Writing about Binsted (and in Binsted) is very varied. Hubert Roberts, churchwarden of Binsted Church from the 1970s to the 1990s, wrote the following poem which hangs on the wall in the church:
A Village Church is Born
An empty field where children came
To make their daisy chains
While monks and peasants planned a church
In praise of Jesu’s name.
From forest brakes the children came
Young withies in their hands
Soon intertwined in earthen walls:
A shrine for Jesu’s name.
One windless day the children came
And handed up the reeds
To thatchers plying ancient craft
For love of Jesu’s name.
In God’s good time the children came
And touched the Bishop’s hand
Who signed the cross to sanctify
In gentle Jesu’s name.
Then down the years the children came
To kneel in simple prayer,
With priest and all the villagers
Invoking Jesu’s name.
To such a church the children came
Long centuries ago
And still a sweetness lingers there
Of peace in Jesu’s name.
This timeless, ideal, repetitive vision – nothing about wars of religion, earning a living, or what most children would rather be doing during church services – has some truth in it; the church was probably once thatched. And a ‘sweetness of peace’ is something many people have felt in Binsted.
How different from the poems of Laurie Lee, some of which reflect his experiences – recorded in his diary - of spending time in Binsted Woods together with his lover, Lorna Wishart, during the aerial bombardment of 18 August 1940.
‘Pondering your scented skull
I seek its antique song of peace:
Desires uncovered by your tide
Are trembling reeds with sea-blue voices.
I wind my hands around your head
And blow the hollow flutes of love,
But anger sprouts among the leaves
And fields grow sharp with war.
Wheat bleeds upon a wind of steel
And ivy splits the poisoned sky,
While wasps that cannot fertilise
Dive at the open flowers of men.
Your lips are turreted with guns,
And bullets crack across your kiss,
And death slides down upon a string
To rape the heart of our horizon.’
(‘Song in August’, 1940, quoted in Valerie Grove, The Life and Loves of Laurie Lee, Robson Press, 2014, p. 138.)
From a few years later in WW2 comes the description by Michael Wishart of Binsted Park, the large curved field within Binsted Woods which was turned into a mediaeval style park, with a ha-ha and great oaks reclaimed from woodland, by the owners of Binsted House in about 1800.
‘From the church, and off the main lane which is all our village offers, there runs a muddy path, through fields, across a bridge in a small, sunken copse, into what was then parkland: a grand, broad, upward slope of green, dotted with ancient trees.
Binsted Park epitomised the vanishing England of my youth.’
(Michael Wishart, High Diver, Quartet, 1978, p. 21.)
At present Binsted keeps its ‘sweetness of peace’.