Frensham Little Pond, the erstwhile fish pond of a medieval bishop, is the subject of this little painting. William de Raleigh, another Bishop of Winchester (from 1242 to 1250) ordered the building of the ponds at Frensham in 1246. In a medieval strike, the bishop’s bondsmen refused. They were paid for specific jobs, and the work involved in building the pond was not one of them. William gave in and paid extra. Our perception of medieval life is that the people were all serfs who had to do or die. The reality was more complex. Workers had much more power than is generally recognised. One of the reasons that the bishop gave in was that his bondsmen might have decided to work for someone else.
During the Second World War, the pond was drained and used as a tank training ground. Nowadays, free of bishops and the military, it’s a great place to watch birds. The surrounding land is mostly heathland, home to heather and gorse. It is still recovering from a disastrous fire in 2010. Apparently the rare nightjar and woodlark nest here. Bittern and water rail are seen around the pond too.
The Great Pond has a beach – which is unsurprisingly very popular.