The winds got stronger and stronger last night until, at about quarter to three, I had to go and sleep on the sofa in the living room downstairs, as I had convinced myself that the chimney was going to come crashing down on my head while I slept in my bed. In the great storm of October 1987, the chimney of the house opposite us in London was blown straight through their roof into the house; miraculously hurting no-one, so worrying about this was not completely stupid, if a bit night-brained.Perhaps because of my lack of a good sleep and or because I must admit that, for some time now, I haven’t been in the greatest of moods, I woke up to a beautiful, if still blustery, day feeling massively negative. So to try to fight my lethargy, I took myself out for a bracing walk. I meant to go up to Lydeard Hill but the road was closed, so I carried on down to Cothelstone Manor, where I’ve never actually walked before, although I’ve stopped and taken pictures. I didn’t have my big camera with me today, so these are just phone photos but I think you’ll get the jist of what a lovely place it is.
As if to make up for yesterday’s ghastliness, the sun shone and everything looked brilliant and clean and, um, bracing. The wind was still howling. But I walked for a while, although footpaths were a bit hard to follow, electric fencing in their way here and there, which always makes me cross. I could still get round though, and made my way up the elegant drive and round to the tiny church.
Cothelstone must have been quite a thriving community when it was originally built in the 12th century to have warranted such a church – although it is tiny. It’s certainly more than a family chapel. There are a quite a large number of buildings here, some in total disrepair, some well maintained. The estate was hugely renovated in the nineteenth century, having been through many changes of fortune. Having a place like this must be such a burden – it’s certainly not for everyone. There are a number of parts that are obviously inhabited: cottages, the main house, and a secondary, quite large, house and lots and lots of outbuildings. All built out of the local red sandstone, softened by age to a wonderful, delicate pink.
Unfortunately, the church was locked but it was clearly not in any way abandoned; the porch being full of the usual watering cans, flower rotas and lists of charities. There was a also a small war memorial to those who fell in World War I. One family had lost six members and there were two names from at least four other families. This is always terrible but really does not bear thinking about the effect in a place as minute as this.
As I walked over the meadow back from a small boating lake to the road, the churchyard looked like the archetypal place that you think of when calling to mind a quiet country resting place and it was sad to think that those men had not made it back to lie here.