April 25 – Geocaching in North Essex on Anzac Day

A Visit to Royal Hospital School's Chapel

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

We met Charlie at Holbrook church where he left his car behind for the day while we went geocaching but our first stop was at the Royal Hospital School where Ruth works. After signing in and receiving visitors tags Ruth took us over to see the chapel. This school is amazing and while the school was established by a Royal Charter in 1712 in Greenwich, it was later moved to Holbrook in 1933 after Gifford Sherman Reade left them the land and his fortune. Reade made all his money in tea and had no heirs so in appreciation for his not losing any of his ships in WW1 he left his fortune to the school. Gifford Sherman Reade died in Auckland, New Zealand after moving there with his wife. Royal Hospital School is of Queen Anne style and set in 200 acres of countryside overlooking the River Stour. It has over 750 children aged from 11 to 18 and has boarding facilities for over half of the pupils plus housing for the staff. The school is a village in itself and a fabulous place. But we were mostly interested in the chapel. It can happily seat the entire school population and has a Norman and Beard organ. The chancel and the sanctuary are spectacular with wall and ceiling paintings of many religious themes. There is also mosaic panelling in gilt and colours and the effect is breathtaking. You just do not know where to look first. There are carved wooden stations of the cross and the nave canopy is unlike anything we have previously seen. We are very honoured to have been able to see this special chapel.

Our next visit was to St Peter’s church in Stutton. There was no church micro here but the church was open and some locals were having a working bee in the churchyard. You are met with a lovely colourful display of kneelers which are all mounted on the pews. There were two funerary hatchments and a George IV Royal Coat of Arms. There were lots of lovely windows including a Millenium window by Thomas Denny which was in a similar style to the window commemorating Benjamin Britten which we saw in Aldeburgh at the weekend. There were two matching wall monuments to members of the Jermy family. Griff Rhys Jones lives down the driveway next to the church and while we were standing out the front trying to decide if there was a church micro there or not, he drove out in his car.

By then it was mid-morning and we still hadn’t found a geocache so off we went to St Michael and All Angels church in Brantham. The church is famed for its 19th-century lych gate and was designed by Edward Schooner Prior in the Arts and Crafts style. I loved the 19th-century angel corbels on either side of the chancel arch, St Michael, and St Gabriel. There was also some medieval glass in one window. A copy of the third of Constable’s religious works  – “Christ Blessing the Children” was also there. There were some nice stained glass windows and a 19th-century octagonal pulpit carved with the design of the Glastonbury Thorn. The geocache was a multi and it took us a short while to collect all the coordinates and we never did find Leslie Gilder but then I realised that it wasn’t that crucial as it could only possibly be 1 or 2. We started to drive in the right direction but were then thwarted by a sign reading ‘No cars passed this point’ so we had to walk the rest of the way. It took all three of us quite a lot of looking but then I moved slightly further afield and there it was, easy really. Just as I called out “I’ve found it”, I saw a startled dog walking muggle walking passed. Luckily he was not curious. There was a great view across the River Stour from here.

St. Mary’s Church, Lawford is most renowned for its 14th-century chancel and in particular the eight stone-framed windows, which with the construction of the external buttresses permitted the provision of a tall enclosed space extremely well lit for the time. Five of the patterns surrounding the windows are considered quite unusual and they present a fine example of the ‘English Decorated’ style of Gothic architecture. These are carved with squirrels, owls, blackbirds and little men and date from 1340. The history of the church is traditionally linked with nearby Lawford Hall, and this is the probable reason why the church stands in the countryside, away from the main village. Tthe chancel was built by Sir Benet de Cokefield, Lord of the Manor and the owner of the Hall and the Church in the year 1340. Lawford church had four funerary hatchments and an awesome alabaster reredos. There was also a five-bay sedilia carved with dragons and animal head with spandrels carved with oak and vine leaves. The rector’s date from 1334 with John Melsor. We looked all around the hint object for the geocache but we were not able to find anything. It turns out that it has not been found since October 2017.

At Manningtree Methodist church it took me a couple of minutes to realise that this was a multi so we looked a bit conspicuous with a smoking muggle standing about near us. We collected the numbers but must have got something wrong as it would have put us on someone’s property and without a proper hint we couldn’t guess where we should be looking.

St Mary and St Michael church at Mistley had a rounded sanctuary with seven apse windows and a gilded ceiling.  It had an impressive, dominant, round, alabaster font and a lovely wrought iron chancel screen painted in gold and red. There was lots of stained glass windows and a lovely reredos. The organ was originally made for Worchester Cathedral in 1667 and the carvings on the case are by Grinling Gibbons. Charlie (Huh4) found the cache easily followed by the “Conard Strutt”, which always makes us laugh.

