Monday, May 18, 2015

Saturday 16 May 2015

Having taught a knitting class on Saturday last weekend (knitting on a train full of cheery football supporters was interesting!), I didn't get back on time to go for a bike ride in the evening, so I got up early on Sunday morning and was out there by 9AM. It was still quite cloudy when I set out but the sun broke through the clouds and it actually got quite warm. I have a merino wool underlayer, but I think that might need to be retired for the summer!

Because the main road where I live is so busy and really not suitable for cyclists, I try and avoid it as much as I can. I cycled a short stretch of it a few weeks ago but when I found motorists here have no regard or respect for cyclists, I decided this road is out of bounds. It does mean I sometimes have to go a long way round to try to get where I want to go. I suppose it improves my fitness and helps build my muscles!

I had recently seen photos of the interior of the church at Hawstead, and it looked spectacular, unlike anything I'd ever seen before. So that was definitely on the route, but as I had several hours, it turned into a much longer route with Hawstead as the last church.

I started off in Stanningfield. Here I managed to put my foot in the deepest puddle ever - so I ended up cycling with one very wet foot... not pleasant!

It was on to Lawshall, where in the church I found a monument to a fellow countryman. I had no idea that the Dutch fought alongside the British in the second world war. So poignant, especially as he was killed so close to the end of the war too (the Dutch still celebrate the end of the war on 5 May, Liberation Day).

It doesn't happen very often but Lawshall church failed to charm me. Most of the time when I step inside or even when I spot a church from a distance, something will make me smile. Not so here. I don't think there was a church guide either. Maybe I need to go back and spend a bit more time there.

The next stop was Brockley. This is an odd village - the church and the manor house are completely separate from the rest of the village, which is further south. It is very peaceful and quiet though.
A service had just finished and they were still clearing up, so I got invited in to have a look around.

The porch and ironwork date back to the 15th century (hope I got that right...), and it might not everybody's taste but I liked the yellow inside.

On my way back to the road I spotted this. I had no idea what it was, it was just lying there by the side of the path, but not hidden at all so almost as if it was left as a photography object! I posted it on a Facebook photography group where I thought someone would know what it is, and it turns out to be a boiler from a steam engine. Mysterious!

Next stop was Rede. It doesn't really show from the photos very well but the church has a very slender tower, very elegant. The coloured houses are right next door to the church - I wondered if they talk to each other every year: what colour are you going for this year?

After something to eat (those Suffolk hills make you hungry) I cycled on to Whepstead.

Unfortunately this one was closed. The photo of the interior was taken looking through a window. The lead glass window above was in the porch.

And the last stop was Hawstead. If I'd visited it at the start of the ride, I wouldn't have done many miles more - there is SO much to see... it is completely bonkers. Wherever you turn there are monuments. It reminded me of a garish circus or fairground.

There are about 40 monuments, each more spectacular and over the top than its neighbour. The poem on the monument in the top photo is most likely by Donne, as he was friends with the father of the (14 year old) girl buried here.

It does make you wonder how this church came to be so over the top. Were they all showing off? Keeping up with each other? Rich benefactors?

I had to get back home as I had something else on later that afternoon, but I'm definitely going back here one day to spend more time looking around and finding out more about its history. The church made me smile the rest of the day though.

And this made me smile too on my way out of the churchyard - someone with a sense of humor? Madly in love?

In the afternoon I helped out at a concert of the Aquarius singers at Ickworth Church. They were fantastic and it was great to see the church full of people. Afterwards there was a glass of white wine and as it was such a nice sunny evening, we all went outside in front of the church. There is another concert in June, but this time by a male choir. Fingers crossed for more sunny weather!

I have been knitting and sewing as much as always, but nothing to show at the moment, as two items were presents not yet received. The other is my fishing gansey blanket that I'm a bit behind on. Now that the presents are out of the way though, I can get on with it again. 14 blocks out of 25 are done, so over halfway now, and still enjoying every single block.
And with GCSE exam season now having started and me being almost as nervous as 16yo, I do need my knitting to keep the nerves at bay...

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Last weekend was a long weekend in the UK, the May Bank Holiday. One of the best things about going to bed on Friday night is switching off the alarm clock, but even better is not having to set it again on Sunday night, knowing that you have another full day off work.

The weekend was full of simple pleasures - having 16yo with me most of the weekend, 13yo winning a squash tournament for the first time (he went from losing all his matches in his previous two tournaments to winning every single one in this one!), good food, a nice bike ride, even though it was a bit of a push to make it home before it was dark, spending a few hours both on Sunday and Monday at Ickworth Church and learning more about its history, hearing a cuckoo in Ickworth Park and last but not least, a few hours on the beach at Felixstowe.

16yo is spending increasing amounts of time revising. I think by the end of the weekend she was ready for a bit of a break, so she'd asked to come to Felixstowe with us. Not sure if it was the lure of the beach or the chips at the cafe there! It had been a lovely sunny day all day but as we drove down the A14, it became very overcast and we even had some spots of rain. According to the local weather forecast, it was supposed to be raining heavily in Felixstowe - not really beach weather! Fortunately, when we arrived, it was dry, if a bit colder than I'd hoped.

