Sunday, 29 March 2009

An ammonite, yews and the old church

A small outhouse at the Lawns appears to have been built with stones from the old church, now only the chancel stands. The outhouse has a large ammonite plus a smaller one near the apex of the roof. The larger one a strange and rare fossil for an outhouse ....... I wonder where it was originally located.

The chancel of the old Holy Rood church - it has featured on this blog many times. It was Swindon's original parish church and is first mentioned in documents dating from 1154. It was rebuilt about 1300 but fell into disrepair after the new Christ Church was built. Partly demolished in 1852, leaving only the chancel and a few arches (perhaps this is where the ammonite stone came from) English Heritage has scheduled the remains of the church as an ancient monument.
There is a concentration of yews in this part of the Lawns, not least in the churchyard, which is not accessible to the public. The one in the far corner of the churchyard looks very ancient indeed.

The afternoon sunlight shafting through a row of yews just outside the old churchyard ( I counted thirteen).

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Land of Richard Jefferies - goodbye!

Dayhouse Lane, looking towards Liddington Hill with some of the stones from the small Coate Stone Circle just visible in the meadow on the left
(double click with mouse over photo to enlarge - for a better view of the circle)
The unbroken views toward Liddington Hill from Coate Water - this will be replaced by another uniform housing development if the Save Coate fight loses its long battle to preserve the landscape
Today I was on Dayhouse Lane which runs alongside the Richard Jefferies museum by Coate Water - the lane runs towards Badbury and Liddington Hill which was greatly loved by Victorian writer Richard Jefferies (1848-1887). Richard Jefferies wrote about this land (and his walks through it) in much of his writing. There are many references to the old house and the land around it: The old house by the silent country road, secluded by many a long, long mile and yet again secluded within the great walls of the garden. Often and often I have rambled up to the milestone which stood under an oak, to look at the chipped inscription low down - "To London, 79 miles" (From The Life of the Fields first published 1884)

The Old House still stands, now a museum and so too does the milestone - though the road it stood on is now redundant replaced by a dual carriageway to speed motorists towards the M4. The land around Dayhouse Lane (and Dayhouse Lane itself) will soon start to disappear if developers win the right to build houses, a business park and a university there. There is a small stone circle in one of the fields just off Dayhouse Lane and stunning rural views towards Liddington Hill. Walking along there today the sense of unspoilt countryside went a long way to ameliorate the distant thunder of the M4 motorway.
Richard Jefferies was born at Coate Farmhouse, Coate in 1848. In those days Coate was a small hamlet close to Swindon on the Hungerford Road. Richard Jefferies spent the first 29 years of his life there and wrote extensively about nature and his rambles up to Liddington Hill and beyond. His book Bevis is thought to be an autobiographical adventure recalling his childhood around Coate Water. His later work became a somewhat inner journey which he wrote of in Story of My Heart. He married a neighbouring farmer's daughter Jessie Baden of Daye House Farm and they had three children. Sadly, Richard Jefferies' health deteriorated at a young age and he died in Worthing in 1887 at the age of 39.

The Coate Tree Collection

By the Coate Water entrance to the Coate Tree Collection is a small lake formed by a dam of sarsen stones - the water flows under a foot bridge to feed a stream, which in turn feeds the river Cole.
The Tree Collection is between Coate Water and the Polo Grounds behind Marlborough Road - it is laid out on two fields, the first being Spring Field, see above. Today very aptly named.

Bullrushes by the small lake - other side of the Spring Field path

The Old Oak
The second field in the Tree Collection is the Old Oak Field which takes its name from the above tree. Today I sat on the bench under this magnificent old tree and ate my lunch in tranqulity.
A young magnolia
The Coate Tree Collection is a lovely place, no more so than in spring. I'm not sure how long it has been in existance but I should think it has been growing over the past 20 years. It holds a collection of beautiful young trees, many of which produce spring blossom and will no doubt bring much pleasure to future generations. The majority of the trees have been sponsored in memory of someone and I can thinks of no better or more peaceful way in which to recall the memory of a loved one.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Ellendune and Elcombe

Elcombe Manor

The hamlet of Elcombe tucked away at the foot of the Downs between Wroughton and the M4 - just a few houses, a well, a manor house, and a working farm.

The Parish Church of Wroughton - previously known as Ellendune
Today I and went over to Wroughton to meet up with a friend. We walked over to the hamlet of Elcombe, via Wroughton parish church - the Church of St John the Baptist and St Helen. I picked up a leaflet that said the following:
The Church is built in Ellendune which is thought to be an ancient hill fort. Near to this place 825AD, at the Battle of Ellendune, the Kings of Wessex took over dominance from the kings of Mercia; one of the most important battles in English history. There is evidence of a church building on this site since at least the 10th century AD.
The Saxon Chronicles have an entry under the year 825AD as follows:
The Cornish Britons and the men of Devon fought at Galford, and the same year Ecgbryht, king of Wessex, and Beornulf, king of Mercia fought at Wroughton; Ecgbryht took the victory; and there afterwards he sent Aethelwulf, his son and Ealhstan, his bishop to Kent with a great host. They drove King Baldred north over the Thames; and the people of Kent turned to him, and Surrey, Sussex and Essex because they had been wrongly forced from their loyalty to his kinsmen. The same year, the King of the East Angles and the people sought the peace and protection of king Ecbryht, for fear of the Mercians; and the same year the East Angles killed Beornulf, king of the Mercians.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Nick Harper at the Victoria, Old Town

On Friday night, Nick Harper, who is almost local (having been brought up near Marlborough and still living in that area) kicked off his tour in Old Town at the Vic. I had never been to this venue before and in truth was a bit apprehensive, expecting it to be busy and loud on a Friday evening. When we arrived this was not the case and people were just sitting quietly around waiting for Nick Harper to start playing. Though when leaving the intimacy of the downstairs venue around mid-night the pub had indeed become a lot noisier and very busy (it was Friday night after all).

Nick is the son of Roy Harper and I first saw him perform at Swindon's Arts Centre a few years back. He is a brilliant guitarist, in fact I have never seen a guitar played the way he plays - he almost always breaks a string before the end of the evening. He also a superb song writer with a witty slant on most scenarios plus a lot of interaction and banter with the audience - some of whom seemed to be part of his large contingent of mates.

In between songs he talked about the Love, Hope and Strength Foundation to which he is committed:
LHSF is an international, music-centric cancer charity dedicated to providing support for cancer centers, and inspiration to those affected, throughout the world. The mission is to save lives, right now, with the advances that have already been made in cancer care. We do not fund cancer research, rather we use our funds to purchase medical equipment and supplies, raise awareness through special events, documentaries and media, build cancer centers and find bone marrow donors.
(Mission Statement)

To find out more check out Nick Harper's website Harperspace

It was one of the best music evenings I've had in quite awhile. The venue was small and intimate but with an excellent air conditioning system. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.