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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

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