Wednesday, 17 October 2018

A spontaneous walk above Lerici



No doubt at all: discovering Lerici and that part of the Ligurian coast as a guest at Gianluca Marcianò's Suoni dal Golfo Festival in late August was a revelation. Some years ago we walked the Cinque Terre route in late October, just after a storm had caused landslides; I'm told the route is choked now. So, much as I don't want to spread the news, come and ramble here. I've only touched the tip of the walking iceberg, but now I know where to start and where to get hold of maps, I'll be back.


To Tellaro, that is, the exquisite seaside village which was to be found ten minutes' walk from the simple but perfect Hotel Rosa dei Venti in Fiascherino where some of us were accommodated - infinitely preferable, I think, to the blingily redesigned and much more expensive Villa Magni, the Casa Shelley in San Terenzo.  Better views, too, especially from the roof terrace.


I only got to see Tellaro on my last morning, and fell in love. This was D H Lawrence and Virginia Woolf territory, as Lerici itself is proud to proclaim in literary posters. But now the area mostly has the air of an exclusively Italian holiday destination, and absolutely not a fancy one like nearby Portovenere, our starting-point for the Cinque Terre expedition.


Having walked around the promenade to Shelley's place and back, duly observing the plaque on the side of the now-hotel


and enjoyed the only attractive feature of its now-limited garden, the grotto,


I then thought I'd ignore warnings about the busy, twisting coastal road and head back up to the hotel. I'd heard that some steps up provided something of a short cut and a break from the speeding cars, but the ones I took went up...


and up, until I arrived by chance at the hill village of La Serra. This gives views right across the bay.


You get an especially good view of San Terenzo, which I've closed in on here. The Alps are visible, at least to the naked eye, beyond.


A bar was conveniently to hand, so I stocked up on liquid intake and then, mapless, had to take a gamble to get back to the hotel below at Fiascherino. Where would the road take me? Round the edge of the village at first, obviously.


But then it had to negotiate a wide valley, and continuing would take me beyond where I wanted to go. Seeing the wooded peninsula beneath,


I ventured on the first track I saw going down to the right, which soon joined up with what turned out to be the major footpath between Montemarcello - clearly the right destination for a longer walk - and Lerici.


There were handsome olive groves here,



and a view across to the south hillside with remains of ancient terracing,


and the wooded slopes of what turns out to be a national park ever more apparent as the track curves round the valley.


It was enticing to continue along the footpath more or less parallel with the sea, but I hazarded another guess turning down to the left, and that brought me out exactly where I needed to be. Needless to say the bus for the first concert in Lerici was 20 minutes late, so I missed the beginning of Samson Tsoy's recital, but what I heard of his Schubert and Schumann was wonderful, and afterwards the castle terrace gave good views out to the sunset.


Venus is shining, appropriately, above Portovenere here.


On my final morning there was time for a swim on the narrow but beautiful stretch of (public) beach below the hotel - daily circuits around a rock with a cormorant on it - before checking out


and then a stroll into Tellaro past the road to the Casa Lawrence


into the village where the road stops and it's pedestrians only,


taking in the beautiful Gothic virgin and child in the Church of Santa Maria Stella Maris - no information about it online -




and then wandering down to the harbour (Church of San Giorgio's tower under wraps)


before having coffee on a beautiful terrace with Jill Segal, whom I bumped into in Tellaro and whose organisational skills should save the festival from its only bad side - chaotic planning, quite a major fault. But I really wish it well, and hope it lives to tell another tale next summer. Whether that happens or not, I'll be back in the area, hopefully in the spring.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

12 talks in two grand houses


Over a fortnight ago, I was honoured to be part of the Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival, giving two talks in this splendid remnant of the Tudor palace where the future Elizabeth I grew up


and two in the glorious Marble Hall of Robert Cecil's house - still in the hands of his descendants the Salisburys. This exterior shot by the always friendly Jo Johnson, who was up there helping with the admin. She'll get a 'JJ' from now on when I'm using her photos.


The previous weekend I was up in the Trossachs at Gartmore House, 18 miles from Stirling: eight talks of an hour and a half apiece, from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, to the Wagner Society of Scotland.


