Day 4 began where we left off at Bishop’s Sutton near Alresford. Before departing we checked the door of the church (St Nicholas) and this time found it open, with a big welcome for passing pilgrims.
As we were stamping our Pilgrim Passports Richard, a regular at the church for many years, arrived and showed us around. This included the vestry which had been built part over a gravestone looking like a coffin set into the wall! We exchanged experiences and talked about the challenges for rural churches with dwindling congregations.
From Bishop’s Sutton our path took us eastward past the source of the Arle. Soon we heard the sound of a steam train on the Watercress Line uphill of us. Richard had told us that the Flying Scotsman was on the line this week, but it was a different locomotive that we saw.
Passing through the village of Ropley, Julie noticed that coffee and biscuits were being advertised at the village hall, so we duly went in to investigate. The ladies were most welcoming, despite our muddy state, and seemed intrigued by our venture. Within just a few minutes Tom had established a connection with one of them to near neighbours from where he grew up in Kent. How small this world is! They told us about the devastating fire which had enveloped their village church of St Peter in 2014, and the appeal to raise funds for its restoration. A short while after leaving the village hall we passed the church and the massive reconstruction project under way. Donations to the appeal to bridge the gap between what the insurers will pay out and the actual cost can be made via their website at www.stpetersropley.org.uk .
On we walked around Four Marks and past the Garden Centre there which really needs to tidy up its act. A wonderfully presented front image but goodness what a mess (and pollution
?) lies behind. How people seem to feel able to disrespect the environment in the name of commercial enterprise! I guess I’ve experienced a certain amount of that.
Next stop Chawton: the village where Jane Austen lived, but significant for us the sight of the headwaters of the Wey and the next river catchment on our journey.
In Chawton we met a young woman keenly photographing various buildings. Intrigued by our backpack banners, we talked about our project and she very kindly gave us a donation in the name of her mother-in-law who lives in the Salisbury Cathedral Close – connections again!
And so it was, onward into Alton to the Church of All Saints. Not the most ancient on our route, but obviously vibrant, which was good to see.
From here it was on through Alton to our day’s destination at Holybourne.
So ended the fourth day of our pilgrimage -many interesting people and no rain. A wonderful day!