Mysteries and master classes in Winchester.jpg

Mysteries and master classes in Winchester

ENGLAND’S ANCIENT capital is a city steeped in history, offering rich pickings for visitors looking to uncover Britain’s past. From legend and lore to awe-inspiring architecture, Winchester is a treasure trove of English heritage. The city is packed with historic buildings, monuments and museums waiting to be explored, and is famous for the legendary Arthurian Round Table.

Dominated throughout history by the church, state, law and military, Winchester’s layout has also been shaped by these great institutions. As visitors explore the compact city centre, they naturally move from one ‘quarter’ of the city to another, each influenced by the impressive buildings, which still embody these institutions.

There are many beautiful walking trails in the surrounding area, and for families, Marwell Zoological Park and Intech hands-on science centre are great days out. Less than an hour from Bournemouth airport, this former seat of King Alfred the Great, is England as it ought to be.

Cracking the code – an exhibition at Winchester Cathedral

A touch of Hollywood glamour came to Winchester when director Ron Howard filmed scenes for a movie version of the best-selling book, The Da Vinci Code here last autumn. The Cathedral, which will feature as a backdrop in the film, is mounting a major exhibition from now until Friday July 21, in order to mark the imminent release of the movie in the UK.

Visitors will find a series of storyboards in an area used for filming. These boards will invite visitors to think about some of the main ideas and symbols in the Code, such as the role of Mary Magdalene, her supposed marriage to Jesus and the claim that she figures in Leonardo’s The Last Supper painting. They will then be invited to visit specific areas of the Cathedral in which some of the same symbols are used, but where they convey a quite different message.

In the Quire, for example, are to be found ‘Solomon’s Seal’ carved in the early 14th century and a Victorian statue of John the Evangelist that could be mistaken for a portrayal of a woman.

Finally, they will be encouraged to take a mystery tour of their own, in order to find something of the presence, peace and power of God in specific locations in the cathedral.

Accompanying the exhibition will be a series of six talks by both visiting and local speakers, including the Bishop of Winchester and experts on literary criticism, the interpretation of the gospels and Church history.

Become a gorgeous gourmet

The Winchester region is great for foodies, and famous TV chef James Martin owns a fabulous delicatessen here called Cadogan & James, which sells a superb range of unusual cheeses, delicious potted jams, olive oils and beautifully hand wrapped biscuits. Also new in Winchester for this year, is a series of gourmet ‘Master classes’, launched to give food-lovers a hands-on opportunity to get creative. Here are a few of the main new events going on this year you can go to:

Chocolatecraft weekends

June 16 to 18, June 23 to 25, October 6 to 8, October 20 to 22  

Spend the weekend with the Alresford Chocolate Company, creators of the award-winning Chilli Zing chocolate. Over two afternoon sessions, top chocolatier Debbie Carter will introduce you to the art of chocolate making, including tempering, truffle making, preparing molded chocolates and dipping chocolates. Take home any chocolate that you make … that is assuming you haven’t already eaten them!

Watercress workshop weekends

October 27 to 29, November 3 to 5

Watercress has made its mark on Hampshire, with acres of watercress beds spanning the Itchen and Meon Valleys. Join Jennifer Laing of specialist watercress caterers Cresson Creative in Alresford, the UK’s capital of watercress farming, and find out about the culinary heritage of this beautiful Georgian town. Take a tour of the watercress beds before heading back to Cresson Creative HQ to learn how to cook some of Jennifer’s watercress recipes including pesto, scones and canapés.

Sloe gin making weekends

November 10 to12, November 17 to 19

Once the favoured tipple of middle-class Victorian ladies, sloe gin is fashionable once again. To find out how to make this fabulously fruity, berry-flavoured liqueur, join Hazel Southam of the award-winning Real Jam and Chutney Company among the hedgerows of Hampshire. Hazel will show you where and how to pick the best fruit before you return to her premises in Winchester to prepare the gin.

• Taking a flight from Faro into Bournemouth puts you within less than an hour’s drive of this fascinating area. For further information on all of the above see or telephone + 44 (0) 1962 840500.  Flights and accommodation can be booked at Those without internet access can book by calling 214 159 122.