St Ethelbert’s, Falkenham
Indoor temperature: 10.8˚C, humidity: 72%
The perfect weather wasn’t expected to continue, but the sun was still shining when I got up, so I took advantage of it. My afternoon’s walk the previous day was so delightful that I decided to do the same walk again but in reverse.
Afterwards I drove through the suburban Trimleys near Felixstowe to reach narrow country lanes leading to the villages on the Deben side of the peninsula. My first stop was Falkenham,. It was an odd little church, with a grey brick nave and no chancel to speak of. But I liked its diminutive size, view over the estuary and lovely acoustic. Already the sky was gloomy, but it soon brightened up sufficiently to improve the light inside, and I was glad: not for the first time, the light switches had eluded me.
My choice of clothes today was poor, I discovered, as I could feel my circulation being cut off at the elbow of my left arm, causing me no small discomfort. I was too cold to consider taking off my second fleece, so I had to keep stopping to straighten out my arm and allow the blood back in. It was odd, as I’d worn these fleeces many times before, and never had this problem – at least not to this extent. I would have to choose my extra layers more carefully next time.
On a whim, I decided to go to Trimley St Martin for lunch, and found the pub opposite two churches barely 100 metres apart, and sharing one churchyard – a surprise to me, not only because I’d never seen two churches so close together, but because only one church was marked on my OS map. Both were locked. I was unimpressed. I wasn’t in the mood for chasing keyholders, so would have to go elsewhere after lunch.
As I found a corner in which to house my cello while I had lunch, a waiter asked me, ‘do you have a body in there?’ Attempting to come up with a new answer to an old joke – to which usually I would simply laugh politely in response – I replied secretively, ‘ummmm…. possibly….’. He laughed. The lunch was nothing out of the ordinary, but pleasant, and with renewed energy I set off for Kirton village in search of an open church.
St Mary’s and St Martin’s, Kirton
Outdoor temperature: 8˚C; indoor temperature: 12.6˚C, humidity: 66%
My revival didn’t last long, however, and soon I started to think I shouldn’t have stopped for lunch: I felt tired and sleepy. The weather had also turned freezing and drizzly, and all I wanted to do was get home and cosy. My intention to visit four churches today quickly became three, and I was especially glad I had got in a walk in the morning.
Kirton didn’t immediately attract me: its modern entrance hall reminded me of town churches. But once I focussed on the details, I realised what a lovely church it was. Outdoors, I was taken with the tower. I could now recognise septaria stone, and where this had crumbled, the gaps had been filled in with broken tile and brick. I couldn’t tell whether the rows of flint dated from before or after the septaria, or perhaps the same time. The effect was unusual and beautiful.
Indoors, beyond the entrance hall, I found a pretty, simple village church with a Norman font and delightful sewn picture of village life hanging on the wall. It was a lovely place to take refuge from the weather and concentrate on cello practice. The drowsiness didn’t leave me, but I managed to ignore it for a while.
St Mary’s, Bucklesham
Indoor temperature: 13.9˚C, humidity: 63%
Driving to Bucklesham church, feeling I ought to manage at least one more church visit and a bit more cello practice, I was surprised to come across a school sign in what seemed like the middle of the countryside. Bucklesham primary school was on the outskirts of the village, and I soon realised the school day had just finished when I had to queue to get past the school gates. But the delay was short, and it was good to see evidence of a thriving community even in this apparently remote place.
Victorian though this tiny church was, it was sweet. It looked bigger inside than out, probably because of the south aisle. It was also warmer than my previous two church visits, leading me to suspect the heating had recently been on for an event.
Cello practice felt uncomfortable, as though I hadn’t just played for well over an hour at Kirton and Falkenham. It was hard work, but after another stint on the Bach sonata, I felt as though I was gradually getting closer to the end goal. I had nearly two more weeks until I had to perform it, and I was learning that there was a different between perseverance and forcing the issue. The former would produce the results if I was patient; the latter is always unhelpful.
I was glad when I deemed that enough practice had been done for the day and I could go home with a clear conscience. Before that, however, I had to summon the energy for my usual circuit of the church, in and out. I found some pretty details outside: old door handles and a holy water stoup beside the north door.
Arriving back at my accommodation was a pleasure. I wished I could stay a bit longer. This thought developed into a realisation that, for once, there was no pressing appointment requiring my presence at home the following day. So I enquired as to the availability of the accommodation and my animal sitter, and receiving an answer in the affirmative from both parties, I was delighted to extend my holiday for another 24 hours.
Header photo: Flint detail, Bucklesham church