Perhaps it’s just me, but sometimes the impulse decisions to do things are far more enjoyable than those things which may have been planned for a long time. That was definitely the case today, when I decided that because it was such a beautiful spring morning I would take myself out and visit the tiny downland hamlet of Idsworth. This tiny sprinkling of houses, a farm and a church was brought to my attention by a Facebook friend who has been enthusing about the peacefulness of the place.
My route took me past many small villages and places of interest and through rolling hills and large open fields, many clothed in the bright yellow of the rapeseed plant, while others were spotted with woolly sheep and tiny springy lambs.
Carved stone at entrance to St Hubert’s Church, Idsworth
Grass track leads to the Church of St Hubert, Idsworth
On arrival at Idsworth (which is close to Finchdean in Hampshire) I parked my car on the grass verge near the gateway which leads to the tiny church of St Hubert, standing all by itself on the crest of a small hill, the closest building is the old Manor House which is about some 500 metres away. This delightful little church is beautiful for its simplicity, rendered in pale lime wash, it has a simple cross on its front which, somewhat bizarrely is lit by fairy lights!
Fairy light cross
The entrance porch is enclosed by two half height wooden doors which allow access to a small vestibule which in turn leads into the church itself. On entering, one could be forgiven for feeling that you had been transported back in time. Dimly lit, the dark oak wooden pews are set in open rows down both sides, with the front pews being fully enclosed, with ‘gates’ to allow for privacy for the local nobility of past times. The pulpit itself is located along the right wall and has a painted wooden canopy, something I have never seen before in a simple country church.
Open public pews with enclosed private pews and canopied pulpit
This particular church is famous for its medieval wall paintings about which much has been written and speculated. Indeed, it was the discovery of these paintings in 1864 during renovations which brought about the rededication of the church from St Peter to St Hubert. A very interesting booklet detailing the history of these beautiful and interesting paintings can be purchased at the church.
Two of the medieval wall paintings at the church in Idsworth
A small and unpretentious alter covered by a simple red brocade cloth stands in front of the large window at the far end of the building. On this table stands what is probably the loveliest and most interesting cross I have ever seen. Carved from a single piece of wood it is smooth and sinuous, delicate yet at the same time it seems to project a sort of ‘presence’.
Simple carved wooden cross
On the upper wall above the Chancel is a new mural painted in 2000 by the renowned muralist Fleur Kelly as a Millennium project conceived by the late Mr Richard Mason, a local farmer and respected elder of the church, who sadly did not live to see its completion. the theme for the painting is the vision of St Peter with the central area being reserved for a representation of Christ in Majesty. The Vision of St Peter was chosen because of the church links to St Peter and also as it allows for the inclusion of local creatures and beautiful surroundings of St Hubert’s Church.
The Millennium Fresco
Walking back to my car I stopped to admire the extensive views and listen to the sounds of silence. That sounds weird, I know, but silence in the countryside is often quite deafening! I could hear at least 6 different bird calls as well as several different buzzing insect sounds, while soft breeze whispered through the grass. This feeling of isolation and tranquility was suddenly broken by the whooshing of a train on its way to Portsmouth from London and the starting up of a lawnmower by the church warden who had arrived to cut the grass!
Back at the gateway at the road I paused to look at the now dry winter stream with the little wooden footbridge over to allow worshippers access to the church during more inclement weather. Locally these dry streams are known as Lavants, but where I come from in Dorset they are called Winterbourne streams – because they are literally born in the winter.
Lavant stream at Idsworth
Walking back to my car I passed several signs pointing out some of the many footpaths and bridleways that criss-cross the South Downs. I was particularly impressed by two of these, one being a very weathered wooden finger board while the other a vintage metal sign which together with iron railings and decorative gate has obviously been standing for very many years indeed.
The drive home was as pleasant as the outbound trip, but this time I took the opportunity to stop and admire the bluebell woods along my route. While doing this I was just about to take a photograph when a sudden movement stopped me and I saw a beautiful male pheasant step out of the undergrowth. It stopped and looked directly at me before calmly stalking off through the bluebells, pausing sometimes to allow for a photo!
Pheasant in the woods
A little further on I spotted a fun hand painted sign asking motorists to slow down for ducklings crossing and as I slowed down I spotted a duck crossing the road! I simply had to stop and photograph it as it was one of those really surreal moments.
Duckling and crossing sign
I had a lovely morning which has left me feeling refreshed and uplifted.