To Norfolk, to see dear friends in the remarkably-named village of Seething. Actually they're just outside, so perhaps it should be called 'Gently Simmering', but in truth the only sign of that was a truly wonderful fish stew. On my return I stopped-off to look-up more old friends in the nexus of Downham Market, but this time they were considerably more static. The first was a level crossing gate in Fordham on a line between Downham and Stoke Ferry that closed in 1930 to passenger traffic but kept open to service the sugar beet factory at Wissington. You can see my post about the gates here, and compare the photograph with this, taken yesterday:
Round the corner is a milestone on the grass verge. When I first took a photograph it was uncared for and slowly being covered in vegetation, but in the intervening years someone has given it a good sprucing-up and repainted the figures:
Up the road at Stow Bardolph another Norfolk example is faring almost as well:
Opposite this milestone is Holy Trinity church, and it was here that I made my last visit, to pay my respects to Sarah Hare, who died in 1744. It was thought that her demise was brought about by pricking herself with a needle, but had it coming because she was sewing on a Sunday. But not before she had directed that a life-size wax effigy be made of her complete with black curly hair and wildly-staring blue eyes. Try and avoid going into the church on a dull afternoon with distant thunder rolling. In the brick chapel on the north side are various stunning Hare monuments, but in a dark corner nothing prepares you for the gruesome Red Riding Hood that awaits you when you open the big door on a mahogany cupboard:
The quality of my photograph is impaired because there is a locked inner glass door, but back around 1994 I made a little film of this curiosity, part of what was to be a collection of such remarkable things. We were kindly given both permission and the key by Lady Rose Hare, who I found gardening over at the Hall. Around this time Sarah also had a sprucing-up, carried out by Madame Tussauds and the V&A. Probably the first time this had been done, they found her in remarkable condition, just a little moth-eaten and with the original pins succumbing to rust. I bet they took care not to prick themselves. As you can see, Sarah is in need of a little cosmetic attention now.
The church is in any case (pardon the pun) well worth a visit. Another 'delight' is a hare carved as a bench end in the choir. I didn't have time for a visit to the pub next door (The Hare Arms of course) but if I had I would've hoped that they might have long forgotten my friend Ron Combo going in and barking at a bar maid.
Derek Birdsall: Birdseye view
1 day ago