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A journey in reverse.

A journey in reverse.

No, I don't mean that I was walking (or driving) backwards but that a walk I have done before from Tollesbury to Salcott I was going to do the other way round and there's a reason for that.

Earlier today there was a jumble sale in Salcott, a village near us, which Amanda wanted to visit. So we both went to Salcott in her car and she went off in one direction to the village hall and I went in the other direction towards the marshes. She was going to drive to Tollesbury when she had finished with the jumble sale.

We parked outside the church and Amanda went off behind the camera and I headed further along the lane. It may be worth mentioning that I didn't have my camera with me and I was going to use my 'phone instead. This is where I started.

It's not a long walk to the end of the lane and I was soon at the edge of the field looking across a sea of mud to the sea wall. At least the mud didn't extend across the whole of the field. The sea wall is the darker band on the horizon.

You may notice that there is some sun which is nice but it's forecast not to last. I reached the far side of the field and climbed up onto the sea wall and looked out over the salt marshes.

I set off on the wall to the right and soon came to the first bend and the first gate. The gates are not to hinder people but to prevent cattle movement. They can't work out how to open gates you know (the cattle not the people).

That stuff under the gate has the consistency of thick porridge but it isn't porridge, oh no, it's mud. Well it is November. I squelch onwards.

The main channel swings over towards the wall and joins me which makes a nice change of scenery together with numerous water fowl.

A little further on the channel starts to move away again. Is it trying to tell me something?

Oi! Wait a minute. Where's the sun gone? It was shining from over my right shoulder a minute ago now it's gone. When I look over said shoulder I see a large bank of dark grey cloud moving across the sun. I think that's a bit poor.

As I approach the next bend and the next gate I see a small flock of geese flying in my direction just as I reach the bend I see them land in a field then I notice why. The field is covered in geese from end to end. All those little black spots are Brent geese.

I continue past the field of geese cackling away (the geese not me) and eventually I see a gate ahead where my path leaves the wall and goes off to the right across the marsh.

I go through the small gate, down the side of the wall to the large gate at the lower level then over the stile next to the large gate to continue on the path beyond. It has taken me a half hour so far.

The walk across the marshes is uneventful and I soon arrive at the sea wall on the far side.

Up onto that wall, through the gate and off to the right.

Those strange structures across the channel I suspect are there to calm the water. I set off as I've a way to go yet and Amanda is driving to Tollesbury after the Jumble Sale, parking in Tollesbury and setting off to meet me from the opposite end.

I spot Old Hall Farm in the distance which slowly gets nearer and I've been going just over an hour now.

Not long after passing Old Hall Farm I meet up with Amanda and the sun comes out again. Perhaps it's just that being with Amanda makes everything seem brighter. We still have some distance to go and it seems even more when the path stretches in front, seemingly, for ever.

The view to our right looked rather atmospheric especially as the sun was quite low in the sky by this time.

After a while we rounded a bend and saw the red lightship in Tollesbury some way ahead.

It wasn't far from there to the car and to the end of my/our walk. It had been a pleasant walk with a very light breeze and I had sun at the beginning and at the end. Can't have everything I suppose.

Why am I writing this? Who wants to look at boring pictures of an Essex marsh anyway? Is there anyone out there? Hello! Hello! I thought not – nobody there. It makes me feel like Marvin in the Hitchhikers Guide to the galaxy. smilies


A Musical Soiree

A Musical Soiree

Pamela has been a very good friend of ours for many years and she has a birthday coming up which will mark yet another decade so she decided that a celebration was in order which she described as 'A musical soiree'. She lives in Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk and plays the bassoon.

So it was that last Saturday we headed 50 miles north to Bury St. Edmunds first on the A12 then the A14. The A14 approaches Bury St. Edmunds from the east and about 7 miles east of Bury St. Edmunds is the small village of Woolpit where we decided to stop to have lunch and a look around.

Woolpit's history goes back at least two thousand years and this shows the centre of the village with some of the ancient, timber-framed buildings and the church tower showing over the top.

This is a closer view of the old village water pump shown on the left in the previous picture.

There were other rather nice buildings scattered around the village.

