There are a number of things that make the cathedral in Winchester different from the one that we visited in Salisbury. For a start, the Winchester Cathedral has had a song written about it and it has a Norman tower rather than a spire. But, every church could probably find something unique in it – a fossilised mouse in the foundations, a particular type of glass in the windows or a the loudest bell that rings in C Sharp.
We drove down to Westminster yesterday, looked around the cathedral and had lunch in the restaurant in the Refectory. One of the unexpected things that I found in the cathedral was an increase in my military knowledge. There are dozens of memorials to old warriors and each told a tale of campaigns, dates and various ways in which these men met their fate. I had forgotten the extent of Britains military involvement in the world during the 1800’s – Egypt, India, Africa, Europe and almost everywhere else.
The ceiling along the nave of the Cathedral, the longest in England, is the highlight of the building. It tests the muscles of your neck as you crane upwards to look along it. The elaborately carved choir stalls feature flowers and plants, owls and monkeys, dragons, knights and green men.
Jane Austen is buried in the cathedral; her grave is marked with a commemorative plaque. Also buried in Winchester Cathedral are the bones of many Saxon kings, the remains of the Viking conqueror Canute and his wife, Emma, and the remains of William Rufus (William II), son of William the Conqueror.
We could hear a male choir singing and they turned out to be men from Cornwall. Their singing was excellent and it reverberated beautifully through the cathedral. I had a conversation with one of their wives who told me that most of the men were farmers who had formed a choir for camaraderie. Singing was something that all of them could all do. She was wearing a tartan skirt that she explained was the Cornish tartan. I thought tartans belonged to families and tribes but clearly I am mistaken – the original inhabitants of Cornwall were Celts and there is a tartan for that region.
In the afternoon, we visited another National Trust property – this one at Hinton Ampner. I was given a very effusive welcome when the lady in the ticket office saw my Australian National Trust Membership Card.
The house is in a small village in Hampshire which has a church (All Saints) and the Hinton Ampner House. The church and house sit on a rise of land overlooking the Civil War battlefields at Cheriton. The church is right at the edge of the garden of the house and looks if it is a part of the National Trust property, even though it is not.
Hinton Ampner House is a stately home with charming gardens. The garden was created around 1930, making it a modern 20th-century country garden. The property seems to be now more noted for its garden than the house. Previously, the surrounding parkland came directly up to the house, which was designed to be a hunting lodge.
The current house was built in 1790 but remodelled extensively in 1867. It was remodelled again in the Neo-Georgian style between 1936 and 1939. It was badly damaged by fire in 1960, and has been restored again to look much as it had appeared in 1936.
Our drive back to our hotel took us through ‘The Wallops” – three cute villages along the Test River. The most scenic of these is Nether Wallop and the other two are named Over Wallop and Middle Wallop. The name “Wallop” apparently comes from the Old English words ‘waella’ and ‘hop’, which combined together roughly mean “the valley of springing water”. The village was the site of the Battle of Guoloph that took place around AD 440. and it was registered in the Domesday Book of 1086 as ‘Wallope’.
Nether Wallop contains many old thatched cottages, and I later found out that it has been featured in books and TV programs as one of the prettiest villages in England. In particular, its Dane Cottage was used as Miss Marple’s home in the village of St. Mary Mead for the BBC TV adaptations of the Agatha Christie novels.