Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Tuesday 30th September 2014

The final day of a golden September. It has been the driest September since records began, apparently, and I have seen very little of the wet stuff, certainly hardly any on my time off. Autumn seems to be very advanced, the raspberries are not edible now, and yet temperature soar in the day, sometimes still over 25 degrees. It really is wonderful, when in three months it will be the penultimate day of the year. Outside, the builders are wrapping up the side of the house, with just the front to do, which might be completed tomorrow. It is looking very good indeed, and I can't wait to see it once the scaffolding is taken off.

Anyway. That is today.

This was yesterday.

Monday.

The black cloud that is the first day back at work arrived and soaked with with a downpour of gloom. I was awake before 5, and so got up. I had been suffering with suspected food poisoning some of the night, which explained my broken sleep and general lack of it. I skipped breakfast and had just coffee. Got my bag and pass to get in the compound. Right, let's do it.

I dropped Jools off at the factory, and then drove up through Buckland, past Tesco and out onto the Sandwich road. There was mist, which developed into fog as I neared Ramsgate, and at the roundabout on the new bypass, a car had crashed through the barriers at the side and the police were there taking statements. The traffic was just awful, and further delayed the great switching on of the work computer. Which once in the office, putting the coffee machine on, it was time to do it and see the avalanche of e mails waiting for my attention.

And so the working week begins.

At ten I walk into town to get some cash out of the bank, so at least I could get some food from the butty wagon when she came round.

The afternoon passed.

Until half two, and I got a screaming headache. I have looked at every mail, and so I thought I could go home and get an hours kip, without the world missing me. So, out into the school run traffic, and home where the bed was calling. I was joined by Mulder and Scully, and despite thinking I would not sleep, I got an hour and felt, if not refreshed, something akin to being normal.

I pick Jools up, and we decide that the best thing would be to have fish and chips for dinner. Also, the builders were taking the day off, so home all was silent, apart from the demanding meows of the cats calling for their dinner. Jools went to the chippy, and I try to watch something on the TV, but there is nothing on. And I even find Top Gear mildly interesting, mainly due to Martin Sheen being on, but I soon realise it is a ancient edition and I have seen it.

We call it a day at nine, with the badger already in the garden, munching away.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Monday 29th September 2014

Sunday.

And so the seventeenth and final day of my vacation.

Sigh.

I have been very lucky with the weather, for the most part I have endured endless sunshine for the most part, with little wind, glorious sunrises and sunsets. Hedgerows are laden with overripe fruit. All in all it has been glorious. It really has.

And indeed, on Sunday morning, after the early mist cleared, the sun shone once again as the temperatures rose and rose.

We had breakfast and another cup of coffee, and I settled down to watch MOTD whilst Jools went off on a sloe hunt/forage. The garden really needed some attention, but instead it was another day for train chasing, as another steam tour was going to wind its way round the county, and with the weather so glorious, the shots should have been fine as well.

I had arranged to meet Will in Sturry at 11, so I dropped Jools off at Nan’s and drove the 20 or so miles over the marshes onto Thanet and then out to Sturry to wait on the Fordwich road. And then wait. And wait. Eleven passed, as did quarter and half past. I had to leave to get to Chartham to be able to get shots of my own.

70013 "Oliver Cromwell" at Chartham, Kent

I drove on country lanes round Canterbury to Lower Hardres and then over Stone Street to Chartham, down the hill, past the Artichoke and into the car park at the village hall. Already there were several on the station, some 20 minutes before the train was due. I took up position on the footbridge and waited, passing the time with other snappers, and avoiding the curious glances of passengers waiting for a service to London.

Just about on time, just after the London-bound train had left, Oliver Cromwell steamed into view, powering its way towards us and then under the bridge and away behind to Canterbury. All over in about 15 seconds I suppose.

And like that it was over, we all wander back to our cars and for me, back home.

Once there, Will had rung, apologising for not being there, but wanting to see it in the afternoon. So he agreed to come to Dover on the train, me collect him from the station and then to the location to do the snaps.

Jools and I do some work in the garden, but it is really too warm to be raking the lawn, so we do some and then retire to the chairs with an iced drink to look at the little work we had done.

