The clear, chalk-filtered streams of Hampshire are the ideal environment for growing watercress, with the Georgian market town of Alresford being England’s watercress capital.
It was the coming of the railway in 1865 that allowed the industry to thrive, with the ability to transport the crop quickly to London and the Midlands without it perishing. Watercress was picked by hand, transported by cart to Alresford station and sold at Covent Garden market the next morning.
Today, the Mid-Hants Railway Watercress Line is a single track steam railway running between Alresford and Alton. There are passing places at the intermediate stations at Ropley and Medstead & Four Marks.
Upon leaving the station at Alresford, the track passes through a deep chalk cutting before crossing the River Arle, from which Alresford takes its name. And if you look to the right you should be able to see some of the watercress beds.
At the Station Information Office you can collect a leaflet about the Alresford Millennium Trail. The trail links footpaths around the town with illustrated boards that give information about the history of Alresford, its inhabitants, wildlife and countryside setting. The walk is about a mile long and is suitable for wheelchair and pushchair.
Alresford is a beautiful Georgian town, which for many centuries was a prosperous wool town. It is the perfect place for a stroll around the shops as its well-known for a range of antique and gift shops as well as designer fashion boutiques. There are also lots of great places to eat and drink, including coffee at Caracoli and tapas at Pulpo Negro.