News of AOUG in the South (02)
In early July, we went to Lordington Lavender, near Chichester. The farm was established in 2002 by local farmer Andrew Elms, who found that dairy farming was becoming uneconomic. After selling his dairy herd he was looking for a new way to diversify and decided that Lavender would be a unique and potentially worthwhile alternative. The crop is grown with conservation of habitat and the environment very much in mind, with a zero use fertilizers or pesticides. The rest of the farm is not, however, organic. Over the years it has, as a conservation grant farm, become haven for wildlife with at least twelve red listed species of birds ranging from red kites to skylarks, as well as badgers, a declining number of hedgehogs and other small mammals. Nowadays, Andrew farms four acres of Mailette lavender, a French Provencal variety famed for its high quality oil. This is highly weather dependent and in a fewer years may produce nothing. In times of low rainfall and higher temperatures – such as in 2018 – the crop will be highly lucrative. It is harvested mechanically only once a year to produce on the farm itself, an essential oil. This is thought to be the only lavender field in the county, and grown on a similar slope to those in France – south-facing, and using only local water. Weeding has to be done by hand. As we saw, in Summer the lavender field is full of bumble bees and butterflies and when the sun shone, with the aroma of the plants, it was difficult not to imagine being in Provence.
On 4th July, a glorious Summer day, the Oxford Group visited the beautiful Waterperry Gardens, which were in full bloom. There is also a Rural Life Museum, with artifacts which included a device to put jam into doughnuts. In the centre of the grounds is a Saxon Church, complete with its original 13th Century stained glass windows.
On 15th June members went on a guided walk round the historic market town of Wallingford. Actually, we had the undivided attention of an excellent Guide. Wallingford is where William the Conqueror forded the Thames in his march to London. Wallingford seems to have been well provided with breweries. A few of the older houses showed the effects of the notorious 'Window Tax', windows being blocked in. However, there were also some very fine houses. Our Guide pointed out interesting brickwork. There is a very fine Town Hall on the Market Square.
In May, we visited the D-Day event at the former HMS Daedalus at Lee-on-the-Solent in Hampshire. Inclement weather precluded much of the flying on the first day of the event, but, nonetheless, there was plenty to see in the form of aircraft of the time and demonstrations by a Spitfire TR9 (number SM520) flying over the airfield. Daedalus was the busiest airfield in D-Day, operating over four hundred and thirty sorties in twenty four hours. Other aircraft on show included helicopters, a Dakota and some of the more recent air cart being built at Daedalus, mainly various versions of Britten-Norman Islanders. There were displays of cars of the 1939 – 1946 period, as well as re-enactment of battlefield conditions.
A small group of Oxford members recently visited the Bodleian Library to see two of the current exhibitions – one on Harold Wilson and one on Bodleian Treasures. The latter exhibition was an opportunity to see some of the rarer items that the library holds including a copy of the Magna Carta and items from the women’s suffrage movement. One of the more interesting items was a book of drawings of insects made from viewing the insects under a microscope. Apparently, to keep the insects still to allow time to draw them, the insects were provided with alcohol, so the drawings are actually of drunk insects! Apparently a tot keeps an insect still for about an hour!
The Harold Wilson display is to mark the Centenary of his birth and comprises photos, documents and a couple of pipes! One of the most interesting documents from our point of view was a document referring to the possibility of starting a ‘University of the Air’ – the organisation that was to become The Open University.
After an interesting viewing we moved on to enjoy lunch at The Mitre. For those that are interested an exhibition that started the day after our visit and runs until mid-September is called ‘Shakespeare’s Dead’ and marks four hundred years since his death by looking at the theme of death within his plays. I shall definitely be going back to view this.
Visit to Chichester Cathedral
A group of us joined with a couple of members from Region 01 for a handshake visit to Chichester Cathedral. A visit to the Cathedral is rewarding in many senses – there has been a church on the site since Norman times, with a previous cathedral having been sited, in Selsey, some ten miles away. After the Norman Conquest, cathedrals were transferred to places with larger populations; as a result, constriction started in Chichester in 1076 and was completed in 1108. The 13th Century Bishop, Richard of Wych, was canonised in 1262 and a shrine established until 1538, when it was destroyed. It was restored in 1930. The cathedral has interesting installations and artefacts, dating from the 1300s to 1998 – Romanesque sculptures dating from the 12th Century in the eastern part of the nave, a somewhat controversial tapestry by John Piper from 1966, a window by Marc Chagall of 1978 (based on symbols from Psalm 150), the Gustav Holst memorial of 1934 set in the floor in the north transept and the Sailors’ Chapel of St Michael dedicated in 1956.
By a small distance, the cathedral is the widest in England (due to transepts having been added after the main building was completed). The 15th Century spire collapsed in 1861 and was replaced within five years (it is the only English cathedral which can be seen from the sea) – this partly explains the separate Norman bell tower which stands a few feet to the north – again, unique in England.
Although there was no evidence at the time of our visit, peregrine falcons have nested in the spire since 2009.
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