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Part Eight - Newtown

On the OS map, it seems a simple thing to get to Newtown churchyard, but now that I got there I found that it wasn't that simple (to paraphrase Hazel =;) ). I had no idea where the bus stops were, and the bus went through the huge new business park on the edge of Greenham Common, which disorientated me no end. I did eventually get my bearings, though, and alighted opposite St Garbriel's School, imagining that I would have an easy walk down to the roundabout.

Of course, nothing is ever that easy, and this in fact proved to be one of the few truly unpleasant parts of the day. There is a pavement, but it is on the eastern side of the road, and I wanted to be on the west, so I had two choices: either take my life in my hands and cross several lanes of busy traffic, or take my life in my hands and walk down the western edge. I chose the latter, and it was awful. Still, once I did get beyond the roundabout, I was pleased to see that Newtown Church itself was only a few hundred yards further on. The picture below is from near the entrance, and though the backlighting means it's a little over-contrasty, I hope the impression of a small country church has been preserved.

Newtown Church

As with most rural churches these days, the realities of modern life have meant that Newtown is locked up outside service hours, but though this was somewhat saddening, it didn't affect me too much since I was more interested in the churchyard itself. The photo below shows the view on the southern side of the church, looking east back towards the Burghclere Road. The sunshine of earlier on had faded quite a bit in the last hour or so, and although the day was still pleasant, it was possible to imagine this place feeling quite lonely at night, though perhaps not as desolate as in the film itself.

The churchyard

I couldn't find any trace of the barn in which the rabbits fought off the rat attack, but I didn't look all that hard since there were a couple of people tending graves at the time, and I didn't want to intrude upon them. (This is also why there are no photos of the other side of the graveyard.) So, after a little more wandering around the church itself, it was back to the road. And a little south of the River Enborne, the Burghclere Road rejoins the old A34, which was what the rabbits crossed in "The Road and the Common." The building of the Newbury Bypass may have caused considerable environmental damage, but strictly from a WD point of view it was a good thing, since this road is now no longer the scene of gridlock it was a decade ago, and once again it is possible to imagine the rabbits crossing it. =:)

The old A34

The photo above (not one of my better attempts, I'm afraid) is taken from a spot probably a little way north of the rabbits' actual crossing point, as you approach the border between Hampshire and Berkshire. (The sign says, "Welcome to West Berkshire" - which is now a unitary authority of its own.) Mr Adams tells us that the car Bigwig let pass to demonstrate its harmlessness flashed "green and white," which is interesting. Perhaps it could have been a Lotus Cortina? They were certainly around in 1967. There aren't too many hrududil about here, but the A339 (which crosses left to right at the roundabout) is a pretty busy road in its own right. The actual county boundary is marked by "the little River Enborne," which you can see below.

The River Enborne

In WD itself, the river is "five or six feet wide at this time of year, and swollen with spring rain," though the film makes it appear considerably wider. As can be seen from the plants growing on the banks in the foreground, when I visited the weather had been dry for some time, and so it was little more than a stream. However, I couldn't resist taking this picture when I noticed the wooden board lying on the right-hand bank. Could Blackberry have left it there? =;) Certainly it made me smile, and gave me heart for the unpleasant if short walk back up the main road for the start of my final adventure: Sandleford.