AGM, Longbridge Deverill

On 23rd October, the nearest Saturday to King Alfred Day, a handful of us met to visit the churches at Longbridge Deverill and Kingston Deverill, near Warminster. Kingston Deverill's Alfred connection is that it is a possible site of Ecgbert's Stone, where Alfred mustered the men of Wiltshire, Somerset, Hampshire and possibly Dorset against the Vikings before the battle of Ethandun. It has a magnificent Saxon font, restored in 1982, and a banner depicting King Alfred.

Longbridge Deverill doesn't have any known connection to Alfred, but it does have some significance for the Society. The church contains the family tomb of the Thynnes; though Alexander Thynne, a founder of the Society, was cremated and his ashes scattered on his Longleat estate. Illustrated is a monument to Isabella Byng, wife of the 2nd Marquess of Bath. Also, the village was home to the Wessex Brewery, run by former Society member Chaz Hobden, until its recent move to nearby Norton Ferris. However, the George Inn, where we had our lunch, still served its beers.

We were due to hold our AGM there after lunch, but instead, we voted to suspend our constitution and carry on as an informal network instead of a membership organisation. What does that mean in practical terms? Probably not that much. This website will carry on much as before, and we will continue to hold events three times a year. The only things that we will be losing are business meetings, with agendas and minutes. I am currently working on a way to set up one-off and regular donations to our Society's work.

Next meeting: Alfred Day 2021

Our first in-person meeting since the start of lockdown will be our AGM on Saturday 23rd October 2021. The meeting will be held at the George Inn, Longbridge Deverill, Wiltshire. We will meet at 11am in the pub car park for a walk around the village before lunch at noon, and the AGM proper will start at 1pm.

According to Dr Paul Kelly's excellent book King Alfred: A Man on the Move (ISBN: 978-1916182004), the Upper Deverills are the most likely location for Egbert's Stone, where Alfred mustered the men of Somerset, Wiltshire, Hampshire and possibly Dorset. Longbridge Deverill is actually one of the Lower Deverills. but is well-known to the Society as the home of Wessex Brewery, run by one-time Society member Chaz Hobden. Directions to the pub can be found by clicking the link marked "Directions" on the map below.

St Ealdhelm’s Day 2019

Wantage Morris Men flying the Wessex flag in Oxford on Mayday morning

The image above comes courtesy of Chris McDowell. It is good to see the wyvern being flown earlier this month on Icknield Way. It serves as a nice appetiser for our annual St Ealdhelm's Day event, which this year takes place in Lacock and Chippenham. Normally, the event takes place on the nearest Sunday, but as May 25th falls on a Saturday this year, we are holding it on the actual day.

We are fortunate to have Leo Stevens acting as our host at Lacock. Leo has lived in this preserved and special village all his life and his family roots there go back hundreds of years. We will visit the church - which hopefully will be flying the Wessex flag - and the tithe barn as well as a pub with a dog-driven spit - the origin of hot dogs (maybe not).

After lunch we will head on to Chippenham and visit King Alfred's hunting lodge where he was attacked by those pesky Vikings at Twelfth Night in 878AD. We can also visit the local museum and talk about the "unusual" situation in that part of Wiltshire during the early years of the Saxon settlement.

To get even more back to our roots, our visit coincides with the Chippenham Folk Festival, so the town will be buzzing.

We will meet in Lacock's car park at 11 am. That will give us about one and a half hours or so in the village; time for lunch and then head to Chippenham about 2pm for the remainder of the day.

Would everyone coming please let us know so we can try to book a table for lunch. If you have any queries, feel free to post them in the comments.

Many meetings

Just a short note that there will be a change to the way our meetups are being organised in future. The Wessex Regionalists have decided to move from one annual general meeting, plus special general meetings organised on an ad hoc basis, to quarterly meetings. Since so many Society members are also members of the Wessex Regionalists, it made sense to consolidate the meetings. As before, the social part will be at noon, and the meeting at 1.00ish. There is no obligation on WS members who do not support WR to stay for their meeting. Our next meeting will be a belated King Ælfred's Day dinner in Winchester on Saturday November 3rd. See the Contact Us page for more details.

Don’t let the bustards grind you down

About 13:45 on Sunday 8th April Derek Pickett, Jim and Emma Gunter, Mark Godwin and Peter and Marion Spencer met up with Lynne of the Great Bustard Group at Enford Village Hallf for a booked visit to the Great Bustard release site.

The Great Bustard features on the Wiltshire County flag and on the Wiltshire Coat of Arms. Note the dragon (based on the Wessex Wyvern?) in the canton of the shield.

Wiltshire Coat of Arms

The last Great Bustard was shot in England in 1832. David Waters, a retired Wiltshire Police Officer, set up a project to re-introduce the Great Bustard to Salisbury Plain. Details about the project including some short video clips can be found on the Great Bustard Group website at: http://greatbustard.org/.

Salisbury Plain is a chalk plateau covering 300 square miles (780 km2) mostly in central and southern Wiltshire stretching into the neighbouring counties of Berkshire and Hampshire. Most of the Plain is military training area. There are a number of villages on the Plain including Enford and private owned farm land. The Great Bustard release site is on privately owned land. The wildlife on Salisbury Plain, including the Great Bustards, has adapted to their often noisy Army neighbours. Lynne did mention that the Great Bustards were not too keen on helicopters. Probably because they can fly very close to the ground and the down draft from the rotors stirs up the dust.

Bustards 1

We climbed aboard a Land Rover and Lynne drove us out of Enford village and on to Salisbury Plain. In order to protect the release site I will not go into detail of which direction Lynne took. After a short, rather bumpy in places, drive we arrived at the viewing hide; a large wooden hut. Lynne had brought several pairs of binoculars for us to use, I had brought my own. Those who work in the acting profession will advise you never to work with children or animals because both can be very unpredictable.
The Great Bustards that David Waters and his team released on Salisbury Plain are completely free ranging. The birds, who are not advised about group visits such as ours ,decide if they will put in an appearance or not. We were fortunate that two male birds permitted us to view them through binoculars.

Bustards 2

We climbed back aboard the Land Rover and Lynne drove us back to Enford and to the Great Bustard Group shop outside the village. The journey included a drive along a flooded track which Lynne informed us was Winterbourne. The shop had several items for sale with a Great Bustard theme. After we had made purchases and paid the £15 each for the tour, money well spent, Lynne drove us back to the Enford Village Hall where we said goodbye to her. We then adjourned to the village pub, the Swan Inn, for a drink.