On our way back to Trinity Free Church in Manningtree we passed Mistley Towers which is an English Heritage site of the remains of the St Mary the Virgin’s church designed by Robert Adams in 1776. The cache was quickly found by Charlie.

Saint Lawrence’s church in Bradfield had an 18th-century semi-hexagonal pulpit with panelled sides with carvings from the 16th and 17th century attached. There was a brass to Joane Harbottell from 1598 which we found covered by a mat and a framed painting of a stained glass window which was very interesting. The Grimston Helm was a funerary tribute to Sir Edward Grimston, a diplomat in the service of Edward VIII and Elizabeth I. One of the stained glass windows commemorates Edwin Harris Dunning, the first pilot to land an aircraft on a moving ship who is buried in the Churchyard. The church has a lovely embroidered altar frontal and a Decalogue reredos. We worked out the numbers for the church micro only to find that the geocache had been archived.

The oldest building in the village of Wrabness is All Saints’ Church, which dates from around 1100. The church’s bell tower collapsed in the seventeenth century, and the bell moved temporarily to a wooden bell cage in the churchyard. The bell cage which is grade II listed, remains to this day but the bell in tied down and no longer rings. The church had a metal coat of arms. There was an interesting embroidery called “Embroidered window” completed by Gwenolyne Betty Hoare in 1995. We had lunch in the churchyard overlooking the River Stour with a great view of the Royal Hospital School looking very regal on the other side of the river. We stopped near the community run store as this was the closest approach to a house that Charlie wanted to show us. It was built for and designed by Grayson Perry, a ceramic tile artist and the winner of the Turner prize in 2003. It is a spectacular house which is a pleasure to see after all the monotonous brick houses one normally sees. Near the store, we grabbed a side-tracked geocache as we were near the train station.

The next three churches were all closed, a normal consequence of being in a town. Across the road from St Michael and All Angels church in Ramsey was a wall mounted water fountain donated by Richard Combe Abdy of Michaelstowe Hall in 1920 with the church micro hidden nearby. If it hadn’t been for the CM we would never have seen the fountain. The geocache for All Saints church at Dovercourt was hidden under the rim of a rusted electricity box but again was closed. We walked all around St Nicholas church in Harwich before heading to the cache. We thought we might be muggled by a truck driver who was sitting in the cab of his truck not far from the cache but he was more interested in his paperwork so we were able to look for and eventually find the well-hidden cache.We then walked over to the seashore and looked out over the water to Felixstowe container port. A church has stood on this site of St Nicholas church in Harwich since 1177 when the ‘Chappele of Herewyche’ was founded by Roger Bigod, first Earl of Norfolk, and given together with the Church of Dovercourt to the Monks of Abendon at Colne (Earls Colne). The crusaders rested here following the Banner of the Cross across Europe to the Holy Land. Kings, Queens and Princes have worshipped here on their way to and from the Continent. Samuel Pepys (twice MP for Harwich), Willoughby, Drake, Howard, Frobisher, Nelson and Daniel Defoe almost certainly attended this church whilst staying in Harwich. Christopher Jones, Master of the Mayflower, was twice married in the old church, in 1593 and 1603. Both marriages were recorded in the church registers which date back to 1559 and also contain the baptism of some of his children. Also found here are the names of Richard Gardiner and John Alden (the hero of Longfellow’s poem ‘The Courtship of Miles Standish’), who were among the Pilgrim Fathers. The Mayflower was built in Harwich. At Parkeston there was no church at all as it has been demolished for the expansion of the port. There was, however, a church micro that was supposed to have two travel bugs in it. They were not there so we decided not to leave our there as it looks like they are being stolen. It was a nice easy find once we found the right side of the fence.

We pulled over to check to see if there was any other church micro’s in Harwich while Mike went to photograph the only example of a two-wheel man operated treadwheel crane in Britain. While he was gone I realised there was a cache 34 m away so what could I do? I slipped out of the car and found the cache out in the open so I put it back as per the hint. When I got back to the car Charlie said he hadn’t realised I was gone and was busy telling me a story. LOL. The cache was near to the High Lighthouse which was the beginning and the end of the Essex Way which goes 82 miles right across Essex from Epping to Harwich.

All Saints church in Great Oakley was open and had a square font on four columns and a central base. It had a lovely pulpit with flowers all around it. It had a lovely window which showed 42 saints, 4 evangelists and 4 archangels – men and women. I worked out the coordinates for the multi but it was over 300m away and had 2 DNF’s so we didn’t go looking for it.

