One of my granddaughters has inherited my love of discovering and exploring unusual places. Not surprising really, when I think of some of the places we visited when she was small.
So when she announced that she had found something that I had to see, her excitement rapidly transferred to me. Rather than wait for a better day, we set off late the other afternoon. She assured me that with a bit of luck, we should get there before the light faded.
She also said it wasn’t far, and I eyed the gathering evening clouds with suspicion. I hoped it wouldn’t turn out to be a wasted journey, becoming too dark to see anything for I wanted to take some photographs of whatever it was.
On the way to Winchester, we turned down a leafy lane and found ourselves driving through a beautiful forest. I would have to come back here one day and explore for I feel very at home in a forest. The magical closeness of all those trees does beautiful things to my soul.
We passed a massive ragged tree stump that had been hit by lightning, the eerie sight reinforcing the feeling that we were far from civilisation. What on earth had my grand-daughter found, way out here? There didn’t seem to be anything but trees for miles.
We drove into a clearing and stopped. We were here, wherever here was. It was getting darker, although the forest was so dense it probably always looked like this.
A small overgrown path wound its way through woodland plants of ferns and mosses, and I still couldn’t see anything. Surely, we hadn’t come all this way to look at a tree?
The smell of leaf mould was strong, wrapping itself around me, making me feel like some kind of wood nymph. My steps were getting lighter and I wanted to run, my heart soaking up the wild greenness of this magical timeless place.
Then, just as the light faded away, I saw something.
In a clearing, I caught the glimpse of some kind of building. It wasn’t very big and looked old. What could it be?
As we drew nearer, it began to take the shape of something out of a fairy tale. Enclosed by a fence was what could only have been a church. Built of corrugated iron and painted green, it sat in in the middle of the clearing as though dropped there. I had expected some ruin, an old building barely standing, but the church looked to be in pristine condition. Someone must spend a lot of time here, I thought.
It had a steeple with a bell and one window was stained glass, although it would only have been visible from inside. Through another window, I could see rows of old wooden pews and an altar. I retraced my steps to the gate to read the plaque to discover the history of the place, eager to know all about this “Church in the Woods”.
The following information and the photographs used are supplied through the courtesy of Hampshire-History.com
It took just five days to build this mission church in 1883. The great sheets of corrugated iron and timber frame would have been carted in and the whole constructed with missionary joy and zeal. We are uncertain what the base would have been constructed from but a small flight of steps brings you to the doorway. Above it, the church bell sits in its turret and an iron steeple points skywards, topped with a weather vane.
Many of these iron churches or ‘tin tabernacles’ as they are known were built around the country. Hampshire has a few more of its own, the church of St Peter’s at Beech near Alton and St Francis Gosport included.
The iron church was a Victorian solution to a number of problems
Population growth was rapid during the Victorian period and a new wave and enthusiasm for church and chapel building began. Although the Victorians wanted their church structures to be magnificently designed and beautifully decorated, for those on the margins of society, the architectural designs were sometimes an expensive step too far. Many of these churches had to be raised at the cost of the congregation and clerics themselves. The new flat pack corrugated church was the solution. This allowed missionary churches to spring up wherever there was thought to be a need. Local populations could build them for themselves. They could also be sent overseas and were ideal for those settling in frontier lands.
The corrugated building started to be mass-produced and were sold through catalogues. There were not just churches for sale, cottages, schools and even railway stations were sold. Each was illustrated with a picture and a price. The size could be altered according to what the customer wanted.
Prefabricated iron churches were relatively cheap to buy, costing anything from £150 for a chapel seating 150 to £500 for a chapel seating 350.
By 1875 hundreds of iron clad churches were being erected, many with extensive gothic style embellishments as can be seen at the church in the woods at Bramdean in Hampshire.
The trees are all dying
The flowers have gone.
Golden leaves are lying
The winter has come.
Icy patterns on the window
Pixie faces on the glass.
Dead things in the garden
Lost tracks in the grass.
Dark gloom at the dawning
You hear a muffled sound.
Cold and white is the morning
Crystals formed on the ground.
Sharp and crisp is the air
White drifts all around.
The world is in mystery
Softness deadens the sound…
SOME SECRETS WILL KILL YOU…
and some are about someone who is already dead.
A mother must find the truth before the secrets destroy her family…
Maggie heaped three spoonsful of brown sugar into the frothy coffee, and Scott gave a gentle tut-tut as she watched it slowly slip through the bubbles.
Watching her stir the coffee for longer than was necessary, he asked, ‘Shall I fire questions at you or will you volunteer your troubles to old Scottie?’
The softening of his name was only for those he considered his true friends and he listened without interruption while she told him all about the nightmares, the mess in the kitchen, Danny’s destructiveness, burying Jack’s stuff in the garden and all the things that Danny attributed to his imaginary friend, Toby.
Scott pondered awhile, and then said, ‘You of all people shouldn’t think it so strange, where would you be without imagination, Maggie? Pulling groceries on a check-out? Not that it’s a disgrace; someone has to do it… Danny is developing his mind, maybe he’ll be a great artist like his beautiful mother, or write the books Jack couldn’t… then he’ll need all the power of his inner mind, much the way you do.’
