Edge of Fritham
Fritham is a strange place. It is surrounded on all sides by open heath or ancient woodland, and yet when you are in the village, you can only see green fields and cows. You could be almost anywhere in southern England.
Approaching the village by road from the north, the first thing you see is an extraordinary tower.
This does nothing to dispel the impression of a place that is slightly eccentric.
Walking along one of the tracks that borders the village, I was suddenly aware of what it must have felt like to live in feudal times, when the Forest was first created. Then villages were small islands of civilisation fenced in against the untamed wilderness, and people rarely travelled from one village to another.
A little further along the track I came across some pigs exercising the ancient right of 'Pannage' as they have done from earliest times, and a pile of timber no doubt collected by one of the commoners under their 'Common of Fuelwood'.
These days the Forestry Commission tells the commoners where they can collect the off cuts from the Commissionʼs commercial activities rather than letting them gather wood for themselves, but the principle still applies.
With the exception of the farms, most of the village buildings seem to date from the nineteenth century or later, including Fritham Free Church United (something of an oxymoron in my experience), which is dated 1904.