Raydon to Lamarsh
Walking alone today, through increasingly undulating Suffolk countryside.
Today’s visit to an amazing place was at the end of the day, and great fun, so I’m tempted to jump straight to it, but good things come to those who wait.
If yesterday’s breakfast was functional, today’s was fairytale.
The view from the restaurant at the Marquis is across the Brett valley (the same as my bedroom) – I don’t think I’ve ever had a breakfast with a better view.
Many thanks to Kyle and Rose at the Marquis for getting me out on the road again quickly.
I wish I could capture for you the sense of hope and possibility when stepping out into the cool morning sunshine, with a slight breeze blowing through the wheat and poppies.
The rustic tranquility was ended quite soon, however, by a schoolboy map-reading error: the River Brett had no bridge at my allotted crossing point – only a ford. Whoops!
But by a stroke of amazing good fortune, farmhand Mick was filling the horses’ water troughs and, with his dog Reb, offered to quad bike me through the ford. Awesome!
Still mainly arable agriculture today – very little livestock, although I did spot these little fellows:
I made good time, passing lots of secluded streams and classic wobbly Suffolk houses.
This is the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, also known as “Constable Country”, made famous by paintings such as The Hay Wain.
Arriving early at Oak Lodge B&B I had lovely chat with landlady Anne who also left me some homemade cookies. She told me a bit about her life and it was humbling to hear how she calmly deals with all the challenges she faces on a daily basis.
After a little rest, I headed out again crossing over the River Stour* into my second county, Essex.
* Opinion seems to be divided on whether this river name should be pronounced to rhyme with “sewer” or “flour”, or even “door”.
The Essex village of Lamarsh is ancient, with a Grade I listed church believed to have been built around 1140 (how’s this for a spire?):
My interest though was the 700-year-old village pub, The Lamarsh Lion, also known as “the painters’ pub” because it was frequented by Constable and Gainsborough, with fabulous views out across the Stour valley.
After closure in 2016, the village community decided that they didn’t want to lose their pub, so they bought and restored it, and it reopened for business a year ago in the summer of 2018. I had a great chat with the new Chair of the Lamarsh Lion Community Pub Committee, Russell Haldale, pictured here in the black shirt.
The sense of community in the pub was palpable, partly because of the work that so many of the locals have contributed to making the pub a success. I want to say more about this ethos in the coming days as I think it’s going to be a recurrent theme: communities coming together to solve a problem, but benefiting greatly as a group as a sort of bi-product.
This is how local life should be. As I say, more on this as I travel west and discover more.
I also had possibly the best beef lasagne and chips I’ve ever had in my life.
One final coincidence: also in the pub tonight was Ian Gibbs (pictured below between Russell and Nicky) who, 40 years ago, led 25 men of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers on a charity walk across Britain, from Portpatrick just south of Stranraer to Berwick-upon-Tweed.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring evening, and of course, the beer helped.
Big day tomorrow, walking with The Wilderness Foundation – better get some sleep!