After our walk round we went into the Teacups Tearooms, the red building, in the next photograph, partly hidden by a silver car. They provide light lunches such as salads and sandwiches, which can be toasted, as well as tea, coffee and cold drinks.

Amanda had a savoury flan salad which she said was very nice and I had a toasted sandwich which I liked very much. We followed that with some cake which was delicious.

There were cars parked everywhere in the village today which may be partly due to it being the weekend when a lot of the residents will be at home and also because there was an art and crafts exhibition in the church. Under those circumstances it wasn't really worth me taking photographs inside as the interior was covered in stands of various types.

It didn't, however, stop me taking a few pictures outside.

Woolpit is a very small village with an extraordinarily large and impressive church with what must have been some very expensive features. Take the porch as an example.

That chequered pattern on the side wall is known as Flushwork and must have been expensive to create. Look at the numerous carvings and embellishments on the porch and the top of the tower. They wouldn't have been cheap. Just below the roof line there are small windows using flushwork again. Here is a closer look.

This money would probably have come from the very wealthy wool merchants which were prevalent in Suffolk during the medieval period. The roof inside was also exceptionally well decorated but we will have to make a return visit to photograph that.

Having had lunch Amanda decided that she would like to have a look around the art and crafts exhibition in the church and I decided to walk to Drinkstone to see if I could find the two windmills.

The walk entailed going down Rag Lane to the end, along a public footpath across some fields then along a country road. This is the veiw I had going across the fields.

Can you see the post mill on the right (without sails) and the smock mill on the left (also without sails)? I was obviously on the right track. Those black cows with a white band round their middle are Belted Galloways.

I was, eventually, able to get this close to the smock mill.

The post mill was further back on private property so the best I could do was this.

Not quite so good. It's a shame that neither mill has its sails. I started back for Woolpit and as I came back along Rag Lane I caught these two views.

We decided to head for Bury St. Edmunds but instead of taking the easy route along the A14 we chose to meander through the country lanes. As we were passing through Beyton we saw this church and so stopped.

We could see inside that it had obviously been renovated, probably in Victorian times, and decided that there was not much of interest. WRONG!

It turns out that, for example, although all the quire stalls look fairly modern some of them are actually medieval and some are modern reproductions. In the next photograph the stalls on the left are medieval and the one on the right is a Victorian reproduction. There is a noticable, although not marked, difference in colour.

We moved onward and stopped again in the village of Rougham. They also had a large imposing church although not quite of the same standard as Woolpit.

There was some noticable decoration around the top of the tower. That panel in the centre appears to be text but we couldn't read it. Latin perhaps?

We decided to move on to Bury St. Edmunds. Pamela was holding her soiree at the Manor House, Nowton Court on the outskirts of Bury St. Edmunds and we were also staying the night at the same place which was very convenient.

It turned out to be a lovely 19th century building in large grounds with some exceptional trees. It was also very quiet.

In the second picture above we had our breakfast the next day in the lower part of the two storey bay window on the right so that we were looking out into these grounds.

However back to today. We were shown to our room which was very nicely appointed, settled in and then went outside for a quick look round.

It'll do.

An hour or so later we went down the rather imposing staircase, which I suspect they had built especially for us, to join the reception.

There was champagne which I tried (it's a long time since I had any) and it confirmed my previous memory of it – I can't see why anyone would get excited about it.

After a lot of chatting we moved off to the function room. I should point out that Pamela, being a musician, has a lot of musician friends so she had arranged a group of her friends to form a small orchestra of about 20 instruments which was the musical part of the soiree. The main piece was a serenade by Brahms in five movements, which I hadn't heard before and was very nice indeed.

I was very interested, as I'd never sat quite so close to an orchestra before, to see how the musicians played each of their instruments. There were violas, cellos, a double bass, flutes, oboes, bassoons and french horns. Amanda and I both thought that it really was very good.

There was then a long break where we all descended on the buffet like a plague of locusts which we did very well. One thing about this place is that they do know how to produce good food.

By now some of the musicians had had to leave but there were enough left to form a 'wind' octet of pairs of flutes, oboes, bassoons and french horns. We were then treated to two short pieces the last of which was the Teddy Bears Picnic.

It was now about 11:00 PM and the Soiree had now ended so we went to our room and went to bed after a very, very enjoyable evening.

