Sunday, 5 December 2010

Wantage - Part 2

For the pictures taken around the centre of Wantage see Part 1

Just beyond the Church of St Peter and St Paul is The Betjeman Millennium Park in Wantage. Sir John Betjeman, CBE;  (28 August 1906 – 19 May 1984) was an English poet, writer and broadcaster, who described himself in Who's Who as a "poet and hack". He was a founding member of the Victorian Society and a passionate defender of Victorian architecture. Starting his career as a journalist, he ended it as one of the most popular British Poets' Laureate to date and a much-loved figure on British television.  There is so much history connected to Betjeman and for those interested I suggest they take a look at

John Betjeman lived in Wantage for many years and wrote a number of poems about the town and the surrounding areas including "Wantage Bells" and "On Leaving Wantage". In the ringing chamber of the church tower is a copy of "Wantage Bells", written in his own hand. It is said that he wrote it for the wedding of his daughter Candida, during which the bells were rung.

The Plaque at the entrance to the park
He also wrote a little-known short historical article describing Wantage Parish Church. He finishes the piece with a plea for donations to help with the upkeep of the fabric of the church. Click HERE to read the article.

Now with the bells through the apple bloom
Sunday-ly sounding
And the prayers of the nuns in their chapel gloom
Us all surrounding,
Where the brook flows
Brick walls of rose
Send on the motionless meadow the bell notes rebounding.

Wall flowers are bright in their beds
And their scent all pervading,
Withered are primroses heads
And the hyacinth fading
But flowers by the score
Multitudes more
Weed flowers and seed flowers and mead flowers our paths are invading. 

Where are the words to express
Such a reckless bestowing?
The voices of birds utter less
Than the thanks we are owing,
Bell notes alone
Ring praise of their own
As clear as the weed-waving brook and as evenly flowing.

Autumn in the park

The leafy path I walked along

to reach Letcombe Brook that runs along one side of the park
and under the bridge where the ducks swim, and where the bridge crosses over to Betjeman Lane which leads back up to the church of St Peter and St Paul.
At the back of the church is Mill Street, which runs down the hill to the old Wessex Mill. There, flour is different. It has been milled using wheat grown locally around the mill; you will find the names of the farms on the back of every bag. Above all, it is milled to produce top quality bread time after time.  It is used by over 150 craft bakers and is available to the public through over 500 farm shops, specialist food shops and independent food stores. You will not find it on the large supermarket shelf. It is also available in Dubai, Hong Kong, Hungary and St Helena.

If you are into sourdough and breadmaking, then try the bakery course in Wantage. It includes a tour of the mill.

The bakery is run by food writer William Black, whose passion for baking keeps him from self destruction whilst working through the night.

However, on days off, he will enthusiastically talk bread and extol the virtues of wild yeasts, pre ferments and sponges, while showing you how to make some of the great breads of Europe, and putting them firmly in their own cultural context.

For further history  and recipes see

On market day Wantage is a hive of activity

And last but certainly not least,  the village of Grove, which is on the northern edge of Wantage,  not only includes the Williams Formula 1 motor racing factory, but provides the dramatic sight of a De Havilland Venom jet plane in full flight.  It is a  memory of the Grove military airfield, which was built in 1941.  Little of the original airfield has survived and the land was returned to agricultural use after WWII.  There are a couple of ghost stories attached to the airfield; apparently a ghostly figure in flying goggles and oxygen mask has been seen a number of times!  Perhaps I should take a trip up to the De Havilland at night and see just what goes on there:-)

De Havilland Venom -This is my own photograph

See for further information on the airfield.


  1. Fascinating! I would love to meet that baker/food writer! these villages to me spell stories and secrets long buried and remind me of Agatha Christie that I adore and her novels

  2. Lovely poem and great footage!
    I love your fall pics!
    I thought you were under tons of snow??
    Or is just VERY cold?!
    Keep well Diane!

  3. Thanks for another informative post Diane, loved the pics to ... I could almost smell the green in the images of the park and brook ...

  4. Taste of Beirut, you have a great imagination I am sure you would write good mystery books. I want to find out how much the bread making courses are, I am a big fan of rye bread and maybe it would be worth taking some time out to learn. I have a bread making machine arriving tomorrow so the two could be an interesting contribution to my kitchen. Diane

  5. Noushka I took these photos last month before the snow arrived:-) Over the last couple of days though we have had rain, so instead of snow we now have ice. In the area where we park our cars it is like a skating rink, not much fun and I do not need broken bones or cars!! Diane

  6. Graham you are right about the smell around the park it has fragrance all of its own. The damp autumn leaves with all the birds hopping around was quite a sight, I also saw a squirrel that was not too worried about me, but I could not get close enough to take a photo clearly of it. The sound of the running brook is so clear, and when I took these photos there was not another person anywhere around. Isolation just as I like it:-) Diane

  7. A very beautiful place to walk under the last colors of fall. The produce looks wonderful.

    Would be interesting to explore the ghost stories.

