Bures to Sudbury


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30th May 2014

Secret Informant has heard a radio programme reporting  that cynicism can hasten the onset of dementia, so this post will be resolutely positive, cheerful and life-affirming, whilst simultaneously acknowledging the value of appropriately directed pessimism and bile in a world that contains Michael Gove, Nigel Farage and Jeff Bezos, all of whom, if consumed uncritically, can hasten the onset of dementia.

Driving into Sudbury, I think I have taken a wrong turning – Have  I been guilty of cynicism lately? –  ‘’I might be a few minutes’’ I say to Ebb Tide over the phone, ‘‘I think I’ve taken a wrong turning’’. I almost immediately realise I haven’t taken a wrong turning at all and am exactly where we want to be. I look for a place to pull over, which it turns out is precisely behind  Ebb Tide’s parking spot. This is  life-affirming serendipity.

We drive back to Bures to start the walk, somewhat guiltily realising as we park that we could have taken the train and saved the journey. Further evidence of cerebral deterioration. Bures straddles the Essex/Suffolk border, and whilst border towns have a reputation for being uneasy places, Bures exudes no  tension whatever, at least not at 10.30 on a Friday morning. Our route takes us out of Bures on a footpath leading from the broad curve in the road immediately on the Essex side of the Stour bridge. The footpath passes beside a high and well-weathered red brick wall which leans over our heads in a mildly unnerving manner.  How much gravity, I wonder, can a brick wall defy?

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To our left are wooded water meadows and quickly we emerge from the dubious shelter of the wall out on to agricultural land. The River Stour, to our right, is hidden behind dense stands of willows, gridded together, either for commercial or flood prevention purposes. The landscape is green; olive green, silver green, willow green, light green, dark green, newington green, and all shades  between. The variety of the greens confounds my descriptive ability and might read like a colour chart for household paint, except that there would be more greens than would be feasible for a colour chart.

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All this is to our right on the riverside and looking over the valley. To our left, the immediate foreground is a more uniform potato-top green, for this is a potato field.

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The furrows of this field have not been shaped into smooth symmetry that we have noticed in other potato fields this year, and I wonder if there will be any difference in the yield. I don’t know whether or not anyone who reads this blog is a potato farmer but I live in hope. The flowers on the oilseed rape have gone – early it seems, for it is  still May – and we pass fields full of the seed pods, which are an oil-seed green.

In a by-election at South Cosford, a few miles to our east, the Green party gained a seat on Babergh council; hardly surprising perhaps in view of all the free publicity, although in the European Elections, the results for the East of England fell in favour of UKPC, whose policies we had commented upon during a walk this time last year.

A train passes us, bright white against the treescape, heading south on the Stour Valley/Lovejoy/Gainsborough line towards Marks Tey. When the railways are renationalised, I think the resolution of this unfortunate line’s identity crisis should be a top priority. Our path takes us away from the riverbank, up a hill and across the railway line itself. Shortly after, Secret Informant  spots an ‘erratic’, which for those that don’t know, including myself, is a sizeable rock of a completely different geology to everything around it, usually carried to its resting place by water or glacial action.  Ebb tide is sceptical about this, and I think it has marks made possibly by the pressure of ropes, but Ebb Tide thinks they are striations of a different rock that has eroded more quickly.

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We walking through the village of Lamarsh, which has a small church  with a round tower capped by a pointed turret, giving it the ambience of a building in a Teutonic fairy tale. From the church website;

 Holy Innocents Church is a particularly fine example of a beautiful, ancient building in a tiny parish that has served the community for nearly 900 years. It is amongst the small number of buildings to receive a Grade 1 listing by English Heritage, which means that architecturally, structurally and historically it is of the highest quality.

The dedication to “Holy Innocents”, the infants murdered by King Herod in the hopes of eliminating the baby Jesus, is one of only five in all England.

Although Lamarsh, (then known as Lamers), is mentioned several times in the Domesday Book (1086), there is no reference to a Church and it is probably only when the Manor of Lamarsh came into the hands of the Beauchamps, a  Norman family loyal to King Stephen, that the building was constructed. Interestingly, the raised clay foundations differ markedly from the surrounding soil.

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Leaving the village, we climb a hill giving a panoramic view back down the Stour Valley. Along the ridge delineating the western side of the valley and down towards Henny, with Sudbury and Great Cornard spreading from the horizon to our north and east. We follow the road along the river which becomes an extremely deep sunken lane as we come into the town. We finish our walk at the point at which we started the first walk of the year, on the disused railway line near Ballingdon Bridge.  We drive back to Henny to recuperate in its pub, however the smiles on our faces quickly turn into sneers when the barman informs us that the pub has no beer, at least, not the sort we are looking for, and our sympathies are extended to the citizens of Henny, for it must be a lonesome, dull and drear place to live. Fearing the onset of cynicism, we move on to Lamarsh.

The public house, now called the Lamarsh Lion, which overlooks the Stour valley, was originally a boar lodge called Brownings. It became an Inn in 1305, with a small grocery store in a back room for many years until the early 1970’s. The adjacent barn, now converted to three en-suite rooms, dates from 1535. In 1996 The Lamarsh Lion, which has a restaurant as well as a bar, was voted one of only two pubs in Essex to be included in the John Timson BBC publication The 100 best pubs in England, Scotland and Wales.

Much better. Later I discover  that George Bernard Shaw noted, with strident confidence, ”the power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who don’t have it.” So, accurate observation hastens the onset of dementia. You read it here first.

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