Next morning we had our breakfast looking out of the window onto the sunny lawn – super.

Our plans were that after breakfast we would set off for home going via Sudbury where we would stop to have a look round. By the time we'd arrived in Sudbury the sun had gone and we found that we were both feeling rather lethargic so we cut our visit short. We'll go again another time. I did take a few photographs as a taster.

The last picture is the Mill Theatre.

We'll take you another time.


Our trip is at an end.

Our trip is at an end.

… and to be more precise it's at Audley End. As you all probably know (Who am I kidding?) 'end' is the Saxon word for 'home' and this was Thomas Audley's home.

Not a bad home eh? These Jacobean piles are two a penny around here (Essex and Suffolk) and this one is on the outskirts of Saffron Walden in Essex about a 70 minute drive from us.

There are also a number of other 'ends' around here. I remember coming past Cole End on the way; there is Sparrows End a little south of here near Wendens Ambo (of which more later) and there is a Duck End in Finchingfield.

Audley End was originally the site of a Benedictine monastery (Walden Abbey), granted to the Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas Audley in 1538 by Henry VIII but was later converted to a domestic house for him, known as Audley Inn. That dwelling was later demolished by his grandson, Thomas Howard (the first Earl of Suffolk and Lord Treasurer), and a much grander mansion was built, primarily for entertaining King James I.

The layout reflects the processional route of the King and Queen, each having their own suite of rooms. It is reputed that Thomas Howard told King James he had spent some £200,000 on creating this grand house, and it may be that the King had unwittingly contributed. In 1619, Suffolk and his wife were found guilty of embezzlement (oops!) and sent to the Tower of London. However, a huge fine secured their release, but Suffolk died in disgrace at Audley End in 1626.

Sir John Griffin, later fourth Baron Howard de Walden and first Baron Braybrooke, introduced sweeping changes in 1762, in particular, the commissioning of Capability Brown to landscape the parkland.

The house is now only a third of the size of the original and is in the ownership of English Heritage although the contents are owned by the current Lord Braybrooke.

We arrived about 10:30 in the morning on a fine sunny day. The first thing that we noticed was this astonishing topiary hedge grown from Yew and Box. It's really quite, er, lumpy.

I don't know why it's been trimmed this way but I'm certainly glad that I don't have to maintain it.

As the sun was at the back of the house we decided to start there. Those bright blue flowers are Forget-me-not and, I assume, a cultivated variety rather than the wild one as the wild ones are a paler blue.

On the high ground behind the house is the Temple of Concord built in 1790 in honour of George III.

After coming down off the high ground we went back to the front of the house and beyond into the parkland then down to the River Cam, which runs through the estate, where we saw the Adam Bridge designed by Robert Adam who also remodelled a number of the reception rooms in the house. Ducks? What ducks? Oh, those ducks. They were making their way towards a lady with a pram hoping that she might be a provider of food. They were out of luck. They obviously didn't like the look of me.

At this point we were very close to the Old Stables and yet another bridge.

That person lurking on the very right-hand edge of the picture is Amanda. She does a very good lurk. You may also notice that there is a black swan nibbling grass on the bank.

These are the Old Stables. Quite fancy for stables.

We continued along by the river until we reached the Victorian Kitchen Gardens and they were vast.

That is Amanda disappearing rapidly into the distance being 'pulled' by the attraction of two very large greenhouses.

See, I told you, she couldn't wait to get inside but I managed to get to the larger of the greenhouses first with its pretty amazing display of Schizanthus (the poor man's orchid).

Ater leaving the Kitchen Garden we found ourselves in the Pond Garden.

That figure is Amanda trying to get away from me as usual. Is she trying to tell me something?

There are two rectangular ponds with, in the dark shadows at the end, a large vertical rockery of ferns and shamrocks. There was also a solitary duck in the far pond and the water level was quite low down and we did wonder if the duck would be able to take off and fly as there wasn't much room but we were also sure that the staff would be used to that sort of occurance and would rescue the duck if need be.

After leaving this garden we emerged into the Elysian Garden with a number of very large trees of which this mighty specimen was one. Amanda thought it was an Oriental Plane.

The little building over the stream is the Tea House Bridge designed by Robert Adam.

