The last in our series on the green spaces that help shape the special character of our village covers privately-owned land at Parsonage Farm and Orchard Dene.
In the heart of the village, Parsonage Farm is bounded by South Street and two small streams that run down to Watt’s Lane. The western stream provides a natural boundary between Orchard Dene and the garden of Parsonage Farm. Both properties were once part of the ancient prebendal (church) manor of Blewbury. Parsonage Farm was probably the main holding of this manor, and would have had a fine house (long gone) to serve the canons of Salisbury Cathedral when in residence. (Bishop Osmund, a nephew of William the Conqueror, was given church lands in Blewbury, and these were among many properties mined to endow the new cathedral in 1091.) Parsonage Farm was a thriving dairy farm, including a small retail unit called Robinson’s Dairy, until the post-war compulsory purchase of its fields to the east (for ‘Eastfields’) rendered it uneconomical, although rural links remained – there was a blacksmith’s forge here until the 1970s.
The 1805 Enclosure Award refers to Orchard Dene – the field that shelters the Blewbury Wagon – rather obviously as ‘part of an orchard’. At the end of the 18th century, land in this area was farmed by Thomas Watt, whose name lives on in the public footpath leading from South Street to the north side of the churchyard. It is from Watt’s Lane that walkers can gain the best view of both green spaces – these views provide us with a 21st century sense of Blewbury’s very rural origins. Both Orchard Dene and Parsonage Farm are home to a number of mature trees including chestnut, ash and blackthorn. At Parsonage, much of the ground is deliberately left to itself, providing an abundant home for insects and birds including green woodpeckers, little owls, tawny owls and red kites. There are also plenty of squirrels, muntjac and foxes. Orchard Dene and the land at Parsonage Farm help to form ‘the core of paddocks, orchards and streams’ referenced in the 1985 village plan – special places ‘for us, and for those who come after us’. Blewbury is lucky that the owners of both places are custodians who wish to keep nature right at the heart of our village. Sustainable Blewbury