26 February 2014

Smallest

View across the fields to Ault Hucknall
Today I undertook a ten mile country hike between Chesterfield and Mansfield - in the vicinity of Hardwicke Hall. It's an area I had never before explored on foot. Before setting off,  I printed a map from the Ordnance Survey "Get a Map" site and planned to park in a little place called Ault Hucknall.

And boy it was a small place! There were literally three houses and a lovely little squat stone church that can trace its origins way back before the Normans arrived on these shores in 1066. The biggest house was called "The Manse" which is the name for a dwelling occupied by a clergyman. I reckon that that large nineteen sixties-style house simply occupies the land on which a much older property once stood. Then there's Ault Hucknall Farm with its old farmhouse and the third residence is a cottage situated next to the churchyard with the same blue paint that you see on houses owned by the Duke of Devonshire's Chatsworth estate. This is it:-
And here's the church in Ault Hucknall. Like many parish churches it was named after St John The Baptist.
And here are snowdrops growing by old graves in the churchyard.
When I got home I did a little internet research courtesy of our omnipotent and omniscient creator -  Lord Google Almighty - and I discovered that Ault Hucknall is in fact the smallest village in England! Those who stand by that claim point out that hamlets do not have churches but villages do. That tiny settlement is at the heart of the parish of Ault Hucknall and the old church would have served surrounding farms and several other small settlements as grave inscriptions handily demonstrate.

Finally, here's a water spout I spotted high on the church tower. How many showers - how many rainstorms has that weathered fellow spewed to the ground? Perhaps it's an owl. And how many weddings, and funeral processions, christenings and vicars? And perhaps he wonders - how much longer can this church carry on functioning in a world where the traditional Christian God appears to be skulking away into history?

10 comments:

  1. It is a wonderful church. I suspect this one will survive as parts are very old and the parish is unique. It looks well cared for.

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    1. I hope you are right even though., like GB, I am an atheist. But these old churches don't just speak of religion but of history and of the communities that built them and supported them through the ages.

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  2. That's fascinating and, although I am atheist, I have a strong belief that we should keep and maintain old churches because they are such an important part of our heritage and history.

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    1. You're right. Though castles were often treated as quarries when they fell into disrepair, churches have been largely untouched - just extended or repaired.

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  3. I love the way the churches in England are always open to everybody and so you can visit them any time ... and on your own so you can look around at the wonderful history which they all hold. We've come upon so many wonderful treasures quietly residing in them for all to share and no locks on the doors to keep everyone out. They themselves are real treasures.

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    1. Sadly that church was padlocked Helen. I also love to go inside these old churches but in the last twenty five years there have been many thefts from village churches.

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  4. You should go back in the summer and take another picture of the cottage, I am sure it will look even more charming when the climber on its wall is alive. Was the church open so that you could have a look inside?
    A 10 mile walk sounds like the perfect thing to do on a sunny day in early spring!

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    1. You're right Arian - things can look so different in summer light.

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  5. There must have been more cottages ....that church is rather large is it not?

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    1. Perhaps in the past there might have been a few more but today it's definitely just the three houses. I guess members of the congregation would have walked to the church from every corner of the parish.

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