Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Churchcrawling and Cheese

A selection of English cheeses

It sometimes seems that I spent my entire summer vacation visiting cemeteries and photographing gravestones. Of course this summer, quite a few of the gravestones were in England.

England was a somewhat unusual experience for me this time around. As usual, I was met by my brother who has lived in England for the past forty years. This time, however, I flew into Gatwick (south of London) instead of Exeter (southwest England). Instead of two weeks in Devon, we spent one week in North Devon and one week in the Cotswolds. And instead of the usual cool temperatures and frequent showers, it was clear skies and warm temperatures. Ironically, I had packed an umbrella but had forgotten to pack a hat.

North Devon


My focus in North Devon was once again on the five parishes for which I am the volunteer Online Parish Clerk. I finally was able to view the interiors of St Mary's, Atherington and St Mary's High Bickington. Both churches were closed for roof repairs the last time I was in England.
Rood screen and loft
at Atherington, Devon
Of the two churches, Atherington is the most interesting. While High Bickington has carved bench ends, Atherington has roof bosses, a rood screen and loft, effigies, brasses, mural monuments, ledger stones, old stained glass, as well as unusual crocketed bench-ends. Needless to say we spent a lot of time at Atherington, and not as much time at High Bickington. Tawstock, Yarnscombe, and St Giles in the Wood were also visited, as were a number of parishes further south. And of course there were also several trips to Barnstaple to visit the North Devon Record Office.

Devon cream tea
No trip to Devon is complete without a Devon cream tea, but this time around I made my own. I also sampled and purchased a variety of local cheeses available at the West Country Cheese Company in Barnstaple, as well as a variety of Sheppy's ciders. July is also the perfect time to feast on English strawberries and raspberries.

The Cotswolds

On the drive from North Devon to the Cotswolds we stopped in Bath, and also spent a hour or so in the "quaint" Cotswold village of Lower Slaughter. Incidently "Slaughter" has nothing to do with killing. It's derived from the Old English word slothre meaning "muddy place."

Gravestone at Duns Tew
Finally we headed to Lyneham, our base for the second week.

The focus now was tourism rather than family history. Still, we spent one day churchcrawling around Banbury trying to locate gravestones for some of our Lymath ancestors. We did find quite a few, but unfortunately are still no closer to solving the mystery of my great-great-grandfather George Lymath. I also learned that Cotswold stone makes for picturesque cottages but hard to read gravestones.

Tourist destinations included Blenheim Palace, Gloucester Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, the Rollright Stones, Sudeley Castle, White Horse Hill and Chastleton House.

Then it was back to Gatwick for the return flight to Canada.

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