At four I go to pick Will up, and we drive to Aycliffe, park up and walk down the dog poo covered steps to the footbridge, where there are already three other photographers waiting. One has some kind of real time train times and announces that it is 27 minutes late, so we settle down for the long wait until quarter past five. In fact Oliver Cromwell almost chased the 16:45 Javelin out and no sooner had the Javelin entered Shakespeare Tunnel than we could hear OC working hard round the bend near Dover Harbour Station.

70013 "Oliver Cromwell" at Dover Town Yard

Accelerating now away from the tight curve, we all snap it as once again the loco vents steam, and closer and closer it comes, I have just enough time to switch to the nifty fifty before it is passing underneath us and into the tunnel behind.

All there is left to do is walk back up the steps and to the car, drive home for a cuppa before Jools takes Will back home in Herne Bay and I cook dinner. It is just gone eight before we sit down for dinner, and dark outside, with the first badger of the night tucking into a feast of peanuts and stale cat food. We know how to treat a badger.

And like that the 17 days was over, and work was beckoning. Oh dear. Time to sensible and all growed up again.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Sunday 28th September 2014

Saturday.

Awake at half four with a mild allergy attack, I lay in bed half an hour listening to me wheeze, and decide enough is enough so I get up to make a coffee and fed the cats. It is just getting light on the horizon, and mist is rising in the valley below. I leave the kitchen door open to allow some air in. It feels good, though better had I have had another couple of hours sleep.

I head to Tesco whilst JOols tries to return the hire car she had whilst I was away, only to find the office was closed, so she comes to find me in Tesco, as still have no mobile phone. As we still have to return the car, and have half an hour to kill, we drive down to the cafe in Snargate Street for breakfast. A small fry up is just what makes you feel better, as outside traffic rumbles by heading for the port.

Back home we unpack, and pass the time away until it is time for me to head to Sturry to pick Will up, s o we can go and do some train chasing. It has been over two months since we had a steam tour round these parts, and now we have two in two days, and I decide to get shots both days before and after the stops in Canterbury. First up is Braunton at Wye, where there is a fine view down the climb out of Ashford, giving the photographer plenty of time to get shots as the train gets ever nearer.

I fond a place to part near the station, and we have 40 minutes before the train, so we head into the Tickled Trout for a drink, and find their service as slow and poor as usual, even though we just wanted drinks. We just about get the drinks, finish them before it is time to walk along the road to the station, take up position on the bridge and are ready for showtime. A couple of regular services go through giving us the chance to set up the shots nicely. And as one passes through the station, in the distance we can see Braunton already accelerating up the hill.

34046 "Braunton" at Wye, Kent

Quickly she is nearly upon us, and the shutters are going eighteen to the dozen and there she goes below us and away onto Canterbury. I only find out once home that all the shots with the 50mm are blurred as the lens decided to focus on a lamp rather than the train behind, not one can be rescued from that, a shame as they should have been great. Oh well.

The old and the new

We drive back to Dover and then home to have a cuppa, to review the shots and prepare for the next location at MInster. I want to listen to the football, but as it is Ryder Cup, there is 44 hours of golf on the radio, and all programming on Radio 5 seems to have been postponed for golf talk. So, I have to put up with Talk Sport, which is almost just Premier League focused and does not seem to have a commentary anywhere, and at the most exciting moments, like the final seconds of the games, they cut away for an ad break. And then do not give the Norwich result or score as we drive to Minster.

At Minster we are confronted by the scourge of modern railway travel; the rail replacement bus. And there is very little parking around the station, so we have to park in front of someone's house and walk to the station. And once there we find a Javelin in the platform, and the news is it is waiting for another bus, this time from Margate, before it can leave for London. Indeed as we hear this, Braunton comes round the bend in front of us, and stops at the signal and can do nothing but wait.

Pressure drop

Some 20 minutes later, the bus arrives, half a dozen people get off and start to walk up across the bridge, only to stop to photograph Braunton as she steams in the distance, thus missing their train and watch open-mouthed as it glides out of the station. They'll be having another hour's wait then.

