northernvicar walks – January 2017

In 2016 my son Harry ran 1,000 miles for the charity Changing Faces – website. We have never worked out where he gets the running gene from, but we are proud parents. Here he runs back to the Vicarage having completed his challenge. If he can walk 1,000 miles surely, I mused, I can walk 1,000 miles. That is only 2.74 miles a day. I don’t want to start counting every footstep, just measuring the walks. Will it be possible?

On Sunday 1 January I walked to St Matthew’s, Darley Abbey, and back. That’s just 1.4 miles, so I’m 1.34 miles down by the end of day 1.

Monday 2 January was a gorgeous Bank Holiday Monday (not a phrase you write very often). We went to Carsington Water – website. Julie browsed the shops, I walked 5.5 miles. It was lovely.

On Tuesday I managed 1.9 and on Wednesday had a lovely hour’s walking along the old Great Northern line at Mickleover – 2.9 miles. This line last saw use as a British Rail test track – website. Now it is the start of the Pennine Cycleway from Derby to Berwick – website.

On Thursday I walked to a funeral visit in Darley Abbey, a pub lunch, a hospital visit, and back to Sainsbury’s. 5.8 miles.

Another mile on Friday and a couple on Saturday through Birmingham and Oxford. I can claim 21 miles in week 1 – so I’m a couple of miles over my target.

Week 2 was a failure – the weather was grot, I wasn’t feeling brilliant, and all I managed was a couple of miles in London on Friday. In Week 3 I managed 1 1/2 miles to school one day and 2 1/2 miles with Hannah on Saturday.

Week 4 was a holiday week – lots of time to walk! 2 miles in Melton Mowbray, 4 miles in Cambridge. Then a mile on 30 January.

So I have walked 34 miles in January, and I should have walked 85. Perhaps I should be a Proclaimer – “I’m Gonna be the man that walks 500 miles”

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Bulwick, Northamptonshire – St Nicholas

The final church was St Nicholas, Bulwick SP963942 – still Northamptonshire – website. I had been here in the  early 1990s when the Rectory was the Reverend Mervyn Wilson. He was a main-mover behind The Rural Theology Association – website – and I was a country Curate with seven villages. He had two villages (Bulwick and Deene), lived in a huge Rectory, had an orchard of rare apples, and was a country parson of the old school. He wrote this article. The world has changed in the last 25 years. Deene is now a CCT church. Bulwick is one of five in the benefice, only has a monthly service, and the Rectory is now owned by someone who seems to have spent a fortune on it. I wonder what happened to the orchard, and what the next 25 years holds for this village church.

We parked in the pub car park, and I walked to the church. The tower and spire rises to 115 feet.

The nave arcade dates from about 1200, the south arcade about a hundred years later.

Some interesting war memorials and kneeler.

Other memorials to members of the Tryon family. The bottom one commemorates Vice-admiral Sir George who died with 300 of his men when HMS Victoria collided with HMS Camperdown and sank in the Mediterranean in 1893 – website.

This one is Sir Henry and Eleanor Fowkes (did 1612 and 1609).

Some interesting windows – I like the angels.

The font is medieval, with a cover that cost £4 in 1866. Nice sedilia too.

I had a wander outside, and enjoyed some graves. The houses of this village are rather good too – way out of my price bracket! This is a lovely part of the world, and needs more explorations.




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Harringworth, Northamptonshire – St John the Baptist

After lunch beside Rutland Water we headed south through North Luffenham and across the railway (barriers controlled from Ketton box). Then the A6121 and B672 which took us under the Harringworth (Welland) Viaduct. The field on the south side of the road is Seaton Meadows nature reserve – website – which means there are lots of opportunities to take photos (the website has a lovely photo of the viaduct through a blanket of wild flowers). There is a history of the viaduct on the village website.

The line between Kettering and Manton Junction (on the Peterborough-Leicester line) didn’t open until 1880 – so quite a late line. It has 82 arches, each with a 40 foot span – total length 1,275 yards. It is the longest masonry viaduct in Britain. The contractors were Lucas & Aird, and the viaduct contains 20 million bricks, 20,000 cubic yards of concrete, and 19,000 cubic feet of stone. It is now used by some freight and a couple of passenger trains a day – I rode over it the other week, see my post about Leicester.

