Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Down Narrow Lanes

Nowhere on these small, crowded islands can truly be said to be "remote", certainly not in East Anglia. However there are places, away from the major roads, where few people travel unless they have business in these tucked-away villages. Their connections to the rest of the country are narrow, twisting lanes, often with steep banks and high hedgerows. Most drivers try to avoid such routes - though satellite navigation systems seem inordinately fond of sending you off on hair-raising sorties along them.

Despite this we found ourselves in the Suffolk village of Hartest on a recent misty morning. In a just world Hartest would be a famous picturesque destination with its large green surrounded by quaint buildings.

It's expected to brighten up by the time we've completed our stroll, so perhaps there'll be time for a few more pictures later.

This is farming country with scattered farms and hamlets tucked into the folds in the low, rolling hills. Footpaths are mostly quite clear and skirt the recently harvested fields. Even where a bit of road-walking is necessary there are often paths running along the field-edge behind thick hawthorn hedges.

The village of Boxted is no more than a few isolated dwellings, a church and a big manor house.

Like Hartest it's only reachable on minor roads, many of them barely wide enough for two cars to pass, lending a sense of seclusion and tranquillity.


Here's Boxted Hall, standing in the valley of the infant River Glem which has been dammed to create a small artificial lake.

On the hill, overlooking the Hall, is a neat little church in its sequestered churchyard. I was immediately attracted to the red-brick extension on the north-east corner.

It turned out, as such things often do, to be a chapel dedicated to the memory of the owners of the Hall and its surrounding lands, with some mighty memorials to the past Lords and Ladies. The church had some interesting features but was much less grand. We went outside and passed between the worn and broken stones of the village dead. It all seemed a very neat metaphor for the lives of the Lords and their labourers, though in reality things were a little more complex than that.

The sun was just beginning to break through and shed a little watery light over the land. The  church tower at Glemsford could be glimpsed on the horizon.

Once the cloud began to clear it was amazing how quickly the scene was transformed, within a few moments we were walking along in blazing sunshine beneath a clear, blue sky. It was time to sit down on a fallen branch and take a swig of drink before tackling the next slope and the rest of the walk.

It's supposed to be turning cooler later in the week so we were keen to make the most of this brief Indian summer.

We had to do a little walking on the road passing a vineyard, orchards and this fine old farmhouse. Yes, a vineyard in England; there are several small wine businesses here and there.

The footpath, descending through fields and back to Hartest, was waiting for us exactly where the map said it would be. Those are some of the newer houses around the edge of the village.

Everything was looking so much brighter and sunnier than when we'd departed a few hours earlier. Of course there were modern cars parked right outside every rustic cottage, but that's how it has to be; you'd be rather stuck living in a place like this without transport.

Behind the village's war memorial there's an elegant building in the Arts and Crafts tradition known as Hartest and Boxted Institute, built as a reading room to facilitate the education of the working men in the area. It was paid for by the family who lived in Boxted Hall.

And there we'll end our brief tour of this little-known corner of Suffolk, though there are more treasures to be found nearby which we'll investigate as soon as we've eaten our packed lunches on that convenient bench overlooking the village green.

Take care.


  1. What a lovely countryside. Your photos captured the feel of the day very well.
    Our walks/hikes here in our new state of New Hampshire are mostly through woods and up hills (and down again). No lovely quaint houses to be seen because US doesn't have that footpath system you do. What nice thing that has happened for walking is the "rails to trails". Old railway right-aways converted to hiking trails. They make great paths since the grades are so gradual. I have some photos to share from some walks we've had on those near us.

  2. I sure have enjoyed the walk so far! I used to and still sometimes watch All Creatures Great and Small just to enjoy the scenery! Love this closer look at your corner of the world.

  3. These buildings are so beautiful and interesting. I do love that yellow house. And that reading hall is just gorgeous. It must be wonderful to sit in there while enjoying a bit of reading. Thanks for letting me tag along. I love these walks of yours. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  4. The photos with the mist are quite lovely. What great countryside for a ramble. The hustle and bustle of the world appears to have missed these villages.

  5. I love these little sequestered villages John with their quaintness. Shame about the cars everywhere but, as you rightly say, if you live here you need to get about and transport links are more or less non existent. It is the same in our Dales villages.

  6. Another lovely walk that you took us on. I rarely get out of the city and so a ramble through the countryside is such a pleasure.

  7. The English countryside is beautiful. Thanks for sharing your lovely photos so we can enjoy the views.

  8. A beautiful walk, and it was lovely to watch the light change and the sun come out.

  9. I do love that bright yellow cottage! I grew up somewhere as remote as this in West Wales. As children we would rush to the hedge when we heard a car coming - we knew them all! Now 4x4s are the order of the day.

  10. Thank you so much. Like Rose above there is a show I watch just for scenes similar to this - Escape to the Country.

  11. A great selection of pretty character properties.

  12. I do miss those wonderful character houses.

  13. I love your countryside walks! Beautiful little homes and I love that old church.

  14. Se ve buenas edificaciones en ese lugar. El pueblo debería estar mejor comunicado y así tendría más vida.

    A pesar de ser un pueblo pequeño, es muy bonito lo que se ve.

    Que tengas un hermoso día.


  15. A perfectly lovely walk, without suntan in my living room. I really love English countryside. I’ve never been to England, but I can tell for sure I’d miss so much rolling hills, narrow winding lanes, quaint, charming, and well-cared old houses, a small village church, hedgerows, and so on. Japan is also a small, crowded country but geographical feature is very different.


  16. That was a wonderful walk John, the English countryside and small villages are delightful to see 💛 A part of me thinks it would be incredibly nice to live in a small town/village, away from the hustle and bustle.. just a small part of me though 😉

  17. Your shot of the chapel particularly appeals to me.

  18. Hi John - love your walks and what you share ... you bring the countryside and villages to life - so pleased you're sharing with us. Sat nav can be a pain for some residents in villages, and people are so stupid that they slavingly follow the routes sometimes.
    I think those sunny days have gone for this year ... we've just had a huge hailstorm, rather a change from recent months ... all the best - Hilary

  19. Your walks are always full of wonderfully quaint-looking homes, churches and old buildings John, and I will admit to being a bit more than envious. we have been getting out often on day trips, but our walking is usually through wooded pathways with nary a building in sight unless we visit a specific place where there is indeed a building.


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I'll try to answer any questions via a comment or e-mail within the next day or two (no hard questions, please!).