March 10 – Orford Castle

Plus a few Church Micros on Tunstall, Butley, Chillesford and Wantisham

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

We went to St Michael and All Angels in Tunstall on Christmas Day 2017 but the church was closed and we could not find the cache then. Today the church was open and there we found yellow box pews, a lovely painted George III coat of Arms and a painted pulpit. There was also a lovely Purbeck marble font and a 1950’s stained glass window depicting St Michael, Archangel Gabriel and Archangel Raphael. It was not until we walked towards the cache that we realised we had been here before. It still took us a while to find as we were distracted by the hint until we read a previous log and stopped taking the hint so literally. We finally found the geocache at the base of the tree.

This was our third visit to Orford Castle, an English Heritage property, but this was the first time it was open. It was built in only eight years between 1165 and 1173 by Henry II of England for the princely sum of £1400 to consolidate royal power in the region. The design of the keep was unique with a 90-foot high central circular tower with three rectangular towers. The interior was built with ashlar stonework, with wide staircases. The best chambers were designed to catch the early morning sun, whilst the various parts of the keep were draught-proofed with doors and carefully designed windows. Originally the roof of the keep was domed with a tall steeple above that. The castle consists of a basement with a well where food and supplies were stored then four levels with living quarters and a chapel off the central hall. On the roof was the guardhouse and the bakery. Orford Castle is associated with the legend of the Wild Man of Orford. According to the chronicler Ralph of Coggeshall, a naked wild man covered in hair was caught in the nets of local fishermen around 1167. The man was brought back to the castle where he was held for six months, being questioned or tortured; he said nothing and behaved in a feral fashion throughout. The wild man finally escaped from the castle. Later accounts described the captive as a merman, and the incident appears to have encouraged the growth in “wild men or woodwose” carvings on local baptismal fonts – around twenty such fonts from the later medieval period exist in coastal areas of Suffolk and Norfolk, near Orford. We have seen many of these on our travels.

We drove down to the marina on the River Ore and parked the car so that I could go to look for a geocache. The cache was hidden on one of the seats which were dedicated to the CO’s parents. Mike was not keen on leaving the car as there was a sign stating no car should be left unattended. I could not locate the geocache so eventually, he came over and found it immediately before returning quickly to the car. It was raining anyway but I thought it was a lovely way to remember your parents.

Next, we visited St Peter’s church at Chillesford. There was no church micro there but we didn’t want to drive past a church. It had a stunning Millennium window of “The Ascension” by Surinder Warboys, a 13th-century octagonal font with a Purbeck marble bowl and a House of Stuart Royal Coat of Arms, 1603-1707. There are only two churches in the whole of England that have towers built out of coralline crag, and Chillesford is one of them. Wantisden, a mile away is the other. This gives the churches a rich honey colour.

St John the Baptist church at Butley had an impressive 15th-century octagonal font with four lions around the base and lions and angels holding shields on the eight sides. It was nice to find one intact. It took us quite a while to find the geocache as my GPS was acting up so I had to use the cell phone. I was able to read previous logs where we gleaned an extra hint and there was the cache somewhere we had already looked.

The last church of the day was St John the Baptist at Wantisden. The church was so far away from any settlement and it took us a while to find and when we did the church was closed.  Wantisden church is located in fields about half a mile from the nearest road. It has always been remote as there has never been a village of Wantisden. We soon found all the headstones that we need for the geocache as there were only a few headstones to search. Once I had done the sums we tried to drive to the spot but we could not locate the appropriate roads. In the end, we retraced our steps, parked at the church and walked the rest of the way. Mike soon found the cache on the opposite side of the road to that which I was looking. This airfield/farm is very impressive looking and we gave this cache a favourite point. It turns out that Tim who owns the cottage that we rent is the manager for the farm here and they have the key to the church so we will have to return sometime to see the church.