We were finally en route for our destination, but having noticed a church on the way to the White Horse, we felt it incumbent upon us to pay a courtesy call. These single celled churches with the little bellcote often prove to be real beauties. Not only a bellcote, but on a mound too… Parking the car close to the village pump, we wandered over the road, my pretty, but impractical, lace slippers squelching merrily after their excursion in the rain, while the sky turned iron grey.
A closer look and we knew we were dealing with a modern church, no more than a century or two old. Even so, the Victorians knew a thing or two about symbolism. It might well be worth a look. Except, of course, it was locked. We wandered around the exterior, looking at the trees and the nets under the rafters… and I tried my best to get pictures of the stained glass through the misted panes on the north wall. Disappointing, but not really important. There would doubtless be other churches, and at least one was on our list of places we needed to visit over the weekend.
Back in the car we managed to ignore all other distractions as we drove down through Swindon, seeing the great, looming form of Barbury Castle silhouetted against the skyline. We really needed to go there… but not now. Not with the weekend about to begin and anyway, we needed to run into Marlborough for supplies before we reached the hotel.
Now, by this time I am distinctly soggy. My hair looks as if I have been electrocuted, what little make-up I was wearing is defunct, my trousers and shoes are soaked and the prospect of a quick shower and tidy-up seemed appealing. It was also about this time I discovered the lacunae in my packing… The dry clothes, the make-up and the spare shoes were all still at home. Oh well, at least I had a hairbrush… even if it was the little folding one I keep in my bag to remove moss and leaves from inscriptions… It could have been worse.
The two of us decide instead to go and reconnoitre the village where we would be based for the next couple of days. There is, we know, an important church. There is also a Mound of some significance… but that is a whole other story, one that Stuart will be telling in a day or two…. On the subject of the Missing Mound, my lips are sealed. I shall not mention our incursion up what proved to be the drive of a private manor. Nor shall I say a word about the wet nettles that needed to be waded through to check one area. I shall even refrain from mentioning my almost-dry-by-that-time lower limbs and footwear after the wet field of waist high crops… Well, waist high on me anyway…
We spotted the church tower away in the distance and retreated in search of the car. It looked a long way out of the village and we could check for the Mound while we were at it. We also spotted two of our companions heading in the same direction. The four of us arrived at the church at the same time.
We had expected it to be locked by that time of the evening, but were disappointed to find it was kept locked and, if we wanted to get in, we would have to arrange a time… which, in many ways, runs counter to how we like to run these informal weekends. The idea is to be outside of time for a while as much as possible, moving with the sun, drinking when we thirst, eating when we hunger and sleeping when we are ready. Really, only parking tickets rule our meanderings. And in any case, the one thing we really wanted to ‘see’ here was invisible anyway.
The church at Ogbourne St George is of Norman origin, though it is possible it replaced an earlier structure. The almost obligatory renovations and alterations over the centuries have all but obliterated the early church, on the outside at least. Medieval grotesques and redundant gargoyles populate the edges of the roof and an angel bearing a shield is set into one corner of the tower. Another scratch dial is cut into the wall, replaced at a later date by a more modern sundial. The church has all the hallmarks of being interesting.
More to the point, though, the church, like the village, is dedicated to St George, the same who had, according to legend, slain the dragon on Dragon Hill just below the White Horse where we had spent the morning. The church stands beside the River Og too, a name with ancient connections to deity and the church is known in certain circles for the energy line that runs down the aisle. We had dowsing rods and pendulums… it would have been good to get inside… and preferably not with a church warden looking disapprovingly at our investigations.
But not essential. The weekend already held more than enough to keep us occupied. We headed back to our hotel and the real start of the weekend as our companions gathered for dinner and an introduction to the ancient and magical landscape we would be exploring together before retiring to the 17th century Inn with the Well for a quiet sampling of the local ale and cider; Kingstone, Camelot and Corvus… it sounded about right.