Suffolk churches 86: Spexhall and Wissett (July 2018)

I intended to get home by early afternoon on Wednesday as a compromise for taking two nights away. I went partly in order to concentrate on cello practice, but primarily to prevent myself wrecking my hands with DIY before my concert in Newmarket on Thursday: my new bedroom carpet was being fitted on Friday morning, and I desperately wanted to get the hand-punishing and messy task of window frame stripping finished before then. But I also knew that there was no way I could do that and still be able to give a concert. The only sure way to prevent myself committing such a foolishness was to physically remove myself from the temptation, with a little concession: I could at least spend a bit of time on the more harmless job of painting walls if I got home in good time on Wednesday afternoon.

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Summer treasure 9: Bike rides

5/9/2018 The approach of the end of summer is a sure way to bring into focus the things that you haven’t made the most of and don’t want to miss. This year I have noticed more of these things than usual. Luckily, though the much needed rain arrived in August, we have been blessed with a some idyllic days of warmth and sunshine at the beginning of September. After the summer rush I have also been blessed with a couple of quieter weeks in which I have the leisure to prioritise different activities: cello practice, writing, blackberry picking, jam-making and catching up with house and garden jobs that have been waiting for me most of the summer.

One of these jobs was mending bikes: one puncture, two malfunctioning brakes, and various rusted bolts that needed oiling and loosening for the adjustment of saddles and other moving parts. I am not much of a mechanic, but – aside from gears, which I do not understand at all and never seem to work properly, even after a visit to a bike repair shop – I am thankful that the mechanisms of bikes are generally simple, on view, and with observation and a bit of trial and error, most of their troubles can be fixed at home. And the satisfaction gained from such home repairs cannot be underestimated…

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Summer treasure 8: The comma butterfly

2/9/2018 I have been waiting since the spring for a sighting of this beautiful creature. In early summer I caught a glimpse of that orange-brown glow fluttering past at a distance, but too briefly and too far away for me to get a proper look – though I was fairly certain it was a comma. No other butterfly shares its rich colour. But finally, a few days ago, one came onto the terrace, and sunbathed on the window long enough for me to get a photo on my phone.

I think we all know that butterfly numbers have taken a nosedive in recent decades. When I was a child, our lavender bushes were almost invisible beneath the clouds of white butterflies enjoying the flowers. The buddlejas were always covered in tortoiseshells, peacocks, cabbage whites, brimstones, red admirals and the odd painted lady, comma or fritillary, if we were lucky. I am now sadly privileged to welcome only the occasional visitor to my garden. The small whites are the most numerous, but sometimes large whites, meadow browns, skippers, gatekeepers and common blues, amongst all the previously numerous buddleja frequenters, come too. Now, instead of the buddlejas, patches of head-high thistles around the garden – though proving somewhat problematic in their seemingly infinite spreading capacity – seem to provide the most attractive food source to my insect friends. I am torn between attempting to prevent them taking over entirely, and wanting to provide for as many creatures as possible in my little oasis.

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Suffolk churches 85: Worlingham, Weston, Brampton and Westhall (July 2018)

It was almost a month since my last church visit. I thought it was simply due to lack of time, but I wonder now whether a reluctance to accumulate more churches to write about played a part. Writing wasn’t flowing, and I was making very slow progress. It was partly my fault: I had failed to write any notes on the churches I visited in Lothingland, and visiting ten churches in three days is a sure way to forget which one is which. I had photos to remind me, but still it was hard going. I have learnt my lesson, and have vowed to make writing up notes a priority, though this in itself is no guarantee of success. Mercifully, however, the flow picked again just before I embarked on my next trip to the northeast, allowing me to resume my tour with unambivalent enthusiasm.

All Saints’, Worlingham
Outdoor temperature: 27.4˚C; indoor temperature: 23.9˚C, humidity: 69%

After considering my accommodation options and being tempted by a shepherd’s hut near Bungay, I eventually settled on a room in Beccles. The idea of not having to drive anywhere for supper in the evening was the deciding factor. I like Beccles very much, for its size, atmosphere, proximity to the Broads and position on a river – and on an unexpected hill, with views over the river into Norfolk from St Mary’s churchyard in the town centre (see header photo). There is also a huge number of churches nearby, providing me with plenty of excuses for future visits.

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Summer treasure 7: Camping in the garden

30/8/2018 Far too late in the season, I have got round to camping in the garden. A few years ago I spent nearly half the summer sleeping in the garden. This year I should have done so during the heat wave, but the season has been my busiest yet and I worried about depriving myself of sleep when I was already exhausted. By mid-August, dawn was back to the relatively late time of 5am. I had a few quieter days, and deemed that the risk of sleep deprivation was minor, and taking advantage of any remaining mild, dry nights was becoming more urgent.

The trick was to get everything prepared before dark and before I was so tired I couldn’t be bothered to make the effort. But I had to pick the right weather too: sleeping in a tent wasn’t what I had in mind. I wanted to see the sky above my head, and feel the air. Sometimes I think sleeping in a tent hardly qualifies as sleeping outdoors…

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Suffolk churches 84: North Cove and Barnby (June 2018)

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.

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Suffolk churches 83: Ashby, Corton and Henstead (June 2018)

St Mary’s, Ashby
Indoor temperature: 18.1˚C, humidity: 56%
I reached the keyholder of Ashby church on my first attempt, and arranged a visit for 11am the following morning. I turned off the road down a dusty farm track, which – if it weren’t for the car I was travelling in – might have looked exactly the same when the church was first built. I saw the octagonal tower of the church hiding behind a bed of nettles and a hedge just beyond a crossroads in the tracks, which I later read was a medieval road junction1.

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Summer treasure 6: Mulberries

6/8/2018 It is a simple fact that mulberries are the most delicious summer berry in existence. No arguments. But, of course, there are many poor souls who have never eaten one, which I consider a grave deprivation.

Part of their charm is that – in contrast to other berries – instead of giving way when you bite into their juicy flesh, the centre of the berry puts up some resistance, and the seeds add a little crunch.

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Suffolk churches 82: Somerleyton, Blundeston and Lound (June 2018)

I headed east from Heckingham, planning to visit the first churches I came to across the county border. This was where my confusion began: according to my OS map, Fritton church was in Norfolk. But it was on the list for Lothingland on my church map. I decided to believe Ordnance Survey for now, and continued on to Herringfleet, which, to my disappointment, I found hidden beneath scaffolding and filled with builders. I didn’t have far to go, however, to reach the next church, Somerleyton.

St Mary’s, Somerleyton
Outdoor temperature: 22.4˚C; indoor temperature: 19.4˚C, humidity: 61%
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Suffolk churches 81: Weybread, Flixton and Mettingham (June 2018)

I had planned to fit in a week’s walking in Cornwall in June. But while I was dithering, a B&B booking came in for mid-June, and soon after I realised that a cello-free holiday any later in the month was impossible, as I had two concerts on 30th June and a large pile of music to learn. So three days in a far corner of Suffolk with a large amount of cello practice on the agenda was the best I could manage. I found a lovely place to stay, at Heckingham on the Norfolk Broads, for added holiday feel.

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