Both engagements meant stepping in to the shoes of distinguished but indisposed speakers at relatively short notice. I can't say how sorry I am that Derek Watson, who had been due to carry on his exploration of Wagner's life up in Gartmore, died on the Monday, having gone in to hospital for one thing but kept in for another which proved to be fatal. I never met him, but my 'students' told me a lot about him. There's a brief appreciation on the Society's website.


The only reason I was able to fill the gap, with less than a week to prepare, was because I could adapt and  add to the classes on Das Rheingold I'd given as part of my Opera in Depth one-a-year survey of the Ring. Some members weren't sure they wanted to go into any one work in detail, but only one pulled out - and the rest told me they were happy to have found a new way of listening and of making connections with other music. Here we are at the end of it all.


Gartmore accommodation was simple, comfortable and quiet, with fine views of nothing but green through the windows. It did tend to be through, because the rain was frequent. I had two hours between lunch and my afternoon session to walk, and was glad I'd brought my waterproofs. I must write up a mycological trail in a subsequent blog. As far as the students went - what a delightful and original group of people. Singers, academics, a professional, a forensic psychiatrist, a retired sinologist: all so interesting and friendly to talk to. Here's my perspective from above the teaching zone. Apart from a few classes at my friend Chris's, with my goddog Teddy making a fuss of everyone and then slinking under the sofa, his favourite habitat, to sleep, it's the first time I've given lectures with a dog present, but Natasha's Zippy was attentiveness itself - head cocked when music was played, but no barking or even growling.


As for the music, I found myself drawn in afresh to key performances - above all the dramatic perceptions and brilliance of the Chéreau Bayreuth Rheingold, noticeably more involving after we'd watched a scene from the Lepage staging at the Met - good for the bigger picture, weak on the personenregie, which between Stephanie Blythe's Fricka and Bryn Terfel's bad-hair-day Wotan was more or less non-existent. And then, Zednik's Loge at Bayreuth: comic genius, but not without a serious edge.

At a later stage I had an excuse to play my most recent favourite among Wotan's Farewell (in a look ahead to Die Walküre justified by a class on the elements - here, of course, Loge as pure fire): Norman Bailey, perhaps the most god-like Wotan I've ever heard, with Klemperer and the New Philharmonia. I left the students to watch the Kupfer Rheingold in its entirety on Sunday evening while I got a late flight back from Edinburgh in order to get back to The Rake's Progress in my Opera in Depth class the following day.

Then three without talking much, and off to Hatfield - so much closer but by no means simple to reach owing to train chaos - for Thursday evening's opener (the talks courtesy of my dear friend Stephen Johnson, who asked to hand them over to me). There I met our charming host, Festival planner and participant Guy Johnston, a really nice chap with no side to him, pictured on the left here with his very talented violinist brother Magnus (JJ),


and gave my first 20-minute lecture - short, but all the harder to say much in that time (also JJ).


I needed to connect both with the overall them of 'Brahms and Friends' and the immediate concert - a chamber-orchestra-sized programme of Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture, Brahms's Double Concerto with the Johnstons and the First Symphony, all marvellously well handled by Mark Austin conducting the young professionals of the locally-based Faust Chamber Orchestra. Thought it was a nice idea to make sure everyone had a postcard with Mendelssohn's watercolour of Lucerne, its lake and the Rigi on one side


and Brahms's Rigi greeting to Clara Schumann on the other


I thought our short spot should be dedicated to 'Brahms the melodist' with the following excerpts (I'll give them for all four, since some folk didn't get the handout at the final talk and may like to see them here).

Attempted singing of the main theme in the central movement of the Double Concerto, Op. 102 (1888) and the words Brahms set, in a postcard to Clara Schumann, to the alphorn call he heard on Mount Rigi – transformed as the horn call in the finale of the First Symphony, Op. 68 (1876)

‘Sapphische Ode’ and ‘Kein Haus, Keine Heimat’ from Five Songs, Op. 94 (1884)   Thomas Quashtoff, Justus Zeyen (Deutsche Grammophon)


‘Alpenlied auf Rigi’   Angelo Lottaz, Male Voice Choir of Thun



The performance of the Double Concerto was the perfect chamber-musical conversation, a far cry from the usual heavy weather you get in the concert hall, the Johnstons never trying to dominate. And if Austin's interpretation of the symphony didn't break out into unbridled exhilaration, as Jonathan Bloxham's had with the Northern Chords Festival Orchestra at our Europe Day Concert, his instincts were all right, his discipline perfect. Soloistic star for me was the superb principal oboist, Katie Bennington.