We had managed to choose a day, unknowingly, when entrance to the house was by guided tour only. They apparently also have what they call 'free flow' entry which means that you can wander round at your own pace but not today. In either case photography in the house is prohibited and, needless to say, that annoyed me greatly.

It will probably annoy many other people as well. We got just 30 minutes for our tour which is not a lot for the entry charge. At one time it was possible to pay to enter the gardens only but that does not now seem to be available so bear in mind that almost half the charge was for the house and you may get only 30 minutes for your money. There is nothing on the English Heritage web site, that I can see, about Audley End that mentions the two types of access to the house.

So once again we have no interior photographs.

After we left Audley End we travelled the few miles to Wendens Ambo. The name originates from the joining of two villages, Great Wenden and Little Wenden to form Wendens Ambo where Ambo means both Wendens. There is a railway station within the village, Audley End, which is the nearest station to Audley End House two miles away and habitation here dates back to Roman times.

This is the view from just inside the churchyard.

and this is the church. A rather cute little church and quite old. It seems to have been built about the time Domesday Book was written (1086 A.D.) with later additions in the 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th centuries.

There was a fragment of a wall painting dating from about 1330 in the Chancel.

The church organ casing dates from the late 1700s

and the Chancel Screen dates from the 15th century.

Amanda, shown on the other side of the screen, does not date from the 15th century.

We went home.


This really was Nasty.

This really was Nasty.

A strange thing happened this week – we had a weather forecast for 5 consecutive sunny days! Not sunny all day every day but to have 5 partly sunny days in a row this summer is a miracle. However, Wednesday was one of the days where the sun was forecast to shine all day, in certain places, so we decided to make use of it.

We set off on our journey to one of these certain places and our route took us very near a small hamlet that we just had to visit.

Nasty is a pretty little hamlet in Hertfordshire and our very short visit did convince us that Nasty is nice. We do have some very odd village names in England but I think that this one wins the prize. Our next destination is in the same county.

So onward to Hatfield, Hertfordshire, where Hatfield House was the primary purpose of our trip. There is a free car park and a number of those familiar brown road signs, which generally signify places of interest, pointing to Hatfield House so that, once you are in Hatfield, it should be easy to find.

Hatfield House is also within easy walking distance of the railway station so could be visited as a day trip from London with a train journey of as little as 20 minutes.

Hatfield House is one of the Treasure Houses of England, a loose association of 10 privately owned stately homes.

Entering the Hatfield House complex we first came across the Old Palace, dating from 1485. This, the Banqueting Hall, is all that remains of the original Royal Palace of Hatfield where Elizabeth I spent most of her childhood.

We found it to be rather strange because there was a large open door,which you can see in the base of the tower, but no signs of any sort to indicate that visitors are allowed access. There are some notices on the walls of the short passage inside but they are not visible from outside. At the end of the short passage is a barrier forming a small viewing area where one can look at the large and impressive hall.

On the far wall, at window height within the wooden beamed area, are two rectangular panels which we didn't notice at the time but discovered later. These are openings filled with clear plastic sheets which allow viewing from an upstairs room accessible only from the West Garden but that appears not to be signed or mentioned anywhere either.

This is in an area which also contains the restaurant, shops and toilets and which is freely accessible i.e. you don't need to buy a ticket to get in. It is almost as if they feel it should be open to the public but are trying to keep it a secret. Very odd!

Next we decided to visit the West Garden which also gives access to the Old Palace Garden (you need a ticket for this).

Notice that wooden stairway on the left? There is nothing to indicate that it provides access to an upstairs room or that visitors are allowed access at all but another visitor told us about it so we had a look and discovered the viewing panels mentioned earlier which enabled me to take this next picture.

You may be able to see, on the left, the barriers which provide a viewing area down below which we discovered first. Emerging back on to the stairs there is a nice overall view of the Old Palace Garden. Topiary anyone?

We were also beginning to discover that the plan in the visitor guide showed all the paths, even those to which visitors didn't have access and this made navigation a bit of a lottery. A number of times we planned a route using the visitor guide only to be thwarted part the way along and had to find an alternative. They also show a view of the South Front on the first page of their website but don't explain that visitors don't have access to that same view.

