Our fifth day out of Salisbury started from the Holy Rood Church in Holybourne. Happily we found it open, with various bell ringing activities going on. We chatted for a while with the participants including the hand bell ringing instructor, who also plays the organ. Having stamped our Pilgrim Passports, we left Holybourne in springlike sunshine and headed east. Although the weather had certainly improved the paths on the chalky soil were just as muddy, making for slippery progress.
At Upper Froyle we passed the magnificent house of Froyle Park, formerly the site of Treloar College for the disabled, now an expensive commercial wedding venue. The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary lies just beyond. It houses an interesting collection of altar cloths and clerical vestments, which are still used, according to the ladies who showed us around. We talked again about the challenges faced by rural churches with dwindling congregations.
At Pax Hall, the family home of Sir Robert Baden-Powell, now an old people’s home, we found a suitable south facing bank on which to sit and enjoy our lunch.
Next stop was St Mary’s Bentley and it’s wonderful yew tree, and low boughs under which the churchyard path used to pass. Sadly the path is now closed – for health and safety reasons! Jane Austen’s brother Henry Thomas was curate here.
For most of the way from Holybourne to Bentley and beyond our path followed close to the A31 with its omnipresent traffic noise, detracting slightly from the beauty of the chalk landscape.
As we approached Farnham the Pilgrims Way crosses from the chalk onto more sandy Tertiary rocks making the going under foot significantly easier. Tom thought he could see the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary in the bed of a stream near Lower Old Park – you can’t take a geologist anywhere!
We stopped and talked to a farmer at Park Farm gathering his sheep to move them to fresh pasture, not for (early) lambing as we had supposed. We talked about the weather (as we and farmers do!). His prediction based on how the yews were feeding up, the deer were behaving and the early blackthorn blossom, was that the weather is going to get worse before it improves, and that we are in for a nasty cold snap. We sincerely hope he’s wrong! He was intrigued by our venture and particularly interested in the charities we are supporting. He told us about a friend of his who’d suffered a crippling back injury when a stock lorry ramp had fallen on her. She’d spent many months in the Spinal Unit at Salisbury Hospital. At one point when she was in despair, he’d insisted on taking her out in a wheel chair. They’d visited Salisbury Cathedral and found peace there. He’d clearly been inspired by it. He told us that his friend’s determination had since returned and that she is making progress.
Approaching Farnham, our path took a northward loop before turning southward past Farnham Castle an down into the town, our destination for the day.
We were rather amused by a sign on the wall of the Andrew Windsor Almshouses. How language has changed!