Andover’s High Street is flanked by lots of handsome Georgian properties, and among them are many former coaching inns, like the Globe, which has had the same name since 1742. The Neoclassical Andover Guildhall on the High Street dates to 1825, while the Angel Inn at the top of this thoroughfare is one of Hampshire’s most important timber-framed buildings, built in 1425. There are more 15th-century houses on Chantry Street and Medieval Street, while the circular Norman archway to the Garden of Remembrance is all that survives of the Andover Church, from the 12th century.
Andover is a town that grew up around the woollen industry and became an important stop on the coaching road between London and Salisbury in the 18th century. To the west lies the chalk plateau of the Salisbury plain, which is the largest military training area in the UK, encompassing 150 square miles. So it’s no mystery why Andover’s largest employer today is the Ministry of Defence (MOD). You can investigate some of this heritage at the Museum of Army Flying. Almost all of the surrounding chalk hills in the North Hampshire Downs were home to settlements in the Bronze and Iron Age. One, Danebury was excavated in the 20th century, yielding a haul of artefacts for Andover’s excellent Museum of the Iron Age.
THE LIGHTS THEATRE
A creative hub for the Test Valley, the Lights Theatre is the place to go for a bit of live culture in the evening. Touring theatre productions, musicals, dance companies, stand-up comedians and music acts take the stage at the 250-seater auditorium, and there’s something going on most nights of the week. The Lights Theatre also serves the Andover area with education and training programmes, community theatre performances, gigs by local musicians and exhibitions. In the school holidays, you can bring little ones to interactive storytelling, workshops and child-oriented plays.
ANDOVER LEISURE CENTRE
The £16m Andover Leisure Centre has opened its doors to the public in Summer 2019, after more than two years in the works. Facilities at the centre include a 25m six-lane swimming pool with 15m learner pool, 165-station fitness suite, virtual cycling studio, dance studios, an eight-court sports hall, squash courts, adventure play and café.
Riverside Bowl is a fantastic entertainment venue for Andover and the surrounding area, it is not just a Bowling venue, it also offers Glo-Golf, Snooker and Pool, together with an American Diner and the free use of stylish new meeting rooms for local community groups. These can also be booked at a reasonable price for corporate events and children’s parties. Run by Valley Leisure a charity with the community at its heart.
State-of-the-art chain cinema for blockbusters in 2-D or 3-D format, plus family and student deals.
In walking distance of Andover’s town centre is another calming natural site, this time at the source of the River Anton. The river rises from springs before coursing through historic watercress beds and entering a string of lakes that are flooded gravel quarries. The lakes are an oasis for birdlife, such as the great-crested grebe, which has stunning brown, orange and white plumage in summer. Butterfly species like marbled white float over the reserve’s chalk grasslands in summer, while the flooded fen meadow has a magnificent colony of southern marsh orchids, blooming in midsummer.