Corhampton – Corhampton Church

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

Constructed in 1020 by the banks of the River Meon, the church is unusual for having no known dedication.    For economic reasons, it was built using whole flints, locally available and cheap, which were plastered over and strengthened with stone quoins.. The building consisted of a nave and chancel. The walls are remarkably thin – just 2′ 6″- as Saxon walls often were. However, as can be seen here, not all of the walls are still of flint. In 1842 the east wall of the church collapsed as the result of adjacent road widening, a rare occurrence in the mid-19th century. The wall collapse necessitated its rebuilding on the original foundations. This was executed rather clumsily in red brick, not in keeping with the original Saxon construction.
A better view of the original flint construction
The simple nave, the pews were introduced in the early 19th century and look absolutely appropriate
Chris and Brian
Chris Maxse explaining the significance of the wall paintings.
wall painting left
Without a doubt the 1,000 year old wall paintings are the jewel of Corhampton Church.  Not easy to see, but the above painting at the eastern end of the south wall depicts the story of a miracle attributed to Bishop Swithun. He is shown inspecting the building of the bridge over the River Itchen.  There was a large crowd and an elderly woman, bringing her eggs to sell in the market, was jostled. The basket was knocked out of her hands and the eggs broke. The eggs can be seen in the picture falling to the ground. In the next panel Swithun is shown restoring the eggs to their original state.     St. Swithun’s name has endured in the proverb, which says that if it rains on St. Swithun’s day, 15 July, it will rain for 40 days.
wall painting right
The scenes on the north side of the chancel , although intriguing have not been deciphered.
Beyond the small chancel are these 17th century altar rails; and behind those, on the left in the sanctuary is a grey altar stone. This is almost certainly the original Saxon one which was thrown out when the east end was reconstructed in 1842 and languished under the yew tree until reinstated in its present position in  1905. This altar stone is particularly interesting as, in addition to the usual five consecration crosses on the top, it has an extra one in the middle of the long side. On the right is a large stone chair probably in its original position. It is difficult to be certain about its age but it could be Saxon, though more likely later. It is a sanctuary chair,where a refugee could find sanctuary and peace. A person sitting in the chair could not be arrested. 
from the chancel
Looking back into the nave one can see that there is a gallery, a much later addition having been erected in 1837 to house singers and musicians. Just discernible is a charming little chamber organ presented by a Mrs Campbell-Wyndham in 1857. It is still in use and was hand pumped right up until 1976.
A copy of the ten commandments hangs in the musicians and singers gallery, a helpful reminder to keep them on the straight and narrow perhaps.
Mass Dial
This is the second mass dial we have encountered on our church visits, the other being at East Wellow. Before the invention of the clock, these vertical sundials were used to remind parishioners of the time of church services. This example, missing its gnomon, is in superb condition and is unusual in that the day is divided into 8 ‘tides’ instead of the usual 12. It is thought to be older than the church, possibly dating from the time of that most controversial of English saints – St. Wilfrid (604 -709)
Having come across one 1,000 year old yew tree on our visit to Selborne a couple of weeks ago, we now discover another – close by the church porch.  This one has the advantage of being very much alive.  The girth measures an impressive 767 cm  or 25’5″.  The first recorded measurement was made by a local naturalist in 1897 when it was 732cm so, since then, it has increased at an average rate of 4mm per year. 

Bishop’s Waltham

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.


B Waltham

Close to the village centre are these ruins of the Palace.  In the Middle Ages the Bishop’s Waltham Palace was one of the finest residences of the Bishops of Winchester, who were among the richest churchmen in Europe.  Built in the 12th century, it was remodelled and extended in the 14th and 15th centuries, becoming a palace capable of housing the king and his court on a number of occasions, as well as the bishop and his household. The palace was badly damaged in the Civil War (1642–9) and subsequently abandoned.

Georgio’s Restaurant

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

Our lunch

  • 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


Selborne – St Mary’s Church

This was the day for my annual car service, so our Dine and Divine destination needed to be somewhere east of Southampton not too far from the Agency. We were given an impressive newish Hybrid SUV courtesy car – quite a clever move as by the end of the day I was wondering if this might be the time for a change of vehicle!
It took about 40 minutes of driving along rural byroads before arriving in Selborne passing through just one significant settlement on the way, the medieval market town of Bishop’s Waltham.
Selborne is a much visited village due to the presence of the Gilbert White House and museum so parking was at a premium and I was glad that BQ had brought his disabled badge enabling us to park right opposite St. Mary’s Church. It was an interesting if unremarkable church visit enlivened by a jolly group of holiday makers visiting at the same time. The sun shone just long enough to get the drone deployed before we made our way a couple of hundred yards down the Main Street for our lunch at the Selborne Arms Hotel.
We couldn’t leave the village without a visit to The Wakes, Gilbert White’s house , which is now a museum dedicated to his life and also to the life of Lawrence ‘Titus’ Oates, best known for his courageous act of self-sacrifice on the 1912 Antarctic expedition.
But I have to say I found the 32 acres of the gardens rather more interesting , particularly as for the past 20 years they have gradually been restored back to Gilbert White’s original 18th century design.   MW

