Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Suffolk Birthday

It was my birthday earlier this month and I spent it in Suffolk with my younger son and his family. I decided to travel by train for once and discovered that most of the journey is through lovely countryside, the route goes down through Lincolnshire and then into the Fen country. I had my little Canon Powershot in my bag and I suddenly wondered whether it would be possible to take photographs through the window of a moving train and discovered that it is. You only get one chance and the quality isn't that great but I was quite pleased with some of them. Above is the marina at Ely and if you enlarge it you will see Ely cathedral in the background - one of these days I intend to go there. It was built by William the Conqueror and is a really beautiful building.

As we thundered through March I saw a low flying plane, then I realised there were three of them and that the big one was a Lancaster bomber and the two little ones were Spitfires - it was the Battle of Britain flight coming in to land at an airfield near March! It was the weekend of the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of WW2 and there must have been a display of some sort. I just had time to snap this photo. Edited to say that the two small planes are actually a Spitfire at the top and a Hurricane at the bottom. Thanks Roy:)

On the Sunday it was a nice day and we decided to take Gabriel and George to Jimmy's Farm which is pretty close to where my son lives. Jimmy Doherty rears rare breed pigs and there have been several documentary series' about the farm on Britsh TV. It's a really good place for children, plenty for them to see and do including these Red Poll cows.

We spent quite a lot of our time on the woodland Nature Trail, it's an ideal place for small boys to run about and bears like it too:)

Francesca plans to have an autumn nature table for them at home and we collected some specimens for it - acorns, sweet chestnuts, hazel nuts and a pretty bird's feather.

Once Gabriel discovered the little tractor we had a hard time parting him from it!

George enjoyed the woodland nature trail too, he's collecting sticks for the nature table:)

Gabriel and George both loved this living willow house and spent ages playing in it. We shall go back to Jimmy's Farm again as it's that kind of place, always different things to see and do through each of the seasons. On the photos it looks as though we have the place to ourselves but actually there were many family groups and also several coach loads of Brownies and Rainbows having a wonderful day out - they were very well behaved too.

My actual birthday was on Monday and in the morning we went to a small market town called Needham Market, it's an attractive place with quite a few small interesting shops and a great antique centre - the sort where there is masses of interesting, affordable everyday stuff to look at rather than an upmarket antique shop. I bought two 1950s copies of The Countryman magazine which I still haven't read because I managed to leave them behind when I came home! The one building in Needham Market that is truly ugly and uninspiring on the outside is the church of St John the Baptist. It looks neither old nor interesting and I wouldn't even have bothered going inside if it hadn't been for Francesca's mum. Once through the door though, you realise that it is much older than it appears. It was built as a chapel of ease in the late 15th century for pilgrims travelling to visit St Edmund's shrine at Bury St Edmunds and only became a parish church in 1901. It gives a real feeling of what medieval churches must originally have been like when there were no seats or pews and everyone stood through the services. There would be just one or two benches against the walls for elderly or infirm people and this is the origin of the saying that 'the weakest go to the wall'.

The real hidden secret of this church though is the double hammerbeam roof which is mentioned in Nicholas Pevsner's 'Buildings of England'and he described it as 'the climax of English roof building'. Apparently it's the finest double hammerbeam roof in the country. The leaflet in the church suggests that you lie on the floor and look up and then you get the impression of looking at a ship's hull - and it's quite true. I did and you do! It's thought that it may have been crafted by shipwrights brought in from the nearby coast.

As always in Suffolk many of the houses in Needham Market are painted in pretty colours especially the Suffolk pink which was originally made by mixing animal blood with lime. I loved this tiny cottage which must originally have been a 'one up and one down' and looks as though it was tacked on to the end of this row as an afterthought.

This hare is my birthday present from my husband bought in one of the lovely little shops in Needham Market. I absolutely love it.

My birthday cake baked for me by my lovely daughter-in-law Francesca, she gave a little party for me and I had more cards and presents than I've had for years. Gabriel and George had been practising singing 'Happy Birthday' and the cake was delicious. It was a really lovely birthday weekend.


Thimbleanna said...

Oh, what a wonderful birthday! I smiled very big at the end to read that your DIL made you such a pretty cake. Your little grandsons are just adorable -- I love that the oldest brings his bear with him everywhere.

When he gets a little older he might like "The Bear Nobody Wanted" by Janet and Allan Ahlberg - have you heard of it? I found that book years ago on a trip to Oxford (thank goodness, as I don't believe it was ever sold in the states) and it was one of our very favorite ever read alouds.

Thanks for sharing your trip -- I love reading about your adventures!!!

thesnailgarden said...

Happy Birthday. Looks like you had a wonderful time and I love your hare. Best wishes, Pj x

Unknown said...

Hello Rowan,

I don't quite understand this but although your post is dated today, it has appeared in my blog reading list as six days ago! I nearly missed it!

Glad you had such an enjoyable birthday. Jimmy's Farm looks fun but this latest e-coli scare makes one realise what dangers might lurk, so I hope you all washed your hands very well!

I too would love to see Ely cathedral. I've only had a passing glimpse from the roadway about 15 years ago!

Hope you enjoy your US trip, whenever that may be. I wonder if you will be around/willing to join my meme day next Monday? Please take a look at my post for yesterday to get the details.

Rosie said...

Belated birthday greetings - it looks like you had a wonderful weekend. I absolutley love your hare - what a super present! Ely Cathedral is wonderful - I love the stories of Hereward the Wake fighting the Saxon cause in the Fens around Ely and defying the conquering Normans until the bitter end:)

MrsL said...

Looks like you had a lovely time; I love the boat picture :), and the spectacular roof - good for you to lie down on the floor, not sure many would! (I would........LOL)



Gretel said...