We particularly wanted to do this puzzle cache at St Leonard and St Mary church in Beaumont-cum-Moze as it is Anzac Day and this seemed an appropriate cache to commemorate the day. I watched the three videos about Vimy Ridge in WW1 the night before and worked out the coordinates. It was a pity that there was no geochecker to check the answer. At the coordinates, we were completely unable to find the cache even with all three of us looking and there was no hint either. The church was lovely with two gorgeous pink blossom trees in the churchyard. It had a lovely octagonal font with patterns all around it which was presented to the church by Robert Canham Salmon in 1854. Also, it had some wonderful stained glass windows including a rose window and one window which seemed very unusual as it had two parts and each was so different to the other and looked like it was made by different makers. There were an hour-glass pulpit and an hour-glass organ which looked very top heavy. The ceiling had carved wooden angels as corbels.

At Thorpe-le-Soken, St Michael’s church was not open but we made an easy find of the geocache and moved on.

St Edmund King and Martyr at Tendring was open and looked lovely with its white blossom trees in the churchyard. It had nice stained glass windows including my favourite one to St George, St Michael, and St Edmund. There was a modern stained glass window to three Herveys. The church had a wonderful light coloured reredos with a Decalogue and a paper mache model of the church. We found the geocache without any problems.

At St Mary The Virgin in Little Bentley we made an easy find of the geocache but we missed the bonus one as I didn’t read about it until I was logging the find when I got home. The chancel had a lovely blue painted ceiling and an old chest. There was only one stained glass window with small regular diamond shapes, quarries, depicting a portcullis, Tudor rose, thistle, and crown. On the ground was a complete brass of a lady but the accompanying man had only head and shoulders remaining. The floor was made of Suffolk white bricks and there was a stairway to what would have been a rood screen which is no longer there.

Just as we arrived at St Andrew’s in Weeley, the heavens opened up. I blamed Charlie as a few minutes earlier he had mentioned how lucky we were with the weather. There had been black clouds all around us all day but was bright and warm where we were. The road said private unless authorised but we took the rain as an excuse to drive down the long road to the church. Mike and Charlie found the church was closed while I was buffeted by rain and wind now, looking and finally finding the post right beside the lovely pond. From the front, the post was quite invisible as it was covered in ivy and looked like a tree. I signed the log quickly and jumped back in the car again before I got too wet.. A Weely nice looking church!

St Anne and St Laurence church at Elmstead Market was not open and the cache was not so easy to find but then Huh4 found it. ‘Conard Strut’. I had seen it but completely disregarded it as it looked like a bolt and was in plain view. It must be getting late in the day, well that’s my excuse anyway. A car arrived and we hoped he was going to open the church but no such luck.

What a brilliant church St Mary the Virgin, Ardleigh is, and now we see why Charlie particularly wanted to bring us here. It had a wonderful 19th-century wall painting, some done by Rev. E. Geldart of Little Braxted, all over the walls of the chancel and the sanctuary with four different and mismatching wallpapers. Behind the altar were St Aidan and St Augustine and four shamrock shapes with the four Evangelists in gold inlaid mosaics. The side walls depicted 6 saints including David and John. Also as part of the wall painting was the list of the rectors starting in 1371 with Robert Ward but elsewhere we found the first rector who was Jetselina in 1120. The decorated barrel vaulted and ribbed roof was also brilliant. The chancel arch was painted with the Crucifixion by Bell and Beckman in 1890. This geocache was a multi but all the numbers were found all close together in the same area. The final was over 300 m away so we tried to drive to a closer access but still had to walk 300m. It wasn’t raining anymore so Mike and I went to find the cache while Charlie stayed in the car planning our route to the restaurant. The pathway was great with white blossom trees all dropping their petals on us like confetti. The final was at the meeting place for about five paths and we had a great view of the church back across the fields of yellow. We found the cache after reading about stickoflague, it was very well camouflaged. It was in a hole in the ground with sticks all over it, hiding it from sight. We left our last travel bug behind. A favourite point for an excellent church, walk, cache and day!!

We had been to the church in Chelmondiston in February but had not been able to find it. After I read the previous logs I worked out where it must be so as we were going to dinner in Pin Mill we thought we would have another look since we are driving right past. This time was much easier and completes our day with 20 caches – 15 Church Micros, 2 others and 3 DNF’s.

We met Ruth at the Butt and Oyster restaurant at Pin Mill and had a lovely meal to finish the day. Mike had fish and chips followed by sticky toffee pudding and I had scampi and chips followed by triple chocolate pudding. A lovely way with good friends to finish a great day.