St Mary Bourne Revisited

Outstanding Natural Phenomena & Topography

In 1908 one of the heaviest snowstorms in memory visited the valley on April 25th.It snowed all day till the snow was a foot deep and snow drifts blocked the roads up the slopes in all directions. Although a thaw set in after a few days, snow patches still lay on the ground on May 1st.

In spring 1928, the Bourne was exceptionally full, and the main road through the village was flooded from opposite Spring Hill to the bridge, planks being necessary to reach the almshouses and other cottage doors. Alterations in the main bridge were made to allow of a better run-away in future.

In the winter of 1939-40 in January a sharp frost following rain encased every blade of grass, twig and bough with ice, which was so heavy that many big branches broke under the strain, and sturdy trees fell. A rapid surface thaw followed and before the ground softened rivers of swiftly flowing water poured down the valley along Egbury road, flooding the council houses, and down the hollow behind Upper Link House, pouring through the house on its way to the road across which it flooded to the bed of the stream. (Kathleen Innes)

Nothing that has been written since conveys a more comprehensive impression of the topography of the district, and the character of the soils of the more elevated parts of north Hampshire than that which was penned by Mr. William Cobbet fifty years ago. He writes of it as a nice country of continual hill and dell, with now and then a chain of hills higher than the rest, and these are woods or downs. The undulations are endless, and the variety in the height, breadth, length, and form of the little hills has a very delightful effect. The soil, which look on it appears to be more than half flint-stones, is very good in quality, and in general better on the tops of the lesser hills than in the valleys. It has great tenacity, and does not wash away like sand or light loam. It is a stiff tenacious loam, mixed with flint stones; bears saintfoin well, and all sorts of grass, which make the fields on the hills as green as meadows, even at this season (November), and the grass does not burn up in summer.

In a country so full of hills one would expect endless runs of water and springs; but there are none. No water-furrow is ever made in the land; no ditches round the fields; and even in the deep valleys, such as that in which this village (Hurstbourne Tarrant) is situated, though it winds round for ten miles, there is no run of water even now. The grass is fine and excellent in quality in the long narrow valleys such as this. The soil is much shallower in the vales than on the hills. In the vales it is a sort of hazel-mould on a bed of something approaching to gravel; but on the hills it is a stiff loam, with apparently half flints, on a bed of something like clay first (reddish, not yellow), and then comes the chalk. Sometimes in spring and thunder showers the rain runs down the hills in torrents, but is gone directly. The woods, which consist chiefly of oak, thinly intermixed with ash, and well set with Underwood of ash and hazel, but mostly the latter, are very beautiful. They sometimes stretch along the top and sides of hills for miles together, and as there edges or outsides joining the fields and the downs go winding and twisting about, and as the fields and downs are naked of trees, the sight altogether is very pretty. The trees in the deep and long valleys, especially the elm and the ash, are very fine and lofty; and from distance to distance the rooks have made them their habitation. This sort of country, which in shape is irregular and of great extent, has many advantages. It is dry under foot, and has good roads, in winter as well as summer, and with very little expense. Saintfoin flourishes; fences cost little; wood hurdles and hedging-stuff are cheap. There is no shade in wet harvests, and the water in the wells is excellent. (Dr. Joseph Stevens)