What an excellent birthday - everything from Hares to Lancaster bombers! And a lovely old church as well - belated Happy Returns!

PAT said...

A belated happy birthday to you, Rowan! Wonderful post!

Thanks so much for stopping by and your comment! Chuck Berry is from our neck of the woods. He had a huge sprawling home, actually compound, just a few miles south of our town.

I loved your comment about your dream of visiting America!

Enjoy your next trip to the US. I am looking forward to reading about it and seeing your photos!

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday! It sound and look as though you had a wonderful time - thank you for the photos and descriptions. I love the idea of a table of autumn things.

Gracie said...

It seems you had a terrific time! I googled and found Ely Cathedral, seems a nice place to visit next time.
Happy belated birthday whishes!
Gracie at

Janet said...

You seem to have had a perfect birthday! The rabbit is wonderful.

I love the hammerbeam roof. That is quite an impressive piece of craftsmanship.

Happy (even though I'm late!) Birthday!!!!!

Hollace said...

Happy Birthday, Rowan. I'm glad you got to have a little jaunt for your special day, and that you were with special family members sharing it. What fun!

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you had such a lovely, lovely birthday. (Mines tomorrow! Virgoes are ace!) I have visited Ely Cathedral, a special trip because of the stained glass museum. I was under the imprssion at the time that it is the only one in the UK. May be not, but for someone like myself or anyone who loves the art/craft it is a must. I would love to see that double hammerbeam roof, my that's special.

Julie said...

Happy Belated Birthday, Dorothy! It looks like you had a wonderful one. I love your hare too.

Hildred said...

Lovely post, - lovely birthday celebration. The church is magnificent in an historical sort of way. And your grandchildren, so sweet.

Charles and I envy you the chance of photographing the Lancaster and two Spitz - he was a Lancaster pilot during the war, and the sound of the Merlin engine and the familiar silhouette of the Lancaster still bring a catch to his heart.

Sheila said...

You did have a lovely birthday, I'm so glad.
The hare you received from your husband is lovely, I'm not surprised you are delighted with it.
The 'scenes from the railway carriage' are good too. You did well to capture the shot of the aircraft.

Anonymous said...

Many happy returns Rowan (D).
Lovely family photos and a nice birthday to remember as well.
The BBM flight flies over here all the time as it goes to various shows/displays. One is a Spit (top of photo) and the other is a Hurricane. Yes the Lanc sounds marvellous and very unmistakable.

Lynda (Granny K) said...

Glad you had such a memorable birthday Rowan, many happy returns!
You even had a 'fly past' too!

Wanda..... said...

Happy Belated Birthday Rowan...nice that you spent it with your son and his beautiful family...The Ely Cathedral would be a wonderful thing to see. I loved your hare and birthday cake!

laoi gaul~williams said...

a belated happy birthday rowan :) the hare...what a wonderful gift!

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

What a lovely day - lovely cake - lovely baby - lovely town - lovely buildings - it was just all fabulous!

Happy birthday!!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I am happy to see that you had a lovely birthday and I wish you many more. The hare is a wonderful present!!

Gracie said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog. Yes I live in Parma, north Italy, 120 km south of Milan and 90 km west of Bologna, and my hometown (and surrounding area) is full of beautiful places to visit, castles, old palaces, cathedrals and parks. And don't forget we are in th "food valley" how does it sound?
Why don't think about it for a possible destination?
Gracie at

MrsL said...

I think I'm right in saying that there's only one flying Lancaster left now, so I imagine that must be the same one that came to the airport where MrL works; he and several colleagues got to look around inside it and talk to the pilots - he was thrilled to bits, being an aeronautical engineer, right up his runway!
Small old world!



Diane said...

I just knew that you would be a Virgo too!! What a lovely bithday you had. Sussex is so lovely. I went for the first time this year and have promised myself a return trip. Your photo's are so beautiful and I love the way you write. You ought to go on the big wheel in town - you wouldn't believe what the Town Hall looks like from above. I'll come and hold your hand if you like. xx

Sarah Head said...

Happy Belated birthday! Looks like you had a wonderful time and I love the hare! I watched Jimmy's Farm on the TV, it's good to know it has developed into a place worth visiting and was not just a media hype flash in the pan!

Sarah Head said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jenn said...

Happy Belated Birthday!! Looks like you had a great birthday...sweet!

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

Greetings from Southern California...and belated happy birthday wishes too. Spending time with family is always such a blessing.

I just had to leave a comment because I so enjoyed the little glimpse of Ely you have given of my favorite books is Elizabeth Goudge's The Dean's Watch, which is based on Ely though she gives it a different name. And so I've always wanted to see it someday....still a dream!

I have enjoyed perusing your blog.

Ruthie Redden said...

wishing you a very happy though somewhat belated birthday. How lovely to be spoilt a little by family, a treat indeed. the hare is beautiful, there is something so magical about them! and i love that ceiling in the little chapel, wow. *ruthie*

Tea said...

Happy Birthday Rowan! Lovely family you have :)
I really like that yellow house too.


Bovey Belle said...

I'm glad you had such a special birthday. I hope you get to Ely - Tam and I drove out there when we were visiting Cambridge, and it is superb, but we were too late to look inside. Next time . . .

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday! Sounds like a wonderful excursion.

P.S. The hammerbeam roof does resemble a ship's hull. Wow!

Jo Potter said...

Happy birthday Rowan.:)
It looks like you had a lovely time with your family in Suffolk...
I love your Hare sculpture. He is so special!
I love my hare statue as well. I received it from my partner for my birthday, this year too. They are wonderful!

Very best wishes.;)

Janet said...

What a wonderful trip for your birthday - thank you for sharing the picture of the hammerbeam roof and also of the one up and one down cottage - just the sort of little house i would love to retire to one day......
Janet in East Coast Canada