunities for walking exploring or just relaxing.
With the Queen’s big day looming fast on the horizon and the easing of travel restrictions both in the UK and Belgium, you might be thinking of a visit to the UK.
If so, this lovely hotel makes for a great spot to base yourself – there’s ancient history on one side and some fabulous dining to be had on the other.
If you’ve been waiting since the start of the pandemic to get away then this lovely part of England is well worth considering.
Also worth noting that Q Hotels Collection are currently offering a 10 percent discount on bookings if you book direct.