The original St. Mary’s Church was founded in Saxon times and is mentioned in the Domesday Book, however it was largely rebuilt in 1180 in a form that has remained largely unchanged until the present day.
The church tower contains six bells that were last re-cast in 1735 during the time of Gilbert White. He recorded the event in his journal as follows;   “The day of arrival of this tuneable peal was observed as a day of high festival in the village and rendered more joyous by an order from the donor that the treble bell should be fixed bottom upward in the ground and filled with punch, of which all present were invited to partake”
The nave, described as a symphony of Norman architecture with large cylindrical 12th century pillars topped with simply carved capitals
Within the chancel are numerous memorials to the White family, the most striking being the triptych  above the alter. It depicts the Adoration of the Magi and was painted by Jan Mostaert in 1515. It was gifted to the church in 1793 by Benjamin White as a memorial to his late brother, Gilbert.
The 13th century trefoiled piscina

The Great Yew

The Great Yew of Selborne was perhaps better known than the church. Estimated to be 1400 years old, its height exceeded that of the adjacent tower and its girth was estimated at 26 feet. Sadly it’s demise came during a big storm on 25 January, 1990 and although it’s trunk was replanted no new growth regenerated.  However a cutting taken from the fallen tree is thriving in the churchyard

All that remains of the Great Yew.  At the base is a grave without headstone believed to be that of the village trumpeter who was one of the men who ‘gathered the Selborne Mob’   In 1830 a riot broke out in Selborne as a result of the increasing price of flour and bread. The rioters confronted the vicar demanding a reduction in tithes which they could now ill afford.  He refused their request at which point they burnt down the village workhouse. The nine ring leaders were tried and sentenced to transportation to Australia. However, the trumpeter escaped and lived on Selborne Hill returning to the village under cover of darkness where he was fed by sympathetic friends. During one of these descents he was captured, but later pardoned. After the incident the vicar, the Reverend Cobbold bought himself a mastiff with a neck ‘as thick as a lions’ to protect himself from irate parishioners. The dog’s collar has been preserved and is on display in the church.




An aerial view of the village.  The Wakes, Gilbert Whites house is the prominent building with the lawns. His study of nature ‘The Natural History of Selborne’ has never been out of print since first published in 1789.
The Plestor or village green and former play place for children

The Selborne Arms

At the end of the 19th century there were three pubs in Selborne or one for every 185 persons, including children and under legislation of the time it was deemed to be ‘congested’ .  The village policeman was sent to spy on all three establishments to help magistrates decide which should be closed.  The Selborne Arms passed muster ‘despite having a rear access that could facilitate after hours drinking’, but he reported that the ‘White Hart’  was used ‘by less respectable members of the working class including well known poachers’.  It was duly closed.

Now, the only surviving pub is the Selborne Arms. Dating from around 1600 the building has been altered and extended many times. It has witnessed gentrification, geriatrication and barbourisation, but has escaped the worst fate of all – keg beer.




There will never be another yew”

I wish it was original but I cannot lie, a tripper standing before the stump of the famous tree uttered it within our hearing. MW with the speed of a man who can recognise manna when it drops from heaven, alerted me to my headline so here it is.
The approach to the church from the village is dominated by a magnificent spreading oak, which offered welcome shade on a glorious hot day, but unfortunately here was a lovely village yet again suffering from constant traffic, no pedestrian crossing and impossibly narrow pavements. The trip to the pub was not without alarms.
The Selborne Arms was all that a village pub should be plus a little bit more, as the menu was so diverse that we both took the option of two tasty starters which did not disappoint.
Then, well refreshed, it was a short stroll to Gilbert White’s house and more importantly the garden where he wrote his classic:- “The Natural History Of Selborne”, which according to my old orange Penguin copy, is the fourth most published book in the English language, even surpassing “Fifty Shades Of Grey”!
In my youth I had always been told he researched the contents of his treatise in his back garden, and it was with some surprise having passed through the house that I found this extended to total 32 acres of glorious countryside.
The trip rekindled my interest in the book and, re-reading it after forty years, I finally have discovered a masterpiece.   BQ