Only after the concert was I able to find the key to my lodgings, serendipitously only two minutes down the hill from one of the house's gates. The owners, John Mark Ainsley and William Whitehead, had tried to get us to come to the festival the previous year; now here I was, awaiting their return, and J due on Saturday lunchtime. I woke up to this - a garden not overlooked by anybody -


and had a blissful time exploring locally, including the church. I think I ought to blog about the sightseeing elsewhere, but I must of course introduce a figure very much part of all proceedings in the main house's Marble Hall, Gloriana in the famous and slightly enigmatic 'rainbow portrait'.


It's one of two in the house, the other upstairs in the Picture Gallery and attributed to Hilliard.


But the rainbow queen has the more supernatural impact. You know that old cliche about portraits, 'the eyes follow you round the room'? Well, these seemed to, and you could kid yourself that the Queen was mighty pleased with what she was hearing.


The lunchtime recital - for which the above, pictured Vermeerishly by JJ, was the rehearsal - featured Guy with the very individual Melvyn Tan - whose work up to this point tends to have been mostly on period instruments rather than the sonorous Fazioli, a point of contact with the Suoni dal Golfo Festival in Lerici, and less with chamber music - and clarinettist Julian Bliss, who's very good but a tad too reserved for my taste. How could I feel any differently having been under the spell of maybe the greatest of them all, Matt Hunt, at the Pärnu Festival? Still, it was good to hear all the works on the programme, especially so as to get to know the late Brahms Trio the better.


My (slightly longer - half-an-hour) talk, of which there is the above record by audience member Sue Forbes, for which I'm grateful since I wanted to be photographed with Queenie, needed to set up the evening programme. That took us beyond Brahms, so the excerpts I played were:

Double Concerto (1888) – slow movement   Jitka Čechová. Jan Páleníček, Hradec Králové Philharmonic Orchestra/Ondřej Kukal (Triart) as echoed in

Julius Röntgen: String Trio No. 6 (1919) – opening  Lendvai Trio (Champs Hill – our wonderful group have recorded all 16 trios, unearthed in a Dutch archive and due to be published thanks to their championship)

Elgar: Piano Quintet (1918) – Brahmsian theme in first movement and its transformation   Bernard Roberts, Chilingirian String Quartet (EMI) 


Brahms (1863) arr Schoenberg (1939): Piano Quartet in G minor – Rondo all’Ungarese (excerpt) London Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi (Chandos)

The splendid Lendvais - Dutch violinist Nadja Wijzenbeek, Swedish viola-player Yivali Ziliacus and British cellist Marie Macleod - chose the fourth Röntgen Piano Trio, a waltz suite, for the concert. I imagine a little goes a long way, but the 16 trios are quite a discovery, a perfect enrichment of the repertoire for string trio.


We heard, of course, the original G minor Piano Quartet, fine and rewarding to watch, though one sensed that Tan, who made so many beautiful and original sounds on the Fazioli, wasn't quite expansive enough to let the strings breathe.


That was clearly not going to be a problem for the phenomenal Tom Poster, who plays in the Aronowitz Ensemble of which the Johnstons are also sometime members. The Saturday afternoon concert in which he teamed up with Ziliacus, the outstanding violinist Elena Urioste and Guy was, for me, sheer perfection of a kind you don't often get even in the rarefied world of chamber music.


If, taken as a whole, Fanny Mendelssohn's works show greater originality than Clara Schumann's, the central of the latter's Three Romances is an airborne masterpiece, one I wanted to hear again the minute Urioste and Poster had finished playing it. And while Schumann's Piano Quartet sounds modest between the two Brahms giants, he hit the right note even when not aiming as high as he does in the Piano Quintet. Lovable, every moment of it, in these hands.

John Mark and William were now back, complete with adorable vizsla Radish, most vocal and engaging company. Family portrait essential, I think, with their permission.


