WITH ALWYN GAZE
It has often been commented upon that I spend a lot of my time walking in and around the village over the years, without route nor destination, and that I must know every inch of every mile! That well may be, but as I walk amongst our lanes and through our pastures I am often presented with a view not recognised, or scene unfolding amongst my fellow man that forces me to reappraise my assumed knowledge. I get to hear fragments of conversations interposed between the sounds of everyday life and the sounds of the countryside that lead me to think about how we ‘read’ the world around us. We naturally filter out that with does not readily concern us, focussing only on our immediate interests or the task in hand.
I have been asked to share my thoughts and observations on this website and am very pleased to do so.
Saturday 21 October. 6.30am.
I’m at the bottom of Murrows Drift, at the junction with Pricking Lane and it is dark. The darkness hangs over the graveyard, especially black as if in mourning. It’s cold and damp too; Autumn has draped her clinging veil over the fine chestnuts just over the churchyard wall, slowly suffocating the life from these old sentinels and carpeting the road with their soft, moist jetsam, quieting the sound of my footsteps as I pass reverently by.
In the field opposite, the rooks are debating their business for the day, like a bunch of Victorian politicians, each braying over each other to make themselves heard. In the middle hangs a light mist that only intensifies the darkness around the edges. The rooks seem to ignore it.
At the bend the churchyard walls are falling down in places. It feels forgotten down here even though the terrace on Tombstone Walk is just ahead. I can see the backs of the first few houses all still unlit. The weekend is not for early risers here – let them enjoy their bedding for another hour or two!
As I reach the junction of Tombstone Walk I stop and look over the wall at the Almshouses; such fine buildings in a most agreeable setting. A few lights shine here. The elderly don’t sleep as well they did in their glory days. There will be a few whose sleep is fitful and unrestful, and others thankful for an hour or two, whenever they can.
The houses on Tombstone Walk are classic examples of what are usually referred to as Victorian Terraces. They are not particularly outstanding, but they are well-proportioned and of quality construction. Not fancy but not plain either, but pleasant and well sited. The road gently dips towards the boating pond before it gently rises back up.
At this low point I take in the quiet view across the horseshoe green and think about those chestnut trees I passed earlier and recall with unrestrained nostalgia the delight in those rich brown, shiny conkers we used to collect, compare and of course, compete with!
In the Lavender Room of Murrow’s Mill, on the right just behind the door is a small framed box in which hangs a legend of my childhood; The Destroyer. This single conker, in the hands of Derek Tremeloe, smashed every challenger during the 1974 season, an achievement never repeated by any of the Soddenham Lads*. Great days.
*The Soddenham Lads were the pre-teen sons of the village workers at Murrow’s Mill and Savilles bunsen burner factory, who met each week on the Village Green for sports, fun and camaraderie. The group existed on and off between 1956 and 1976, and the majority of the village boys joined in at some point or other.