Lover, Bohemia and Paradise
It is that time of the year when the shop and café windows are adorned with pink and red, and crazed lovers dash to buy Valentine’s Day cards on which to write their enigmatic messages to the object of their desires and passion. Some no doubt hoping that it might add a mystery and perhaps kindle a new romance. The enchantment of the occasion is certainly evident in Wiltshire, and never more so than in a village named Lover, which lies within the county’s southern most boundary. Lover has to be the jewel in the crown of romantic places, and it is made especially charming at this time of year.
Of course the excitement of Valentine’s Day is not completely lost on Mr P. and myself, it is just that, well, we agreed some time ago that our togetherness had transcended beyond the commercial need for buying cards, etc. For us the 14th Februarys happily come and go as so many days do. However, this year we felt we had to see what the fuss was about at Lover and when we noticed on the map that there were nearby areas named Bohemia and Paradise we definitely felt it would make for an intriguing walk.
I have often thought that Valentine’s Day would be better suited if it were later in the year. The warmer spring days being more romantic than the tail end of winter. If only the pesky Romans had stayed their hand of execution of the poor saint until, at least, the daffodils were out, that would have been perfect. Of course there are other saints days that occur later in the spring. Patrick in March or perhaps Dymphna in May both could have been possibilities, but I suppose asking someone to be your “Patrick“ or “Dymphna” would not have quite the same ring to it as “Will you be my Valentine”. So Valentine and February it is and with it the cold wintery weather.
The day of our visit to Lover did have a cold start. We had seen white, frosty fields lined with dark hedges along the way, giving the vistas a romantic checkerboard sense of dreamy wintriness. Although glad of the extra layers we had donned before leaving the house, the portents were good for the walk to these wondrous sounding places.
We decided that it would be best to start the walk in Downton where the parking is relatively easy and there were a number of shops and eateries for later. Leaving the centre of Downton we made our way east along the high street and over the River Avon. The river was still high, and I wondered how flooded it must have been during the recent heavy rains. As we walked, steam was rising from the river giving romantic scenes fitting for the motive of the visit. The library window was strung with hearts, and a sign offering a blind date with a book caught my eye and intrigued me. Imagine borrowing a wrapped book and taking it home to reveal your choice. I assume that they would all be romantic novels and hopefully not the Reader’s Digest Book of DIY.
Moving on we turned right onto Moot Lane passing Moot House and the motte and bailey opposite, the latter giving the name to the lane and the house and being a long past location for the parish to meet and discuss various laws and politics. Who knows, the expression a moot point might have had its origin here. Further along we turned left at a sign for the Avon Valley Path stating that Christchurch was twenty five and one half miles away. I enquired of Mr. P if we should deviate from our original resolve and head for the sea. His expression was sufficient to know that the much shorter route to Lover and eventually Paradise was a preferable option, and besides if being on route to Paradise wasn’t enough, lunch at the Borough Café beckoned on our return.
Heading out of the village and on past a blue house, we found ourselves in open countryside. The frost was melting leaving a rather slippery muddy surface. The views were far reaching. To our right, beyond a lone tree, a large red brick building could be spotted. This was the Elizabethan manor of Breamore House, situated just over the border in Hampshire. To our left and slightly behind us were views of Downton, Clearbury and in the far distance the omnipresent spire of Salisbury Cathedral.
Although a little tricky underfoot we soon found ourselves entering a hedge lined path, where at one place the ivy covered boughs met overhead. Again romantic symbolism in my mind I found it somewhat reminiscent of a garlanded church gate. I think I mentioned it to Mr P. but he was too far behind or perhaps wasn’t listening, although maybe he did smile. Soon we found ourselves in the village of Woodfalls its undulating road taking us past a number of multiple styles of houses including at the dip of one hill the curiously named bungalow of “High Point”. Maybe the upward hill in front of us was an optical illusion or perhaps the bungalow belonged to someone with a sense of humour.