They both came to the evening concert, and I was delighted that William came away as bowled over by the Brahms A major Piano Quartet as I was. This was the real pay-off in preparing the talks. How surprising to find that a work which begins in serene introspection, the opposite of the G minor's cloudy start, rises to even more challenging heights. Every theme, every transformation, could only be by Brahms, laying to rest the ghost of Beethoven and taking on the mantle of Schubert (my personal preferred choice every time). With Poster at the piano and the admirable string group from the Aronowitz Ensemble of Wijzenbeek, Tom Hankey and Macleod, the payoff of the performance was simply colossal. Here they are rehearsing as shot from above by JJ.


I'm going to pass on saying anything about the first half, Lieder by Clara, Brahms and Schumann performed with his customary audience engagement by James Gilchrist in a familiar partnership with Anna Tilbrook. There was something in all this that didn't quite ring true to me, but any attempts to reach out communication-wise should always be applauded.

The preceding talk was an attempt to cover several bases: Clara and her youngest son Felix; Wagner and Brahms; and the A major Quartet's relationship to its immediate predecessor. So make what you will of the sequence here.

Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1864) – Fliedermonolog, Act 2, excerpt   Norman Bailey, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Georg Solti (Decca)

Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor (1854) – end of slow movement   Maurizio Pollini (DG)

Brahms arr. Schoenberg: Piano Quartet in G minor – finale (except)   LSO/Järvi (Chandos)

Piano Quartet in A major (1863) – opening    Gautier Capuçon, Gérard Caussé, Nicholas Angelich, Renaud Capuçon (Virgin)

Symphony No. 2 in D major (1877) – violins close to opening   Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler (EMI)

Symphony No. 1 in C minor – opening    Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Furtwängler (EMI)


Sunday morning continued the wind and rain of soggy Saturday, but at 3pm, just after J had left, the sky cleared and I did a healthy circuit around the park. I'd given the midday concert a miss partly because of social lunching, but also had to stay true to the vow I'd made after Hunt and Co in Pärnu not to hear the Brahms Clarinet Quintet played by anyone else for at least five years.


I did, however, want to hear the legendary Brett Dean as viola-player as well as composer, pictured above second from the left with Tan, Brett's daughter Lotte Betts-Dean, Poster and Johnston. Dean's Hommage à Brahms left little impact, I fear, as [played by Tan; it may seem reactionary of me but I'd much rather have heard the whole of Op. 119, which the homages were designed to weave between, rather than just Nos. 1 and 4 (how could anyone miss out the vintage masterpiece that is No. 2?)

Brett and Lotte were performing together for the very first time. She's a promising mezzo: super engagement, an undeniably individual and rich instrument, but much work is still to be done and a more secure technique should free things up. Let's leave it at that; I wish her every success.


So to the last hurdle, back in the Old Palace Hall. My sincere thanks to all those lovely people who came up to talk in between and enriched my knowledge from their various perspectives. It's rare to have such an interactive audience, but then again I guess as there wasn't time for questions more casual meetings were the only option. Ein Deutsches Requiem was on the cards, so I was able to talk about the curious Bremen premiere of all but the soprano-solo movement. Hence these excerpts, framed by the mighty Ferrier, which also allowed me to touch on Brahms's neo-Baroque aspect.

Bach:
St Matthew Passion (1727) – ‘Es ist vollbracht’ (sung in English)    Kathleen Ferrier, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Adrian Boult (Decca)

Handel:
Messiah (1741) ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’   Lynne Dawson, Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble/Marc Minkowski (Archiv)

Ein Deutsches Requiem (1869) – ‘Ihr hab nun Traurigkeit’    Dorothea Roschmann, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Simon Rattle (EMI)

Brahms (1862) arr. Rubbra (1938):
Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel – conclusion of fugue-finale   LSO/Järvi (Chandos)

Four Serious Songs (1896) – ‘O Tod, wie bitter bist du’   Ferrier, John Newmark (Decca)


Austin once again did the work to hand proud, with the necessary sense of forward movement that keeps the German Requiem from getting stodgy. There was again a marvellous power from the three double basses which helped out the many smokier sounds. Good soloists, a fine amateur choir - though I'd still have liked more words, even if there was more operatic drama than we got from the professional choir in Bremen. But I must say I was tired by the halfway mark. And I went and blotted my copybook, not having done anything wrong during my stay, by waltzing off with John Mark's wallet and leaving mine in my raincoat hanging up in the porch. Anyway, a Tuesday lunchtime meeting with William at Kew - he'd been playing for a funeral nearby - meant I finally took a holiday and spent a brilliantly sunny afternoon in the Gardens.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Norfolk churches 192-206: Metton to Hanworth



