Sunday, 14 February 2016

A Trip Down - ooh, wossit called again? - Memory Lane

Winterbourne.  A stream that flows only in winter.  And a pleasing village not far from Bristol. 

'I remember when all this was fields,' I told an unimpressed Ted as we drove along the Danzig corridor, with what is now the new town of Bradley Stoke on one side and a massively extended Stoke Gifford on the other. 'I'm easily old enough to say that now.'


I missed the first turning for the parish church, having been distracted by the brick chimney on Beacon Lane, which was demolished years ago, so we drove on up into the village to the other end of Church Lane and turned back down the hill.  Curiously, the Church of St Michael is quite low-lying, and at some remove from the homes of its congregation. It's believed that when it was first built, over 800 years ago, the then village was situated at the bottom of the hill rather than on top of it.        


Having parked, it was through the squeeze-belly stile ... 


 ... into the church yard, which has one of the largest collections of 18th century gravestones I've ever seen. Cherubs galore! ... 
... cherubs, in fact, which can only be described as böse because I'm still looking for the perfect translation from the German ...  



and a pair of beautiful, much more modern angels. (This a composite image.) 
And lo, after a long, dreary winter of death and decay, there were snowdrops, celandines and primroses, and crocuses tumbling picaresquely in front of another stone stile.  
And burgeoning daffodils ... 
... some of which Ted was thoughtful enough to water. 
Meanwhile, the door of the church, which had been locked when we arrived, was now open.  As I'm not always sure how one of God's creatures will be received in God's House by one of His Representatives on Earth (especially one with a hoover in one hand and a bottle of Harpic in the other), I popped Ted back into the car and sneaked inside for a quick poke about.   

 
And it was a treat, because there were 14th century effigies of persons tentatively identified, among them (maybe) Sir Thomas Bradeston and his wife, Agnes ...


... and another unknown knight with a pet lion ... 


... and a brass dating from about 1370 of the aforementioned Agnes ... 


... and oh! wall paintings! ... 



... except it was also half a torment because the church wasn't really open for visiting and the person who'd unlocked it to drop aforementioned accoutrements off was womanfully giving me a guided tour which was not on her list of jobs to do that lunchtime.  In fact, her dinner was probably spoiling in the oven. Gah. Will have to go back on Doors Open Day or something. 


Back in the churchyard, the effigies had put me in mind of Larkin's poem, 'An Arundel Tomb'. There's a sadness to these vague identifications and headstones weathered beyond legibility, where literally all that's left is love.  


So, feeling a bit melancholy, I made my way to Winterbourne Down, where for a couple of years when I was a teenager, I'd go riding at a cut-price, rather down-at-heel stables.  And astonishingly it was exactly as I'd remembered. The village duckpond at the junction of Flaxpits Lane and Hicks Common Road, with Huckford Viaduct in the background ... 


... the view across the Frome valley ... 



... and horses. Of course there were horses.

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