January 29 – Geocaching to Needham Market

Clopton, Swilland, Hemingstone, Barham, Creeting, Earl Stonham, Stowupland, Stonham Aspal, Pettaugh

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

We were off on a geocaching day predominantly looking for church micros. The village sign in Clopton was our first cache of the day. The highlight of the St Mary’s church in Swilland was the stunning reredos. It had 20 gilt Saints filling niches either side of the crucifixion scene with six angels below. The wonderful stained glass window in the nave is of East Anglia’s two great Saints, St Felix and St Edmund. The organ was patterned with dark red and green wallpaper which is quite unusual. There was a coat of arms in black wood, wall monuments and a painted font unlike any I have seen before. The church had a large wooden tower with a lantern spire designed by John Corder from Ipswich.

Hemingstone’s St Gregory’s church had four hatchments and a King William coat of arms. The wall paintings were of Biblical verses. The rectors are listed from 1316 starting with Giles de Wyngfeld. There was an octagonal font with a wooden cover. There was a lovely tomb for William Cantrell from 1585 and six wall monuments to various surnames – Brand, Colville and Martin including Philadephia Martin. There was a great display of tapestry kneelers in bright, vibrant colours. This is one of our favourite churches of the day.

St Mary and St Peter’s church at Barham was closed which was a pity because it looked like a good one. We looked for ages for the geocache but found nothing. We hoped that the tractor driver that passed us would give us a hint but he didn’t look like he knew what we were doing. It was too well hidden for us so we were forced to give up.

We then went to Needham Market where we found four church micros in quick succession without entering any churches. Three because they were modern churches and St Johns because sadly this church was closed for 6 months as it was having the roof fixed. It has a very unusual roof and a steeple over the porch. Our New Zealand friends live in Needham Market but we didn’t stop to visit as we had not rung in advance and we figured they would be at work since it is Monday. However, we went into a small cafe called Crafts and Moore for lunch which was lovely and a nice change from our usual sandwiches. We had a lovely latte there too.

We found the nano for the Needham Market Old Methodist church easily but we could not open it. It is well and truly closed. We tried our best to open it but it was made of metal and would not budge. Next, we went to Creeting which is very close to Needham Market. It was a tricky church to find as we were following the GPS which took us very close and then further and further away. In the end, we had to backtrack and turn in the opposite direction which did not initially look right. Mike was all for giving up but I knew there was something special there so we persevered. When we found St Mary’s geocache there were two other coordinates for two further church micros nearby. The church was closed but we have since found out that it had one of the best collections of Kempe & Co glass in all East Anglia. On the same property is a notice board marking the prior existence of All Saints church.  It seems to have been built without any foundations and was wrecked beyond repair by a storm in 1800. Some of the stone was used to build a transept to accommodate the All Saints parishioners in the adjacent church of St Mary. There were also coordinates for St Olave’s church, another long-disappeared church. It was here at the Reformation but had gone by 1700. Another church built without foundations but excavations did reveal pieces of coloured medieval glass from the windows. We did not go and look for this lost church as it was raining and freezing cold again.

Sy Mary’s church at Earl Stonham was another very special church which had an octagonal font from 1460. The church dates from the 14th and 15th centuries but there was a church on the site in Norman times. It had a glorious single hammer roof with pendants where the angels had been destroyed. There were several pieces of excellent wall painting including the Doom painting in the nave and more in the transept. We also found drawings of all the wall paintings. The chancel had very interesting bench ends and the stained glass window above the altar was lovely showing the birth, resurrection and ascension of Christ. We found the cache after a short walk, a clever cache and hint. We gave it a favourite point for the church and for the effort of the placing of the cache. It sure beats the ones hidden on road signs. One of the things we learned here was that Andrew Lloyd Webber has set up a trust called the “Open Churches trust” to encourage churches to keep their doors open and we are very glad he did.

At Forward Green, we found the geocache easily but we didn’t see the chapel until we were driving away.  Then we went on to Stowupland where we found two more church micros but the churches were not open. St Mary and Lambert church at Stonham Aspal was also closed which is sad because it looked like a good one and we found the cache using the torch on the cell phone. It is not quite dark but the trees blocked the light making it difficult to see without a bit of help.

Our last cache for the day was St Catherines at Pettaugh and it was closed too but by now it was dark. We were having trouble with both the GPS and the phone so we were about to give up when Mike exclaimed “That is where I would put it” and that is where it was under the step of the footbridge across the stream. We found 14 church micros and 2 village sign caches for the day. A good tally bringing us to 599 church micro finds.