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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

27 September 2017: Rev'd John Owen, Vicar of Steep and Froxfield with Privett

Rev'd John Owen - Vicar of Steep and Froxfield with PrivettCobbett’s View

High up on the top of the Ashford Hangers is a hillside recently renamed by the county council as ‘Cobbett’s View’. It’s likely to be the place where William Cobbett, one Sunday in November, 1822, while riding from East Meon via Hawkley, first emerged from the dense tree cover, to gain views across the rolling countryside. He was impressed with the scenery and wrote at the time: “... out we came, all in a moment, at the very edge of the hanger! And never, in all my life, was I so surprised and so delighted! I pulled up my horse, and sat and looked; and it was like looking from the top of a castle down into the sea...”

Cobbett was an extraordinary man: farmer, writer, M.P, political pamphleteer, journalist. He was unafraid to challenge authority, and where he saw bad behaviour, especially amongst the rich and privileged, he laid into it trenchantly. He probably wasn’t the easiest of men to get along with (unless you happened to agree with him) but he was utterly genuine in his strongly held views.

His ‘Rural Rides’ published in 1830 is still in print, and remains a good read. Hampshire County Council was right to name the view at the top of the Hangers after this energetic no-nonsense farmer. Today you can sit on one of the seats at the very top and look across the downs in the direction of Cobbett’s birth place at Farnham, and see the A3 like a snake winding its way northwards.

Views like this lift you up out of yourself, away from present concerns and worries. They offer perspective. It’s no wonder that in the Bible lots of things happen in high places: the giving of the Ten Commandments, the Transfiguration of Jesus, the abode of the heavenly city. For me, in the middle of a dog walk, being at Cobbett’s View is a good way of renewing perspective: a reminder that times for pausing and reflecting are vital moments in busy lives. And I’m glad that Cobbett would - probably - have agreed with me.

Below: Cobbett's view photographed by John Studd, August 2017


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