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!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wednesday 22 April 2015

In the past few weeks I have been spending a bit more time with my sewing machine again. I had forgotten quite how much I like sewing. Knitting and crochet are a bit more portable and it's something I often do when we're out and about - if we stop for a coffee in town, the kids will go off and have a look at shops they like, leaving me behind with my cappuccino and my knitting. They're also hobbies you can pick up for just a few minutes here or there, but sewing is something you have to make more time for.

I'd had a denim dress cut out for ages, but as it consisted of 20 pattern pieces, I was a bit reluctant to start. Once I got going though, it went together very quickly, and when you can see it coming together and looking how you imagined it, you just can't stop!

I'd finished the dress the day before we went to London and insisted on wearing it, but it was really a bit too cold. It is very light fabric which gives it a nice drape, but although we have had lovely Spring weather, there is still quite a cold breeze too when you'd rather be wearing jeans and a fleece top! I'm hoping to get a lot of wear out of it this summer.

I spotted the red buttons when I was in the fabric shop for some more thread. I tend to wear a lot of blue as it is by far my favourite colour, and I had planned on getting blue buttons to go with it. Red buttons never crossed my mind, but these little flowery ones were so cheerful and actually went really well with it, that I couldn't resist. And then it was only a small step to red shoes... (ha - see what I did there?)

It's a bit of a step out of my comfort zone of jeans and tshirt but I love the dress, it was so much fun to make. The biggest compliment was being told by a friend that she hadn't realised I'd made it.

Talking of making things, this is happening in my conservatory:

16yo and I started a collection of cacti about a year ago, that is now taking over the table (we probably have about 25 of them). In my kindness I managed to kill one, after which I was under strict instructions by 16yo not to water them so often... They obviously like the regime of neglect and sunshine and heat, because this little one is flowering its heart out. And there is another one with buds that are just about to open. It's a different type of cactus and the buds are really unusual, and I can't wait to see what the flowers will be like.

We're in full-blown GCSE revision mode here, with regular Fashion&Textile crises, notes spread all over the house and Post-Its stuck to doors... Another three weeks until the first proper exam!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday 19 April 2015

I'm not quite sure why but I hadn't been out on the bike for a few weeks - I had a few other things on, amongst others a weekend in Derby meeting up with friends from an online group that has been going for years. Was lovely to see them all, catching up, going for an Indian, drinking coffee and doing lots of crocheting.

Now that the evenings are lighter again and yesterday being a lovely Spring day, I got into my lycra as soon as the kids had gone to J.'s and set out, with no real plan of a route. I discovered quite quickly that there was quite a strong easterly breeze, so decided to keep heading east and then at least I'd have the wind in my back on the way home!

I stopped at the church in Bradfield St. George. I've come past this church so many times and have always wanted to have a look around.

It was also a good excuse to catch my breath...
As I wanted to get as many miles covered as possible before it got dark, I only had a brief look around, but it's a very bright, airy church.

I only discovered the guide book hiding under the visitor book as I was about to leave. You can learn a lot from the guide book, even though often they're not very well written and badly photocopied - but they're full of interesting bits of history and tell you about parts of the church that you wouldn't normally notice. A good reason to return soon.

(the little holder on the left of the last photo is for an hour-glass that would show how much longer the sermon would be...)

Onwards, just following a well-known road but not knowing where I'd end up.

Very protective mummy sheep. Lamb refused to look at the camera.

After several miles I found myself in Preston, which is a little village I'd heard of when the children were still at primary school, but had never been to. By now the sun was beginning to set and the evening light was beautiful.

On my way through Preston, I'd cycled past a pub where a wedding reception was taking place, with a barbecue outside, plenty of smartly dressed guests, and a steel band. I could hear the steel band as I was wandering around the graveyard, which felt very surreal - very Suffolk countryside with Caribbean music in the background!

Unfortunately the church was closed already, probably because it was early evening, so this is another one to return to in the future.

From here it was still quite a push to get home before it got dark. I braved half a mile on the main road where my house is. When some boy racer in his clapped-out red BMW decided he needed to overtake another car right in front of me, I realised that the A134 really isn't a road for cyclists. At least there are plenty of countrylanes around here to choose from.

20 miles in total and pleasantly worn out!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Over the past few months, I have joined a number of Facebook groups for photos of the Suffolk countryside and church architecture. I've seen stunning photos, learnt about places I'd never even heard of before and am getting to know some new people.
Recently in the Suffolk churches group, a tour around Ickworth Church was advertised. I knew of Ickworth Church, which is situated in the grounds of Ickworth House, but had never really visited. So I got a couple of tickets and last night 13yo and I drove over at the end of the afternoon. It had been a beautiful, sunny day, almost summery, and it was lovely to walk down from the grand house to the church in the valley below.

We had a quick chat with the tour guide who turned out to be the church coordinator. The church was closed down in the eighties and fell into disrepair. In 2006 the Marquess of Bristol set up the Ickworth Church Conservation Trust with a view to restoring the church, as his ancestors are all buried in the vaults. The restoration started in 2012 and cost more than a million pounds. The church was reopened in 2013 and is now permitted to hold six services each year - the harvest festival, a Christmas carol service and 4 wedding blessings. They regularly hold other events, such as concerts, exhibitions and the tour we were about to do.

There were about 8 of us altogether, mostly volunteers and employees from the National Trust, which was really interesting as they knew quite a bit about the history of the family.

The building has several fascinating parts, such as a rare double piscina but not anywhere near the altar, a squint but so incredibly small that you can't imagine more than one person at the time being able to look through it, and a triple-decker pulpit. The reason the pulpit was so high became clear as we went up in the family pews - which were in the south aisle, completely separate - the only way you could see the priest from there, was if he was on the top deck!
We also had a look in the bell tower and were taken down to the vaults, where all the marquesses and earls, and their wives and children, are buried.

The tour took about an hour and both 13yo and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked it so much that I signed up to become a volunteer - it will be nice to spend a bit more time in a place with so much history.

We were told that the view from the top of the tower is stunning, but weren't allowed up there ourselves. As we walked back to the car, the first thing 13yo said to me was 'I want to go on that roof!' Well, with a bit of luck, they may just let him sometime!