Our lunch

  • Lightly poached free range egg served on bubble and squeak with chive butter sauce
  • Welsh rarebit made with Old Sussex Cheddar and Suthwyk Ale toasted on our homemade white bread and served with our own green tomato chutney.   BQ
  • Cream of cauliflower soup
  • Petite souffle omelette of local free range eggs with air dry cured ham and Winchester cheese served in the pan.   MW
  • Bowmans Swift Beer    BQ &  MW


Southwick – St. James Without-the-Priory Gate

It was an easy journey to Southwick, mostly on the motorway between Southampton and Portsmouth, then through the drab suburbs that surround the city,  after which we climbed up through increasingly scenic rural surroundings until suddenly we were in Southwick.  It is a small village, but very attractive with mostly original, unextended buildings. St James was easy to find adjacent to the central road junction. Apart from a couple of tourists who briefly visited, we saw nobody else in the church, but it was obvious that it was lovingly maintained with recent fresh flower arrangements. My impression of the church however was that it’s origins had more to do with the glory of man than to the glory of God.

After our lunch the clouds cleared and I was able to deploy the drone for a couple of overhead photos while BQ visited the village store where he was delighted to find sweets still being sold loose from huge glass jars, being weighed out in a manner that we both remembered from our childhood.  MW



St James Without-the-Priory Gate, an odd name, but it simply means that it is situated outside of the boundaries of the former Southwick Priory. The priory was founded by Henry I in 1133 and by the 14th century it had become a renowned centre of pilgrimage. However its fate was sealed during Henry VIII’s infamous Dissolution of the Monasteries, The king’s representative was a John Whyte who not only took the surrender of the priory in 1538 but, feeling an affinity for the area, acquired the Southwick estate and, once the priory was demolished, replaced it with his private mansion, Southwick House
There is considerable uncertainty surrounding the origins of St James Church. There is evidence of a chapel having existed on the site in the 11th century, but the church we see today is the result of a comprehensive restoration carried out by John Whyte in the 1560s. It was completed in 1566, but within a year he had died.




The restoration of St. James Church during the 1560’s amounted to a virtual rebuilding although some vestiges of an earlier building remain including the main doorway which was constructed in the 14th century. During the restoration there was ample material available from the recently demolished Priory and carved and dressed fragments can be seen incorporated in the walls




The nave is bright, cheerful and very colourful due to the wonderful collection of kneelers which have been donated by both individuals and organisations. Some are in memory of loved ones while others were completed as a hobby.




There was one particular kneeler that we had hoped to find, one donated by the Girl Guides that was remarkably well travelled having been made, a few stitches at a time, by Girl Guide groups across the world. It took some locating, but eventually BQ noticed the embroidered G G initials and, on inspection, the label on the back confirmed it was the one.


In pride of place at the front of the nave are these original 16th century box pews reserved for the Southwick House residents and their guests. On the left is the Squire’s pew and the divided one on the other side was, in former days, reserved for the Southwick House ladies.
Above the alter is this beautiful reredos painted by an Italian artist and featuring a variety of cherubs and a single dove topped with golden cherubs and garlands. The massive brass alter candlesticks were a gift from Richard Norton, Master of Southwick, a descendant of John Whyte,  in the early 17th century.  In the background is the impressive stone tomb of John Whyte and his first wife, Katherine.
A closer view of John Whyte’s tomb. It seems that he and Katherine were not the first occupants.  Dating from the late medieval period, weathering indicates that it had once stood in the open air, probably at the Priory and it is likely that it was moved into the church and re-used by Sir John Whyte to create his own tomb.  The top slab is inset with brasses of the couple and their daughters and dates from the mid-16th century.
The font has an early 12th century bowl, large and octagonal and of sufficient size to allow the “dipping” of infants which was the practice of the day.


Situated on the outskirts of Portsmouth, the village is still privately owned by the descendant of John Whyte, John Robin Thistlethwayte who is the present squire.  It is known as the ‘Overlord Village’ as it is where Churchill, Montgomery and Eisenhower planned the D-Day landings
The Village Store, Bakery and Post Office.  In common with all properties in the village, it is a requirement that the front doors be painted deep red.
Southwick House, the traditional seat of the descendants of John Whyte.  

 Ironically this is the one building in Southwick not now owned by the family. At the outbreak of World War II, the then owner, Colonel Evelyn Thistlethwaite, loaned the house to be used as a dormitory for students from the nearby Portsmouth Navel Base. The estate was still very much a family affair and Colonel Thistlethwayte enjoyed the company of the admirals, so that he invited them to share the game shooting on his estate.  He may well have come to regret his generosity because, while enjoying the shooting, the admirals took note of the splendid sheltered position of the Georgian House so close to Portsmouth and promptly requisitioned it as being vital to the war effort.  It is now the Defence College of Policing and Guarding.

