Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Two wheels through the Weald
Yesterday I put my bike on a train at Charing Cross, alighted at Robertsbridge in East Sussex and cycled to just beyond the Kent border near Bodiam to see an amazing collection of Russian scores and manuscripts. I won't write about that in case hordes should invade the Weald privacy of the collector's delightful widow, who served me an excellent lunch and put me to work planting a couple of rosebushes, but it's time to touch on a few incidental churches.
St Mary's Salehurst - 'long and large...built of Hastings sandstone between 1250 and 1360'(W.S. Mitchell in the Shell Guide to East Sussex) - boasts a grand nave, one of the biggest in Sussex.
As I was taking a guilty diversion on my journey, I didn't stay for long enough to discover the 14th century birds in one of the windows, but I did like the 15th century glass in St Nicholas Sandhurst. 'Poor quality', opines John Newman in the Pevsner guide, 'as C15 glass often is' - but the naive execution has bags of charm. Here's St George
and a jolly little pig at the foot of a saint with a sword* I couldn't identify:
St Nicholas also boasts a massive tower of 'golden sandstone' (Pennethorne Hughes).
Unfortunately there's local controversy afoot about the lights installed by a certain big cheese. We know how resistant the regions are to any sort of change (viz the absurd fuss over Maggi Hambling's Britten memorial scallop on Aldeburgh beach, which I adore) but these are hideous, don't you think, and too claustrophobic as they hang from low arches.
The whole day had a dreamlike quality, and I must confess the many Weald hills had me dropping from exhaustion - I had to get off and push the bike up several - but at least there was a bonus of beech-shaded lanes (pictured at the top).
I promised not to talk much about the Russian scores, but let me just say how amazed I was to see a facsimile of Musorgsky's original Pictures at an Exhibition. The handwriting is so incredibly neat and pleasing to the eye. I wouldn't have expected it from the bleary alcoholic of the famous Repin picture - though that, of course, was painted just before Musorgsky's death. The original m/s is lodged in Moscow.
This reproduction cuts off the right side of the page, and doesn't show the most amazing parts of the writing (notably a cross-hatched removal of one bar in the 'Great Gate'), but it gives some idea.
*Or it might be a monk with a staff, if I re-read my Pevsner correctly.