Braunton gets the road, and starts to move, invisible from us she she is shrouded in steam as she vents steam. But she appears out of the steam, like a scene from the Railway Children, crossing over onto the 'wrong' line and accelerating towards us. And as quick as that she is below us, and we are in a cloud of smoke and steam as she takes the chord to Deal and away from us. As she disappears from view, we can hear her pistons working hard as she gets up speed.

We walk back to the car, and I want to know if Norwich had won, but the north London derby is on, and it is all Talk Sport wants to talk about. I drop Will back in Sturry, and then drive back via Sandwich and Deal to home, where we have a cuppa and a couple of slices of fresh corn bread.

Operation "big job": the final leg day 5

Phew, I have done nothing, but taken all day to do it!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Saturday 27th September 2014

Friday.

Norfolk.

I awake after a good night's sleep to see dawn's pale light creeping round the edge of the curtains, meaning it was almost time to get up. I switch on the radio only to find Radio 5 full of little else other than golf. Now, I like a little golf from time to time, but on the radio? And so 44 hours over the whole weekend? I don't think so. So, I switch to Radio 4 to get some non-golf news before boiling the kettle for a pot of tea and then a shower. I explore the village before breakfast, which I had been asked to be in the house at eight to eat, having ordered my English the night before.

b Like a lot of villages, Hindolveston has no shop nor pub, but it is just a short drive to bigger places where supplies can be sought. So, the village is quiet, except for those heading to work in their cars, so I walk to the small Victorian parish church, take a couple of shots and head back to the farm where it was five to breakfast.

I am joined in the breakfast room by a long haired cat and a deaf border collie called Peg. She waits quietly in the hope that I will give her something from my plate. She got half the second sausage, which she wolfed down in one movement. Satisfied I had no food left, she wandered off, and I left to pack and load the car.

I was in Norfolk to visit a Flickr contact, Mike, who is a fantastic wildlife photographer, and has a river at the bottom of his garden where, on occasion, kingfishers can be seen and photographed. And as I had never seen a kingfisher, this could be a chance. So, I drive over to Great Ryburgh, find his house thanks to the sat nav, and he is waiting. We end up talking for over three hours about this and that, before I said shall we try to see a kingfisher.

So, Mike gets out is portable two seater hide and we walk down to the river, carrying our gear. He sets it up, lets me borrow his lens and tripod, and so we are set. I said we'd give it an hour, because, in truth, I am not a hard core wildlife photographer. So, we sit and wait. And talk. And wait. And talk.

The hour passes with no kingfisher seen, not even a hint, so we pack up, walk back to the house, have one last cuppa before I set off for Kent and home.

At the end of Mike's street, there was a fine round-towered church, St Andrew, so I stop there to look, and find it is glorious inside and was well worth the stop. I take shots with the wide angle, and then fetch my 50mm too as the church is so good.

St Andrew, Great Ryburgh, Norfolk

OK then, let get it done. I program home into the sat nat, and I set off for Swaffham and the road south. It was wonderfully quiet, but I knew it would change, and I knew where it would change. Brandon would be one place, and then there would be the motorway, the M25. Swaffham was busy, as it was when the kids were leaving school, and beyond there, the road was quiet again. Quiet really until I got to Brandon, which I passed through in under 5 minutes, but the queues heading north went on for a couple of miles.

At Barton Mills, where the dualling of the A11 is underway, traffic blocked the roundabout for 5 minutes, before we forced our way across and down towards Newmarket. Already the traffic was heavy, and it would mean I would be hitting the M25 at five in the evening, just about at peak rush hour. It could not be helped. In the end traffic was quite light until I got past Brentwood, and then with the matrix signs flashing, it all ground to a halt. But, we kept moving, and we got closer and closer to the bridge. I suppose it took some 45 minutes to get from the bottom of the M11 to the bridge, which for a Friday evening was not bad, and I had Simon Mayo entertaining me on the radio as I drove.

Through the tolls and into Kent, along to the M20, by which point I relaxed as it was just an hour home, so I slowed to 60 and turned the radio up, and even sang along to the Spice Girls. I will beat myself with birch twigs later.....

I arrived back in Dover just as dusk was falling at about quarter to seven, along Townwall Street, up Jubilee Way and along to St Maggies, I was home. Again.

