Today was BQ’s choice and a good one it was too. Corhampton church is a little gem. We arrived about 11 and, although we had expected the church to be open, found it locked. A notice in the porch advised anyone unable to enter should go to the village post office where a key is kept. I left BQ sheltering from sun on a convenient shaded seat in the churchyard and set off in the wrong direction looking for the post office. Eventually I found it feeling somewhat hot and bothered in the exceptional July heat. However, the omissions and delays turned out to be fortuitous, for as I got to the front of the queue and asked for the key, the gentleman next in line intervened saying he was surprised the church was locked. There was a rota for locking and unlocking, but he had a key and would unlock it for us which he kindly did.
It was a lucky introduction as the gentleman turned out to be Mr Chris Maxse, who generally looks after the church. He had helped with the compilation of the historical notes booklet and could not have been a better guide. He generously gave up his time to give us an excellent tour of both interior and exterior for which we are most grateful. MW
As we passed through Bishop’s Waltham on our way to Selborne during our last visit, I made a mental note to stop and linger whenever we had an opportunity not expecting one would arise so soon.
Dating from Anglo-Saxon times Bishop’s Waltham, grew steadily until it became one of Hampshire’s largest villages despite being burnt to the ground by those pesky Danes in 1001. By the time of the Domesday book (1086), it had a population of 450. Growth continued over the centuries and by the 19th century it had become a successful market town which warranted a branch railway being built to bring in coal for the town gasworks and take out bricks from the substantial brickworks just north of the town. Special trains were laid on to allow farmers to bring their cattle to market on market days, the trains made up with a mixture of cattle trucks and passenger carriages. With the improvements in roads and vehicles, demand declined, and the line sadly closed to passenger traffic in 1932 and to goods in 1962.
We arrived in the central square in the heat of the day, the temperature nudging 30 deg, and as we parked I noticed an adjacent fishmonger, a rare sight indeed these days! I bought some fresh mackerel and asked the fishmonger for a restaurant recommendation and he referred us to Georgios in the main street which turned out to be an fine choice.
After our lunch I had a quick visit to what remains of Bishop’s Waltham Palace, leaving BQ in the car with the air conditioning turned up to the max listening to his beloved Hampshire Cricket team vainly attempting to beat their nemesis, Surrey.
A good choice, as the dining room is situated in a cool basement, a welcome refuge from the midday heat. We had an excellent host Norrie, to whom we chatted for much of the time as we were the only diners. Norrie told us that he had spent most of his life in teaching, rising to deputy head before taking retirement to happily work in the family restaurant business.
The tapas was beautifully prepared with a variety of subtly flavoured sauces. Perfect for the day.
A Spiritual Journey
As MW rightfully asserted this was my choice and it was a pilgrimage.
Growing up on the southern borders of London I was unaware of the influence the Celtic church had on the evangelisation of the south of England. However a lengthy period of living in Durham City, overlooking the cathedral, and visits to Holy Island soon disabused me of my ignorance. I read Bede and was soon captivated by the character of Saint Wilfred, a well connected but troublesome monk from Lindisfarne, who after banishment from Northumberland visited Rome and later brought Christianity to both Sussex and Hampshire. This he achieved by advancing up the navigable river Meon and setting up many churches of which Corhampton is the most untouched of them all. He must have been quite a character as he succeeded in converting the troublesome “Meonware” people who up to that time had resisted all calls to the faith.
So it was with a sense of history that I approached the church beautifully situated alongside the river, and after Selborne what did I find – yet another yew, this time older than the church itself. Inside it was the quiet simplicity of the interior that resonated and on a baking hot day the cool temperature was a relief. Eventually I was left alone in this wonderful environment and I thought of the one thousand years of devotion that these walls had witnessed, and it was a moving spiritual experience.
But then the real world surfaced and the thought of lunch stirred me from my reverie, for at last MW would not have to bear yet another public house with me waxing lyrical over the real ale. Yet again we retreated from the heat into a hospitable basement where we ate good tapas and MW could at last order an excellent wine. BQ
- Tapas: Pescaditos Fritos, Gambas Pil Pil, Abondigas, Championes al ajillo, Patatas Bravas, Pimientos rellenos de Queso Crema BQ & MW
- Pino Grigio – Vivolo di Sasso BQ & MW