She looked deep into her empty coffee cup as if it were a crystal ball. ‘Maybe I could believe all that if he were happy, Scott, but he’s not. He’s so moody and goes days without saying a word to anyone.’
She related Cathy’s story about hearing a dog in the car, and Scott looked puzzled.
‘From what you’ve told me about her, I’d say she’s prone to flights of fancy and you shouldn’t take any of it too seriously. It could have been anything, like that wretched noise when you speed past those wooden poles along the road. Maybe there was something stuck to the wheel of her car. Noises you would normally recognise have a way of sounding strange when you’re cooped up inside a tin-can on wheels.’
She didn’t believe Scott’s explanation, but it was enough to put a little doubt in her mind, she realised that she hadn’t thought the situation through as thoroughly as she might.
She didn’t tell him about the bite-marks and scratches that appeared on Danny during the nightmares until last. It wasn’t really all that bad, not enough to draw blood but marks none the less.
‘Could he have done it himself?’ asked Scott.
‘Yes, but he denied it.’
‘Someone at school, a fight? Boys get into them all the time.’
‘I don’t think so. Danny told the doctor that this Toby did it. When we asked him why he hadn’t said anything to us, he just shrugged his shoulders and clammed up. We’ve been advised not to push him too hard.’
Scott could see how worried she was, but he couldn’t really think of anything to allay her fears, real or imagined. It was high time to lighten the mood. Catching Kelly’s eye, he ordered two more coffees with hand gestures.
‘God knows what you’ve been letting your mind get up to, Maggie darling, but as far as I can tell, there are only two explanations. He either did it himself or he got into a fight and didn’t know how to tell you. There are times, darling when a young man can’t run to his mama. Losing a fight would be worse than telling you he had been in one in the first place…
‘Maybe that’s all he’s hiding from you, and as for the rest of it, it’s plain old-fashioned mischief born out of the sheer frustration of keeping things locked inside…’
Danny’s secret goes back in time
How is this known to a child of nine?
No one believes him when he speaks
Of buried treasure the earth still keeps.
Yet stranger words are said in sleep.
His mother hears his sleeping moans
Afraid now, how can he know
Of secrets buried so long ago?
I was looking for some inspiration the other day, (my muse seems to have taken a few days off) and found one of my favourite people on the Internet. Or I should say, I saw a picture of what this woman does and instantly knew who it was. Heather Jansch, that’s herself in the picture, with her beautiful friends Rara and Riverdance has been a source of inspiration for me for a while now. What she creates is truly awe-inspiring, and has the effect of pulling me up by my bootstraps every time!
Heather has twin passions. Drawing and horses. Mine are more like the sea, writing, bonsai, and horses but I digress.
If I had a ‘bucket list’ (and I have thought about it, now I am getting older) horses would be on it somewhere. I would love to take care of, own and ride horses before I shuffle off, and maybe…
We should all have a wish list with every dream we have ever had on it. And now and again it would be nice if one or two came true, don’t you think?
But at the same time, it would be helpful if we had another list. One with all the things we have enjoyed because most of the time, we forget the good times and we really shouldn’t. I have been in the doldrums this week, just a little bit it’s true, and that was why I was looking for inspiration in the first place. Some times, I will do almost anything but what I am supposed to be doing, and that is becoming a problem I must do something about.
Whatever mood I find myself in, dedication and steely determination must be my first port of call. And looking at what Heather creates will help me…
On foreign soil a soldier falls, a poppy grows
They send them back to lie alone.
We carve their names on grey stonewalls
We sent them out to fight for freedoms call.
Few come back with wounds that heal
Inside horrors, they will not recall
Soldiers fought so we can live on English soil…
When I read these words this morning, I was taken back to my childhood, reading the Dandy comic. Desperate Dan with his huge plate of mashed potato with two large sausages sticking out, looking like a bull had landed there.
I have to tell you that no one does mash like Jaye does! The minute she begins peeling the spuds, I swear my kids pick up some strange signal. They come knocking from all over Hampshire, just popping in, big smiles on their faces. They know there’s mash on the go and they say it is just a coincidence…
(Reblogged from 2014)
It was November, several years ago and the weather was pleasantly warm. We were walking around Southampton enjoying the late sunshine.
Our mood was reasonably high, having just had a ‘meet and greet’ with a publisher who was interested in Anita’s books. We had lunch in the open air and were trying to remember which car park we had used, several hours before.
My feet were killing me, wearing new shoes on such a day was a crazy idea, but I was grinning and bearing the pain like a trooper. We walked past an ancient looking wall that was faced with what looked like slices of flint, and I was rooting around in my bag for my camera.
I don’t really know what happened next, whether my foot slipped or I stumbled, but before I knew what was happening, I was flying through the air and landed on the ground. The pain hit me like a sledgehammer, as my hands, face, and knee took the full force of my considerable weight, grinding them into the rough surface of the walkway.