After last year's grand coastal sweep, this was an easy walk through fields and woods inland, touching on several other previous routes taken for the Norfolk Churches Trust (thanks to all those who have donated so far, taking us well past the £2000 mark; if you still want to give, you can do so here). Every church out of 14 (including chapels) in 14 miles had its idiosyncratic treasure, and the area is especially rich in brasses - detail of John Puttok's in All Saints, Thwaite above - and round towers. It was an overcast day, but not without subtle shifts in light and cloud, and there was only one downpour just before we reached the last church.


We started at Saint Andrew, Metton, and somehow missed the novelty - the arches for processions to pass through the medieval tower, as at the much grander edifice at Walpole St Peter. The interior felt a bit gloomy and slightly underloved, but the eye is drawn to the 16th century Flemish roundels in the east window, installed in 1956 in memory of Mrs. Ketton-Cremer, mother of the last squire of Felbrigg Hall, the very literary friend of Anthony Powell R W Ketton-Kremer, who bequeathed the hall to the National Trust when he died in 1969. There was a local hullabaloo about his being outed in a short film, narrated by Stephen Fry, to mark the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, in which the NT admirably decided to join with its 'Prejudice and Pride' initiatives.


No St Sebastian here, but Jerome and Laurence feature according to the leaflet (wrong in one respect, I fancy, as that's surely a reaper below), and in premonition of the National Trust's acorn symbol, there's an oak on the angel-held heraldry which is nicely reflected in the ones beyond the window.




Handsome trees and birds in abundance. including an untimely barn owl, accompanied our first walk to the Felbrigg estate.


Two bee hives in a hedgerow were buzzing with activity


while rooks were cawing and flapping in the field in front of St Margaret, Felbrigg, prettily shielded by a smaller wood than the one we'd just come through.


The church stands at some distance from the house and is outside the care of the National Trust; it belongs to Roughton Parish and needs a bit of work. Simon de Felbrigg's badge is in several places on the outside of the building, including the west door.


while they've found a statue of St Margaret to put above the porch entrance.


The glories of St Margaret are its brasses, one of the finest in the country, stretching across two and a half centuries, chronicled in detail in the excellent church guide with its fine drawings by a Victorian rector. Much pulling away and replacing of carpets necessary here. The foursome behind the altar rail was commissioned in c.1380 by Sir Simon de Felbrigg in honour of his grandfather, also Simon, and father, Roger, and their wives, Alice de Thorp and Elizabeth Scales.


Half concealed by the altar is Jane Coningsby, a daughter of another local family, the Windhams. She died in 1608 at the age of 67 - hence the Jacobean attire - and has a fine eulogy in verse.


Her brother, Thomas Windham, d.1599, is in the aisle.


There's a chronicle at Felbrigg recounting the transportation in 1612 of these brasses on their Purbeck marble slabs from London to Felbrigg via sea to Yarmouth and 'long boate' to Coltishall Bridge, from whence they were transported in two carts.

Most glorious, as befits his rank as standard-bearer to Richard II, and as knight of the garter who lived on to serve Henry V in the French wars, is Sir Simon Felbrigg, d.1416, with his first wife Margaret of Bohemia, maid of honour to that same Lady Anne so slimily wooed by Shakespeare's Richard III. They're somewhat squeezed in between the box pews, and best seen from the pulpit..


Last but not least is a brass of about 1480, sans inscription, representing a young girl with hair flowing down to her waist.


If these were not riches enough for one church,  the Felbrigg connection also yields us a fair number of monuments. That to Thomas Windham, made by Martin Morley of Norwich in 1669 for £45, is dismissed by Pevsner as 'rustic', but the naive can charm, as in the trumpeting angels.


More controversial is the monument to statesman William Windham (1750-1810) facing it. Undoubtedly the bust by Nollekens is very fine


 but both that and the marble sarcophagus below, with its eloquent inscription (click to read in larger form),


break up a beautifully-wrought sedilia of about 1400


and dominate it.