We continued into the village of Harringworth, and we’re now in  Northamptonshire. The church is dedicated to St John the Baptist – SP916074. The tower is C12 with a C14 tower. Enjoy the figures.

The porch is C15, but much re-built, and the arches are C13.

We have a C14 nave, with ancient font and rather nice woodwork.

It is a late C13 chancel. The Sedilia is, to quote the guidebook, “rather battered by time during its 500 years.” The kneelers are more C21, and rather fun. The tapestry is 1989 – I like the Kingfisher, and the kneelers are lovely.

The East Window was installed as a War Memorial, rather nice glass.

In the north aisle is a vault which was used as the burial place for members of the Tryon family at Bulwick Park from late C17 to 1833. The ironwork dates to £1700. The organ came from Deene Church, and the monuments are worth a good look. I like the arch shape on the windows.

Back outside, look at the viaduct and the snowdrops.




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Apethorpe, Northamptonshire – St Leonard

The next church we stopped at was Apethorpe – TL025957. On my return I look at the Apethorpe village website which gives details of the new Vicar, but not much about the church. It doesn’t mention the Palace, see below. It is another parish in the Oundle deanery – website. There are some very good photos of this and other nearby churches at this website.

There are signs in the village to Apethorpe Palace, and I remembered seeing a TV programme about it – which I researched when I got home. The Palace was on the heritage at risk register, and English Heritage stepped in, £10 million was spent. It was then sold to Baron von Pfetten for only £2.5 million – the argument being that he will still need to spend more millions on it. The EH website says “Among England’s finest country houses, Apethorpe was begun in the late 15th century. It contains one of the country’s most complete Jacobean interiors and hosted 13 royal visits between 1565 and 1636. It has a particularly important place in England’s history because of this role it played in entertaining Tudor and Stuart royalty at the pinnacle of its influence around the turn of the 17th century. Its state rooms are arguably the most complete in the country and provide a fascinating window on a rich period of English history. The architectural importance of Apethorpe lies in the breadth of architectural elements which survive today from almost every period of English architecture since the late 15th century.” The website is currently advertising guided tours in summer 2015 – we’ll be in touch later this year to see if there are guided tours in 2017.

There is a Manor House next to the church, on which a huge amount of money is being spent.

There was a C12 church, and the building was probably rebuilt in 1485. The tower was built in 1633 and the Chancel Arch in circa 1480. The clock is by John Watts and dates to 1704.

Most of my readers will know that my wife is disabled, so she tends to sit in the car with a book while I go and explore. I entered this church and thought “nothing special”, though I wondered why Charles and Camilla had signed the Visitors’ Book. Then I saw something in the south aisle, went to investigate, and went back to get Julie.

The Nave is simple, and the Chancel rather lovely.

The East Window is of the Last Supper by John Rowell of Hugh Wycombe, signed and dated 1732. It is a painted glass window, but the artists had not mastered the art of fixing colour, so most of the windows faded and were taken out. This was one was restored in 1994.

The large oil painting of “Christ walking on the water” is by R.S. Lauder, a Scottish mid-Victorian artist. It would look better properly-lit in a Gallery. There is a lovely wooden chest, and an C18 font.

Some nice memorials. I found this little child very moving – although I didn’t make a note as to her name.

In any other church, this would be enough. But there is more to come. We have the tomb slab of the Lord of the Manor, Sir Richard Dalton, who did in 1442. The effigy is half size, and in armour. Above the head is an unusual Annunciation scene, with figures of God, theVirgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel. It would originally have been brightly painted.

We have a stained glass window of 1621. It has Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Christ on the cross, the Ascension (with bodies rising from their tombs), and Christ surrounded by angels and patriarchs.

Most amazing of all, we have the Mildmay Monument. From the outside you can see how the church has been altered for it. The effigies of Sir Anthony (died 1617) and his wife, Lady Grace Mildmay (died 1620). She is in full mantle, ruff and headdress, he in Greenwich army. Sir Anthony was the son of Sir Walter Mildmay, founder of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. At the corners are standing female figures, Piety, Charity, Wisdom and Justice (why did I only photo three of them?). Sadly the only guidebook to the church is a double sided A4 sheet – I would love to know more.


When you think you’ve seen everything, look up at the decoration above the arches.

Julie made no complaint that I had got her out of the car to see all this.