I saw right away that the guys had been busy, most of the side of the house and all of the back had been completed, and the new estimate was for a Thursday finish. Jools put the kettle on, and I get my bags in, whilst a couple of the cats fussed around indicating they had not been fed since I was away. Situation normal. Jools ordered a Chinese, and went to pick it up, whilst I stretched out, shattered drinking a cuppa out of my pint pot.

There is no place like home.....

Friday, 26 September 2014

Friday 26th September 2014

Thursday.

Start of the two day road trip.

I was awake before five with my allergies giving me hell. It was so bad I thought I had a cold, but it went off during the day, allergies is the best fit, but as I was feeling better later, it don't really matter. Anyway, we have breakfast, I load the car having packed the night before, and I drive Jools to the factory. And It's just me and the open road. Well, apart from all other drivers in south east England who were driving too. In fact I got caught in a train of cars heading to Folkestone behind a Dutch camper van travelling at 25mph.

However, onto the motorway and into the rush hour traffic of Ashford and then Maidstone before the fun that is the M25 heading into Dartford. It is odd that the most important part of the motorway is the corssing and we have to pay to use it, even if it has already been paid for and it causes god-almighty traffic jams. It's not that the money is reinvested back in the road system, as you will see later when I moan about the East Anglain road system with its myriad of bottlenecks and planning disasters.

I get through the queues, pay my two quid to find the southbound traffic the other side of the tunnel is at least three times as worse. And then there is the hjoy of the A12 through Essex. How can it be that a simple road causes so much pain? Is it the mad driving, the racing to get to the next junction, the pointless jams at Chelmsford. I mean who would want to go to Chelsmford? But once into the quiet county of Suffolk, I was able to turn off and head into the Dedham Vale. Or would have if the road signs would have made sense! Does it sound like I'm complaining all the time? I don't like traffic, queues or Essex. So, maybe driving through Essex in the rush hour was planning for trouble.

I switched on the sat nav, programmed the first port of call, Stoke by Nayland, and set off. I was lucky that my friend, Simon, had provided me with a list of fine churches to visit. All of the churches I would visit this morning would be splendid. I saw a sign for the village of Boxted, and realise that is on my list, so I head there, driving towards Church Hill, which my spidy senses tell me I might find the church. I park on the small high street through the village, with the church on my left. I leave the sat nav in the car switched on, I thought there would be no thieves in such a wonderful spot.

And I was right.

Holy Trinity, Boxted, Suffolk

St Peter was quite spectacular, to me, inside, it was like a theatre, with a gallery containing seats and the organ, with the later being the centre of the stage. It was a delight, and is quite possibly my favourite church of all. Some doing, but I loved the church. But, I had to move on. But I tell the folks clearing bushes for the church wall how much I loved it. She had only been in once, at Christmas, but though the acoustics were good.

It was only a five minute drive to Soke by Nayland, I found the church and parked on the main street of the village and walked up to the churchyard noting the worker's vans parked near the porch. This could be trouble I thought.

St Mary, Stoke by Nayland, Suffolk

Simon feels that Stoke by Nayland is the finest church in England, as I do not now that much about churches I am not going to argue, but it is not mine. It has fine glass, memorials and tiles, but I did have a run in with one of the workers. I wanted to photograph the windows, and asked if I could get by. NO. I was told. We're busy. But you're just talking. No, we're busy, and we might hot you on the head, said the stage erector. I siad I would be careful, and he retorted that he would not be held responsible if I had an accident. All in all it put a damper on the church, so I got my shots and left. I mean I can always go back.

I stopped at the small book shop at the cross roads and by a Sherlock Holmes novel to read if I got bored that evening, and head off for the next church.

It is a short drive to Polstead, the next on the list. Now, I did not plan this and I am getting the feeling that I am retracing my tracks already, in fact I was to pass through Stoke by Nayland some four times during the day. Oh well, its no real hardship.

St Mary, Polstead, Suffolk

Polstead lies in a shallow valley, with the village scattered up one side. I assume that the church will be on the highest point. As there are only four roads in and out of the village, it shouldn't be hard to find. I drive past the attractive cillage pond, more like a lake and head up through the village, past many wonderful looking ancient houses, but find no church. Back down into the centre of the village and out another road, and still no church. This just leaves the road I came in on, and so head back down through the village, past the pond onto the main road, or what counts as the main road, and a few yards further along is a small white sign pointing up the other side of the valley into some woods.

