St Botolph’s, North Cove
Outdoor temperature: 16.9˚C; indoor temperature 19.9˚C, humidity: 67%
I had noted down the keyholder’s contact details for Barnby church the previous day so I thought I would try my luck there first. She lived in North Cove, down the road, and once I arrived at her house I thought to ask if she knew who had the key to that church. ‘Well, actually, I do’, she said, and kindly lent me both keys to drop back when I had finished. It felt like a great luxury to be in possession of not one, but two, church keys.
Since I was so close, I decided to visit North Cove first. I walked up to the church from what seemed like a cross between a dead-end lane and a car park, next to the pub and set back from the main road. The porch was charming. The outer door, covered in a fly screen rather than mesh, wasn’t particularly attractive, but the two roses on either side of the door and the pretty brick and flint porch made me stop to admire it.
It was really a very lovely church. I walked through the Norman doorway into a Victorian interior which didn’t reveal its best treasure until I walked up to the chancel, where I found the walls covered in elaborate and decorative paintings. I prefer these multi-peopled, story-based paintings, I realise now, to those depicting one particular scene which I am usually too Bible-illiterate to recognise. With these paintings, it didn’t really matter whether I could read the story or not; I could still appreciate and admire the art.
There was something else in this church that I particularly liked: some of the floor tiles of the nave doubled as memorial stones. I wondered which thought had come first: the floor tile or the memorial. I think it would be a lovely idea to cover a church floor in a type of stone tile which would allow engraving, as and when necessary, to memorialise parishioners. I have never seen such a thing but there was something more human and more moving about it than the usual floor memorials – which, I, supposed, doubled as coffin lids, and were usually for members of important families. A whole church floor of tiles bearing ordinary people’s names and dates would be quite a sight, and quite a history.
Before leaving for Barnby, I sat on the bench near the porch door to admire the roses and porch for a little longer. I had made a later start than I intended, and it took me a while to retrieve the key as I could not attract the attention of the keyholder when I reached her house. Sitting on the bench, I had an idea. My sister had expressed disapproval that my 200th church celebration the previous evening hadn’t included cake. I wanted to fit in some more writing today – as I had finally started to feel it flow again – and so I decided Barnby would be my last church, and I would enjoy afternoon tea and writing at the tea room that Will and I had discovered in Mettingham a few days previously. It seemed a fitting conclusion to my trip, to end where I’d begun.
St John’s, Barnby
Indoor temperature: 19˚C, humidity 74%
I would have been just as happy with Barnby instead Henstead as my 200th church the previous day. It was a sweet little thatched church; the kind in which I feel most at home, and which most often makes me feel that my church tour is so thoroughly delightful that perhaps I shouldn’t be trying to finish it as quickly as possible, but making it last as long as possible. The church was small, long and narrow, and boasted beautiful wall paintings along both its north and south nave walls. Its font was a curiosity: the bowl, according to the guide, was 13th century, its supports were painted, and the base seemed much newer – or at least recently recut.
By the time I packed up to enjoy my prize at the tea room, I was happy that my three days’ ‘holiday’ had been greatly productive: my thumb was just beginning to feel strong and calloused enough to cope with the excessive amount of thumb position (using the side of the thumb to press down the strings) in the baroque sonata I felt most unprepared for, and I was concluding my trip in a much calmer frame of mind regarding my two concerts the following Saturday.
After dropping back the keys at North Cove, I continued on to Mettingham tea room with great excitement. I was served by a kindly, well-spoken middle-aged gentleman who I thought ought really to be in a tailcoat and working as a butler. I am fairly sure I have never been served in a tea room by a man above the age of 25, and certainly not one like this. It lent my afternoon tea a certain gravitas, and simultaneously provided me with plenty of private giggles at the thought that I had inadvertently walked straight into a scene of The Remains of the Day.
The afternoon tea was as good as the quaint china and the butler service, my writing progressed, and I left for home feeling not only that I had worked hard, but that I had spoilt myself greatly…
Header photo: Barnby church wall painting
Total churches to the end of June: 202 + 3 chapels