Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Last Saturday, I helped out at a Knit and Natter day at Kentwell Hall. Although Kentwell Hall is just down the road from where I live, I can only remember visiting once, probably at a similar time of the year as it was to see all the lambs. It was so foggy that you couldn't see the house at all. It was years ago, when the children were still small and you try and find things to do with them because staying cooped up at home drives you crazy.
Someone from knitting group is very much involved with the re-enactment society at Kentwell Hall and asked recently if anybody wanted to come to the Knit and Natter day that was being organised. If visitors brought their knitting, they'd get a free coffee and piece of cake, with volunteers also on hand to help teach. For us it meant a day of knitting, with tea and cake and good company - what's not to like!
Unfortunately when I got there, it turned out the location was just too cold - an open barn with a tent attached to it, but no heating and no electricity. So we ended up in the cafe, which was warmer and smelt delicious with hot coffee and cakes and lunchtime foods. The Knit and Natter event was going to run all weekend and I only helped on Saturday, but we didn't have that much interest. I don't think the event was that well known and most visitors were young families coming to see the baby animals, like I did all those years ago. A few people would look over and smile, but not really come over.
Still, it was a day's guilt-free knitting with friends, which I'm not complaining about! Besides, I got the chance to have a wander round and take a look at the house, and buy some of the wool from Kentwell's own sheep for my knitalong blanket.

I thought the house was National Trust or English Heritage property, but it turned out it's in private hands, bought 40 years ago as a near-derelict building and since been done up. No wonder they organise plenty of events to get the public in - it must cost a fortune to maintain a house of this size.

The back of the house isn't nearly as pretty - it was the servants' entrance, so didn't need to impress...

The house doesn't open to the public until Easter but there is another Knit and Natter event planned for June when they hold the sheep shearing weekend. I'm hoping to be involved in that one too and then maybe get the chance to visit the inside of the house.

On Sunday I'd arranged to meet a friend for coffee and a long overdue chat in Ipswich. I'm still not back to sleeping very well (very frustrating for someone who normally sleeps like a log, and the world doesn't feel like a nice place at 5am) and was awake so early on Sunday morning, that I was out on the bike by 8.30am. I knew I only had a couple of hours so I'd planned a vague route the night before.

This is St. Clare at Bradfield St. Clare. There is a better view without the hedge in front, but I quite like how you can see the church through the bare trees still. In another month or so the buildings will be hidden.

Then onto Gedding. The map didn't really show a church as such, just a little plus sign which usually means a chapel of some sorts. But hidden behind a hedge in a turn of the road was St. Mary.

Sadly the church had no leaflet with information which is unusual. These often hand-typed leaflets can contain lots of history and other little facts that you wouldn't notice if you walked around just looking. I've even learnt some church architecture from them. I'd really like to learn more though. One day, when a day miraculously contains more hours!

The map also showed Gedding Hall, with a moat around it. It wasn't really on my route but I'd already spotted a large country house from the graveyard so decided to cycle up to see if I could get a better look.

This was the best view I could get. When I got home, I looked it up and it turns out it belongs to Bill Wyman, but in the past it was allegedly used by the Kray brothers as hide-out.

Next was St. Mary at Brettenham. The tower is in an unusual position and seems to take the place of what is normally the south porch. A service was just starting with several very well-dressed people attending - I felt out of place even in the graveyard, so decided to put this one on my list of churches to come back to in the future.

Another St. Mary and the last church of the ride - this is at Thorpe Morieux (pronounced M'roo). By now I was running out of time so I didn't even stop to look at the exterior but pedalled on towards home.

My house is on a busy main road which is not really designed for cyclists. If I want to avoid it, I have to start my bike rides down a fairly steep hill. Which is lovely at the start but also means that coming home, I have to go UP that hill. Suffolk really is hillier than Norfolk and this hill is a bit of a killer when you've already done several miles. I'm proud to say I've not had to get off the bike and walk yet!
A nice 18 mile ride.

After putting the world to rights with my friend in the very overpriced Suffolk Food Hall (the view is great though), I came home and made what 15yo later described as 'chocolate brownie cake'. Yum.

Another few days until the children break up for Easter. They both have their birthday in the holidays, which means I'll have two proper teenagers at home. I'm sure there will be more cake, although having said that, 12yo has asked for trifle for his birthday cake. I suppose it makes a change...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday 16 March 2015

After all the emotional upheaval of the last month or so, at some point it was bound to happen that tiredness would hit me. Apart from a few days' sick leave back in February and a day off work for dad's operation, I've carried on working. And although it's not always been easy and my concentration hasn't always been what it should be, being at work provides a sense of normality and routine that I've very much needed. However, there is only so strong I can be, and by Friday afternoon I was completely shattered. I could just about face the commute from Cambridge back home, but for the next 48 hours or so I had no energy for anything else. I'd made a list of things I wanted to do over the weekend and did the bare necessities, but apart from that, did little more than sit on the sofa.