We did find a path down the west side of the house to a viewing platform, which is described as a 'Viewing Bay' in the Visitor Guide, from which I took this photograph but it's not as nice a view as the one on the web site.

We next found our way into another garden which appears not to have a name of its own but which we called, for our own convenience, the Fountain Garden. Did I mention that there is a lot of topiary in the gardens?

That's the west side of Hatfield House shown in the picture. We left the Fountain Garden via this gate and went into the Sundial Garden.

I thought that the gardens, although very formal, were rather nice but Amanda thought that they were particularly good and decided to stay there whilst I went to look round Old Hatfield. Most of Hatfield is recent and of little interest to the tourist but the original small centre still remains next to the Hatfield House Estate.

There isn't much of it and one could easily walk round it in an hour or less but it is worth a look. This old building was in Fore Street

and this view including the Eight Bells Inn was at the bottom of Fore Street looking along Park Street. It is believed that this building existed in 1630 but was first recorded as an inn in 1728.

There is also the parish church of St. Ethelreda dating from the 13th century with a 15th century tower.

That's it really. There isn't a lot as I've said but it is worth a short visit. I went back to Hatfield House to find Amanda and we went to the restaurant for some lunch. It is a nice restaurant with tables both inside and outside and the menu is not extensive but it is adequate. We both agreed that everything was over-priced but the cooked food we had was good. The food, in what I assume were heated trays, was displayed in a glass fronted cabinet but the problem was that it wasn't very hot to start with and by the time we got it to a table it must have cooled further. By the time I was near to finishing I left some of it because it had become cold.

There are also salads, sandwiches and cakes available which, of course, don't need to be kept hot.

After lunch we headed for the house and this is the main entrance in the North Front (you also need a ticket for this).

The rooms were spectacular and particularly so the Entrance Hall for its ceiling and the Chapel for its Jacobean stained glass windows. 'Wait', I hear you say, 'lets stop the waffle and get on with the photographs'. The bad news is that there aren't any interior photographs. The current rule is that cameras cannot be used within the house and that even  includes photographing views outside through the windows. I get the impression that this is done in the hope of increasing the sales of their own pictures but I'm afraid it didn't work with us and I think it will antagonise a number of other people.

Amanda particularly likes wood carvings and was rather irritated that she couldn't record some of the work that she saw. It is unlikely that we will return whilst the 'No photography' rule is in force.

All I can say is that the house is worth a visit.

We set off for home with the intention of stopping briefly in Much Hadham, still in Hertfordshire, on the way. The village, previously known as Great Hadham, stretches for  about a mile along the B1004 road and there are a number of attractive old buildings in the village.

There was also a plant nursery in the village which Amanda wanted to visit and there were a number of plants that she liked. She didn't buy anything this time but it's not very far from us so she could sneak over on her own at any time. :shock:

Another trip accomplished in spite of summer. Would anyone like a Nasty holiday?

Living on the edge.

Living on the edge.

Yesterday, Thursday, started with a lovely clear sky and was forecast to stay that way until at least late afternoon so we decided to go and have a look on the western edge of Essex. This is supposed to be a thatched rooves area and it certainly seemed to be.

We started off in Widdington because it had a 14th century barn. Unfortunately it was open only on Saturdays and Sundays so we were not able to look inside – another day perhaps.

Priors Hall Barn, 124 feet long x 30 feet wide x 33ft high, is one of the finest surviving medieval barns in eastern England, dendro dated to the mid-15th century, with a breathtaking aisled interior and crown post roof, the product of some 400 oaks and little altered.

The view across the countryside from the barn was really quite nice.

Widdington is an attractive village with a good number of ancient buildings which did give us some thatched rooves and just how cute is this?

It looks just like a little face peering over the hedge and its hair is the same colour as mine. Then there was the beautifully made village sign and yet more thatch.

St. Mary's Church is a small traditional Essex church dating back to the early twelfth century.

Leaving Widdington we headed for Arkesden which is even further west and only a few miles from the Hertfordshire border – this could be bandit country we're heading into.

This turned out to be a really picturesque village with quite a lot of thatch.

We particularly liked this timber-framed cottage with brick infill.

There were a number of other villages that we passed through which were also attractive and there are others about which we've heard nice things so perhaps we'll have to go up that way again.