For several minutes I couldn’t move. The pain was excruciating and there was a distinct possibility that I might faint, as my head was swimming as Anita and her son rushed to help me. As I lay there in an inelegant heap, trying to pull myself together, I noticed my hands. There was some blood, but no apparent reason for it, (I found out later that it came from my face) my hands were studded with gravel and were screaming with the pain. As I stared at them, I was transported back to a time when this had happened before, sixty years ago.
I was nine or ten, and it was winter. The school playground was icy, with piles of dirty snow shovelled here and there. It was playtime and I was under the shelter that ran along the side wall, swinging on the iron bars. It was a game we played, linking our arms around the bars and lifting our feet off the ground. Like today, what happened next was fast and I hit the icy ground with my face and hands.
The school nurse took one look at my face, bloody and pitted with gravel and promptly sent me home to my mother. I remember the look on her face as she studied mine, the way she cried as she tried to remove the gravel as gently as she could. It wasn’t easy and it hurt a lot, but she kept at it until it was done.
I had looked at my hands that day, as I did now, wondering why fate had decided to repeat itself, today of all days.
Trust me to spoil what was a momentous occasion, a day that promised to be the start of something great…
I was born in 1946 and school was not the best place for me.
All those teachers filling my head with a bunch of stuff I didn’t really need to know about.
Most of the time my mind wandered. I knew they were there to help me learn but they had no time for slow learners. Me being one of them.
It was my own fault, I stopped listening.
I stopped respecting my elders when they made me feel so small after getting something wrong.
There was no political correctness in my day. Messing around in class got me sent outside, where I would make faces at them through the window.
This would get me sent to the Heads office and Sister Joseph and her cohort, Sister Agatha. I would be expected to hold out my hand so this six-foot sister of God could give me six of the best. How could they call it that?
I let it happen once and swore never to let these creatures use the cane on my hands again. Especially after teaching us religious education, that God loves us, forgives out sins and shows mercy to everyone. How could those black clad beasts teach without an example?
I refused to hold out my hand. The shorter one, Sister Agatha held me by my elbow, trying to stretch out my arm, where afterward I could go home with red welts on my hand.
Remembering the pain from last time, I wouldn’t let her budge me. I didn’t think my crime deserved this kind of punishment. I pushed Sister Agatha aside and ended up biting her hand so she would let go of me. Not good I know, but I wanted her to feel the pain.
Most of the teachers liked to whip out the cane in class too, embarrassing you by making you stand in front of your friends when they did it. I never learned not to question the lessons of the day, but they did get things wrong. After pointing this out, I was expected to stand in front of the class and let her whack my hand with the cane.
Not on your nelly. I walked out and then ran home. My mother wasn’t helpful. She said I must do as I was told.
I couldn’t answer her back for she was never wrong. I couldn’t expect sympathy about the cane either, for mother liked to use the belt when I became too much to handle. I spent a lot of my time between a rock and a hard place.
Don’t feel sorry for me, I didn’t turn out so bad. I found a way to educate myself thanks to the one good thing Sister Agatha did. She called on one of the old retired teachers to help me and others to read. So once I had it in my head that words are not always spelled as they sound, I read my way through the school library. Spelling, however, slipped past my brain. I still don’t get it right. Jaye helps me with the stuff I write, so all’s right with my world.
School education, you can stick it, but I made sure my kids did their homework.
My one big thing was about hitting my kids and this was not going to happen, nor would I let anyone else do it. I managed to get into more trouble over this and ended up in the Heads office again. He had the cheek to ask why I told my kids never to let the teachers use the cane on them. “You walk out,” I told them. “Come straight home. I will take care of it.”
My answer was that I was their mother. That they had no real feeling for my kids and wouldn’t pull back when lashing out with the cane.
I remember the bruising on my brother’s hands. I couldn’t let someone who was meant to teach lay their hands on my kids this way. I remembered my mother going mad at my brother’s teacher when he did it. I was there, loving every moment. She made him feel so bad in front of his class.
She did no more, she pulled out the cane from the desk and broke it in half. The next day, I did the same. While the rest of the class were out playing, I went into each class and broke the canes, leaving them on top of their desks. No mean feat at eleven years old. The look on my teacher’s face was a picture I still treasure to this day. I know things are better now. They cannot lash out and smack your children. What I do know, is that not all teachers are saints.
Some of them know how to make a child feel small, using words in ways that hurt while trying to teach young minds not to fight, not to call each other names or make fun because someone wears glasses.
In my opinion, kids are much the same as they were years ago. Some good and some not so good. I see them outside my window on their way to school, pushing and pulling each other about, shoving each other into the bushes outside my house. Good fun for some, maybe not for the one trying to extricate himself from the bush.
At least the cane has been abolished. I think people of a similar age will know how I felt back then. At least I hope so…
I do have some sweet memories that often filter through my mind, of the spoonful of malt every morning before class and being milk monitor, handing out the small bottles of milk. I think they were trying to take care of our health more than our minds…