Between the village of Clare and the town of Sudbury in Suffolk runs one of our many River Stours. Meandering in its shallow valley it also forms the county boundary with Essex, and tucked up in the furthest north east of this county are a series of villages with the prefix 'Belchamp'. Which according to Norman Scarfe's Shell Guide to Essex is apparently a Norman reconfiguration of the Anglo Saxon 'Belc-ham' which means 'homestead' with a roof of 'timber beams'. I would think every Norman homestead had a timber-beamed roof by default, but most certainly there is a superb example of Essex / Suffolk vernacular domestic building at almost every turn of the sharply right-angled lanes that twist from Belchamp to Belchamp. Yesterday I found myself wandering around these lanes looking for Belchamp Walter, which I found bowered in trees down by a tributary of the Stour. I was searching for a ruined tower in a field (of cabbages as it turned out) as you do, but on the way I was helped by this signpost at Belchamp Otten. What amused me was the thought that B-Walter had obviously been omitted from the original, and had to have an appendix added, probably after a Belchamp deputation had descended on the council offices in Halstead with burning brands and sharpened pitch forks. Maybe.
I am a designer, 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), Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012) and English Allsorts (Adelphi 2015)