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.
St Martin’s, Exning
It was the day of my concert in Newmarket, so I decided to make the most of the journey by practising beforehand in a church nearby. Exning was all of five minutes from St Mary’s, and I had already been told by its rector, whom I met at the concert I gave in Dalham, that it was open during the summer. A more convenient warm up location would be hard to find.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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%
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.
There have been one or two of those inexplicable gremlins at work. Almost simultaneously, I discovered that my photos of Hartest church were nowhere to be found on my camera, and that my phone had suddenly decided to delete all the photos on it. Dalham and Great Finborough churches were the only two churches I took photos of on my phone instead of camera. I have only one photo remaining, of the view from Dalham church, which I sent to a friend. I haven’t yet had time to revisit these three churches, but photos will be added here as soon as I do.
All Saint’s, Hartest
A concert in Hartest church had been on the books since last summer, and I was looking forward to it. I had resisted going inside before, even though I had driven through the lovely village of Hartest several times. Perhaps Cavendish is the ‘postcard’ Suffolk village, but to my mind, Hartest village green is far lovelier: smaller and therefore more intimate, and lined with mismatched, leaning old houses of many different colours. The church is on one corner of the green, next to the pub, where I enjoyed a good lunch during one of my previous outings to west Suffolk churches.
St Mary’s, Cavendish
Indoor temperature: 19.5˚C, humidity: 69%
I had an appointment in Glemsford to pick up some relatives of Badger the Rat who were coming to live with me, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to visit Cavendish and Clare churches on the way. They are two contrasting villages along the upper reaches of the Stour much frequented by tourists, and rightly so. Cavendish possesses one of the most picturesque village greens in the county. I knew the main route through the village well, as this was my father’s preferred driving route from London, and I had made a couple of visits to the cane furniture shop, from which he bought a few chairs. Although it’s likely I must have visited the church at least once during my childhood, I didn’t remember it, nor its location.