The 15th century roof still has its original timbers


though some of the bosses, damaged by death-watch beetles, were replaced in 1956. Whether these are among them, I don't know, but they're very splendid.



So we walked through the park,


past a group of cows framing the house


and looking back to the church


past the lake, before the brow of the next hill revealed our third destination, St Peter and St Paul Sustead, the first of our round towers.

This has been the best year for fat, juicy blackberries, which refreshed us at almost every turn.


St Peter and St Paul is nicely fringed with trees, like most of its companions


and beyond the graveyard there's a handsome house all on its own to complement the church, just glimpsed here.


This was the first of the churches we found manned, by a lady with her dog.


He counterpoints the lions on on the coats of arms around the octagonal font.


The dolphins on the shield here


are replicated in the village sign (after our visit we took a detour to collect a converted Methodist church).


There's a 'rustic' (Pevsner) Jacobean font which came from another church


nicely adorned with angel heads


but the best angels are to be found, headless, in the tracery of the south nave windows. One is playing a rebec, the other bagpipes with a lion head.



Their companions in the next window are an intact female saint carrying a book and St Catherine with her wheel.



The Arts and Crafts Prodigal Son windows are rather fine, too - this is the second pair.


Onwards, past flint-fronted houses with sunflowers and roses


to our first active 'Primitive' Methodist Church in Sustead


where, as always with the Methodists, we received the warmest welcome from a jolly lady


and the best refreshments until Aldborough. Next stop Gresham, its name that of the next big family in the area. Sir Thomas Gresham's grasshopper is also on the weathervane of the Royal Exchange, which he founded in 1565.


All Saints has little sign of aristocratic patronage and the Victorian restoration is clear on the outside, though of course the round tower with early 14th century bell openings is an adornment.


Simon Knott in his excellent Norfolk Churches guide - we shall never catch up with his 900-plus citings - entertainingly recounts Protestant-puritan Lt Col Batt's battle against an Anglo-Catholic priest here which resulted in the removal of richer furnishings. The poor army man's wits might have been turned by the loss of three sons in the Second World War, movingly recorded in the chancel.


There is, however, one treasure here which a more militant Puritanism seems to have missed, since most of the faces are intact: the great font with its seven sacraments.


The carving looks so modern, but it's all apparently original. The eighth side of the font shows Christ's baptism


while the others all vividly illustrate scenes from contemporary life.




A falcon was hovering above the trees surrounding the church


as we headed into more open country. Someone must have sown this semi-wild, bee-friendly flower patch just beyond a bend in the road.




Then we were in the remoteness of Bessingham. The churchyard of St Mary is maintained by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust - forgive me if I repeat the photo which headed my earlier 'trailer' -


and there were some splendid mushrooms among the grasses.




Our lunch was the usual, in memory of Jill's mother Mary, for whom we still walk as much as for ourselves. As the other three took up the bench, I borrowed the organ stool.

The Anglo-Saxon tower is fine indeed, with slightly different stone,


and while the inside was rather dark on a cloudy day,


the thorough restoration does include some bold glass both in the orangey-yellow east window by workshop of Powell and Sons


and in the south windows by Kempe.


Along lanes we never shared with a single car, treelined between big Norfolk fields on high ground,


we came to All Saints, Thurgarton, a prime example of why we raise money as we do. Although it lost its tower in the late 19th century,


All Saints was well worth the loving ministrations of the Churches Conservation Trust and the Redundant Churches Fund.


The simplicity to which the CCT restores the buildings in its care usually makes them the most visitor-friendly, and I liked this bright and airy interior the best


even before close inspection of its treasures, the 15th century benchends.



Victorian varnish probably helped to preserve them. The profane imagination of the woodworkers runs riot here.This lion looks more like a friendly pug.


This dragon seems to have got the better of an unfortunate human.


The elephant and castle/howdah is also found in two other Norfolk churches, possibly carved by the same hand.


 One of two tuns, which the guide conjectures may be a play on the village's name, though I don't get it (tun? Thurgarton?)


 There's also a complete rood stairway,


and  next to it one of several statue niches (the church also has its piscina and sedilia).


