Slightly less hot today so decided to go back to Nayland and try and find St Mary’s Parish Church.  In fact the church is in the Wiston part of Nayland-with-Wissington and is quite a distance from Nayland itself.

There was a fly-past of four vintage aircraft in the skies above Bessie this morning – hopefully someone will recognise these two old planes?

Just before we left I suddenly spotted some movement on the grass from the side window of Bessie.  It was our friend the Green Woodpecker again.  Peter quickly grabbed the camera and, not risking getting out to take it, took a couple of shots through Bessie’s tinted window.  Just as well as no sooner had he done this than the Woodpecker flew off again. Bearing this in mind, we were still pleased with the result:

Those Bagpuss fans out there will recognise Professor Yaffle!

So, at least if we never see him again (we are leaving this lovely campsite tomorrow) we will have something to remember him by.

Peter also managed to get a better photo of the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly as he basked in the warm sunshine:

We were pleased to find that St Mary’s Parish church was where we thought it must be – up a very quiet lane about a mile from Nayland, although there were no signs at all.

What an attractive little church it turned out to be:

To quote the guide book we found inside, “St Mary’s is a true Norman Church, made even more Norman by an enthusiastic Victorian Vicar.”  There are still some original curiosities to be found – two medieval scratch dials can still be seen beside the Norman carved doorway.  You can see one of them here if you look closely:

The chancel arches are the original Norman ones and there are two strangely carved stone heads, one of which has quite a savage appearance:

But the most remarkable feature of this little church has to be the wealth of 13thC wall paintings, one of which depicts what is thought to be the earliest representation of St Francis of Assissi feeding the birds.

Over the North door is a Dragon (see featured image above) probably painted in the early 15th C.  There is a story told in the Chronicle of Henry de Blaneford in 1405 that an “evil dragon of excessive length with a huge body, crested head, saw like teeth and elongated tail” appeared in Bures (next village) and despite, or perhaps because of, having arrows fired at it, escaped into the nearby marshes never to be seen again.  This possibly could have some credence as Richard the Lionheart apparently was given a crocodile by Saladdin, which he brought back to England with him and which was supposed to have escaped into the nearby Essex marshes…

The over-enthusiastic Victorian vicar mentioned in the guide book did at least save St Mary’s from decline when in 1832 he took over as Rector. Unfortunately, he changed the 15thC windows (which had managed to survive the Puritans) to mock Norman ones but at least he employed local craftsmen to do the work.  It was he who discovered the wall paintings which had been painted over in previous centuries.  He felt, however, that his parishioners would be distracted from his sermons by them and proceeded to cover them up again!  It wasn’t until 1932 when the paintings were re-discovered by an expert in such things, a Professor Tristan that they were uncovered for good again.  Good for him, we say.

Altogether a charming little church and one which was worth the search!

Driving back to the campsite via Long Melford and Lavenham (both interesting old towns but rather more self-conscious of their historic houses than quiet Nayland) we passed acre after acre of corn, either still to be harvested or already cropped.  Gleaming in the early evening sunlight.  Beautiful.