The Red Lion

Southwick was of strategic importance during the time of the D-Day landings and Montgomery and Eisenhower were to be seen together in the the Red Lion bar during the days leading up to the invasion.  As the troops passed the pub on the way to war beer would always be handed out free.



The long climb up the chalk downs that overlook Portsmouth Harbour starkly reflects the nation’s perennial fear of invasion as it passes a succession of razor-wired military installations, some of which date back to the Napoleon period (no wonder the country voted to leave). So that the contrast when one drops down into the picture postcard village of Southwick comes as quite a shock. It really does look too good to be true, right down to the pump on the village green, and one is forced to admit that perhaps the village’s private ownership has a lot to commend it, much as it goes against the grain of my political beliefs.

To those with long memories this charming village might resemble a set from the TV series The Avengers and, as I waited while MW played with the drone, I fully expected to see Steed and Mrs Peel to walk round the corner, in black and white of course. Diana Rigg, who had such a disturbing affect on my teenage years, was always my favourite actress!

As we entered the Red Lion a shiver went down my spine as I saw the sign “Dogs Welcome”, but thankfully none were present and we ate excellent pub food and raised a glass to all those who passed this way on D-Day.   BQ

Our lunch

  • Sharing Board; Baked Camembert with spiced apple and chutney & crusty bread
  • Sausage and Bean Casserole with baked halloumi    BQ
  • Sharing Board; Baked Camembert with spiced apple and chutney & crusty bread
  • Mushroom and Stilton Stroganoff  MW
  • An unknown glass of Shiraz   MW
  • Fullers Seafarers Ale   BQ


East Wellow – St Margaret of Antioch

The medieval parish church of St. Margaret of Antioch takes a bit of finding.  It is at the end of a country lane cul-de-sac with few houses nearby.  At one time it would have been centred between the hamlets of Canada, Embly and Wellow, but over the centuries East Wellow became the main centre as people built closer to the A36, the main route between Southampton and Salisbury, leaving the church quite isolated.   Most people who make the effort to find it do so because of it’s connection with Florence Nightingale whose impressive marble memorial in the shape of a church steeple stands on the south side of the churchyard.

The church dates from 1215 although it stands on the foundations of at least one earlier building. The south aisle was added in the 15th century
The memorial to Florence Nightingale, with an inscription, simple at her request,    F.N. Born May 12 1820, Died August 13 1910.      Florence Nightingale was a social reformer and the founder of modern nursing who came to prominence while serving as a manager of nurses trained by her during the Crimean War where she organised the tending of wounded soldiers. She became  known as “The Lady with the Lamp” due to her regularly making the rounds of the wounded soldiers at night.
The subdued nave is brightened by blue hassocks embroidered by local craftswomen between 1997 and 2001.  The designs commemorate subscribers’ family events as well as episodes of village life.  The rather grand organ was donated by a local benefactor in 1927 and it replaced a harmonium which had previously been used to provide music for the services. 
The hexagonal pulpit dates from the early 17th century.  It was discovered in a local barn in 1907 and restored to the church.  Just why it was in the barn seems to be a bit of a mystery.
Difficult to see against the ancient wood of a cross beam over the chancel, is this remarkable object. It is an ancient musket, with which its owner accidently killed a maid-servant and, as was the custom of the time, it was forfeited to the Crown and displayed in a church as an object lesson to others.  The instrument of death was known as a deodand in a law dating back to the 11th century and was applied right up until 1846 when it was finally abolished.
Wall Painting
The wall paintings are an important  feature of the church.   Discovered under layers of whitewash in 1891 they are thought to date from the mid 13th century. Shown here is a masonry pattern of squares, which each contain a flower in red or grey. The main figure is thought to represent St Christopher carrying the infant Christ and, in his right hand, an eel spear.  The eels in the water he is crossing can be seen around his feet.  Eels are still common in local waters.

The entrance porch dates from the 15th century, but the surrounding timbers are the oldest in the church and were an integral part its original construction.  The heavy door, decorated with herringbone patterned iron banding, still has its original lock and massive key and is pitted with nail holes.  These are where rats and other vermin were nailed by the rat catcher until paid for by the churchwarden.

The Reverend Chris Pettet with the church’s NADFAS report helping us discover the site of a mass-dial on the south wall. These vertical sundials were used in the medieval period to mark the time of church services.  Inevitably the gnomon has long gone, but the hole where it would once have been fitted can be seen in the large stone just above the book.

Our day did not start well.  I had arranged to pick up BQ from his house in Southampton but on the way found that all traffic had come to a standstill.  The cause was obvious as, ahead,  I could see vehicles locked together on the main flyover into the city.  The problem would clearly not be quickly resolved so I phoned BQ and suggested we each make our own way to our destination of the day and gave him precise instructions as to the route. I expected us both to arrive at about the same time, but after waiting 30 minutes or so began to be concerned. This would normally be the time to make a phone call, but as a confirmed technophobe, my friend has no mobile.  Eventually he arrived having taken what he thought would be a ‘short cut’, but which turned out to be anything but.

