Rotary Barbecue – And Hursley Park – Saturday 02 September 2023

It is the company that makes an occasion memorable. On Saturday, the warmth and friendship, so evident among Winchester Rotarians, their partners and friends, was enhanced by the beautiful venue of Hursley Park. With thanks to Mark Butcher and Nick Bell, we were privileged to enjoy a brilliant barbecue within the beauty and tranquility of the Park.

From the Seventh Century Hursley Park has fulfilled many roles: a court, palace and deer park for the enjoyment of the Bishops of Winchester and their entourage, a turbulent period of acrimony and legal actions with the Cromwell family, followed by much needed restoration during the Georgian period. The Victorian era saw Hursley Park run in an orderly and dignified manner.

At the beginning of the Edwardian period Hursley Park was bought by the extremely wealthy Cooper family who modernised and refurbished the many buildings and the estate grounds.. Much of what we see and enjoy today is due to their care and investment.

Hursley played a major role during the two World Wars. Many thousands of British and later, American military personnel camped here. There were also two large hospitals on site to care for the war wounded. In 1940, through a company called Supermarine, Hursley became the centre for the design and production of Spitfires, continuing in the post-War period to design some of Britain’s early jet fighters.

The arrival of Supermarine and its many commercial needs was to change the estate forever. After the death of the last male heir to the estate in 1961, IBM bought part of the estate. IBM Hursley is world famous and continues to evolve as an inspiring hub of innovation, and creativity, producing software and new technology that helps todays modern world run smoothly, now and in the future.

As we gathered on the clubhouse terrace, we looked out over mellow, sunlit open fields, trees and woodland. Mark greeted us on arrival, showing us where to park, and where to find the bar – which didn’t take long! The barbecue food was excellent and clearly appreciated by everyone.

It was a joy to see Thomas Bwambale in our midst again, together with two African friends; Neville, who is a website designer at IBM, and Audrey, a Sheffield University graduate who is about to start a new job in London.

As the sun was setting and dusk approaching, Mark’s wife, Kelsie, took a group of us to see a special, hidden place, not open to the public – the Hursley Sunken Garden, created in the Edwardian period, in the Japanese style. A magical place of beauty, peace and serenity. The centre piece is a beautiful, ornamental, stone built water feature, with fish gliding secretively beneath its surface. Together with the surrounding mature trees and shrubs, the garden gifts us silent, simple, natural beauty. Thank you Kelsie.

This was a social evening – no fundraising, no raffle – just an example of the core of Rotary. In short – the privilege of friendship.

For additional photos from the evening, see here.

Diana Brooks

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