  8. Have enjoyed these posts about the UK. When I think "English" these smaller towns and villages are what come to mind.

    Lovely poem, and I like Betjeman's wordage "Sunday-ly sounding.

    There is a monastery not too terribly far away from us, and they make bread. No, they do not grow/process the wheat but it still nice to buy bread that you know is made right there.

  9. The dark red colour of the ground in the top set of pics is fantastic. Also really nice way to put a plane in the air! :-)

  10. Beautiful photos Diane. The little village looks like a storybook. How fun it would be to talk with someone who is so passionate about food and bread and make a living at it.

    The market look like fun too!

    Hope you had a wonderful weekend.

  11. Gaelyn I am also intrigued about the ghost stories, but I am not sure how much information there is around. It is certainly far too cold to go there at night and see for myself at present!! Diane

  12. Diane, thank you for the awesome photos. Thank you for letting me have a walk with you among these beautiful places.

  13. Mya on my return to the UK I had no intentions of doing any posts on the UK!! Several people asked for them, and I have to admit that I have enjoyed doing them. I have learnt a number of things about places close by that I did not know before so they have been eductional for me as well.

    I am looking forward to finding out more about the bread making, especially as I have a bread maker due for delivery tomorrow. Diane

  14. JM the plane is very spectacular where it has been placed. It is at the corner of cross roads and which ever way you come up to it, it is to my mind stunning. Diane

  15. Lyndsey the market is twice a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays so we are quite spoilt, but somehow I do not enjoy it the same as the French markets. I think I am just in love with France :-)

    I do aim to head back to the Mill and speak to them there and see what I can learn. I am just trying to find the time at the moment!! Diane

  16. Olga it is a pleasure walking around Wantage with you, I have so enjoyed the tours on your posts.

    I loved todays post though it was so different. LOL Diane

  17. I have really got a bee in my bonnet to try heritage wheat. It's supposed to taste better and be better for you... what do you think??? Is theirs heritage wheat?
    The village looks so charming.. a lovely visit.

  18. Hi Diane I love this post with lots of background info about Wantage. The poem by Betjeman is so very lovely... & how nice that he wrote this for the wedding of his own daughter. I feel like I've actually visited this lovely village Thank-You.

  19. Don't get spooked when you go up to the De Havilland! This sounds like a wonderful place to visit.

  20. Lovely photos Diane! Your readers have the best of both worlds,France in the summer and the U.K. in the winter.It is always a pleasure to visit. :)

  21. lostpastremembered it seems that most heritage wheat here is only grown in Scotland, as our local mill only grows locally grown wheat it is unlikely that they use it. I am not sure if you can buy it that easily here, maybe only in specialist shops. It maybe worth looking into though. Diane

  22. Dianne I am glad that you now know Wantage and feel like you have actually been there. When that happens, I feel like I must have written a reasonably good post:-) Diane x

  23. Marjie the weather is going to have to change somewhat before I go out ghost hunting at night. At -6C (-22F),which is the night temperature predicted tonight I prefer to stay inside in the warm!!! Diane

  24. Thanks Susan but I have to say I prefer to be in France. Hopefully the time for it to become permanent is getting closer:-) For all that I have enjoyed doing the UK posts while I am here. Diane

  25. Ive been thinking of doing a bakery course myself - that all looks wonderful.xxxx

  26. Diane I think it is a great idea. I just need to find some time!!!! Diane

  27. This is such a fascinating post, Diane. Lovely poem and wonderful information about Wantage!

  28. Thanks Faith, There is so much history in this little town. Diane

  29. Diane, thanks for such an interesting coverage of Wantage in these last two posts. The flour mill definitely sounds worth a visit, my husband makes all our own bread so it would be interesting to try some of their flour.

  30. Lindy think the postage prices would be ridiculous to send you any flour :-( I sent a jar of courgette jam from the Charente to Paris for a friend and it cost me over €10!!! Flour would be very much heavier. Glad you enjoyed the posts though. Diane

  31. What fun. Most of us will never see what for you is commonplace. Thanks for sharing your unique perspective with us. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  32. Mary thanks so much for your kind comments. Take care and have a good week. Diane

  33. Beautiful...
    I hope that you are having a good week also :)

  34. Thanks Indie.Tea, hope you are warmer than we are here in the UK!! Take care. Diane

  35. What interesting places! Like you, lived in many places before and loved it. Thanks for sharing your great pictures! I'll visit again. Happy holidays!

  36. michelangelo in the kitchen, thanks for visiting and your kind comments, I love your blog and will certainly be visiting you often. Happy holidays to you as well. Diane

  37. What an interesting place. I would love to have some of those fresh baked goods made from the fresh flour. Great photos.