However, as it was, our timing was perfect because at the church entrance a crocodile of young schoolchildren in their bright yellow tabards were lined up waiting for mini-buses to take them back to school after an educational visit.   In these multi-denominational days I assume that their interest was more of an historic rather than spiritual nature.

I had previously phoned the incumbent of St Margaret’s, the Reverend Chris Pettet and he had been most helpful.  But, when we finally met him, I have to say he made out visit particularly special with his knowledge, enthusiasm and kind nature. He also introduced us to the NADFAS church report and let me read through the copy relating to St Margaret’s which, in great detail, described the church contents.  Apparently virtually all Hampshire churches have been recorded in this way and keep a copy of the report on site. I must remember this fact!

Chris, as he asked us to call him, was interested in the drone which I deployed to get my usual birds-eye photograph and he asked if I would send him a copy of the photo which of course I was happy to do,  My reward was to later learn that the image will shortly be used in the Order Sheet for the Nightingale Service, an annual event held on the Sunday in May nearest to her birthday.    MW

The Rockingham Arms,  Canada, Wellow.

Built in 1840, the Rockingham Arms is situated in the small hamlet of Canada, on the edge of Wellow.  Early in the 1800s a group of  residents from the nearby Embly Estate decided to emigrate to Canada.  The less adventurous opted to make a much smaller move and remained in the area but named their new settlement their own ‘Canada’.

water lunch

“Who let the dogs out”

In all my years of dining, this hostelry was in my experience unique, in that the owners obviously strongly encourage customers to bring their dogs when having lunch.

On the bar, in the place of the usual nuts and olives there were “doggy treats” and beneath a beautifully laid adjacent table there rested a canine, its doleful eyes staring out between the owners legs. Apparently, this was the self-appointed leader of the pack, as whenever a newcomer arrived on a lead, he led a cacophony of loud barking from the assortment of other dogs throughout the restaurant in the manner of football hooligans haranguing a rival supporter.

I am not a doggy man and I found this noisy intrusion was more than a little disconcerting, MW however coming from a more countrified tweedy background was more sanguine.  He was full of praise for his meal and the general standard of cooking. I, on the other hand, found my digestive system so disrupted by this canine pantomime that under the circumstances feel it would be better if I refrained from judgement.  BQ

Our lunch

  • Savoury Cabbage Soup
  • Whole Poole Bay sole, new potatoes, tenderstem broccoli, shrimp and caper butter
  • Eton Mess   BQ
  • Tempura of king prawns, mango and lime mayonnaise
  • Malaysian fish curry with coconut rice
  • Eton Mess    MW
  • Malbec, Vista Flores 2015, Bodega Norton, Argentina.   MW
  • Pinot Grigio, Terre del Noce 2015, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Italy.   BQ

✪✪✪✪✪  MW

✪✪✪✪✪  BQ

Avington – The Church of St Mary’s

This was the third consecutive church that we have visited with a dedication to St Mary, but here, any similarity ends. This is a relatively modern brick built construction from the Georgian period.  Its exterior looks severe, and in fact it has sometimes been unkindly compared to an industrial building but, on entering we found the interior to be an absolute gem, virtually unaltered since it was completed to the highest standards in 1771.

Before that a flint and stone Saxon church had stood on the site, but the then owner of Avington Park, Henry Brydges, 2nd Duke of Chandos, applied for permission for it to be replaced complaining that it was ‘dark, incommodious, ruinous and decayed’.

However, it was his wife Margaret, the Marchioness of Carnarvon who took responsibility for the rebuilding, not only by donating £2,500, but also by engaging the architect and overseeing the design. Sadly, she did not live to see the church completed and died in 1768 at the age of just 34.  She is buried in a glass coffin under the floor of the north side of the church.

Fortunately St Mary’s escaped the usual attention of the Victorian restorers due to its rural location and lack of money and so what we see today is a church true to the Marchioness’s original vision.

Standing in the nave gazing in awe at the richly carved mahogany, it felt as though time had stood still, all the more poignant as we saw not another soul during the whole of our visit, although the presence of fresh flowers showed that the church is still justifiably much loved.

