The Scotland Lane Oak stands for Binsted in the wide, winding world. Only one paved road leads to the village. Turn into Binsted Lane, travel a telescoping huddle of trees… and emerge.
Now pause, and leave the paved road. A signpost shows a way towards woods. Scotland Lane. Before the woods are fields and there, looking across a gently sloping landscape, is a lone Oak: the Sentinel.
Now see what the Sentinel sees. The village lay before it; and behind it in time. Beyond the medieval common fields is the 12th Century church, then the land seems to rise again, to a horizon which shoulders the sea.
This landscape yields secrets, clues to the past. Echoes, beneath a quiet surface. Excavations reveal the industry which made ‘Binsted ware’ pottery famous. Close to the Oak, in the crux of two lanes, a place named All the World housed the 13th Century tile kilns which might have fired floral motifs still on display in the church.
The Oak’s realm is one of questing, of branches reaching all ways.
What was the purpose of the wide, banked track we now call Scotland Lane? It seems to lead to the Moot Mound, an Anglo-Saxon meeting place close to Hundred House Copse at the head of Binsted Valley.
If so, the Lane may have been used to bring animals to the medieval Forest courts. And before that? Some say it was a Roman road. Noviomagus Reginorum – present day Chichester – lies several miles to the West.
But the Romans, of course, are newcomers. Stand with the Sentinel and reach for a deep, unwritten past. North to south through this landscape runs an Iron Age ditch. We call it War Dyke, but can only guess its purpose.
Out of the mists into a more recent past. Not far into the village is The Black Horse pub. It has been a hearth for farm workers and a nexus for community. In wartime, it was a shelter for villagers, when the world arrived noisily in the shape of bomb-laden planes.
Now diggers threaten the Sentinel and all it watches over. A proposed road will tear up the Oak and this historic landscape, destroying Binsted’s continuity with the past, severing its connection to the wide, winding world.
Oak drawing by Richard Geraint Evans
Tales from the realm of the Scotland Lane Sentinel