Steve Davison takes us across a patchwork of ancient fields in the North Wessex Downs
as we visit Jude Fawley’s ‘Marygreen’
Our walk explores the undulating chalk landscape of the Berkshire Downs to the east of Lambourn which form part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The area has a history going back thousands of years; Roman artefacts have been found and the ancient Ridgeway – said to be Britain’s oldest green road – passes to the north.
We start our journey at the little village of Fawley, once known as North Fawley to distinguish it from its near neighbour, South Fawley; at the time of the Domesday Book (completed in 1086) the manor belonged to the nuns of the Benedictine abbey at Amesbury, later passing to the Abbey of Fontevraud in the Anjou region of France until Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The village church, built in the 1860’s and dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, was designed by George Edmund Street to replace an earlier medieval building; Street is probably best known for designing the Royal Courts of Justice in London. The church was commissioned by Blanche Wroughton of Chaddleworth; the Wroughtons had held the manor of Fawley since the 18th century.
Fawley has a place in literary history, as it was the home of Thomas Hardy’s grandmother. Hardy used the village as the inspiration for ‘Marygreen’ in his last novel, Jude the
Obscure (1895), whilst he gave the fictional character,
Jude, a stonemason, whose dreams of becoming a scholar sadly remained unfulfilled, the surname, Fawley.
From the church we head through fields with views over the downs. We soon head south-east passing Pound’s Farm and Oakhedge Copse, before turning again north to the hamlet of South Fawley, home to the metal, stone and glass sculptor, Johannes von Stumm (www. vonstumm.co.uk). The manor house (private), was built in the early 1600’s for Sir Francis Moore, a barrister and member of parliament.
From here, it’s an easy three quarters of a mile walk back to Fawley. Unfortunately, there are no pubs on the walk, the nearest being at Great Shefford and East Garston, whilst there is a tea room at the Court Hill Centre just to the north of the Ridgeway.
Heading south-west on the way to Old Warren withviews over the downs
TOP: Views stretch out over the rolling chalk hills of the North Wessex Downs AONBLEFT: Following the track past Oakhedge Copse