Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The secret valley

On Sunday, after lunch (roast beef) I drove about an hour into the central hills. The day was amazing, the first warm day of the year. The air was very fresh and scented with flowers.

After the long winter it seemed as if everything was blossoming at once.

My objective was a small village in a "secret" valley. It deserves the description secret as there is only one passable road into it (the other routes are all tracks - fine if you have a four by four, but otherwise effectively closed). Although I was using the Ordnance Survey map it took me some time to find the way in.

When I eventually found the little lane that gave entry, I came to big barns where I parked my car. All of the valley is covered by a single farm, and the farmyard is the largest I have ever seen - a big square open space, bounded on the east by the barns, on the north by various outhouses and stables (descending the valley), on the west by a terrace of ten Victorian farmworkers' cottages, and along the south side by a great range of farm buildings that made me think I had wandered into Brobdingnag.



Above: a view of the secret valley. I am very disappointed with this picture as it doesn't convey the beauty of the landscape or the breathtaking quality of the atmosphere. The middle line of trees you can see running along the valley floor is the route of a former railway that closed in 1950. Supposedly a ghost train is sometimes heard running along this route (there is no track now, so it can't be a real train).



Above: looking into the entrances of the great south range of the farmyard, I saw all sorts of interesting artifacts. This is an old waggon - not sure what type it is (they generally varied county by county). There is a date on the side that says 1824, but I can't think that would be right.



Above: going up the stairway at the side, I looked down to see the waggon was filled with old sacks. There was a heavy smell of sacks throughout the range. Dust motes in the sunlight.



Above: inside one of the upstairs rooms were shepherd's crooks.



Above: old billhooks.



Above: horse brasses hanging on the wall.



Above: in the fields nearby was a white horse, enjoying the sunshine.



Above: the main house in the valley, where the farming family has lived for several generations (Pevsner notes the coupled Ionic columns that support the porch).



Above: walking further along the side of the valley I came to the church. This looks Victorian, but is on the site of a medieval structure. Parts of the ancient building were incorporated in the rebuilding.



Above: image of the saint in the gable of the church porch. The dedication is to St Martin of Tours, a Roman martial saint. Dedications to St Martin of Tours usually indicate a very early foundation (the first church founded in Saxon England was St Martins in Canterbury, dating from the 6th century). There is also a theory that dedications to St Martin are nearly always found near a Roman road, but these links are sometimes tenuous - in this case there is no Roman road, although there is a prehistoric trackway that might have been used by the Romans. Another theory is that dedications to St Martin are found in communities that actively supported the crusades. The muslim invasion of France was defeated at Tours by Charles Martel in 732, and the cult of St Martin of Tours (based in the abbey there) was supposed to have been instrumental in the victory.



Above: inside the church was this life-sized stained glass image of St Martin. The sun coming through the window made the figure almost life-like. A visitation of 1763 found that St Martin was the object of considerable veneration in this and neighbouring villages.

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