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Fotheringhay, Northamptonshire – St Mary and All Saints

On Friday 27 January we went off towards Rutland Water where we were meeting friends for lunch. The first church of call was Fotheringhay – St Mary and All Saints (TL060932). We entered the village over the old bridge, and saw the remains of the Castle on the right – but it was cold and foggy, so not really a day to go wandering round castles.

The church is well worth visiting. There is a website for the whole of the Oundle Deanery and links to each parish – here – a lot of work has gone into it. There is also a very strong Friends’ – website. I am writing this diary on Wednesday 8 February  2017, the 430th anniversary of the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, executed at the Castle on the orders of Elizabeth I in 1587. The church had a Memorial Service this morning – sadly I wasn’t able to attend. 135 years earlier, on 2 October 1452, the future Richard III was born here. The castle was Norman, and lasted until about 1630.

In Norman times there would have been a chapel in the Castle, and a parish church. Around 1100 a Cluniac nunnery was founded here. In the C14 Edmund Langley founded a College, and in 1412 it moved to a site on the south and east of the parish church. The Chancel was rebuilt and extended in 1415, and formed the Quire and Lady Chapel of the Collegiate church. The nave was rebuilt in 1434 – a copy of the paperwork (which includes the earliest use of the word “Freemason”) is displayed inside.

The College had a staff of 34 including a Master, Preceptor, eleven chaplains or fellows, with 8 clerks and 13 choristers who sang the services. It was surrendered to the Crown in 1539, and closed in 1348. You can see the marks of the College on the East End of the church. The photos would have been better if the sun was shining. When you enter the church it is a wow!

There is a lovely stone lion by the North Door which was once part of the castle.

The font is C16, and the cover has been made from a medieval Misericord seat which was originally situated in the Quire.

Rather nice rainwater goods now inside – the lead would be worth a bit – and lovely fan vaulting under the tower.

The pulpit is rather lovely. It is C15 and was said to have been donated by Edward IV. The Royal Arms is George III.

The altar and communion rails are modern, but the cross and candles were made from bell frame timber when the bells were re-hung in the mid 1990s. The monuments on either side are C16. When Elizabeth I visited in 1566 she saw the desecrated tombs of the royal dukes among the ruins of the Collegiate Church, and ordered that her ancestors should be exhumed and reburied in the church. To the left of the altar is Richard, 3rd Duke of York, killed in Wakefield in 1460, and his wife Cecily Neville. To the right Edward, 2nd Duke of York, killed at Agincourt in 1415.


On the south east side is the York Chapel. The guidebook doesn’t tell me who the memorial is to, and I didn’t get a photo of the Richard III window.

This is an amazing church, which warrants a longer visit. There is plenty of history to read and some good displays, but Julie was in the car and no doubt getting cold. Time to move on – I’ll come back in the summer.


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Robinson College, Cambridge


On Thursday 26 January we had a Cambridge day. My wife’s book-buying odyssey started in Waterstone’s (I escaped to the café), and continued to Heffer’s. Then we had a lunch break. Julie went back to Heffer’s and I went for a walk. I cut through King’s College, Clare Memorial Court, past the University Library, instead turned down Burrell’s Walk and crossed Grange Road to enter Robinson College.

Robinson College – website – is a new foundation he types, then realises that 1977 is hardly “new”. Her Majesty opened the College on 29 May 1981, and Julie and I were in the crowd watching. (We were at Selwyn, which is the next college along Grange Road).

I remembered Robinson as a very red brick place, now the bricks have mellowed. The architects were a Glasgow firm, Gillespie, Kidd and Coia. The first undergraduates arrived in 1980 – that was a good year. The man who gave the money did not go to the opening.

I remember my mum telling me that David Robinson had made his fortune in “radio rentals”. Reading about him I find out he had a TV and radio business, then saw the impact Her Majesty’s Coronation made, and started his rental business. My mother did not mention that he also made a fortune as a racehorse owner … mum would not have approved. He used his money wisely – including this Cambridge College, the Rosie Maternity Hospital (named after his mother – our Theo was born and well cared for there), and large donations to Papworth Hospital (Gareth was under their care for a while). Thank you. He is remembered in the Chapel.

I think I had only been in the Chapel once – indeed I haven’t been in the College that much. I remembered the lovely windows. There is a little on the College website about the chapel, a music list and a few sermons, but nothing about the choir – I then found their own website not linked to the main one! There is a choir video on youtube.

