FOR ONE Winchester man a quick journey to the city soon becomes a trip down memory lane.
For some it would be easy to miss the row of 25 beech trees on Cheesefoot Head, just off the A272 near Winchester, but for others they are symbolic of a world war and a family with deep roots in England’s former capital.
As 2014 marks the centenary of the First World War, 65-year-old Chris Norgate is remembering his grandfather who planted the infamous landmark before his departure to serve in the war in 1914.
James Norgate returned home in 1902 from war in South Africa, before serving in the Hampshire Regiment during World War I and as a sergeant in the Home Guard during World War II.
When he returned home in 1918 he worked on the River Itchen at Ovington as a water bailiff, and Chris said people in the area still remember him today.
“We are unsure of the exact date of when the trees were planted, but we know it was in between 1902 and 1914. When he returned from the war in 1918 he worked as a water bailiff. My father followed in his footsteps at roughly the same place which is why our family were born here.”
Chris, an ex-policeman and former design and technology technician at Kings School, said he remembers his grandfather entertaining guests at Avington House by showing them dry fly fishing.
“One of my lasting memories was when he first showed me dry fly fishing on the river. He also used to talk about the war and his experiences when we were sat around the table,” he said.
“That is how I will always remember him because those are the experiences I had with him when he was alive.”
James lived with Chris and his family until his death in 1962, and Chris said the landmark is something of a treasure for their family.
“It’s a legacy to my family really and my children and grandchildren know about it,” he said.
Chris doesn’t have to venture out of the house to see the trees though – on leaving his post at Kings School in April 2013, good friend and colleague John Butterworth presented him with an oil painting of the site which now hangs in his house on Dell Road, and Chris says it captures the trees perfectly.
He said: “It is a lovely picture and is something which I will treasure and is a memory of my grandfather which is a valuable thing to have in the family.
“On a good clear day you can see the trees from the Isle of Wight, and they are a real landmark in our county which is what makes them so special.”