Sunday, 20 January 2013

Oh Lymingtonshire

Our inter-nation travellers guide book continues with our first foray of 2013 crossing over the border into Hampshire and the idyllic Georgian seaside market town of Lymington.

With a population of 14,000, this sea faring and boat racing port has an intriguing history because for most of the eighteenth century, Lymington was the main producer of sea salt for the UK.

There was a continuous line of salt works along the five miles of coastline from Lymington to Hurst Spit and when Daniel Defoe (author of Moll Flanders and Robinson Cruesoe) visited around 1725, he commented: "the town of Limington is chiefly noted for making fine salt, which is indeed excellent". With the last salt house closing in 1865, the landscape is now home to an attractive and important nature reserve bringing in 250,000 visitors a year.

With dozens of independent retailers, we found Lulu's Gifts a veritable treasure trove of gift ideas for females of any age and they're one of the largest UK stockists of the Dutch design house Pip Studio.

We found a sign writer called Terry Smith who sells collectibles, transport memorabilia and other retro items from his Old's Cool (like what he did) base and too many eateries too mention, but Tracey did have a fine salad at the 13th Century coaching inn The Angel which is worth a mention.

It has a cracking independent museum and art gallery, St. Barbe, which has a diverse and appealing exhibition  programme and historic collection. We'll be heading over to see the illustrator, humourmesiter and creator of numerous eccentric machines Heath Robinson who's ink work and watercolours are the focus of the forthcoming exhibition (mid February till mid April 2013).

The current exhibition by Randolph Walsh (an official war artist) also picked up national press coverage from The Times and it's heart warming to see St Barbe and other smaller galleries across the UK, like The Grundy in Blackpool, delivering such stimulating programmes.

Awarded "best town on the UK coast" last year by the broadcaster Channel 5, based on criteria such as: attractive scenery, transport links and crime rate (this has seeded an idea for a future extended piece about the O & C top coastal towns), it provided us with with a good few hours of exploration up and down the narrow cobbled streets and the barometer for any visit  is would we come back and would be come back soon? Yes we definitely will.

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