  38. I said, back on the blog,

    We had or have a family reunion (Custer – Patty is related to General Custer) and there is a three-legged dog that comes through on a leash sometimes. Gets along just find. I had drawn “Lucky” a long time before I ever say this dog though.

    I really like your post. And the mention of home made bread made me salivate. I like rye too. Used to pay a 25¢ (25 cents) for a sandwich made with two slices of rye bread with a slice of cheese smeared with mustard. Got these in the pool hall when I was a kid and that was the cheapest sandwich I could get in 1952.

  39. I just found your blog and really enjoyed reading your post. It made me nostalgic because for years I used to go to England for Christmas – they celebrated it so much better than we did in France. Your top picture is fantastic – I love it.

  40. Thanks Becca, hope all your problems are becoming small ones. Freshly made bread is always the best. Diane

  41. Abraham Lincoln, prices have changed somewhat since the 50's!!! You won't even get a slice of bread for that price now let alone a sandwich :-( I was looking through a book the other day which was my brothers and he saved parking tickets. Some places were only 5p others very expensive at 2/6! My husband now often pays £7 to park his car!!! Diane

  42. Vagabonde, thank you so much for visiting and I just love your blog. I wish I was as fluent in languages as you are. Hope to see you back, Diane

  43. Merci Diane pour nous raconter l'histoire et la vie dans les villages anglais.(Merci aussi au traducteur qui me permet de mieux comprendre le texte).Je vois que ce soit d'un côté de la Manche ou de l'autre la vie est riche, drôle, pleine de souvenirs du passé.J'aime votre petit clin d'oeil "au petit pain"!
    Bonne semaine à vous.

  44. Stunning continuation. Very interesting history lesson. And a beautiful poem to boot! =)

    Thank you for sharing these places and the history with us, Diane. I really appreciate it.

  45. Ree I am so glad you have enjoyed these posts especially as I had no intention of doing any English ones while here. It was only because a few people asked that I decided to 'do' one a month while I am here. Hope you are feeling better now. Diane

  46. You really must be in dire straits not to publish these days!
    The weather looks awful in England!
    Here, 20°C above... not below 0°C!
    Seems like 2 different continents!!
    Hope you and Nigel are fine!
    Keep well!

  47. lejardindelucie Merci de vos commentaires. Le traducteur n'est pas parfait mais .....
    Vous avez une bonne semaine également

  48. Noushka, the weather has been horrible and it looks like we are going to get more next week!! I have not published mainly because I have had little time. What with clearing out Nigel's aunt's flat and general running around. I have though tried to keep up with comments on blogs I follow. I will try to get a new blog up and running in the next couple of days I hope :-) Diane

  49. Very interesting history with Wantage, Diane! Amazing with the flour and I would love to visit the bakery and meet Mr. Black. Thanks for the link! Loved the walk with you and enjoyed seeing green instead of all the snow here. Incredible photos as usual and the poem is very nice also. It's always a pleasure to stop here and I always learn something new!

  50. Pam I went down to the mill today and had a long chat with a guy who was very knowledgeable, it was really interesting. He gave me some rye flour and some of their recipes to try out so watch this space!!

    I took these photos just before the snow, we have had a fair bit since, it is clear now but I gather it will be back next week again :-( Thanks for the kind comments. Keep warm. Diane

  51. Dear Diane .. I am sure I left a comment on here before .. I have had this problem with a few blogs. Yes this post is very interesting , I do have photos of Betjamin Park taken a few years ago .. you do have to remember it is there. But the Flour mill does sound very interesting . Just thought it was Flour mill , but not for public. now "the Market" .. I suppose that is what it is , but hey need to learn a lot from the French .. yeah not quite the same is it LOL.. shame really. No not been away , just been very busy , and now have family meal this weekend .. best not have too much wine. :-) We must try and get together , but I have work next week, we will find time. Oh btw the Courgette Confiture is delicious :-) take care xo Anne

  52. Also did you know that Betjeman was responsible for the saving of St Pancras station .. and his statue is there ... ...

  53. Hi Anne, no I did not know that Betjeman saved St Pancras, thanks for that information. I have been there but the statue did not mean anything to to me then!!

    Glad you like the courgette confiture.

    The market that particular day was one of the best I have seen, but I agree it is not even close to looking like the French markets. As for the Mill I went down there yesterday and it seems the courses are at a bakery not at the Mill as the website says. But I did get to have a long chat with a guy there who gave me lots of information on making Rye bread he also gave me recipes and the flour. He suggested trying the 'easy' way first and see what I thought. If this was not what I wanted I will go back and get some sour dough starter and try the more difficult way!! See you sometime, at this rate maybe after Christmas!!! Take it easy, Diane x

  54. Oh I love that last capture. Being able to buy fresh produce in the wet market is awesome.

  55. chubskulit I also love that last picture it is very dramatic when driving down the road. Diane


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