We started off with a slap-up meal at the Landguard Point cafe. I really think you have to go for a bracing walk first, but as the cafe closes at 6, we decided to eat first and then walk. The nice thing was that it was much quieter by now, most visitors had gone home and we had the beach almost to ourselves. We watched a Holland America Line cruise ship leave Felixstowe

and then walked towards the old jetty where we can normally find a starfish or two.

What I like about Felixstowe is its total lack of obvious tourism. It's not particularly pretty, there aren't miles of sandy beaches or pastel coloured seafront cottages, but it is nice and quiet, you can watch the big cranes and container ships, and it's perfect for a bit of fresh seaside air.

Last night we also watched the Stenaline ferry from Hoek van Holland come in

I was told 'not to wave'.... Don't you just love teenagers?

By now we were all getting quite cold, so we wandered back to the car park.
In the car on the way home, with a sneaky icecream, we all agreed that even though we'd only been out for a few hours and we had only had three days off, it felt as though we'd been on holidays.

I'm sure it won't be our last visit to Felixstowe this summer!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Last week we had beautiful weather all week. Sunshine, blue skies, soaring temperatures. We drank tea and had meals outside in the garden, and 13yo and I did a fair bit of gardening too. But as is so often the case, the weather turned for the weekend and I woke up to rain and much lower temperatures on Saturday morning. Quite good weather to spend the morning in a knitting cafe then!

I still managed to get out in the fresh air though. Late Saturday afternoon the weather cleared, leaving some blustery blue skies. So I got out the bike and decided to head towards Woolpit, a pretty village about 10 miles east of where I live.

Pretty thatched cottage with Felsham church in background

I stopped in Rattlesden, another village I've driven through many times, always thought it was pretty but never stopped. The church is on a hill overlooking the village

It's a beautiful church, very richly decorated for such a small village. The only drawback of going for a bike ride at the end of the afternoon/early evening is that most churches are locked up and I can only look around outside, and not really find out anything about its history.

There was obviously a porch here before, but why and when did it go?

Just outside Rattlesden, next to the village sign

is the first Suffolk hill that has defeated me. I had to get off the bike and walk. It was actually so embarassing that every time a car came past, I pretended to be looking at the view down to the valley - how silly is that!

From Rattlesden it wasn't far to Woolpit. This village has a church that you can see for miles around and as I'd recently seen some photos of its interior, I wanted to go and have a look.

This church was still open, but there was a service going on and I never feel comfortable looking around during a service in my cycling clothes. There was plenty to see outside though.

I am still not sure if he is a green man... that elusive green man! Apparently I have photographed green men before, but that was before I realised what they were. Now I know what they are, I can't find them...

On one of the FB photography groups I belong to, I was told about the green children of Woolpit - apparently one day two children appeared in the village, looking like perfectly normal children, apart from their green skin. They spoke no understandable language, but were taken in by Sir Richard de Calne of Wykes in his house north of Woolpit. The boy died young, but the girl grew up and when she'd learnt to speak English, she claimed to have come from some underground fairy world. Lovely legend!

Very wonky chimney on house next to churchyard

From Woolpit I headed back home via Drinkstone, Beyton and Hessett. 

Drinkstone had a neglected mill - right in someone's garden!

And Beyton has one of the few circular church towers in Suffolk - they are pretty much only seen in East Anglia, but mostly in Norfolk. There are only a few in Suffolk.

Poor bike, seemingly slung against the fencing! 

Made it home dry, an hour later it was chucking it down with rain. Another 20 miles done.

Sunday morning was yet again wet and blustery. I'd arranged to meet up with H, my friend from knitting group, for tea, cake and knitting. We had a second breakfast with scones and boterkoek, and decided to take her dog Lupin off for a nice brisk walk to work off those calories. 

The beautiful mansion is Columbine Hall, a house in private hands but open for viewing by invitation and for weddings, concerts and other events.

Stowupland is in gently rolling countryside, and the rapeseed is in full bloom at the moment (no wonder poor 16yo can't stop sneezing).

H. says he's only looking well-behaved because she was trying to get him to look at the camera with a piece of livercake. I know better - he is a very well-behaved dog!

In the afternoon I had my first session as volunteer for Ickworth Church. I knew the church is without heating/electricity, but after a couple of hours inside, boy was I cold! It was much warmer outside, and that was with autumnal temperatures...

I'm sure I'm going to bore this blog silly with photos of this church... I'm enjoying the volunteering, which really is just a sort of meet and greet, telling visitors about the history of the church. Lots to learn and remember still! There is a concert in a fortnight where I'm helping out. It'll be interesting to see the church being used by lots of people.

I'd gone out in the morning knowing I wouldn't be back till late afternoon, and had set both the slow cooker and the bread-maker, so we could eat pretty much as soon as we came in. The house smelt mouth-wateringly nice!

Chicken legs with chorizo sausages and pork belly, with salad and homemade bread. Yum. Dessert was apple custard but although that tasted good too, it looked so revolting that I didn't dare take a photo...

Batteries well and truly recharged for the week ahead!