A new road has been laid, and there is a good sized car park, so I abandon the car, grab the cameras and walk into the church year. From outside St Mary looks something like a typical small Suffolk church, others might feel differently about that, but nothing too spectacular. But once inside on is met with brick-topped arches and it filled with the most wonderful light. I am awestruck, and glad that I do not research these churches beforehand so my breath can be taken away by the beauty of these churches.

After getting my shots I go back outside, taking a tray of quinces that are on offer and deposit a couple of quid in the box as a donation.

I program in Wissington into the sat nav and set off. Soon I see we are to go through Nayland, so I decide if I can find a parking space I will stop here first and snap the church. Nayland is a stunning looking large village, but, it knows it. I wanted to warm to the village, but seems to be more Aldborough that traditional working village, I could be wrong, but judging by the quantity of high powered sports cars parked in the village square, I get the feeling I am right.

St James, Nayland, Suffolk

I find a place to park, and see the church framed down Church Mews making a fine shot. So I snap that and enter the churchyard, walking round t the main entrance through the porch. Inside it is another fine church, built on a grand scale. I really warm to the church and am happy to snap it.

When I parked the car I saw some fashionably dressed ladies sipping coffees outside a shop, so I go in search of a cup for myself, to find it an arts shop which held classes for children to pain ceramics, with a coffee bar as a side line. Having just two tables, and a queue of several people, I assume I won't get a table and hope I can find a place somewhere else. I walk back to the car, load up and drive off towards Wissington.

Entering the village, I see a sign pointing to Wisset church, not the one I was looking for, but a church, so I drive down the narrow lane to the parking spot. The church is on a private estate, and they don't want cars parking near the church. Or something. But it is only a five minute walk, and it is a wonderful autumn day with lots of golden sunshine, its no chore to walk.

St Mary, Wissington, Suffolk

Wisset or Wissington? Is the question posed inside the church, so they are one and the same, more mangling of the mother tongue by East Anglians, then.

I am greeted with the sight of the wooden tower showing over a modern barn, it looks wonderful. First thing I notice is the bowed end, which reminds me of Loddon. Entry is my a grand glazed porch, but inside the walls are covered by the remains of ancient paintings, and right in front, over a door, is a dragon. Not what I was expecting. It is a delightful small church, made all the more special by the paintings, some more complete than others. And once again I have the church to myself. I am tempted to stay here longer, but it is already getting near lunchtime, and time is getting away from me.

I program the next church into the sat nav and drive off; 6 miles. I get stuck behind a slow moving delivery truck, and we trundle along narrow winding lanes, eventually coming to Bures. I see the church and also a car park, so I decide to stop here, and in the end, decide this to be the last church of the day. St Mary is on a bend in the main road, and is another on a huge scale when compared to the modern village. It also has a fine brick built chapel and doorway on the east side, which I see when I leave and make a circuit of the building to get the church in the full sunlight.

I program in my friends place into the sat nav, and it directs me back the way I had came, but heading north towards Norfolk. Or so I hoped. Twenty past twelve and I am hungry and thirsty. It was now past opening time, and I think I should stop at the first pub I see for some scran. And a pint.

I find a pub called The Shoulder of Mutton in (searches Google) Assington looks welcoming enough. I find a parking space outside, and once inside order a pint of Adnams and a bowl of chilli and settle down to take in the details of the pub and people watch. Soon a party of ramblers comes in, fussing over where to sit, what to drink and the such. Tey are all of a certain age, early 70s I guess, but have enjoyed the morning, but I am glad i have already ordered as I feel the kitchen will be very busy for a while. The chilli arrives and is passable, it leaves a gentle burn on the tongue and throat, and my hunger is satisfied. THe pub is filled with the hum of over a dozen people, I want peace and quiet so return to the car and my journey north.

My destination is to see my friend Rob in Mendlesham. I am told it will take 45 minutes. Back to the A12, and then the blast up to Ipswich I know so well, but turn west onto the A14 instead of east to join the A140 north to Norwich and home ground. A few miles north I turn off and into the village of Mendlesham, once a prosperous village, but now traffic passes by a few miles east on the main road, and it is quiet again. I knock on the door waking Rob up, but he answers the door in time and after entering we spend a fine three hours chatting and drinking tea. As you do.

