Anglesey Abbey boasts a Jacobean-style house with a magnificent display of clocks, a passion of its one-time owner Lord Fairfield. However, colourful and fragrant gardens, a working watermill selling freshly ground flour, plus the warmth of the mid-day sun were a temptation that some just could not resist.
Bury St Edmunds beckoned – beckoned us back to bygone eras of 13th century monks and Georgian properties. Imagination worked overtime to supply, through the priory remains, the images of the serenity and prayerfulness of a monk’s life, whilst the wide roads and coaching inn arches suggested the horse and carriages of a later age of elegance.
But for us, the 21st century visitor ensconced in our hotel room, the evening sunlight drew the eye directly to the cathedral the crosses of which glowed, illuminating the crows which sat atop.
Our visits to St Edmunds and Norwich Cathedrals were enhanced by the knowledge and enthusiasm of the respective cathedrals’ Friends who were our guides. St Edmundsbury, with its spectacular stained glass throwing ever-changing patterns of colour on the floor and pillars; the vaulted ceiling made of European oak and spectacularly painted and gilded; the High Altar cross with, behind it, a wrought iron and jewelled reredos were all delights to behold.
Norwich Cathedral is a combination of a mediaeval cum modern-day museum of curiosities – the misericords, some of which date from 1420 sit alongside three others commorating the University of East Anglia, Queen Elizabeth’s visit and most bizarrely Norwich City Football Club; the large brass font once a boiling pan used at the Nestlé chocolate factory; the labyrinth which forms a continuous path and represents the Christian idea of a spiritual journey; the herb garden containing elements of a traditional ‘physic garden’ in the variety of medicinal herbs, and the two box hedge ‘knot gardens’, whose patterns reflect the stone tracery of Norwich Cathedral's renowned roof bosses. Ah! the roof bosses – the cloister bosses certainly strained the group’s neck muscles as we followed them, courtesy of our guide, through the path of the Revelation of St John the Divine.
Our long weekend concluded with a visit to Ickworth where once again there were choices – the house or the garden. Whichever choice one made, one could be temporarily transported into the world of one man’s vision of ‘Italy in England’, his passion for art or the Italianate garden.
Our weekend concluded as it began - our final meal in the company of both good wine and friends.
And finally … none of this would have been possible without the enthusiasm and dedication of the hard working secretary of the Friends. On behalf of us all: “Thank you Keith, we are looking forward to the 2014 visits”.
Dr Carolle Kerry