Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Spring Lanes and Old Letter Boxes - Cranborne Chase

One afternoon, two weeks ago, we needed a break after days of rain. We cannot leave Old Dog for long, so we headed westwards for a few hours, across the Avon Valley into Dorset and the soft, green countryside of Cranborne Chase. In the photo above, the River Avon at Ibsley was in full spate and water rushed angrily over the weir.

 The water meadows were still partially flooded and the wet grass was studded with golden marsh marigolds or kingcups. In the north, these lovely flowers are called water blobs. In the foreground, there were small, pale mauve and white cuckoo flowers, or ladies` smocks,

New green leaves on the water meadow willows screened the tower of Harbridge church.

We drove uphill and away from the Avon Valley, through wet, narrow lanes between farm fields, towards a hamlet called Crendell.

We stopped to look at the old letter box, set in the wall of a Victorian cottage. My husband is interested in postal history and had found out that this Victorian letter box is a rare one. The first postage stamps date from 1840 and the first letter boxes were put into use in 1852 ( one of these remains in St Peter Port in Guernsey). The Crendell box dates from 1879 and there are only twenty eight of them still in existence. It was made in Walker`s Eagle Foundry in Birmingham.

I am less interested in the dates and details, but I find myself thinking of all those generations of country people from neighbouring farms and cottages, who would have posted their precious letters into this humble red postbox. Letters to friends and family. Business mail and bills being paid. Love letters, news of births and deaths. Letters of happy tidings and of the saddest news. Letters of hope and comfort being posted to the soldiers of the two World Wars.

As we turned across country towards Cranborne, this field of bright yellow oilseed rape shone out from the wet landscape.

In lanes made from ancient cart tracks, hedgerow flowers were blooming after the welcome rain. Swathes of white flowered Ramsons, wild garlic, bordered the lane and filled the air with the scent of garlic.

Bluebells beneath old coppiced hedgerows.

The deep lane led downhill, out of the woods  and between high hedges bordering fields. A hollow way, where hundreds of years of hooves, feet and wheels  have worn the track down below the level of  the surrounding land.

In the main street running through Cranborne, we stopped to find another old post box, which is set into the wall of the village Post Office.

This one is a Ludlow type letter box from the reign of King George V. It dates from 1910 -1920. There are only  thirty two remaining in Britain. Apparently there are over 125,000 letter boxes (wall boxes, lamp boxes and pillar boxes) in total in the UK.

Later on, we walked around rainy Cranborne before finding shelter in the lovely old church. Along the church path, a very vocal black cat sat waiting on the window sill of this thatched cottage. He wanted to be let in out of the rain, but no one was listening.


WOL said...

No matter how charming the cottage, don't think I'd like to live in one where you stepped out the front door and directly into the roadway.

Morning's Minion said...

I am astonished each time I see photos of houses set so closely on the street. I feel very blessed that our little house sits high at the end of a long driveway.
Kentucky has miles of narrow winding roads that at this time of year are like tunnels of green. I would love to experience riding down one of your lanes with the high banks.

rachel said...

Just my sort of walk, thank you!

When I lived inNewcastle. there was a Penfold letter box nearby; my (then) husband passed his O-Level photography exam with a picture of it!

Ragged Robin said...

The meadow full of Marsh Marigolds and Lady's Smock is a lovely sight and its wonderful to see photos of spring-time wildlflowers - wild garlic is one of my favourites.
The photos and history of the old letter boxes are fascinating.

Rowan said...

Some great photos - I love the old hollow lanes. They are so full of history - if only they could talk. My DH is interested in old letter boxes too and takes photos of them. Sometimes he goes miles just to see a rare one - it fits in with all his cricket travels in the summer:)

Kath said...

we notice so many fields of rape on our way to Stockbridge at the weekend. It seems to be rare in SOmerset. I love it's cheerful colour and I like th soapy smell.

Down by the sea said...

What a lovely way of taking a break from the rain. Your photos have captured a time gone by , you can almost see a horse cart coming along the lane! I loved the post boxes and the wild flowers.
Sarah x

Mum said...

Thank you for the fascinating walk.
Love from Mum

MrsL said...

Cranborne is a lovley wee village; I used to live nearer ti and go often, but less so now. I still manage to get to the wonderful garden centre though! Our village shares the oldest post box still in use in England with the next village. Post box red is a lovely colour to come upon in unexpected places :0


Crafty Green Poet said...

Those letter boxes are such a piece of history!

The water meadows are beautiful! So wonderful to see all those marsh marigolds

And poor cat, being left in the rain

WOL said...

Since I know you like horses --

Goosey said...

Makes me wish I wasn't on nightshift at the moment and could get off for a lovely walk like that. Maybe I will trace your steps one day!

Goosey said...

Post boxes are interesting, you should visit Holwell in North Dorset, there is an octagonal post box there. If may have less sides I can't remember but definatly an odd shape!