At five twenty I realise I have to get going. Now we are nearing the end of September, darkness begins to fall before seven, and I have to find a farm deep in the Norfolk countryside. I bid my farewell and return to the car and to the main road. Now, I say main road, but the road linking the county towns of both Norfolk and Suffolk should be better than the one we have now. I make good time passing through Diss and heading north. But at Long Stratton there is a cross roads with traffic lights, and these cause tailbacks of several miles in both directions. The road is single carriageway for most of its length, and where it is dualled, the speed limit is just 50mph. I am delayed fifteen or 20 minutes; the queues heading south are much worse. Anyway, I am soon driving west of the southern by pass, still with half an hour to go, and I sensed the evening coming even before half six.

I turn up a country lane, and pass through villages I have not heard of before. It was now gloomy and the horizon was lost in the dusk. It was nearly dark when I came into the village of Hindolveston, I had a post code for it, and little else. Thankfully the owner had called me on Wednesday telling me their drive was opposite the village hall. Just to find the village hall........

After driving to one end of the village, and back again, I find the village hall, and the sign for the farm. I drive down a gravel drive and park outside my accomodation for the night. The owner comes out and shows me where everything is. Sadly there is no pub now in the village, and I don't feel like driving to Melton Constable for a takeaway. But she says she will make me a sandwich and a pot of tea, if I wanted. Perfect I said. And ten minutes later I am presented with a tray on which is a ham roll, a bag of crisps, a bag of mini cheddars, a pot of tea and two slices of tiffin. Heaven.

I am shattered and fit for nothing other than reviewing my shots and watching some TV before bed. One of them good days I feel.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Thursday 25th September 2014

Wednesday.

Warning: it is not Thursday.

Except where it is, like Australia and New Zealand. And other places in the extreme east. Or west.

But I digress. I am writing this a day early, because i am on my travels tomorrow, heading back to the old country of Norfolk to visit a couple of friends and to take some photos. In fact I should have gone today, but decided I would rather have a day lazing around the house, as it would appear I have to head out on my travels with work back to DK next week. Like I was never away, eh?

So, I drop Jools off at work, as there is a milk crisis in the house, in that we don't have much left, especially with three thirsty builders to keep in tea, so I head to Tesco for some supplies and I end up getting the ingredients for another Christmas cake, a bottle of gin for sloe gin, and tolls and donuts for the boys as well as they have been working so hard.

That done, I arrive home to find the builders already here and demanding tea. I have to make the cake first I tells em, as it takes four and a half hours to cook. So, I mix, beat and stir in all the ingredients and pop it in the tin, sprinkle with almonds and in the oven with it. I then boil the kettle for the first and not the last time. I think I make at least a cuppa for them every hour. But they are happy. Happier still when I make them ham rolls for lunch and then present them with the donuts. How nice I am.

Operation "big job": the final leg day 3

I do head out for a haircut just before lunch, and find Alan in a mellow mood, and end up talking to him for an hour about photography. But I am worrying about the cake in the oven!

Back home I prick the sloes and then mix with the bottle of gin I bought, shake well and all is done with that. How busy I am.

Outside the lads crack on preparing the walls for more of the final coating which is to be applied tomorrow (thursday) while I listen to the radio, watch some videos on You Tube and generally waste the day away. As you do.

It is time to collect Jools, and as we drive home along Reach Road, the rain earlier has cleared the atmosphere, and the view across the channel is amazingly clear. The cliffs of Cap Griz Nez look only a few miles away, and once again the buildings in Calais can be seen clearly. That's another country I say. And indeed it is.

The lads finish for the day, and all is quiet as I try a recipe for smoked garlic mashed poatoes served with the last of the wild garlic sausages. No danger of vampires at Chez Jelltex tonight.

I am packed and ready to go, which is nice.

Wednesday 24th September 2014

Tuesday.

Google says that today (Tuesday) is the first day of autumn, and as the interwebs never lies or forgets, unless it does, then it was.

