St Mary’s, Langham
Outdoor temperature: 19.4˚C; indoor temperature: 18.9˚C, humidity: 62%
I knew that Langham church was in the middle of a field, and I was fairly sure it was kept locked. I had wanted to visit for a while, but was putting off the inconvenience of trying to get in. Finally the perfect opportunity arose: I had an evening concert in Wattisfield church on the day of the Suffolk Historic Churches bike ride. I emailed the vicar to ask if it was acceptable for me to turn up at Langham with my cello (not realising he was the same vicar I’d meet later in the day at Wattisfield), and, given the go ahead, turned up at the field gate later than I intended but still with twenty minutes before ‘closing time’ at 5pm. The people at the gate knew to expect me and directed me across the fields, kindly allowing me to take my car.
30/10/18 If I had to choose one thing that for me could represent – even conjure up – autumn, it would be the smell of quinces.
There is something about smells. They seem to possess a power that sights, and possibly even sounds, don’t. They can transport me instantly to a different time and place; conjure up feelings, scenes and situations vividly and sometimes unexpectedly.
Luckily there are few smells that do this in an unpleasant way – as dreams usually do, I find. Mostly smells bring good memories, or at worst nostalgic or curious ones. The smell of quinces not only represents for me childhood autumns in Suffolk, but is in itself intoxicating and addictive. I could put my nose to a quince and inhale over and over, all day long.
St Mary’s, West Stow
Indoor temperature: 18.5˚C, humidity: 63%
I might have gone weeks thinking I visited Culford church, if I hadn’t met a lady there who, when we got chatting, asked me if I was from West Stow. After some bafflement on my part, eventually the penny dropped. What my friend Penny (unrelated to the previous) had told me a few days before about Culford church being within the school grounds finally made sense. She must have been even more confused than me when I said it wasn’t. I’d been there the previous week and found it locked.
25/10/2018 I tend to suffer from maple envy in autumn when I look above the ugly, half-bare conifer hedge towards my neighbours’ garden, and see the top of their bright red maple tree, which was yellow not long ago. This year it got me thinking. My dad and my brother planted plenty of maple trees in my garden, so where are all the autumn colours?
St Lawrence’s, Lackford
I had once been to Lackford Lakes, and once to West Stow Anglo-Saxon village and country park, but that was the extent of my knowledge of this area north of Bury St Edmunds. When I was asked to give a concert in Lackford church by a member of the audience at Dalham, I was even more delighted than usual by the prospect: in the afterglow of that wonderful occasion, I felt I could never have enough of them.
Arriving at Lackford church was hardly less exciting than arriving at Dalham: turning off the main road and driving through a modern housing estate didn’t raise my hopes, but I soon emerged into open countryside with pretty views, and a perfect location in which to enjoy the late summer sunset.
St Mary’s and St Lawrence’s, Great Bricett
Outdoor temperature: 22.6˚C; indoor temperature: 19.2˚C, humidity: 68%
August had been sadly short on church visits, and I wanted a change of scene for my cello practice, so at the end of the month I headed for Great Bricett. It was one of few churches remaining for me to visit fairly close to home, and I had been told it was open all the time.
I wasn’t particularly excited at the prospect of my outing, but I did wonder what I would find. Would Great Bricett church surprise me as much as the likes of Ringshall, Battisford, Nedging and Naughton, to name just a few? They were all local villages that I rarely had reason to visit, and my acquaintance with them was barely more than driving through on my way elsewhere. I thought they possessed little beauty until I met their churches, and now I think of them quite differently.
St Edmund’s, Bromeswell
I had been asked to play at a wedding in Ramsholt church on a Saturday in mid-August, and having no other commitments that day, I was able to make the most of my outing to the Deben estuary. My well-ticked church map showed a significant gap in that area, and I had a lunch invitation from a friend in nearby Butley, so I planned my itinerary accordingly. Bromeswell, just beyond Woodbridge, was my first calling point.
10/10/2018 For a few months in 2011 I lived next to a river near Pucón, in the temperate rainforest region of Chile. Large, evergreen shrubs that looked similar to box grew in abundance along the riverbank, and one day I saw a lady with her young son collecting buckets full of the red berries that grew on them. I asked her what they were, and what she used them for. ‘They’re murtillas’, she said, ‘I make jam with them’.
I picked some and ate them. The flavour was like nothing I’d ever tasted before, and I was excited. The next day I went back with a plastic bag to collect more, and so began my first jam-making attempts.
7/10/2018 For a number of years I have used walking as a therapy without really being conscious of what I was doing. I knew that it relieved stress, helped me solve problems and generate ideas, but I wasn’t aware that on occasions when I was at a loss as to how to cope with what I was feeling, particularly after my mother’s death in 2010, instinctually I turned to walking.
Early last year, something I read at the difficult start of a holiday on the Isle of Wight made me begin to pay attention to the physical, psychological and emotional effects walking had on me. Before the end of my holiday I had concluded that, as well as being a physical relief, it was one of the most effective remedies for emotional and psychological pain I have yet encountered1.
Of course, walking is not just an autumn gift. Thankfully it is a year-round one. But this specific walk – from St Ives to Penzance along the South West Coast Path – has been a particular gift to me, now, in autumn.
St Andrew’s, Little Glemham
On a Sunday at the end of July I was due in Aldringham church, near Aldeburgh, for an afternoon concert. After carrying out my morning’s B&B duties, I found myself so tired that I went back to bed, worried that I wouldn’t manage the drive and the concert. I only expected to have a short lie-down. To my surprise, however, it was noon when I woke up, and I realised that instead of having all the time in the world to visit another church on the way to warm up, I’d be in a rush.
I glanced at the map before leaving home to check there were plenty of churches near Aldringham that wouldn’t require more than a minute’s detour; I didn’t plan anything further. So, when I saw a sign saying ‘Church Lane’ shortly after entering Little Glemham, I took it without hesitation, hoping that I would come across its namesake sooner rather than later, and find it open. I wouldn’t have time to go searching for a key or looking for another church.