Discovering Southwell with Albus

Walk 2: Westhorpe; Dumbles, Donkeys and Stockings

One of the exciting things about this walking survey/mapping project for an outsider like me (I live in Nottingham) is that I am been privileged with insider knowledge enabling me to find hidden corners and nooks that the casual visitor to Southwell just wouldn’t know about or see. The Minster? Obviously. The Workhouse? Probably. A meander around the glorious ancient centre with its fabulous independent shops and cafes? Possibly. Cake? Hopefully (all who know me know an important part of how I rate a place is by the quality of cake to be found nearby. I am quite thorough in my research on such matters 😊).

One of the reasons for doing this project is to share that insider information with everyone, for outsiders like me to residents, old and new, who have yet to explore all corners, so that others can get to know these hidden treasures and histories of Southwell - and so, as the projects mantra says, “encourage a deeper connection to Southwell through stories, objects and shared experiences of its past, present and future”.

Again and again, when doing consultation events and when talking to people, Westhorpe would come up. “You must go to Westhorpe.” Ancestors working as framework knitters and in service at the big Hall, racehorses, ancient buildings, Holy Wells, fabulous views that seemingly allow time to melt away to reveal glimpses of the past. Where the community leads, Albus and I shall follow. (Plus, the chance to pair Albus and a Dumble, is too good an opportunity to miss to pun on his ‘Harry Potter’ namesake.)

Victorian stockinger cottages

We parked up just off the main Oxton road, Westgate, at the top of Westhorpe, the old market place and WOW. Once separated from Southwell by fields, Westhorpe very much retains its own distinctive atmosphere. Sunnyside, a line of Victorian framework knitters’ cottages heads the street and modern-day noise and time meanders away as we head into the hamlet.

We pass the ‘Workman’s Rest’ a mid-Victorian worker’s institute housed in the old squire’s house. 17th and 18th century houses, paddocks and ancient barns string along the lane. Floriferous gardens spill into wild grasses and meadow cranesbill verges. Life hums and sings, overriding the quiet noises of gentle human activity as people go about their daily lives. People say ‘Hello’ and stop to talk in the way people do when away from built up areas. Slower, green open space seemingly allowing the space and time for interaction. They share with us their favourite things about life in this special place, their favourite footpaths and snippets of the story of their lives. The history and characters, a sense of a still distinct community and place, of Christmas pantomimes, the donkeys Sam and Holly in the field, nature’s dominion.

 

An excellent trail of the history and buildings of Westhorpe has been produced by Southwell Town Council so I won’t linger on details here, see https://www.southwellcouncil.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Westhorpe-Dumble-Heritage-Trail.pdf

The Workman's Rest

The Donkeys Sam & Holly are a favorite with Westhorpe residents.

Blue plaque outside Westhorpe Hall

Topography and geology combine and water shapes Westhorpe’s character and story, as it does Southwell’s. Dumbles, local dialect for the deeply wooded steep narrow clefts, like miniature ravines, carved out of the clay through which streams flow, are fed from the many springs and leaches of the hamlet. Westhorpe Dumble turns into Potwell Dyke as it runs towards Southwell. We loop down Bath Lane; named for St. Catherine’s Well said to have curative properties, and across the horse fields to The Holme and Cundy Hill.

 

The Holme

Westhorpe Dumble at Cundy Hill. Many have childhood memories of playing in the water and losing wellingtons stuck in the mud.

A view that slips the constraints of time.

We turn off the road where the ‘conduit’ that gives the hill its name crosses the dumble and take the footpath up through the fields. Scented Mayweed lines the ripening crops. A buzzard mews, circling above and the views so many people have stated as their favourite of Southwell are revealed to us as the familiar pepper-pot towers of Minster and the spire of Holy Trinity Church rise above the wheat. A view that has been guiding people into Southwell for centuries.

Hedgerows burst with hawthorn, oak, nettle and white bryony, a living reflection of the carved ‘Leaves of Southwell’ that burst from the stones of the cathedral’s Chapter House. Reassuringly, in these times of environmental degradation, still here in the local fields 800 years later. Hope that the new generation of custodians of the land being trained at NTU Brackenhurst campus, who maintain these fields, will have the skills and the will to protect the diversity of nature vital to all our survival.

White Bryony entwines the hedgerows as it does the C13th stone bosses of the Minster Chapter House.

Albus in the clover

Large White butterfly on Creeping Thistle

(here's the terrible pun for Harry Potter fans) Albus, Dumble - J'adore (it's the nearest my aquaphobic dog would get)

We head back down into the hollow of the village, crossing the dumble over a footbridge and along one of the myriad of footpaths that weave across this special place enticing exploration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No cake today (D2 had locked herself out back home and required my return) but the timelessness and atmosphere of Westhorpe, the sense of a deep and living connection between past, present and future; with each other, even if we have never met, and to nature that is obligate to our health and wellbeing, was reward enough without.