All Saints’, Great Glemham
It was a beautiful, warm day, and the last day of my break in east Suffolk. After a perfect walk through all the habitats Walberswick had to offer, I set off homeward with enough time to visit two churches.
Great Glemham was my first stop, a village known to me only as the location of the Alde Valley Festival in spring, to which I had managed one failed visit with my friend Cristina, neither of us realising it was closed on a Monday. I will make it there one day, especially since there seems now to be an autumn festival as well.
I was surprised when I reached the village: it was not how I imagined it at all, especially after visiting Little Glemham church. It is true, that was a gloomy, rainy day, and today was sunny; but this seemed an altogether brighter and more welcoming place, regardless of the weather. Great Glemham didn’t seem so great, however, either in church or village. In size only, I mean, because I was thoroughly delighted by what I found: a little church in the centre of a small village with pretty rows of cottages on either side of the lane. Thankfully, the A12 seemed not to bother this place in the slightest.
I felt a distinct chill when I entered the church: the first sign that autumn was on its way, I thought. But I soon forgot about the temperature amongst the delights of the seven sacraments font, colourful kneelers, beautiful roof and wonderful acoustic. I had no trouble launching into practice today, and by the time I had finished, I felt warm, with a glow from a lovely place and satisfying practice.
The churchyard was also beautiful. I didn’t remember ever seeing bracken growing in a churchyard before. Many people denounce bracken as an invasive weed – and perhaps if I had to manage it I would agree, but instead I simply enjoyed its happy association with heaths and summer.
I left Great Glemham with many a backward glance, hoping that Parham would be equally charming.
St Mary’s, Parham
Parham came as much of a surprise to me as Great Glemham, although I knew nothing about this village at all. This remote-feeling church sat in a hilly, huge and wild churchyard with wonderful views. The church seemed remarkably large for such a small village, and to have a remarkably high roof for an aisle-less church.
The high roof meant large windows, and they were all clear, allowing light to flood the church. I found stunning graffiti of all kinds on the tower arch. Some were almost certainly drawings but I couldn’t easily interpret them. Others were obvious, including faces, harps, ladders (to heaven?) and possibly the most elaborate ship I have ever seen, with people travelling in it. I sent a photo to my bassoonist friend, Steve. He replied, ‘did you see the anchor?’ I hadn’t noticed it. No detail had been missed in the carving.
Parham was another church with a heavenly acoustic, but I had to make my visit relatively brief, in order to get home in time to give a cello lesson. As I was leaving the church, I saw a sign saying, ‘MIND YOUR HEAD AND SHOULDERS!’ Someone had added in marker pen underneath, ‘AND YOUR SILVIKEIN’. I was puzzled. What on earth could silvikein be? I looked it up afterwards, and the word doesn’t exist. The closest word that does exist is ‘silvikrin’, a brand of hairspray. I laughed.
My visit was no less memorable for its briefness, and Great Glemham and Parham will never again be to me non-places near the A12: they would be the villages of the wonderful churches, the wild churchyard and the ship carving.
Header photo: Great Glemham roof angels