Jenkins-Of-Ewelme Web Site

Location Location

Ewelme in a Nutshell
Ewelme is located on the western tip of the Chilterns, and on the eastern slopes of the Thames Valley in Oxfordshire (see map), within an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB). It is an ancient village, boasting a hilltop cluster of fifteenth century buildings consisting of the closely associated Church, Almshouses and School. The thriving junior school is said to be the oldest in the country. All this was due to the charitable works of a local girl Alice, daughter of Thomas Chaucer - Speaker of the House of Commons, and Grand-daughter of Geoffrey Chaucer of Canterbury Tales fame. She married to become Duchess of Suffolk, and thenceforth began to put Ewelme on the map so-to-speak. Another famous writer - Jerome K Jerome (Three Men in a Boat) is also buried in the Churchyard.

Ewelme was/is well known for its Watercress, which throughout most of the 20th century provided a thriving local business, with distribution as far as Covent Garden. The Watercress beds flow through the whole length of the village from South East to North West (see map), and at some point had a water mill, the ruins of which can still be seen. It then feeds the River Thames at Benson, a couple of miles away (see map). However, during the latter quarter of the 1900s, the water from the Chilterns became less pure and could not meet European standards. This together with greater competition from other areas and countries, led to its demise. It was most fortunate that the Chiltern Society agreed to purchase the beds, and have invested in a programme of conservation and revival. Although it is unlikely that watercress will ever be produced in commercial quantity again, it is envisaged that example areas will be maintained for demonstration of its historical importance for the village. Will this also revive the old superstition, that any childless women who stares upon the Ewelme Watercress Beds will become pregnant? You can make up your own mind - but it worked for us!

These days, Ewelme cannot be completely isolated from its surroundings without referring to the adjacent airfield of RAF Benson. This area was constructed using open countryside, including the old Oxford to London Road, in 1937. Although it is understandable that many local protests ensued, it has in fact ensured that the surrounding area has been left as open countryside, and while the airfield exists, will prevent Ewelme turning into a satellite of Oxford or Didcot. RAF Benson was used during the war for recognisance, and is said, amongst  other important work, to have provided all the photographs for preparation of the Dambusters operation. It was then used as part of Transport Command, together and then solely as Queen's Flight. Obviously, there have been many royal visitors to the area, but none have ever called in! Apparantly, Henry the Eighth was supposed to have fallen into King's Pool in the centre of the village. The airfield is currently used as a helicopter base, and although  frequent flights are always apparent, does not interfere with the sleepy atmosphere of the village (double glazing also helps!).

A Taste of Honey
Not so long ago, Ewelme was also well known for its Honey. The Rowse family settled here and built a packing factory on land adjacent to the now defunct Post Office. It has to be admitted that this was a bit of an eye-sore, but provided significant local employment (including some pocket money for Margaret!). This has now expanded to the nearby Market Town of Wallingford, but Rowse Honey jars (and other similar spreadable products), can be seen on many Supermarket shelves throughout the country. The land has now been developed into a small estate of sympathetically designed village houses adjacent to Kings pool. Another area of employment now no longer present, was a Unigate Dairies distribution centre. Four terraced houses are now due to be built here in the near future. The demise of the Honey factory and the Dairy has now significantly reduced the amount of heavy vehicles using the High Street.

As Seen on TV
To the East of the village is the picturesque Cow Common, where ancient grazing rights are still being "discussed" between the parish council and local farmers. The adjacent playing field is still an area of somewhat time warped cricket matches and village fêtes. Indeed, the village has been recognised as a place to film historical TV productions e.g. Paradise Postponed. Ewelme was also used in an episode of MidSomer Murders (Beyond the Grave), and even Morse mentioned "Ewelme Wood", although I can't find it on the map. Perhaps Colin Dexter meant  Hyde Shaw (see map), which I call Eyre's Wood, through which many pleasant jogs and walks have been made? This is where I spotted my first Red Kite a few years ago, and not being a real "twitcher", concluded that this was very rare and only to be found in mid Wales. It was soon discovered that this was a product of a programme of preservation, where a number of pairs of Red Kites had been released around Stokenchurch - a few miles away as the Crow flies! Although Ewelme is not the centre of Red Kite country, it is certainly part of it. There is not a day that goes by, when a Red Kite cannot be seen, and on one occasion during a walk, I saw eleven of them soaring above the surrounding fields at the same time - wonderful!  

Going Nowhere
Thus the history of Ewelme has ebbed and flowed in significance throughout the last 600 years, and it is amazing to realise that we have lived here for over a third of our lives. It is perhaps a fortunate factor that Ewelme is not en-route to anywhere in particular, which may help to preserve its somewhat quiet and  isolated character, but it's well worth taking a detour for at least a transitory visit!  

NEW - Village Web Site
If you would like to know some more about Ewelme in terms of Parish Council activities, local society news or just some more general information about the village, the new web site is well worth a visit.