Today is Winter Solstice and the trees are whipping in gale force winds. Every leaf has gone now.
This is a belated post from the last week in November, when the countryside was glowing with the reds and golds of autumn. One afternoon, we drove eastwards across the New Forest to Boldre, a village just inland from the coast.
The Church of St John the Baptist is not in the centre of Boldre village but is situated in an isolated spot, amongst farm fields and lanes lined with ancient trees. The church was built on a hill in the early years following the Norman Conquest. There are, apparently, three sarcen stones in its foundations, which might suggest that this hill was a neolithic place of pagan worship long before Christianity arrived.
Boldre Church was initially built in around 1087 (the year when William the Conqueror died) but has been added to and altered in every time and style across the centuries.
We walked around the graveyard on a cold, sunny afternoon.
A view across pasture and woodland, towards the open Forest.
There were old and interesting graves in every part of this peaceful churchyard.
A famous occupant of Boldre churchyard is the Rev William Gilpin, (Vicar of Boldre 1777-1804) described as "Pastor and Polymath", who was a writer, landscape artist, teacher and philanthropist. Gilpin was an important artist in the development of the Picturesque movement. Concerned by the poverty and need that he found in this New Forest parish, he founded a Poor House and a school, which he funded with the sale of his paintings.
Below is the Oldest Named Tombstone in the churchyard. It marks the grave of Edward Watts, who died in 1698. On the tombstone are carvings of a skull, crossed thigh bones and an hour glass.
The War Memorial not only commemorates the parish fallen of WWI and WWII. It also serves as a memorial to the drowned Vice-Admiral, 1416 officers and men of the Flagship HMS Hood, which was sunk off the coast of Iceland by the German Battleship Bismark, on 23rd May, 1941. The stricken ship sank within two minutes. There were only three survivors.
Vice-Admiral L.E. Holland and his family had worshipped in Boldre Church for many years, so his widow ensured that the HMS Hood Commemoration should be here. The HMS Hood Memorial Chapel is inside the church.
The lower part of the church tower was built in the early 1300`s while the upper part was rebuilt in brick in 1697.
After visiting the church itself, we left the churchyard through wooden gates. A narrow , wooded lane wound down towards the Lymington River.
As we left the church, the sun was going down over nearby fields, where New Forest ponies grazed in the lengthening shadows of a cold, still afternoon.
Ref: The Church of St John the Baptist, Boldre - guidebook, 8th edition.