I'm stuck in my office most of this week, but thought you'd like to see some photos from a couple of weeks ago when T and I took a cycle ride along the Norfolk-Suffolk border.
One of the nicest things about England is how you need only go a mile or two, slowly, on foot or by bike, before you see something interesting. Throughout the day I was struck by the number of signs and notices that caught my eye.
First, a rather sad one. NO LEAD, ZINC ROOF, NO VALUE. The hand written sign outside this church refers to the tremendous bout of metal thieving at the moment. War memorials, electrical cables, church roofs - it's appalling, dangerous and disrespectful. I am not convinced by the government's reasons for its lack of action. Read more here, if you are interested.
The weather wasn't great, and I quickly regretted coming out without warm socks. In the small town of Bungay I spotted the hand-written signboard of Wightmans, the sort of old fashioned house and home store that I didn't think existed any more - the kind of incredibly useful shop that sells most things.
Some of the furnishings look to be 60 or 70 years old, and when I went in, several assistants were sitting in a row behind a counter, drinking tea. They were extremely helpful. And yes, they had the perfect socks!
Later that day, we found ourselves passing the somewhat eccentric Raveningham Centre, a converted old farm on a large country estate. This tin sign of a pub scene is one of many curious objects adorning their cafe, the "Ravenous Cafe."
"Woodbines" were renowned in my schooldays as ultra-cheap cigarettes that even children could afford. (Hm.)
The Raveningham Centre (check the link for their website) is a bit of a hippie throwback. It's centred on an ancient, farmhouse doing dual service as a ramshackle family home and home for antique rugs and various curiosities. There are vintage clothes in the outbuildings, and the funky, quirky cafe-shop-event space sells great cakes, freshest salad, and, of course, vintage signs.
I usually like visiting village churches. Many are hundreds of years old, and guard much of the history of the settlement in which they stand. Even if the villagers are not particularly religious, they usually treasure their church, as the village's special building.
Here, in the small village of Toft Monks, a large Royal Coat of Arms of George II (1683-1760)hangs above the main door. After 1660 it was compulsory to have coats of arms (known as "achievements") hung in churches, but over the years most of them have disappeared or been chucked out by modernizers. I love the lion's expression in this one. It's meant to be growling fiercely but it looks rather cute to me.
I'm sorry it's a bit dark.
A little further on, in the large church at Aldeby, this message is proudly scratched upon an inside wall
"THIS STEPLL WAS BELT 1633" Not the best spelling, but the steeple-builders of 1633 must have been glad to finish their task.
Just across the road, someone was selling home made marmalade, apples (in the carrier) and eggs. You put your money in the honesty jar. Just one goose egg was left, looking quite majestic alongside the recycled box containing free range hen eggs.
I bought the apples, which had been well stored, and I made a crumble with them next day - they were very good.
Most East Anglian villages have signs which show notable things about the village. This sign serves both Wheatacre and Burgh St. Peter, and includes portraits of a windmill, an East Anglian sailing barge, a Suffolk Punch horse and a very strange looking church.
The church was just across the fields. It looked odd in real life, too, with a ziggarat shaped tower and a beautifully thatched nave.
The weird tower is actually a mausoleum built by one Samuel Boycott, a big shot around Burgh St Peter in the late 1700s. Boycott decided to repair the tower and make it double as a mausoleum, and his design was supposedly inspired by an Italian church, but the church guide compares it to a structure of ancient Iraq. Either way, the local people probably weren't too impressed, but in those days the local gentry were not to be argued with so they had to put up with it.
I suspect the blanked out window is where they put the coffins.
Large slabs of stone standing upright next to a road can be milestones, or perhaps old prehistoric standing stone re-used by a local farmer. We saw several that were inscribed with runes. In each case, the incised lines of the runes had been painted red. There was no other explanation, but I assumed the stones were part of an art work. Flickr has some photos of "The Stones of Destiny" here so see what you think.
And then we came across a very large and obviously very old ruined castle. It was very picturesque, with sheep grazing around it, it was hard to get a good picture because it was all fenced off. This was where we really did need a sign. But there wasn't one!
Just a rusty old gate.
The trusty O.S. map identified the site as Mettingham Castle, so I looked it up when I got back, here. As you see, lots of public money has gone on conserving the ruins. Here's hoping that one day they will be open to the public.
By this time the weather had warmed up so we returned to Bungay and bought some goodies from the deli to eat as a picnic in Bungay's fine ruined castle, which is tucked away behind the town. I'm afraid I forgot to take a picture of the deli sign - but the food was great, and we felt we'd had a good day.