St Andrew’s, Boyton
The following morning I went back to where I had left off, on what Simon Knott – but no one else I have heard – calls the Bawdsey Pensinsula. Boyton was first. Driving around the little lanes of this sandy area of Suffolk is a pleasure: it feels truly rural. This makes sense, of course, as you would never be ‘passing’ on your way anywhere. There is nowhere to pass to. I met only tractors on my journey; thankfully no large ones or the roads would have struggled to accommodate us.
I found Boyton church in an out-of-the-way spot beside an odd development: 18th century almshouses, apparently, but they looked neither old nor rural, built in a square with a low brick wall forming the nearest side (see header photo). But they were attractive in their own way. I turned right to the churchyard and into view of a pretty little church with a cap on its tower. On the door was a sign indicating there was a Norman doorway on the north side of the church.
The interior was pleasant, though a little dark, and had a good acoustic. My practice session here was productive and satisfying, despite the slight distraction of an unpleasant sound – created by electricity in some way, I thought.
By the time I went outside to explore the churchyard and the exterior of the church I had forgotten all about the sign directing visitors to the Norman doorway, and I was surprised to come upon it: somehow the style of the church had not led me to expect such an elaborately beautiful historical feature. It was a lovely sight to end my first church visit of the day.
All Saints’ Church, Hollesley
Hollesley is one of those Suffolk names that I still find difficult to remember how to pronounce. You have to pretend the first two ‘l’s are missing. Today I thought I would try cello practice in the morning and go for a walk later in the day, as I’d felt so tired the last two days. But it was to no avail: I still felt exhausted before I left Hollesley. Nevertheless I managed a respectable amount of practice on the piece that needed the most work: a solo sonata by Prokofiev. It seemed slow to improve, but I concluded that mechanical perseverance without the involvement of my emotions was the only answer.
In this church, too, was the same unpleasant noise. This time, however, I noticed a box of some sort that I thought might be the cause. I didn’t want to touch anything though, so I tolerated it as best I could. The pews, though modern, attracted my attention: I loved the bench ends, especially the baby birds in a nest.
Afterwards I lay in the sun for a while, deciding what to do next. It seemed a waste not to go to Shingle Street, so close by, but this week cello was the priority, as well as preserving my shoulders, which would have had to bear the weight of my cello whilst tramping through shingle. Four churches were my goal today, but eventually I decided in favour of lunch at the Ramsholt Arms. It was only ten minutes away and I’d heard a lot about it.
It wasn’t quite the weather for sitting outside beside the estuary, but I found a table with a view. The menu – especially vegetarian menu – was less inspired than I had hoped, but the dish I chose was tasty enough, and certainly an improvement on the vegetarian choices that would have awaited me back in Orford.
All Saints’, Sutton
When I found Sutton on the map, I thought how strange it was that I hadn’t heard of this village, despite knowing the peninsula relatively well now. In fact, the strangeness only lay in the fact that it took me so long to realise this was the Sutton of Sutton Hoo: a famous name with which I had been familiar for many years, despite not having visited the site. It is a shame that the most interesting Anglo-Saxon treasures discovered there are now kept in the British Museum, or I would certainly be impatient to visit. As it is, the prospect of crowds puts me off.
Sutton church was large but towerless. Inside I found an impressive font – of which I forgot to take a photo – though at the time I didn’t realise it was unique in all East Anglia. Yet again, a high-pitched electrical noise persecuted my ears, and I could no longer stand it. I noticed the same plugged-in box as I had seen in Hollesley. I took a closer look, and concluded it was probably a pest repellent of some kind. I had mobile reception in the church and looked up the brand name on it: it was indeed a pest repellent, and also a bat repellent, although it is apparently illegal to use it for bats. That may be so, but if one can say one is using it for other pests – mice and spiders, for example – there is nothing to stop it being used also for bats, since they often coexist. Especially in churches.
The machine was described as ‘ultrasonic’. Not ultrasonic enough, I thought: it is also a human repellent. Then it occurred to me that probably no one had noticed or pointed out the irritating noise, as most, if not all, of those involved with the church were likely of an age where they wouldn’t be able to hear such high pitches.
Tired as I was, and feeling short of patience, I unplugged the machine. I made a note to myself that I must not forget to plug it back in before I left.
Greatly relieved by the silence, I set up to practise, finding a prayer book dated 1866 in the chancel – curiously, with ‘Shottisham church’ written in the front cover. I resumed my practice on the Prokofiev sonata. I wanted to continue until I had mastered one particularly tricky bit, but aching tendons and my increasingly urgent need for a toilet eventually forced me to stop – the latter more than the former, but perhaps this was in the best interests of my arms.
I was slow off the mark, but eventually I had reason to be stupidly satisfied with my small powers of deduction: a church with such a modern kitchen, I thought, would be likely to have a toilet as well. There was none to be found indoors, so I went outside and walked round the church. I found an unlocked door on the north side of the church, inside of which was a toilet. Although I’d already packed up my equipment and couldn’t be bothered to unpack again, it meant at least that I was able to enjoy my tour around the church. Furthermore, I found a basket full of little chocolates by the church door. Armed with a sugar boost, and feeling exceptionally grateful for the services the church had provided, I left a larger than usual donation in the box and went outside again to explore the churchyard.
The main feature of interest I found was a little belfry on the south side of the church, though sadly the bell wasn’t visible. With a certain amount of relief at my practice duties being over for the day, I got in the car and headed back to Orford.
Predictably, I forgot to turn the pest repeller back on.
Header photo: Boyton almshouses