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Heritage of the ‘little church in the field’ celebrated
THE story of a remarkable church and its setting within beautiful downland has been brought to life thanks to a massive community effort.
St Hubert’s Church, often called “the little church in the field”, has enjoyed a number of improvements, including new interpretation, walk leaflets, a children’s adventure trail and disabled access.
The work has been led by a partnership between the Idsworth Church Friends Trust and the South Downs National Park Authority, with support from East Hampshire District Council and Hampshire County Council. The completion of the four-year project was celebrated as partners gathered by the beautiful Hampshire church this summer.
The church dates back at least a millennium, having been ordered to be built sometime around 1030AD by Earl Godwin, head of one of the most powerful families in Anglo-Saxon England and father to King Harold. The building’s foundations are believed to date back to Roman times.
Today the inside of the church contains some of the best surviving medieval wall paintings in Britain, while the outside is a photographer’s delight, offering breathtaking views of chalk downland.
Andrew Callender, chairman of the Idsworth Church Friends Trust, said: “St Hubert’s is one of the jewels in the crown of the South Downs National Park and, despite all the challenges of the pandemic over the past 18 months, we’re really excited to unveil these important additions that will enhance people’s enjoyment of this very special little church and the landscape around it.”
The roadside frontage to the church was improved with the help of local farmers Andrew Fisk and David Uren, who cleared scrub, pruned trees, installed new fencing and gates, as well as resurfacing the lay-by area. Hampshire County Council Marge Harvey provided a grant towards this part of the project.
The final piece of the access project was to install a gate adjacent to the kissing gate, which is next to the church. This has allowed ease of entry for the disabled, as well as families with buggies, artists with easels and musicians with instruments. East Hampshire District councillor Malcolm Johnson provided a grant towards the installation of this gate.
The Idsworth Church Friends Trust, together with the the National Park Authority, worked closely with church historian Tanya Heath, from Oriel College, Oxford, to produce the content for an interpretation panel that is crammed with fascinating information on the church and the Idsworth Valley. Two new leaflets – one recounting the history of the church and the other featuring two walking routes – are also available by the panel for the public to enjoy. The two walks were devised by two of the Idsworth trustees, Tracy Eggleston and David Uren.
Meanwhile, children can now enjoy an adventure trail activity – aptly named “Hubert’s Adventure Trail” – when visiting the church.
Andrew added: “It’s been a pleasure to work with the National Park Authority on this project. The interpretation panel gives a nutshell history of the church and details the features of the Idsworth Valley, really bringing the story of the church to life.
“I think we can all agree that the end-product is very impressive: the information is clear and concise, the panel itself is eye-catching and the oak lectern is an impressive structure built to last!”
Doug Jones, the local National Park Authority Member for the area, said: “A huge well done to everyone involved in this project and for their hard work and dedication. I hope visitors get many hours of enjoyment learning more about the church and walking these wonderful trails.”
Old Idsworth, Finchdean, PO8 0BA