You’ve heard of ‘Gold Finger’ – What about ‘Goldhanger’?

You’ve heard of ‘Gold Finger’ – What about ‘Goldhanger’?

Goldhanger is a small village, in Essex, not far from us and this weekend they hold the annual ‘Goldhanger Gala Weekend’ and we paid them a visit yesterday (Saturday) morning.

They have a second-hand book sale in the church, an art show in the village hall, a display of classic cars, Morris Dancing etc. We didn’t see the Morris Dancing because it didn’t take place until the afternoon and we left about midday.

It’s a nice little village as you can see and the pink house on the left has ‘1750’ moulded onto the wall.

There were a number of classic cars crammed into the rather small village and things were, it has to be said, a little chaotic.

The green one in the foreground is a ‘Talbot’ although I don’t know the model or the year of manufacture. The church and pub, The Chequers, can be seen beyond.

We had a look around the book sale where Amanda bought a few books and on our way out through the church porch we heard a little cheeping sound. Looking up near the roof we spotted this.

Three hungry mouths – baby Swallows – waiting to be fed and the parent birds did vist fairly frequently whilst we stood there. It seems unusual for a brood to be produced so late in the year; after all they have to build up enough strength to fly to Africa for the winter. I did ask them to post a trip report on the forum when they get back next summer but you can’t trust these birds so don’t hold your breath. :razz:

After leaving the church we decided to go for a walk along the river wall and went out of the churchyard via this unusual stile.

We made our way down to the river and although the tide was out leaving large areas of mudflats exposed I took a picture simply beacause I liked the colours and the same for the view over the fields.

This is Amanda on the river wall as we make our way back to the village seen in the distance.

We said our goodbyes to Goldhanger and went home. Goldhanger is near enough that we could come back anytime for a walk round and I hear the the pub does very good food.

Springs and Things.

Springs and Things.

Recently a friend of ours who lives in Royston, Hertfordshire invited us over for the day and took us to the village of Ashwell which is six and a half miles west of Royston.

We parked by the roadside next to the Ashwell Springs -the “well” from which Ashwell gets its name.

The water rises from several holes in the natural chalk surrounding Ashwell village and the average flow is between 1,300,000 gallons a day to less than a million. It is at its highest level in March and April and lowest in September and October.

The water seen here is clear but very shallow and the brown colour is actually the gravel laying on the bottom. In this area we saw a number of places where water could be seen to welling up from beneath and these springs are one of the main sources of the River Cam which flows through Cambridge not far from here.

Ashwell is a picturesque little village with a 14th century medieval church which has a positively massive tower. Not only is the tower very tall but its sides are also extraordinarily broad.

Inside the tower at its base we saw some medieval graffiti which recounts the Black Death, a great storm in the late 14th century and a drawing of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London before the great fire. Some individual letters are not easy to decipher, being scored into the stone, and it’s all in Latin anyway.

There are plenty of ancient timber-framed buildings in the village of which the Rose and Crown is one.

This is where we had lunch, our friend having had previous experience of eating here, and it was exceptionally good and is to be thoroughly recommended if you are ever passing this way. I have to be honest and say that just writing about it makes my mouth water.

There are plenty of other ancient buildings including the Forresters Cottages shown below.

The central hall was built first in the 14th century, with two cross-wings (the jettied gables) added in the 15th century.  The left wing housed the pantry and buttery on the ground floor and sleeping accommodation on the first floor.  The right wing was a solar, having the best rooms for the head of the house.  To the right of it (at the far end of the photograph) is a 16th century extension.

This is another group of ancient timber-framed houses with the central colour-washed house showing some pargetting.

There is also thatch to be seen here – cottage? house? well yes but …

also a cob wall with a thatched top. Not all that common. The only other one we’ve seen was in Avebury in Wiltshire. There were also other thatched houses and cottages of which this is just one with that massive church tower showing in the distance.

We also walked from the village up to Arbury Banks, a Bronze Age Hill Fort, although there were almost no features to easily distinguish it from the surrounding countryside. It was, however, a very nice walk and worth it for the views from the top of the hill.

There’s that church tower again.

We had a very enjoyable and interesting day thanks to our friend.