The southern elevation of St. Mary’s.  The stepping stones leading to the entrance are gravestones embedded in the turf, laid down in the 1960’s as they were in danger of falling over.
The church with the manor house, Avington Park in the background
The magnificent interior with the mahogany box pews, the seats facing the centre aisle.  The position of the cubicles reflect the social standing of the occupants. The largest pew, with a carved interior and well padded seats was reserved for the manor house inhabitants. The wood throughout is said to have come from a Spanish ship captured in the defeat of the Armada by the Duke of Effingham.  Along the walls, the original pegs for gentlemen to hang their wigs on during the service, are still in place.
The chancel with it’s modest alter. On the left is the superb marble memorial to Lady Carnarvon with a long eulogy of her many qualities.  Her grieving husband makes his feelings clear – ‘Best of women! Most unfortunate of men’. 


Dominating the nave is this impressive three decker pulpit
the organ loft
At the west end of the church is a musicians gallery which also incorporates a barrel organ considered to be the finest in England. It contains seventy-seven pipes and two barrels, each containing a repertoire of fifteen hymns. Apart from the east window, the organ is the only later addition to the church. It was donated on Christmas Day 1849 by the widow of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.


Avington park

Dating from the late 16th century, Avington Park was owned by the Brydges family from the mid 17th century until it was sold in 1847 to Sir John Shelley, brother of the poet. It is now a privately owned stately house used as a wedding venue and film location. Several productions have been shot at Avington including Ruth Rendell Mysteries and the BBC drama Daniel Deronda.

The adjacent village has a population of just 72, only 7 more than was recorded in William the Conqueror’s census of 1085

The Plough Inn

Located in the village of Itchen Abbas, a couple of miles from Avington, the Plough Inn first opened in the early 19th century and quickly became the meeting point for local people, being used for public meetings and even coroner’s inquests. A newspaper report from 1823 refers to the annual  ‘cucumber feast’  at the Plough Inn being ‘respectably attended’.

A folk song celebrating the completion of the digging of the Avington Pond describes the ‘mud-plumpers’ gathering at the Plough Inn in order to get paid and enjoy ‘Missus Munday’s strong brew’. The final verse goes:-



“The rich man in his castle the poor man at his gate”  Nothing better summed up my thoughts after the visit to St Mary’s than these now censored words from the famous hymn.   The stifling feeling of a literally boxed in Georgian society was never more graphically visualised.

So it was with keen anticipation that I approached this village hostelry hoping for a view of carousing “mud plumpers”.  What a shock awaited as, on entering, I was immediately aware of large fresh laundered white serviettes on the tables which is always the sign of a “bit of class”.  And so it proved, as this was a high-end eaterie, clearly very popular, for as we vacated our table it was immediately occupied by waiting customers.  The food was delicious and plentiful, served by a young, attentive and friendly team.  The whole experience richly deserved our first five star award. My only nod to the “mud plumpers” was yet again weaning MW of his normal wine with an excellent glass of Black Sheep ale.   BQ

 Our lunch

  • Fig and fried haloumi salad, balsamic dressing
  • Chicken, ham hock & leek pie served with creamy mashed potato, seasonal vegetables and gravy     BQ
  • Leek, potato and watercress soup
  • Pan fried Itchen Abbas trout fillets, fine green bean & gnocchi saute and lemon dressing     MW
  • Black Sheep Beer


Breamore – The Saxon Church of St Mary’s

St Mary’s is considered to be one of the most important Saxon buildings in southern England.  It was financed by King Ethelred II  (‘the unready’),  whose reign lasted from 978 to 1016, so it is safe to assume that it was built within a few years either side of the year 1000. Remarkably, much of the original building has survived in its original state although inevitably there have been several alterations over the centuries.

By the middle of the 15th century the building needed substantial repairs, but the money needed was just not available. In common with most villages in the area Breamore had not recovered from a century of economic decline following the black death. The local population was also in decline and so the decision was made to reduce the size of the church by demolishing two significant areas – the north porticus and the western chamber leaving the building essentially in the proportions we see today.

The reformation in the middle  of the 16th century also took its toll. The medieval paintings were whitewashed over, images of saints destroyed and the church’s dedication was changed from St Michael to St Mary.

St Mary’s Church and in the background, Breamore House, an Elizabethan manor house completed in 1583. It has been used as a location for a number of films including the 2005 ‘Pride and Prejudice’

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The nave is of exactly the same dimensions as in Saxon times but the woodwork including, pews, pulpit and lectern dates from a restoration carried out in 1896.

A 15th century corbel and the south porticus arch with a 1,000 year old inscription from the reign of Ethelred the Unready.

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The east end of the chancel with medieval paintings on either side of the window, painted over during the reformation and restored as part of the church’s millenary celebrations in 1979/80


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The two features we had the most difficulty in finding. We had read of their existence but not where they were situated.  Above, a bricked up leper window which would originally have allowed lepers to hear the service from outside without risking contact with other parishioners.  Below, a plaque inserted in the outer wall during the time of The Puritans.  It reads AVOYD FORNICATION.

