TREASURE TROVE OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
In Northamptonshire we have lovely countryside and glorious villages, many of which are home to some "simple pleasures" that I urge you to see.
For example, take the hinterland off the A43 Towcester to Brackley road.
First of all you must visit Slapton and its church in a farmyard at the end of Chapel Lane. Ask for the key at the farm next door. Inside St Botolph’s you will see some of the nation’s most treasured wall paintings.
These include a rare picture of St Eloi with a horse being shod.
The legend has it that Eloi was working at his forge when a stranger entered and offered to shoe the horse for the weary Eloi.
The stranger cut the legs off the horse and nailed a shoe to each and replaced the legs. Eloi was astonished at this miracle and it turned out that the stranger was Christ himself.
Good tale, but don’t try it at home!
This church is pure bliss, with sheep munching on the grass all round!
Then drive the short distance to Wappenham. The village is a pilgrimage site to Sir George Gilbert Scott whose father was vicar there. Young George designed or altered several buildings here including his first ever commission, the vicarage.
Close by is a 1932, K3 telephone box designed by Scott’s grandson, Sir Giles. Many of Scott’s family are buried in the churchyard.
Go and stand in front of St Mary’s Church and look at the clock and see if you notice anything odd about it.
Not difficult, it has only one hand and it must present problems to time-conscious villagers, but a jolly good excuse for being late!
This gem was made in about 1641. It stopped working in 1938 and then in 1952 villager George Gasson restored it and climbed 30 steps up the tower by candlelight every day to wind it, and did so well into his 80s! In 2007 it was fully restored to working order. But should they look for a second hand shop?
Not far away is Helmdon where “The finest building stone in England” was quarried, according to the historian Morton.
The church is always open, but before you go in, find the famous yew tree in the churchyard. It is the biggest and oldest in Northamptonshire and is 24 feet round the trunk and certified by The Conservation Foundation as being at least 1,700 years old.
Inside the church you can see a tiny very rare piece of stained glass dating from 1313; it shows William Campiun, a stonemason, bashing some stone with a hammer. There are only three stained glass windows in the kingdom that show an artisan working with the tools of his trade . . . York Minster, St George’s Chapel, Windsor and here at Helmdon.
You may like to drive on to the B4525 to visit “Plent-i-full Pots” at Falcutt Hall Farm, Welsh Lane. Here is a huge selection of pots and planters. You must phone in advance though, 01280 850479, to make certain that she’s open.
Then back to Weston where you may like to go llama trekking at Catanger Farm. You must book in advance on 01327 860808. You can’t ride them, of course, but if you have youngsters, they’ll love taking these gorgeous animals for a walk. [no llamas there now. Ed.].
Nearby in Weedon Lois cemetery is the grave of Dame Edith Sitwell, the famous poet. The grave has a lovely headstone featuring a sculpture of clasped hands created by another giant of the 20th century, Henry Moore.
Northampton Chronicle & Echo – 7th August 2009