The windows are by John Piper. I can find some interesting articles about him, but nothing that really covers these windows. The articles are here and here.

You can find better photos on the web. I remember it being commented on that you can only see the full light of the sun when you go forward to receive Communion.

The other Piper window is in a side chapel, which is being used as a storage area. I like the window, but was not impressed at the level of care.

I enjoyed my visit – no tourists get out this far. The Gardens are supposed to be rather beautiful – I’ll come back later in the year.Julie was still in Heffer’s …


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Whissendine, Rutland – St Andrew

We drove south out of Wymondham and, as it was getting late and foggy, didn’t go via Edmonthorpe (which is a CCT church). Another minor road – this car will need a clean – and we crossed the railway at Whissendine Station SK837166. It was opened on 1 May 1848 and closed on 3 October 1955. The signal box was built in 1898 and renewed during WW2. It is still there, though the gates have gone. There is an older photo at this website. I got some photos, but failed to get any of the Royal Train as it speeded past. Apparently Prince Charles was on board.

We came into Whissendine, and stopped at St Andrew’s church,  SK833143. The church is in the Oakham Team, and has a website. It is a magnificent church – apparently the tower is regular used for parachuting teddy bears. The original church is C13. There is a lot of interest, and I was tired. The light was not good, and there is a bookstall at the back of the church. That alone is enough to warrant another visit. In words of Arnie “We’ll be back”!

We then drove across to Ashwell – there is a signal box where we cross the line – past the Rutland Railway Museum, Cottesmore – website – and onto the A1. It was getting very foggy. A warm room was waiting at the Premier Inn at Norman Cross. This holiday, and more churches, will continue (though no more level crossing gates … sorry).



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Wymondham, Leicestershire – St Peter

The minor road brought us into the village of Wymondham, and I drove up to the church of St Peter’s, at SK182186. The church doesn’t seem to have its own website but there is a lovely one here. His photos are better than mine. There is a 36 page guidebook, and I was amazed how much there was in this church.

The lower stages of the tower are C13, the arches of the nave, chancel and the windows are C14, and the clerestory and some other details are C15. The six bells date to the early C17 – a hundred years ago the Gleaning Bell was rung every evening of harvest. The clock is by John Smith of Derby.

Entering the church, my eye was caught by the lovely brass rotating notice about the need to be a good giver.

Then I looked at the Nave, and looked up. Wonderful medieval carvings – enjoy!

An octagonal font, and an eagle under cover – I wonder if they have bat problems? The altar is C19, and I like the way they leave it uncovered – altar frontals can be lovely, but there are some hideous ones around. According to the guidebook, “Beneath the East window and rightly hidden in shame is a reredos of glazed tiles in appalling but typical Victorian bad taste”.

The East window is by Alexander Gibbs, and is also typical Victorian. A nice Sedilla too.

I like the costumes in this Victorian window.

The South Transept once held the Chantry founded by William Hamelin in 1290. An Inquisition held that year founded that it would not be to the damage of the King if William gave 2 messuages and 8 bovates of land in Saxby, Wymondham and Thorp Edmer to a chaplain to celebrate divine offices in the chapel of St Mary on the south side of the church of Wymondham “in pure and perpetual alms.” There is a large oak Jacobean cupboard carved with the Annunciation and Baptism, but no record where or when it came to the church. In a glass case is a recorder-like instrument once played by John Bursnall (1803-73) in the church band, before the organ was installed. You may know the lovely passage by Thomas Hardy, if not read the passage on this website. The brass is of Dame Margery Berkeley (died 1521), her husband Sir Morris has gone.

The guidebook describes this as “the once fine alabaster-topped altar-tomb of Sir Thomas Berkeley (died 1488) and Petronilla, his wife.

The effigy is of Sir John Hamelin. He was a crusader on three occasions. I wonder how far he travelled and what sights he saw. Did he reach the walls of Jerusalem? You can imagine him telling his stories when he return home. It is a rather lovely effigy.

A pretty amazing church.


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Stapleford, Leicestershire – St Mary Magdalene

The Churches Conservation Trust website describes Stapleford church as “A tasteful church with fabulous family tombs”. It is at SK811182 and stands in Stapleford Park – website – advertised as a Hotel and Sporting Estate. Lots of places you can get married, including the church, but is it any wonder our churches are struggling to attract weddings when there is so much money being poured in to secular venues? I wonder how much people spend attending the “Health and Well-being Centre” – while the last church I visited has no money for a new roof, and here the church stands un-used. In my depressed moments, I wonder what future we have. Sorry, end of moan.

