The lazy water meadows

12 September 2019

We spent barely five minutes sitting on the bench looking down at the water meadows, stretching, drinking and eating, but we felt revived when we set off again. Along the lane, on our way to the church, we passed the old rectory that gives its name to the lane between it and the High Street. Almost every building in Twyford seems to be old and quaint with moss covered walls and this one is no exception.

Walking through Twyford, at least when you get away from the traffic of the High Street, is like stepping back into a gentler age where nothing has changed for centuries. Pausing to admire some hollyhocks that had seeded themselves by the gate, we walked through the churchyard.

At this stage we were still easing our legs back into walking mode, dawdling along rather than striding. As we went I talked Kim through the points of interest. Opposite the church was Mildmay House and barn, once the vicarage and owned by the Mildmay family who used to own most of Twyford and Shawford. The house dates from the fourteenth century but was extensively rebuilt during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

There was the church itself, built in Saxon times, possibly over a much older Druid sacred place, and rebuilt three times since, the last in the late 1800’s. Then there was the ancient yew tree, rumoured to be a thousand years old, but probably considerably younger.

On Berry Lane we walked between Church Farm and the church, past the sarsen stone towards the river. The next part of our walk would mirror the middle part of my Sunday walk, but without the oppressive heat and with no one else about. At least I now knew exactly where I was going and what lay ahead.

We crossed the wooden bridge, probably one of the two fords that give Twyford it’s name, and paused to enjoy the view of the river. The water was crystal clear. This time I stopped to actually read the sign on the gate. All morning I’d been slightly uneasy about the prospect of cows in the fields here. The fact they were supposed to be a docile breed didn’t make me feel much better.

On the other side of the gate it was quite a relief to find an empty field. We crossed it looking around suspiciously to make sure there were no cows hiding in the bushes waiting to ambush us. There weren’t. Kim was quite taken with a large, red brick house peeking out from the distant trees. I guessed it was somewhere in Shawford but couldn’t get my bearings enough to say exactly where.

Then we came to the second gate and the possibility of cows in the next field. Once again we found it empty, apart from a lone photo bombing butterfly. The sky looked a touch threatening. Despite the weather forecast it looked like it might rain. As we both had waterproof jackets, this wasn’t much of a worry.

A couple of dog walkers were sitting by the hatches. They said good morning as we passed. Once we got through the kissing gate we were out of cow danger and at Compton Lock. Last time we came this way together we found two ladies swimming in the rain. Today the lock was empty.

On Sunday this was where I’d turned back towards Winchester. Today we turned the opposite way, towards Shawford. As we did, I noticed the spire of St Mary’s church poking above the trees. Until Sunday I’d always thought the church and the benches were high on a hill looking down over the meadows. The church is certainly on a hill and the meadows are certainly on lower land, just not as much as I thought.

Now we followed the beautifully clear canal to Shawford. Some swans came to greet us as we approached the bridge. You really can’t ask for more on a long walk. We were now well and truly homeward bound but we still had over nine miles left to walk. Hopefully our luck would hold.

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