Crippling indecision and a pile of chores had turned my intended four days’ break into barely two, and I left home in a bad mood. I was going to Westleton, near the coast, as the accommodation options for other destinations I’d considered had gradually dwindled the longer I dithered, and somehow I found my cello once again in the passenger seat. It was an easy opportunity to arrange a cello duet rehearsal on my way home, as Will, the other cellist, lives not too far from Westleton. Still, church visiting was otherwise not amongst my plans.
All Saints’, Saxstead
Passing through Saxtead proved too much of a temptation: I had missed the church on a few occasions because I spotted the sign too late. This time I was prepared: I remembered in time to look out for it and take the turn down the driveway. It wasn’t until I walked up to the churchyard gate that I realised, to my surprise, that the church didn’t have a tower. From the road, and even from the car park in front of the gate, the view was almost entirely obscured by trees.
St Mary’s, Nedging
The sum total of my experience of Nedging and Naughton was, until now, passing through ‘Nedging with Naughton’ on the main road between Bildeston and Needham Market. I didn’t like it. I remembered having once looked at a little cottage to rent there, and decided against it because of the location. Looking at the map, however, I discovered that away from the main road were two distinct villages: Naughton, just off this road, and Nedging, nearer Bildeston. Nedging church was in fact much nearer than I realised, and therefore, due to time constraints, was the one I decided to visit today.
My plan to go north once more to visit Yaxley and Thrandeston churches via Gislingham was not entirely without ulterior motive: I would pass Thornham Parva on my way. I was itching to revisit that little treasure now that my ‘church eyes’ were sharper, and I was also on the hunt for a gravestone: I had found out not long before, by one of those curious coincidences, that one of my first cello teachers was buried there.
As I drove through Suffolk, I noticed the unmistakable yellowing of the countryside that had begun only in the last week. I was pleased by this confirmation that my chosen calendar, the astronomical rather than meteorological, was the more accurate one to follow: summer, as far as I am concerned, begins on the solstice. Of course, the reality is that seasons are constantly on the move and there is no sudden beginning or end to any season. In one year of early heat and dryness summer might seem to begin in May, and in another, it might seem to begin in July.
St Lawrence’s, Little Waldingfield
One blustery Saturday, cello practice was overdue and I wanted to get out of the house, but the idea of visiting a church or two for both purposes was not specific enough for my indecisive state of mind. The only sufficiently compelling destination I could think of was Gestingthorpe, a village beyond Sudbury and just over the border into Essex, where I had been told a medieval kiln firing was taking place that afternoon. I had never heard of such a thing, though my friend Mark assured me it was a fairly regular event. So, being a fan of pottery, I decided to go along and see for myself. The first church along the route that I hadn’t yet visited was Little Waldingfield. If I had the time and desire, I thought, I could afterwards continue on to Great Waldingfield and Acton, although I wasn’t sure how many of them I would find available on a Saturday afternoon at the end of June, when there is often a flurry of weekend village events.
‘… and even now […] the summer mead shines as bright and fresh as when my foot first touched the grass. It has another meaning now; the sunshine and the flowers speak differently, for a heart that has once known sorrow reads behind the page, and sees sadness in joy. But the freshness is still there, the dew washes the colours before dawn. Unconscious happiness in finding wild flowers – unconscious and unquestioning, and therefore unbounded.’
Richard Jeffries, ‘Wild Flowers’ in The Open Air (1885) p.36
8/7/2017 I have a new-found appreciation for thistles: they flowered just in time to teach me a lesson. The day before Steve was due to arrive with his strimmer, I saw that the thistles, towering above my head and taller than I remember them in previous years, were covered in more bumblebees and butterflies than I have seen gathered together anywhere this year. The thistles were crowding over the path, so I would have to have them cut back a little for the welfare of paying guests, but otherwise, I decided, wherever they were not causing trouble, they were staying.
30/5/2017 Spring started early this year, and then thought better of it. The first ducklings in the garden hatched in the first week of April, the day after I spotted the first swallows of the season, at least two weeks earlier than usual. Bluebells in south Suffolk were already putting on an impressive show by Good Friday, with a cuckoo joining in the celebrations; and the cow parsley was in flower well before the end of April. But the weather reverted back to winter around Easter and everything was put on hold. Even the ducklings disappeared after a week and I’ve seen no more since.
Strangely, I didn’t mind in the slightest. I am always wishing that spring would hang on just a little bit longer… and this year my wish came true. If the price to pay is cold weather, I think I’m happy with the trade-off. Though perhaps my guests weren’t. By the time the hawthorn blossom appeared in the hedge, bang on time on the 1st of May, there were still daffodils out by the front pond.
16/3/2017 I always put off the first lawn mowing of the season. It is a fine balance between the joy of welcoming in the new season and banishing the garden’s winter scruffiness, and the danger of mowing too soon when the boggy areas around the pond will be turned into a muddy mess by any attempt to drive the ride-on mower over them, even without using the cutter or sweeper.
But I don’t deceive myself: laziness plays a larger part in the delay. There is preparation work to be done, clearing fallen branches and twigs, removing mole hills and attempting to flatten the endless tunnels under the grass so as not to slice off the surface altogether. And one or two false starts are usually involved: always a flat battery, sometimes a flat tyre, and sometimes I have forgotten to fill up the petrol cans.
Now that having guests makes a tidier garden an imperative, I seem to have finally learnt my lesson and remembered to prepare the mower in good time. A few days of mild and sunny weather have dried out the lawn sufficiently, and the large fallen cedar has just been cleared, so I choose this afternoon to begin my battle with the industrious moles.