The manor of Stapleford was given to the Ferrers family after the Norman Conquest. In 1366 John of Gaunt settled it on his first wife Blanche as part of her dowry. In 1402 it went to the Sherard family, and they held it for almost 500 years. It was sold in 1885, and passed to the Gretton family in 1894 – they were a Bass brewing family. The family sold it in 1987, and the church passed to the CCT in 1996.

There was a medieval church on this site, but this one was designed by George Richardson and built by Staveley of Melton Mowbray in 1783. Richardson was a draughtsman in the London architectural office of Robert and James Adam, and accompanied James on his Grand Tour of 1760-63. I feel I should chuck it all in and go on a Grand Tour – I didn’t even manage to go inter-railing in my youth. He is responsible for the ceiling of the Marble Hall at Kedleston Hall.

The exterior is of smooth local limestone ashlar, and has what the guidebook describes as “a series of fancifully shaped heraldic shields”. They depict the arms of families allied by marriage to the Sherards. Apparently it looks rather lovely in Spring – it has not been a sunny January, we are missing it.

The church is lovely. Nice ceiling, lovely spacious feel, and very light. They had had a recent wedding, which gave it a nice feel too. The woodwork is of high quality – this may be a parish church, but really it was the family chapel. You can climb into the Balcony, where the family used to sit – nice fire.

There is a brass in the middle of the floor. It commemorates Geoffrey Sherard, who died in 1490, and his wife Joan, and their fourteen children.

On the north side of the altar is the tomb of the 1st Earl Harborough. He died in 1732, and this tomb was moved from the old church. It was sculpted by Michael Rysbrack (c 1693-1770), a Flemish sculptor. The Earl is in Roman civil dress, reclining in a Roman pose. She is clothed as a Roman matron, and holds their son who died in infancy.

On the south side is the magnificent tomb of Sir William Sherard, ennobled by Charles I as Lord Sherard and Baron Leitrim. He died in 1540, and his tomb was erected by his wife Abigail. He rests his feet on a ram, the supporter of the Sherard arms, while Abigail’s are on a greyhound, the supporter of her Cave family arms. Lovely figures of the children too. The guide does not say who made it.

A lovely simple altar. The marble reredos, with Blue John inserts for the centre, is by Richard Brown of Derby, and was added to the church in 1795. Worth a visit.

19 February – I have just discovered the website of the Stapleford Miniature Railway – here. Two open weekends a year – 10/11 June 2017 and August Bank Holiday. I already have Darley Abbey Day and a wedding on 10 June, now to find someone to do Evensong on Sunday 11th.

We drove out of the estate, curved round the south of it, and headed along a minor road to Wymondham. We came to the level crossing at  SK830174 where the crossing keeper has a good collection of bird feeeders, and lots of birds. Chatting to the keeper and his supervisor while we waited for a gap in the trains, the keeper said he joined the railway 19 years ago and was told he’d have a couple of years before the gates were replaced. The gates are about to be replaced – with more wooden ones, so he reckons he has another decade of opening and closing them.


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Brentingby and Wyfordby, Leicestershire

We left Melton on the B676 and turned right to Brentingby, where the church is now a house. I didn’t stop and photo it as I didn’t feel I should, but then found out that the tower is owned/managed by the Churches Conservation Trust and I could have done – website. Here is their photo.

The next church is St Mary Wyfordby – SK793189. The noticeboard is blank, the door is firmly locked, the lead has gone. The church is mentioned on “A church near you” with a contact number for the Secretary, but no mention on any services. A newspaper report tells of a sponsored walk to raise money in 2014, and then the lead went at the beginning of last year. There is a Ride and Stride page from 2016 – website – to raise money for a new roof. They have a mountain to climb, and the question has to be asked how we maintain and protect a Grade II listed church (or do we?).

We crossed the Melton-Stamford line at SK798189. It is a level crossing where you drive up the gates and the signaller opens them for you. In 2013 there was an advert for a “Signaller Grade 1 Crossing Keeper” based here. I know I should have applied. A previous keeper was featured on the bbc – website – 13 years later the crossing is still open and staffed.



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