Exton in Rutland is a funny old place. At once both quintessentially English and slightly odd to get to grips with, it is a village full of good things whichever way you look. Amongst the best is the 1686 Grinling Gibbons monument to the Third Viscount Campden in the church of St. Peter and St. Paul, but I don't want to spoil the surprise of it by showing the whole towering edifice here. Gibbons pocketed £1,000 for it, and must have heaved a very seventeenth century sigh of relief that it actually did just fit into the north transept. So as a taster I give you this relief panel that sits at the base, a graphic rendering of his third wife and her six children. The next wife is up above, and, like her husband and the rest of his extended family, is depicted in the de rigeur fashion of the times, viz: enrobed in (and in some cases erotically emerging from) full Roman costume. Thoughtfully the church has provided spot lights on a timer that highlight the simply colossal pile of both white and dark grey marble. It comes as almost another kind of relief to find jars of homemade jam with little cotton-print covers for sale on the visitors' book table. I came home with greengage.
I am a writer and photographer who spends all his time looking at England, particularly buildings and the countryside. But I have a leaning towards the slightly odd and neglected, the unsung elements that make England such an interesting place to live in. I am the author and photographer of over 25 books, in particular Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2006), More from Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2007), Cross Country (Wiley 2011), The Cigarette Papers (Frances Lincoln 2012) and Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012)