An Elizabethan or Jacobean wall-painting would have been decorated for instructive purposes after the Reformation's whitewashing-over of the originals


and there is a delightful local Commandment board of about a century later.


The restoration included fine re-thatching - I bet the locals never thought they'd see that again -


and in the graveyard are uplifting lines on a tombstone for Richard Sperrell (d.2009).


Then came my favourite stretch of the walk - the last of the lanes with fabulous lichen on every tree


and a path alongside a field with a wood on the other side: more blackberries


and a pheasant (common, but so colourful).


Finally, we were back in a settlement, ticking off a second converted Methodist chapel - the owner genially told us that walkers had in previous years come straight through to his kitchen -


and the village green at Aldborough.


I got a good feeling about this place, not least because the villagers were clearly welcoming much-loved local Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb, according to the parish noticeboard


and the hunch was confirmed by our friendliest welcome of all in the least promising church, the very recent Prince Andrew's Chapel (yes, that Prince Andrew, no idea why).


The ladies here made us tea and coffee and told us about village life.


The pub has only just reopened, and reverted to its unfortunate name of The Black Boys (formerly changed to 'Black Cat'). Of course there's no major church here to serve the community; you have to walk out of the village some distance and turn right on the Holt to North Walsham road, and there on the left is St Mary, Aldborough, another victim of tower collapse (in 1790), with an attractive bell turret added in 1906.


The little dog here was exceptionally friendly, and distracted me from looking at the details. But J did point out the amusing motto of the Gay family, which may serve as a Christmas card.


The tracery in the east window features flowers associated with the Rev. John Gudgeon Nelson, who planted bulbs in the churchyard


and there are an attractively detailed St Francis and St Michael in the north aisle.


Now, however, we're back to the brasses - in this case Herwards Robert (d.1481)


and Anne (d. 1485)


as well as Richard Richards in his fur-lined gown (d.1493)


There's a remarkable concentration of churches around here, including one across the fields not on our itinerary


and two within a quarter of a mile of each other on the same road as St Mary. We were lucky to find them open past 6pm. The first, its round tower handsome of approach, is All Saints, Thwaite


which has another fine pulpit, of 1624, next to bright Victorian windows of faith, hope and charity


and brasses of one John Puttok (d. 1442) and his wife (d.1469).


St Ethelbert, Alby, is less welcoming,


though I liked the shaded graveyard.


One vicar here had assembled fragments of Victorian and Edwardian glass


and the other attraction, a clock by one 'J. Fitt of Aylsham', lovingly restored.


And so, in a sudden heavy shower, fortunately the only one of the day, down another valley and up the other side to St Bartholomew, Hanworth


which looks handsome from every angle and sits facing the early 18th century front of Hanworth Hall with a deer park in between - a more perfect rural fit of church and manor couldn't be imagined.


Heavy restoration of the spacious interior has taken its toll, but I didn't mind the Arts and Crafts paintings.


The overall impression is still handsome


and this inscription has its interest.


What more beautiful setting for owls to inhabit?


Then an easeful final stretch back to Metton, first heading down the Hanworth valley with views back to the church


and across (with more food for free) to the house,


after which - my camera ran out of juice, you may be relieved to know, we crossed the fascinating common on the other side with a few settlements lining it - not your usual village green - and then, back in car, headed to Cromer for fish and chips in the posh(er) upper bit of an undeservedly celebrated joint, complete with stressy staff under strange orders to delay serving us. Won't be going back there. Further unwinding the next day, when the sun finally deigned to appear fitfully, at favourite Overstrand.


A dip was on the cards no matter what the weather. The sea, having been so warm (Cally said) in August, was too cold to swim in for long, but we did it, overlooked by a solitary cormorant.


Then it was our habitual feast of fresh crab and lobster from the shack


which we quickly polished off


and back on the train to London within the hour.

Here, as before, are the links to narratives of previous Norfolk church walks:

Happisburgh to Winterton 2017
Honing to North Walsham 2016
Cromer to Southrepps 2015
Mileham to Bittering, 2014
Beechamwell to Gooderstone, 2013
Ingoldisthorpe to Thornham, 2012
East Rudham to Helhoughton, 2011
Wormegay to Castle Acre, 2010
Walpoles to Wiggenhalls, 2009
King's Lynn to Sandringham, 2008