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The Saxon Rood above the south door, badly defaced in around 1570 under the instructions of Bishop Robert Horne. It depicts Christ on the cross, bent by suffering, with, on the right St. John and on the left the Virgin. Above is the Manus Dei (Hand of God) and, over the flanking figures, the sun and moon. Beneath is a serpent.

Our journey from Southampton to Breamore was tedious, not helped by a disagreement on the best way of getting there. I stuck with the satnav route which took us along the main dual carriageway road towards Bournemouth, which turned out to be a mistake as we soon came upon slow moving holiday traffic, all the worse for it being the first weekend of the school holidays.  As we crawled along at walking pace I had to endure BQ telling me (more than once) that had we gone along with his suggestion of taking the Salisbury Road we would have been there by now!     But all was well on arrival as we stepped out of the car into welcome spring sunshine, the sounds of traffic replaced by birdsong.

I had previously telephoned the Priest-in-Charge of St Mary’s, Canon Gary Philbrick to check that the following day would be a convenient time to visit.  He was most helpful, telling me some historical detail and features to look out for. 

We entered the church, found the light switch, then shortly afterwards were joined by David Compton and his wife who had come to clean the church and begin preparations for Easter.  David has lived at Breamore all his life, working between Breamore House and St Mary’s. His church duties had included being the gravedigger. He had followed in the steps of both his father and grandfather. We did enjoy his company and learned a great deal from him for which we are most grateful. MW

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David showing us the Medieval font

The Bat and Ball

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The placard advertising for a chef, prominently displayed in front of the Bat and Ball, might well have discouraged some customers, but your intrepid duo forged ahead.

To MW’s concern we initially entered a definite pubby looking bar with an assortment of obvious regulars, but soon a charming waitress led us through to an adjacent restaurant with a pleasant garden outlook .  A second girl came to take our order and I complimented her on being even more glamorous than her colleague, a remark that MW felt was politically incorrect on a number of levels

The web site had advised that the menu items would have a South African flavour but the specials board listed zebra and kangaroo, the latter needing a bit of a long hop to qualify. MW was relieved to find a full wine list and after some disagreement with BQ, two glasses of Romanian Pinot Noir arrived, a wine that I assured my dubious friend would be excellent, having enjoyed more than one bottle in the past.

Probably disconcerted by the specials board we both chose a vegetarian main course and some tasty starters and the overall standard was reasonably acceptable.

Looking out of the window the old village stocks were visible and our comely serving lass said they were for people who didn’t pay their bill!  BQ

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Our lunch

  • Garlic King Prawns
  • Brie, Spinach and Cranberry Wellington   BQ
  • Bobotie Spring Rolls
  • Aubergine Parmigiana  MW
  • Romanian Pinot Noir



Eling – St Mary’s Church

St Mary the Virgin, to give it its full title, is the 10th oldest church in England. It is Saxon in origin and dates from 850 AD. Over the centuries the building has seen many alterations and additions, and little of the the earliest structure remains. There is, however, a small Saxon window that originally would have been in a fortified area of an upper floor that could be used as a refuge in the event of an attack. The present nave dates from the 11th – 12th century and the bell tower from the 16th century. The church was drastically restored during the period 1863 – 1865 so that, apart from the tower, externally the building looks Victorian rather than medieval. The splendid lych gate with its Arts and Crafts metal gates was erected in celebration of Edward Vll’s coronation in 1902.

The graveyard is estimated to hold 30,000 burials, hardly surprising since it has been used for at least 900 years.


Lych Gate
The coronation Lych Gate
The Nave – The Victorian pews were removed just a few years ago in favour of chairs.  Initially this did not go well with the locals!

Saxon relics – The window and the recently unearthed 1,200 year old foundation stone

The alterpiece is this 16th century painting by the Venetian artist, Marziale depicting ‘The Last Supper’. It was discovered rolled up in a church storeroom
Titanic plaque
In common with many other communities around Southampton, St Mary’s lost a number of parishioners who were crew members of the fated Titanic.

We had to make prior arrangements to visit St. Mary’s as the church doors are normally kept locked, apparently a requirement from the church’s insurers due to the presence of the Marziale painting above the alter.  We met up at the nearby car park and walked the 100 yards up the hill to the church where we met the friendly Church Warden, Graham Norman.

On entering the darkened building Graham switched on the numerous lights revealing a cheerful interior accentuated by an eye-catching variety of  kneelers on the chairs, each with its own highly individual and colourful design. There was a crèche with children’s toys in one corner and altogether there was the impression that this was a family friendly, living church.