I dropped Jools off at work, then waited for the guys to arrive for work so I could make them a fresh cuppa before heading off to meet a friend to photograph some churches. As you do.

John Vigar is the author of the reference book we used in the initial stages of the Kent Church project, and I then got to know him through Flickr. He is due to move from the county soon, and he asked if we could meet up before then, as previous plans had collapsed. I arranged to meet him in an out of the way church in the far west of the county, Stone-in-Oxney, as this was the first church I visited using his book as a guide, and my shots were not that good. The stone in the name is a Roman carved altar, which is rather nice, and my shots last time failed to come out.

Instead of driving up to Ashford and then down the main road onto the marsh, I headed along the A20 to Lympne, and then along the edge of the downs before passing along narrow lanes onto the marsh and onto Oxney. I had forgotten how lovely and quiet this part of the county is, as it is an area seldom visited. It is criss-crossed with drainage ditches as this used to be marshes and channels. Anyway, along the lane into the village, over a narrow hump-backed bridge and up church hill, with its wonderful views over the marsh. I was 20 minutes early, so I looked round the churchyard, and admiring the ancient houses scattered around the church.

John arrived and we chatted a while before we entered the church, making straight for the stone which is hidden in the bottom of the bell tower. We looked around the church, taking shots. And then decided where to go to next. A plan formed, Snargate, Snave and then Brenzett, at which time it should be opening time. So, I program the sat nave for Snargate, and we set of in convoy.

John E. Vigar at St Eanswith, Brenzett, Kent

Snargate I had been to before, but found it closed. But it was open this time. Once again, we whizzed round, getting shots and John filling me in with the history and interesting aspects of the building, something he did at all churches.

Snave was next: it is situated beside the main road, along a lane, but as it is set back and accessable down a track, it is so easy to miss. As I did this time, but John knew it was there, so we parked on the lane and walked up, first around the church, and then in through the small side door, which although was not marked as such, was the entrance as the door in the porch was locked.

Inside it was an usual shape, but explained by John to extensive rebuilding in the middle ages. Once again we got our shots, and so looking at my watch I saw it was twenty past twelve, beer o'clock, so we decide to head to Ivychurch for a pint and a sandwich in the Bell, as I saw it was a recommended real ale pub. It was a ten minute drive to the pub, and it was crowded, even on a Tuesday lunchtime, a good sign. We both had pints of Cornish ale and ordered a sandwich before heading outside to sit in the sunshine beside the quite village high street.

This is the life.

Next up to Brenzett, where we found it, as expected, locked, but there was a keyholder listed, so I went to the cottage at the end of lane, and she was happy to let me have it. THe church is splendid inside, and so we got more shots (can you see a pattern emerging so far?). John said that an extension had just been completed at Kenardington, so we went there, another ten minute drive away there, and found that open as well. Oh lucky us. These churches are mostly hard to find, even when standing a few dozen yards from them, being marked by a simple wooden sign.

Penultimate church was Warehorn, a church I had also been to before, but not been able to get into. It is a mix of different styles and materials, and certainly is not the most attractive of the marsh churches. Anyway, it too was open, and another fine church. Sadly, the pub opposite has closed, and work seems to be going on inside which may mean it being converted to a house. A shame as their food and beer were both excellent.

Final church for the day, and my final one of all the standing Romney Marsh churches was Burmarsh. We found it with no trouble, and after walking over the narrow bridge into the church we too found it locked. But a quick walk to the keyholder meant I had the key, and we were inside the tiny church. Sadly, its marsh setting means it is suffering with damp and subsidence, but seems to be surviving, and is excellent inside. The pub next door, The Shepherd and Crook also looks mighty fine too, and may require a return trip.

I now had to bid John farewell as I had to go and pick Jools up from work, just as well I did as she finished even earlier than normal after changing offices and is now back working in just about the same one as she did before the sacking. Anyway.

We head home to find the first outer coat on and drying, but the guys have to wait until it is nearly dry before smoothing it down, and it took hours. It was nearly dark before they finished, and they packed up at just gone seven. I cooked warmed up roast beef and all the trimmings, so we sat down in little over half an hour later for a fine dinner washed down with a nice bottle of rose wine bought last week.