And so to Walsingham in Norfolk. All very odd, and I'm dyed-in-the-wool C of E. The oddest thing for me is that the Shrine to Our Lady of Walsingham is in fact Anglican. This is the Church of England so high it must have rocketed over the border into full-on Catholicism. The streets are permeated with the smell of incense and elderly spinsters in nun-style headscarves staring beatifically into the distance as they stand blocking up parking spaces. We were looking for shriney things, and quickly found a dusty shop window filled with plaster saints. My companion photographed one with an enormous £11.50 price tag round Joseph's neck, and we wandered into the Abbey grounds. Well, not exactly wandered, we had to negotiate a lady having trouble with the till who took eight pounds off us to look at snowdrops and a ruined arch.The actual Shrine place was more interesting, if very disturbing. A pale brick building that looks like a bus station in Romford hides a garden full of bricked and gilded stations of the cross and a perfect set of three crucifixes on a grassy knoll. It was with relief that we saw these cleansing fluids on a dusty window sill as we fled to Brancaster and two big plates of whitebait.
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) and Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012)