Sunday, 28 October 2012

Getting there and getting in

Getting around our East Midlands countryside is usually easy enough, though sometimes in remoter areas roads can narrow to a single carriageway with only occasional passing spots, or deteriorate as more and more grass starts sprouting up in the middle of the road.  This can cause problems especially if the road gradually peters out or turns into a farm track, or if you suddenly come across large farm vehicles lumbering along in either direction.  But then you have to admit that the countryside is their area after all and working farmers really ought to take priority over mere daytrippers like us. Even so once we had to follow a very wide tracked agricultural vehicle, so wide that its tracks extended over both verges.  We followed this for over five miles at around 15 mph before it turned off, but never mind, the countryside was very pretty, the sun was shining, and we didn’t have to worry about any other vehicle approaching at speed around practically blind corners, which is the other hazard along such roads. 

Little Casterton: Hidden in the trees
Of course when you eventually get to a village you have to find the church which isn’t always as simple as you might think.  Several times, even with the aid of an OS map, we’ve gone round the houses several times before eventually finding the church, even sometimes where it had a tower.  When all else fails we aim for the thickest clump of trees and that’s where the church is usually hiding.  Then there are also villages where access to the church is by footpath as at Little Casterton (Rutland) or Allington (near Grantham) or through a field, such as at Cotham or Elston Chapel (both near Newark).  Occasionally access is through private land such as at Thorpe or Fenton (again both near Newark).  And then there is the lovely little oddity at Moorhouse (Notts) which we featured in an earlier blog.  There you can only get to the church through a farmyard and a field full of cattle.  It’s worth the effort though. 

Cotham: Access across a field
Elston Chapel: Another field
Thorpe by Newark: Access through private land

Fenton: Again access through a private garden

Lovely old doorway: Sadly it was locked
We’ve covered the issue of getting inside churches in several earlier blogs.  It’s very sad that some parishes feel that they can no longer keep their churches open though completely understandable in an age where so many churches are rarely used and many have been targeted by thieves.  It is great news therefore that in our travels around the region this year around 60% of those we’ve visited have been open or the key has been easily accessible nearby.  We’ve been lucky as well.  At one church where both the porch and even the churchyard gate was padlocked we were spotted peering through windows.  Instead of calling the police or demanding what we were up to a neighbour came running out offering us the key.  Thanks to him and also to all those other keyholders we’ve met who’ve always been happy to provide the key, often without any requirement for us to prove who we were.  I hope that means that we look both honest and respectable! 

However I recently visited a church by myself near where my wife has her tai chi class in the village hall.  While she was doing that I thought I’d nip along to the nearby church as I had an hour or so to wait for her.  As I got to the porch there was a big colourful sign declaring that there was a Holiday Club for children going on that morning in the church and I could see children, mothers and grannies in the church.  I hoped that as this church was normally locked this would finally be my chance to see the interior and anyway I always like to see churches being used.  However it was not to be.  I was stopped at the door by a determined looking granny and having first said it’d be fine to look around she then demanded to see my CRB clearance.  I haven’t had any reason to date to get clearance so once again I failed to see inside that particular church.  It did occur to me, however, that if I’d been a 60+ woman instead of a 60+ man I might have been allowed in without question….

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