May 2014.

I've bought a campervan as a 60th birthday present to myself, made some curtains and a patchwork quilt, waved goodbye to my family, and set off. My aim is to explore the coastline of Britain, anti clockwise, starting in Kent. I have no idea what will happen.

Monday, 12 May 2014

A day on Romney Marsh

It was a beautiful day when Fiona, my hotel critic friend, and I set off to see the medieval churches of Romney Marsh. She was sandwiching her night in Baa between a visit to Church House, a chic B&B in Midhurst, and a visit to The George in Rye. We planned dinner as we gasped at the crystal clear views across the Sussex Downs over cow parsley hedgerows – you do get marvellous views from high up in Baa's cab. We were headed first for St Thomas a Becket at Fairfield and stopped for lunch at Jo's excellent and spotless Cafe in an ex RAF camp off a bend in the road north of Rye. We asked for directions to the church. “What, that one?” she pointed across the way to 'The Cup of Hope and Truth Foundation Spiritual Church', “They're a funny lot.” (Another hut sold french brocante, and Jo's hut used to be a Philippine Craft Centre.) No, not that one, the one on the marsh. It was just a little further up the lane.
St Thomas a Becket Church, Fairfield
Once you're on the road Fairfield church is unmissable, sitting alone out in the marsh with sheep grazing all around it - it's approach makes it so magical. On to St Augustine at Brookland with its bell tower built next to the church, and then we had a ride on the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. It's an adorable miniature steam train and for that reason I am glad we did it, but Fiona's glowing memories of Dymchurch, of cottagey guest houses and sweet shops, soon faded. It's all chippies and amusement arcades (we had the wrong coins for every single machine) – probably better in the summer months.
We saw St Georges Church at Ivychurch and nearby St Mary in the Marsh (where E Nesbit is buried) before heading for Old Romney. These churches tell such tales of life in this fascinating region over the centuries.  It is still hard to fathom quite why there are so many marsh churches (13) but they were central to a much larger community than exists here today - and there were many rich wool barons.
Chris Finn-Kelcey
We stayed with Chris Finn-Kelcey. We'd never met him before but he invited us in for tea, after we'd tucked Baa in beside his barn. His family have lived in this house and farmed sheep for more than 200 years. Now it's just him, and his twin brother, Patrick, lives nearby. Their father, who died 13 years ago, was obviously a powerful and charismatic man who was churchwarden at St Clements, Old Romney, for 75 years - a world record. Chris did not wish to carry on this mantle; he locks and unlocks the church but isn't a churchgoer. "My God", he said, pointing out of the window, "is all you see out there - nature." He is fit and lean with a neat beard and blue eyes - he's been a 'looker' (the local term for a shepherd) all his life, as well as working as a builder and a gardener. He lives a simple but very busy life and told about his work, his family and his travels – he's been all over the world and climbed up to Everest's base camp; and, somewhat surprising, he's a naturist. He has been a life model for 24 years and is passionate about the joy and the freedom he feels being naked..
We said goodnight and set off to prepare our ratatouille and Romney lamb with a Rye crab starter, certainly the most ambitious dinner yet attempted with Baa's neat, but very small kitchen facility. It was excellent and we slept like tops. If we'd woken earlier we'd probably have seen Chris going off naked for an early morning run. Shame!
One comfortable, happy camper!

1 comment:

Belinda Martin said...

Am so loving this. Took our church warden to a garden party at Buck House on Tuesday because she is a deeply good person, has been a carer for someone or other for as long as I can remember and has been church warden for a mere 43 years. It was pretty unexciting - a lot of queuing and standing about. We did get to within about 6ft of Madge, Phil and Kate but much more importantly, the bloody palace ran out if tea! We didn't get a bite to eat . I said to a friend that I felt like writing to complain but she said not to coz I might end up in the Tower.Keep on blogging. Lots of love Belinxx