One of the things on my list was a bike ride on Sunday, but the weather forecast wasn't particularly good. By Sunday morning I'd managed to catch up on some sleep though and when I went briefly outside to the wheeliebins, I noticed it wasn't a bad temperature at all. It didn't take me long to find my cycling leggings and merino top and twenty minutes later I was out in the fresh air, intending to explore the Towers and Spires cycling tour. I'd picked up a leaflet in a church a while back and as the starting point for the ride wasn't that far away from me, plus plenty of options to shorten the route should the weather turn horrible, it sounded like a good one to try out.

Only two miles down the road I turned off and found myself on a little countrylane I'd not known before. I've lived in Suffolk 20 years but have never really cycled here, and it's the perfect way of getting to know my own county a bit better.

The first church, St. Nicholas in Rushbrooke, wasn't actually part of the tour but it was one that was worth visiting anyway. From the outside it doesn't look much different from so many other churches in Suffolk, but the inside was a real surprise...

 I've never seen a small country church before where the pews were 'collegiate' style. Apparently a lot of work was done by a Captain Rushbrooke in the 19th century - he lived in the Hall that burnt down in a mysterious fire. At the western end was what looked like an organ, but apparently all the pipes are made of wood and painted - I had no idea until I read up about this church on the fabulous Suffolk Churches website!

Onwards towards Bury St. Edmunds. The route was a combination of National Cycle Route 13 and 51 - part of which 12yo and I had done a few weeks ago in Felixstowe. I was pleasantly surprised to find that around Bury St. Edmunds, there are several dedicated cycle paths. The UK has a long way to go where cycling safety is concerned, but Bury is doing a great job.

The route took me through the Abbey Gardens and past the cathedral, where I've walked and driven countless times before. It was very quiet, only about 10am, and lovely to ride where it's normally busy with people.

Left Bury by re-tracing my 'steps' and then rode towards Great Barton which has a very large church. I'd meant to go and have a look but as there was a service just finishing and I was in my cycling clothes, I didn't feel comfortable enough to go in. Onwards towards Pakenham - this was a hard part of the ride as it was all open countryside, heading east into a bitterly easterly wind. The church there was well worth the effort though.

Another first for me: a cruciform church - the tower in the middle rather than on the western end. It also sits high up on a hill, overlooking the village. Entrance was through the north porch which along with the position of the tower confused me a bit!

The interior was having work done and unfortunately a lot of the interesting parts were covered up. I really liked the colours in the chancel, it created a very different atmosphere and blue and yellow are my favourite colours anyway.

From Pakenham the route led down to Tostock but as the weather was turning colder and threatening with rain and my thighs were beginning to protest at the Suffolk hills, I decided to ride home from here. 27 miles in total, and plenty of the route left to see, so that's another ride sorted out.

The fresh air had done me good and with it my interest in cooking, which had disappeared in February, returned. It was Mother's Day in the UK yesterday, but rather than expect my two to cook, I quite enjoyed cooking a meal for them.
I'd read the Observer magazine on the ferry a while back, which had an 'easy midweek' supper by Nigel Slater - baked camembert with hasselback potatoes.


Not sure why I've never tried baked cheese before! I suspect that I have to cycle another 27 miles to work off all those calories...
And I'd promised 12yo that I'd make the cinnamon swirls from the latest Tesco magazine, so that's what we had for afters. Quite a lot of work but good fun and according to 15yo, they could have come straight from a bakery. In fact, she said straight from Wholefoods - well, if that isn't a compliment :-) 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Spending a few days in the Netherlands to help my dad recover from an operation (all going well - I'm hoping to travel back to the UK in the next couple of days). Not had much chance for photography, what with work and hospital visits and catching up with friends, but the weather has turned decidedly Spring like while I've been away. Still have dewy mornings though, and this morning I couldn't resist taking a photo of his barn owl statue on his balcony...
(ETA: just been told this is a long eared owl, not a barn owl - you learn something new every day!)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sunday 1 March 2015

Earlier this week I agreed to meet up today with a friend from knitting group who has three dogs, and join her on her walk. Some fresh air never fails to make you feel better. As she doesn't live that far away from me, I thought rather than drive down to hers, I'd get on the bike and cycle there. Bit like a biathlon - bike, walk, bike!

It was a beautiful, sunny morning, just rather windy. Which was fine on the way there, as I was headed west, but coming back was hard work... and it turns out Suffolk's a bit hillier than Norfolk too!

Eight miles on the bike, 2 or 3 mile walk with dogs, cup of tea with German apple cake, 11 miles on the bike returning home. Good to be out there.