Sunday 27th December - Boxing Day Hunt
The Royal Artillery Hunt met on Chitterne sportsfield on Boxing Day for a drag hunt over MoD land. Crowds turned out to see the sight of well-turned-out horses and riders who outnumbered the pack of about 20 hounds. The majority of the riders were women.
Some riders wore Santa hats and some horses had decorated manes and tails.
After a cup of mulled wine the master and hounds led the riders out of the sportsfield and along the village streets towards Manor Farm.
Monday 21st December - Shortest Day
We have fine snow falling in Chitterne as I type; the temperature hasn't risen above freezing all day. On the bright side it's the shortest day! Hooray! The days will start to lengthen and hopefully my mood will lift.
Shopping in our nearest city, Salisbury, on Saturday we spotted this sign pointing to other Salisburys in the USA. I doubt if there's another Chitterne over there, although several Chitterne sons and daughters have emigrated over time. We are the only place named thus in the UK. Therefore are we unique?
Comment: My daughter's boyfriend (an American) checked out the possibility of there being a Chitterne in the US, there isn't, and there doesn't appear to be one anyplace else either. S
One of the highlights of this time of year is hearing news from afar. Today, it wasn't that afar, it was Norfolk, UK. From SH, a family history researcher who first came here 4 years ago, looking up the Titt family. She has made great strides since then, travelling widely to find descendants who are still alive and scattered around this country as well as one in Canada, whose name was changed to Tait "so as not to offend Canadian sensibilities". Culminating this year in a trip to the USA to see a second cousin in Connecticut in the company of two other second cousins, one from England and the one from Canada. SH brings me up-to-date with her latest finds and their photographs. The thing that intrigues me most is the similarity of their facial features. SH herself has the strong nose and long face of the Titts, so do two of her children, and so does the Connecticut cousin and her son. I am impressed by her dedication and her confidence to take on these mammoth journeys to visit with people she has never met. It makes the other sort of research seem very tame - merely adding dates and names to a long list, and finding out nothing about the people.
Saturday 12th December - Cut Up
Last weekend the Cut was dry, now look at it. These were taken today and it's still filling. This means that the chalk down under us, but above the impervious layer of rock below it, has reached saturation point. The question is will the cut stay full all winter and eventually overflow or will it disperse before the springs erupt in late January or early February?
Sunday 6th December - Pub Re-opens
Friday night was like a party night at our village pub, the King's Head, which has been closed since Christmas 2008. It was so good to see lights, signs of life and things happening there after a year in the doldrums. Rumours abounded as the new tenants struggled with the powers that be, the owners, who to be blunt do NOT have a good reputation. They are noted for being difficult to deal with. Tying their tenants down with watertight agreements to their own advantage and stifling enterprise. So this informal opening up, just for locals, was heartily welcomed and Chitterne folk filled the pub.
JT's Plain Ales were on offer, with wines, soft drinks and free bar snacks. P & J the new tenants plan to open informally again next Friday. This is their first pub. I really hope they make it work. If we lose our pub it'll be another small death; no it'll be a big death because its our last amenity.
During the closure last winter water pipes burst and there was damage. Things started looking up when a renovation company started work but they didn't finsh the job. The renovations were halted when some prospective tenants changed their minds and took on another pub that became vacant instead. They already had a successful pub over Lavington way and had planned to take on our pub as a second enterprise. After that the pub chain were not even sure that they wanted to hang on to the King's Head, let alone appoint more tenants. P explained that since they have been taken on he and J have been pressing for the renovations to be completed, but the pub chain drags its feet. Who'd be a publican? Sounds like a lot of hard slog to me. But at least it shows they are committed if they are prepared to carry on through all this hassle.
The pub looked smart with its new floor; slate tiles round the bar and carpet in the dining area; neutral walls and the beams picked out in black. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming, there was anticipation in the air. Will we keep it up? As one old friend said to me: "...the old ways have gone. You can't go to the pub for a laugh and a chat with your mates any more." Once he was a regular but admitted that he rarely goes to the pub nowadays.
PS I heard a whisper that Plain Ales are no longer to be made in Chitterne, but moving production to Sutton Veny. I wonder if a change of water will mean a change of taste?