20 things you may not know about Winchester
1. The legend of St Swithun originates in Winchester - according to the legend, the saint's remains were moved against his dying wishes from their final resting place in the grounds of the cathedral to the inner sanctum, whereupon it proceeded to rain for 40 days as a sign of his displeasure. Now, if it rains on the saint's day (15th July), it is said to herald another 39 days of rain!
2. The Radio 4 Gardeners' Question Time potting shed is located at Sparsholt College, just outside of Winchester. Sparsholt is also one of the few regular venues in the UK for lawnmower racing.
3. Marwell Wildlife is the only place in the UK where you can see the Coquerels Mouse Lemur and the Dorcas Gazelle. It also has some of the world's rarest big cats including the Amur leopard and the snow leopard, and one of the smallest - the enchanting sand cat. Visitors can stay at the adjacent Marwell Hotel - a unique safari-style building in a woodland setting.
4. Feast your eyes on the spectacular Avenue of Limes at charming 17th century Lainston House. Measured at 9/10ths of a mile, it is the longest line of limes in England, with trees dating back as far as 1716. Guests staying at the hotel can enjoy a truly English weekend with croquet on the lawn, fishing on the River Test and clay pigeon shooting.
5. Despite Winchester's association with King Alfred, no one has ever found his remains. Thanks to excavations at the end of the 1990s, the location of a medieval abbey church was identified at Hyde, situated on the northern outskirts of the city, and this was found to be the last known resting place of Alfred the Great. Kim Wilkie, one of the foremost landscape architects in the UK, has designed a contemporary garden to mark the site. Sadly, the bodies of Alfred, his Queen and his son which were buried here have still not been found...
6. Winchester College is believed to be the oldest continuously running school in the country. During the spring term, the boys play a unique version of football, Winkies (shorthand for Winchester College Football).
7. Expand your mind! Back in 1850 England's first public library was established in Winchester in part of the former city gaol.
8. Winchester is fast growing a reputation for the quality of its local produce, and plays host to the largest farmers' market in the UK, which is popular with the likes of Rick Stein. The nearby market town of Alresford is the watercress capital of the UK, and local rivers are renowned for their excellent trout. Why not surprise your taste buds with tea at the Cathedral Café - voted one of the UK's top tearooms by The Times. Winchester is home to a host of award-winning gastro-pubs and restaurants located throughout the district.
9. Despite its rich heritage, Winchester's love affair with the modern is apparent across the city. Peter Freeman's Luminous Motion sculpture is positioned in the cathedral square. Visitors can select the colour of the small pulsing lights on the tower by texting 07980 732147 with their choice from options such as Lightdancer, Breathe, Radiance and Eyepop. Antony Gormley's Sound II sits in the cathedral's crypt and works by Elisabeth Frink, Barbara Hepworth and Marzia Colonna are featured throughout the city.
10. From the late 18th century, Winchester was the leading medical centre outside London - one of the reasons Jane Austen moved here from her nearby home at Chawton in 1817. She was laid to rest in Winchester Cathedral upon her death, following a brief residence in College Street.
11. Experience spooky happenings at the Theatre Royal, which is said to have two resident ghosts, one who is believed to be John Simpkins, one of the original founders who converted the Market Hotel into the Theatre Royal in 1913. If you are after some light relief, check out the regular comedy night bills at the recently renovated venue.
12. During World War Two, what is now the West Downs Performing Arts and Conference Centre at University of Winchester, but was then a public boys' school, was closed down and used as a base from which to co-ordinate plans for D-Day. Churchill and Eisenhower also met at nearby Southwick House while planning the invasion. Churchill's War Cabinet took up residence in a special train in the long siding at Droxford Station for several days whilst final preparations for the landings were being made. You can still see the D-Day map in the Map Room at Southwick House.
13. The village of Hambledon, just outside of Winchester, is the birthplace of cricket. At Broadha'penny Down a cricket club was formed in the 1760s and this is where the rules of the game as it is known throughout the world today were first established. The Bat and Ball pub has stood opposite the cricket ground since the club was formed and has a wealth of memorabilia.
14. Boutique hotel chain Hotel du Vin originated in Winchester. Founders Robin Hutson and Gerard Basset opened the doors to the Winchester hotel to widespread acclaim in 1994, and still live in the city.
15. Winchester doesn't like to blow its own trumpet, but the City Museum houses Winchester city's original Moot Horn. Made in Winchester in the late 12th century, records show the horn was still being blown at city functions and meetings throughout the 18th century. A replica is blown at a variety of formal functions today.
16. Fort Nelson, on Portsdown Hill, near Fareham, is not actually named after the famous Admiral, but his monument - the original 'Nelson's column'. Built in 1807 and still standing next to the Fort, it pre-dates its more famous counterpart - in Trafalgar Square - by 36 years. The bricks used to build Fort Nelson, called 'Fareham Reds', are exactly the same as those used to build the Royal Albert Hall - there were 10 million bricks used in the construction of the fort. (Both buildings were completed in 1871.)
17. Winchester has a strong affinity with British military history. The Royal Green Jackets Museum has 34 Victoria Crosses on display - more than in any other public museum in the UK. Since the institution of the VC in 1856, The Royal Green Jackets have been awarded more (59) than any other regiment in the British Army. The 150th anniversary of the VC will be marked in 2006 with a special exhibition in July and August entitled Focus on Courage: The 59 Victoria Crosses of The Royal Green Jackets, which will be accompanied by a book of the same name.
18. Much of Winchester's shopping affords a specialised and individual service. Visitors can see highly-skilled goldsmiths at work at Jeremy France Jewellers at the top of the High Street, or order tailor-made items for the home at Forme on Parchment Street, where centuries-old Italian artistry is brought together with the latest trends in modern design.
19. John Keats wrote his ode 'To Autumn' during a stay in Winchester in 1819, taking his inspiration from his daily walk past the cathedral and college and through the water meadows. Visitors can follow a self-guided walk in the poet's footsteps.
20. Diver William Walker spent six years toiling below the walls of the cathedral in a bid to replace the foundations. Engineer Francis Fox realised that this was the only way to stop the imminent collapse of the cathedral. It is Walker however who is immortalised in brass and who is commemorated annually at Winchester's patronal festival as the man who 'saved the cathedral with his own hands'.