We had done some pre-visit research beforehand so we knew the highlights to seek out, but without Graham’s guidance I doubt we would have found the oldest relic of them all – the recently discovered 850AD foundation stone.   MW


From the church, our lunch venue was just a few hundred yards away but en route we had to cross the toll bridge/causeway.  This ancient structure incorporates one of only two working tide mills that still produces flour daily.  It is driven by harnessing the power of the the tides to grind wheat into wholemeal flour. There has been a mill at this site for over 900 years, although periodically storms have washed away both mill and causeway . The present mill was built in the 1770’s following severe storm damage to the previous structure. In its heyday the mill was capable of grinding up to 4 tons of flour a day but now it produces much less, mainly for the benefit of locals and tourists.

At one time the Eling harbour was a busy commercial port where ship building thrived, but now the only vessels tied up are strictly for pleasure.

St Mary’s Church on the far right, the causeway and tide mill,  the Anchor Inn is the furthest building on the quayside. Southampton Water, docks and container park in the background

The Anchor Inn

There has been an Anchor Inn on this site, in one form or another, for the past 500 years and for most of that time its main business came from the shipbuilding and dock workers. Now it serves mainly local residents and tourists.

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In front of the building are the remnants of a railway siding that, at one time, would have been used for transporting goods to and from the quayside

Anchor Inn

Unlike me, MW is not a pub man, so he approached our lunch with some caution but, in entering into the spirit of the occasion, he agreed to forgo the usual wine accompaniment to our meal in favour of one of their speciality beers.   These real ales are clearly a passion of the establishment and I was was delighted to hear the landlady admonish two drinkers for ordering lagers in preferencef to proper beer. On her advice we ordered two halves of one of the St Austell Brewery range of speciality beers, but after pouring the first, the barrel was empty. In most pubs that would be it until after service, and an alternative would be offered. But in this instance our hostess went down herself to change the barrel, an onerous task, over and above the call of duty. It was at this moment that I fell in love with this hostelry and the subsequent substantial and well cooked meal was certainly well above expectation.  So many public houses fall down by concentrating only on the preparation of meals and overlook the art and craft of presenting real ales.   BQ 

Our lunch

  • Fish Pie  BQ
  • Three Bean Chilli  MW
  • Shorts St Austell beer


Bursledon – St Leonards Church

Bursledon – St Leonards Church

Dates from the latter part of the 12th century.  This  can be confirmed as, surprisingly, the original foundation charter still survives. Permission was given by the monks of Hamble Priory to build a chapel here between 1129 and 1171 . 

For much of its existence the congregation was drawn from the large number of people who depended on the nearby River Hamble for transportation and employment.  Following the ravages of the Black Death in 1391 ownership of the church was transferred from a French Monastery to Winchester College. Extensive restoration was carried out in the 19th century, but fortunately the 13th century chancel arch remains intact.


The Font
12th Century Font
The Mural Painting above the Entrance

The nave

It took us a while to find our way to our destination as the satnav initially directed us to the wrong church.   Bursledon  is not a big village but there was a maze of residential streets to be negotiated before we finally arrived at St Leonards, attractively situated on a wooded hillside

A charming lady gave us a tour of the church, pointing out the special features and the vicar kindly agreed to allow the drone photo to be taken providing it could be completed in 10 minutes as a funeral was expected!


The Ferry Restaurant, Bursledon

The structure was originally the Woolston Floating Bridge, a cable ferry that that crossed the River Itchen between Woolston and Southampton.  It began service in 1836 and continued until 1977 when the new Itchen Bridge opened. It was then towed to the Elephant Boatyard and converted into a restaurant.

This historic boatyard has existed for centuries and is where Henry Vlll’s fleet was built. It became known as the Elephant Boatyard following the construction of the warship HMS Elephant in 1786, chosen by Nelson as his flagship during the Battle of Copenhagen.

 In the 1980’s it was the setting for the BBC  TV drama, ‘Howards Way’. This hugely popular soap opera, much derided by the critics,  was transmitted for for 5 years attracting audiences of 14 million.

The Ferry

restaurant interior

The home page photograph of us both in our salad days is apt as it shows us relaxing after a day roaming in the mountains. This would have been excellent training for a visit to this restaurant situated at the bottom of a ferocious slope but which, despite our advancing years, proved to be well worth the effort.

A varied menu and a full wine list rewarded our exertions as we dined on the deck of a disused ferry in the depth of a yacht haven.  At the conclusion of a substantial and beautifully presented meal – a warning note – the excellent traditional lunch puds (mine was bread and butter pudding) which, although delicious, weighed heavily on the long steep climb back up to the car.


Our lunch

  • Salmon rillette with lime and rapeseed dressing
  • Seabass fillet served with lemon and thyme butter sauce
  • Dessert Nougat             MW
  • Halloumi cheese with asparagus salad with cranberry and pine nut dressing
  • Confit duck leg served with ginger and 5 spice jus
  • Bread and butter pudding and cream     BQ