The Candover Valley has a long and interesting history with each of the three Candovers being recorded in the Domesday Book, and also feature largely in volume 3 of “A History of the County of Hampshire”, published in 1908 by William Page.
William Cobbett, the 19th century writer and commentator, also had much to say about the Candovers which he found, generally, to be a pleasant place, in his report in “Rural Rides” of his ride through the Valley en route from Oldham (Odiham) to Winchester on Saturday, 28 September 1822. He was then 60 years of age. He comments in particular about the “avenue of yew-trees, probably a mile long, each tree containing, as nearly as I can guess, from twelve to twenty feet of timber, which, as the reader knows, implies a tree of considerable size. They have probably been a century or two in growing.”
This avenue is still there to this day along The Avenue, the private road from Chilton Manor Farm.
Below is an extract from William Cobbett’s “Rural Rides” in which he describes his journey from Oldham (Odiham) to Winchester along the Candover Valley.
Saturday, September 28th .
“Just after day-light we started for this place. By the turnpike we could have come through Basingstoke by turning off to the right, or through Alton and Alresford by turning off to the left. Being naturally disposed towards a middle course, we chose to wind down through Upton Gray, Preston-Candover, Chilton-Candover, Brown-Candover, then down to Ovington, and into Winchester by the north entrance. From Wrecklesham to Winchester we have come over roads and lanes of flint and chalk. The weather being dry again, the ground under you, as solid as iron, makes a great rattling with the horses’ feet. The country where the soil is stiff loam upon chalk is never bad for corn. Not rich, but never poor. There is at no time anything deserving to be called dirt in the roads. The buildings last a long time, from the absence of fogs and also the absence of humidity in the ground. The absence of dirt makes the people habitually cleanly; and all along through this country the people appear in general to be very neat. It is a country for sheep, which are always sound and good upon this iron soil. The trees grow well, where there are trees. The woods and coppices are not numerous; but they are good, particularly the ash, which always grows well upon the chalk. The oaks, though they do not grow in the spiral form, as upon the clays, are by no means stunted; and some of them very fine trees; I take it, that they require a much greater number of years to bring them to perfection than in the Wealds . The wood, perhaps, may be harder; but I have heard that the oak, which grows upon these hard bottoms, is very frequently what the carpenters call shaky . The under-woods here consist, almost entirely, of hazel, which is very fine, and much tougher and more durable than that which grows on soils with a moist bottom. This hazel is a thing of great utility here. It furnishes rods wherewith to make fences; but its principal use is to make wattles for the folding of sheep in the fields. These things are made much more neatly here than in the south of Hampshire and in Sussex, or in any other part that I have seen. Chalk is the favourite soil of the yew-tree ; and at Preston-Candover there is an avenue of yew-trees, probably a mile long, each tree containing, as neatly as I can guess, from twelve to twenty feet of timber, which, as the reader knows, implies a tree of considerable size. They have probably been a century or two in growing; but, in any way that timber can be used, the timber of the yew will last, perhaps, ten times as long as the timber of any other tree that we grow in England.”
William Cobbett – B: 9 March 1762 -D: 18 June 1835