Binsey’s small 12th-century church stands half a mile west of the Thames (and The Perch pub), in a splendid rural setting that’s only slightly marred by traffic noise from the unseen A34 nearby. Approached along a magnificent avenue of poplars, this site long drew pilgrims – including Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, praying for the heir who never came – on account of the healing powers of St Margaret’s Well outside its western end.
Medicinal waters were then known as ‘treacle’, and this is the very Treacle Well of which Alice hears at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland.
The young poplars seen today are the second generation to have been planted since the felling of their graceful predecessors in 1879 prompted Gerard Manley Hopkins to write his poem Binsey Poplars, in which he bemoaned that ’after-comers cannot guess the beauty been’. Fortunately the latest set are looking superb.