Suffolk churches 66: Badwell Ash and Wattisfield (April 2018)

St Mary’s, Badwell Ash
Outdoor temperature: 17.9˚C; indoor temperature: 11.4˚C, humidity 62%

I went back to the same area on my next excursion. I don’t often do this on consecutive outings, but it wasn’t too far away from home, and there were several churches in the vicinity that I hadn’t yet been to. The main reason for my choice, however, was instinctual not logical. Only with some thought have I worked out that the drive and the area have pleasant associations for me, of days out and adventures. With few exceptions, I have taken this route only for leisure purposes, so the journey itself feels relaxing rather than a chore.

Badwell AshI had been to Badwell Ash before, so I knew that the church was in the middle of the village. But I didn’t remember that its setting was thoroughly lovely and contributed greatly to the friendly feel of the village. There is no doubt that spring flowers and sunshine also helped.

Badwell Ash interior Badwell Ash interior 2

Badwell Ash roofTBadwell Ash bench endhe interior of the church was welcoming and well cared for, but just two weeks later it is already blending into many other such church interiors and won’t remain in my memory for long. I was surprised to read that the large angels on the roof were the medieval originals – they were in pristine condition – but then I have never really understood what ‘restored’ means when applied to the Victorians’ work on churches. I suspect it is sometimes a euphemism for ‘replaced’.

I didn’t realise quite how warm a day it was until I went outside to take the temperature towards the end of my visit; perhaps that was why I had felt so cold indoors despite the relatively mild conditions. I had a quiet and productive stay at Badwell Ash, and, apart from the distress of not being able to reach a butterfly fluttering in the clerestory, I left feeling positive about both my cello practice and my afternoon’s outing.

St Margaret’s, Wattisfield
Indoor temperature: 10.9˚C, humidity: 68%
Stanton grundleAfterwards I drove to Walsham le Willows (sometimes written Walsham-le-Willows, a name which I never cease to find rather pleasantly odd). I found a rehearsal in progress for an evening concert there, so I continued on to Wattisfield. This village, I felt, was similar in size and character to nearby Stanton. The other thing these two villages have in common is that they both possess ‘grundles’, a delightful word which I am sorely tempted to leave without explanation. Reluctantly, however, I feel obliged to explain that these are holloways: historic footpaths or roads that have worn away over the centuries, becoming, in places, several metres lower than the surrounding land. The grundles at these two locations are by far the most impressive I have yet encountered, and this area of north Suffolk has always retained for me the sense of excitement and adventure I experienced when visiting the holloways with my friend Mark. (Photo right: Stanton grundle)

I was glad to be at a small church again. It seemed that all my recent visits had been to larger churches with at least one aisle; and, generally, the smaller churches are, the more I like them. Walsham le Willows probably would have been the largest of them all, so once I’d arrived at Wattisfield I was quite glad in retrospect that I was forced to leave it for another day.

WattisfieldWattisfield was set in a triangular, sloping, primrose-filled churchyard in the middle of the village. Outside the porch was a sign that stated, ‘peace and quiet available inside’. I experienced a moment’s guilt that I would be temporarily turning the sign into an untruth, but quickly concluded that if I was the only person there, I could hardly be disturbing anyone’s peace and quiet.

Wattisfield interior Wattisfield interior 2

Wattisfield fontWattisfield chestI enjoyed the feel of the building so much that I quickly dismissed any thought of rushing on to a third church this afternoon, and resolved to stay here instead. The church’s appeal, for me, was its size and general character rather than its possession of outstanding features, though I did like the font and old chest. My favourite detail, however, was the highly elaborate graffiti on the tower arch. Standing back a little, it looked as though it could have been an official part of the church decorations. I couldn’t tell what the graffiti signified – though one bore some resemblance to an arrowhead – but someone, or several people, had clearly spent a long time working on it.

Wattisfield graffiti Wattisfield graffiti 2

I thoroughly enjoyed my practice, which lasted more than an hour, until I was forced to stop due to a dinner invitation from neighbours that evening. I wandered around the churchyard before leaving, marvelling at the profusion of every possible colour of primrose.

Header photo: Badwell Ash angels

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