Although the village of Southwick is just a few miles from where I live in Southsea, I had never been there until recently. I rely on public transport and the bus service to Southwick was very infrequent; I believe it was withdrawn altogether in autumn 2011. My son's partner was born and brought up in Southwick, however, so soon after he passed his driving test he suggested taking us there. It was a Saturday in early December when a group of locals were in the process of erecting a Christmas tree on the green beside the church.
The village of Southwick is unusual in that it is entirely owned by the Southwick Estate; all properties in the village are rented except for the Church Lodge. All front doors have to be painted dark red, but I'm really not sure why. The village has a church, two pubs, a shop with a post office, a community centre, a former brewhouse (now shop and museum) and a golf course. There was once a school but this has now closed down.
Southwick's two pubs both serve good food. The Red Lion is a Fullers pub located at the northern end of High Street. It serves both lunch and dinner but is closed between 2pm and 6pm. There is a patio garden at the rear. Examples of mains are steak and ale pie or pork and apple sausages and mash as well as steaks, fish dishes, a ploughman's lunch and salads. There is a special section for vegetarian options. Side orders include chips, garlic bread, vegetables and salad. Sandwiches, baguettes and jacket potatoes are available for those wanting a light lunch. There are main courses for children startingx at £4.50. Desserts include cheesecake, ice cream and sorbets as well as hot puddings. Toilets are situated on the ground floor, but there are two steps which might present a problem for disabled visitors. We had lunch there and found both their roast and steak and ale pie to be excellent.
The Golden Lion, also on High Street, has two bars and a restaurant, but food is not served on Tuesdays or on Sunday evenings. Food is cooked on the premises using locally sourced ingredients. Lunch is served from noon to 2pm and dinner from 6pm to 9pm, but the bar is open until 11pm every day except Sunday when it closes at 10.30pm. I haven't eaten at the Golden Lion myself, but apparently the food has improved a lot recently and there has been an excellent review in the Portsmouth local paper. The Golden Lion is famous for the fact that it became the unofficial officers' mess in the period leading up to D-Day when the leaders of the Allied Forces where stationed at Southwick House. It is said that while Eisenhower drank beer, Montgomery confined himself to grapefruit juice.
Just behind the Golden Lion you will find Southwick Brewhouse, which houses a shop and a museum. It dates from the seventeenth century and was a working brewhouse until 1957. It supplied ale and brandy to the Golden Lion. Restoration work was carried out between 1979 and 1985. The brewhouse is an example of a Victorian domestic brewery with its fermenting vessels, steam engine and malt store accompanied by flow charts, photographs and posters. The shop sells British ciders and beers, including Suthwyck Ales, brewed locally. Cask ales are available for four or eight pint containers. Special events are held periodically, such as Welsh Beer Week. Opening hours are from 10am to 5pm Wednesday to Saturday, and 11am to 4pm on Sunday. Group visits of the museum can be arranged outside of these times.
St James' Church is situated on High Street; its full name is St-James-Without-the-Priory-Gate. It is thought to date from 1040, but a great deal of restoration work has been done since then. The altar table is Elizabethan while the panelled gallery and the pulpit date from the 17th century. The original box pews were replaced by modern ones in the mid 20th century. St James is one of only two churches in the country that is a Peculiar, meaning that the chaplain is appointed by the village squire rather than by the bishop of the diocese. The church holds two services on Sunday mornings: Holy Communion is at 8.30am followed by Eucharist at 10.45am. St James is open every day and visitors are welcome. There are artefacts on display in the church from the Augustinian priory that was located immediately south-east of Southwick. The remains of a wall of the priory still exists on the edge of the golf course. The church can accommodate 150 people and is sometimes used for concerts. The west door of the church has access for wheelchairs.
Southwick Golf Club is located on Pinsley Drive, just east of the village. The club's professional, Eddy Rawlings, offers advice to players of all levels. Membership is available on a full or pro-rata, flexible basis. Southwick Golf Club has an eighteen-hole course that extends around Southwick Lake; holes range from short par 3s to long par 4s. It is a 5884 yard course with a par of 69. There is a six-hole pitch and putt course as well as a short-game practice area. Some tee times can be booked in advance, and some early morning ones are reserved for members, veterans or ladies. The clubhouse has a bar that serves food and has views over Portsdown Hill. It can be hired for private parties. There is a skittle alley that has to be booked in advance, and members are offered a reduced rate. The golf club also has a shop selling a range of clothing and equipment.
I don't play golf, but the lake situated in the midst of the course provides a delightful place for a walk. On the December morning we were there, it was quite quiet with just one or two people walking dogs and a few fishermen. You have to walk through a small wooded area and then cross a section of the golf course pretty sharply to get to the lake. We walked along most of the southern side, close to the water, and then turned back. If you carry on and walk around the northern side, the path leads away from the water's edge and passes close to the golf clubhouse. It was a beautiful sunny winter morning and the lake, lined with trees, made a very picturesque scene. To the north you can just see Southwick House, where the leaders of the Allied Forces had their headquarters in the period leading up to D-Day.
Having enjoyed the walk along the lakeside so much as well as lunch at the Red Lion, it seemed a shame that it had taken me so long to discover Southwick. It is just north of Portsdown Hill, very close to Fareham and Porchester, and within easy reach of Portsmouth. Anyone visiting the area could combine a visit to Porchester Castle with a few hours in Southwick. Portchester would be the nearest railway station, but fast trains don't stop there and the only way to travel from Portchester to Southwick would be by taxi. A car is really necessary for visiting the area; it is worth going when the weather is fine for a walk by the lake.