The tiny village of Burghclere was my base for work this week. Never having heard of it, I had little hope of finding much of interest but I was mistaken… to a degree anyway.
It didn’t take much research to discover that within a radius of a my or so there were four contrasting gems to be explored.
Beacon Hill, the first of the quartet is, as its name suggests, one of the many high points in England used for signalling through the ignition of chains of beacons to warn of threats and more recently celebrate national events. Unlike many of its namesakes this one has archeological significance for at the summit of its 261 metres is an Iron Age hill fort. These large enclosed spaces defended by concentric circles of ditch and mound are best seen from the air, so it was never going to be the subject of any great photography, though as you would expect from such a landmark, the views it provides are expansive. On my drive to the hill I passed the second of the Gang of Four; Highclere Castle. If you have not heard the name before you may know it better by its televisual alter ego: Downton Abbey. The fact that the programme’s production team chose this as the setting for one of the most successful series of recent years by implication suggested that I would find some striking imagery to satisfy the hunger of my Canon, but on arriving I found that the Castle (a strange description when the building lacks any obvious defensive merit) was closed to the public now that the summer was over. The grounds too were beyond my reach, so ’twas as well that I had spied the edifice from my hilltop eyrie.
Two down, and only two pictures to show for it. I still had half the attractions at my disposal however, so I returned to the Carpenter’s Arms, my base for the week, as my next stop lay just across the road: a grade 1 listed building maintained by the National Trust. Sandham Memorial Chapel was built in the 1920’s to commemorate the death of a member of the Sandham family in the Great War. The building and its gardens, which are populated with apple trees, are pleasant enough, but it is the contents that make this building an obvious attraction; a series of paintings by the modernist artist Stanley Spencer that combine religious iconography with Spencer’s own memories and impressions of the war.
It was closed.
Three down. One to go.
The website promoting the Carpenter’s Arms proclaimed its outlook over the location of one of the most successful novels of the 70’s, and for its published, Penguin, their most successful novel of all time. Watership Down.
At least it couldn’t be closed for business.
It could however be enveloped in fog!