"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Pretty Warwickshire Village with Literary Connections and an Interesting Church

I had a day out with D a few weeks ago visiting a picturesque Warwickshire village - Tanworth-in-Arden.

The trouble I've found with some of these picturesque villages and towns is that its very difficult to get photos of cottages without including all the cars parked outside (I had the same problem yesterday in Kenilworth)!

Isn't this cottage called The Corner House cute :) I could quite happily live there!

Village War Memorial

The Parish Church of Saint Mary Magdalene built around 1330-1340

I didn't have long to look round the church as I'd left D sitting in the car - despite his interest in history he always refuses to wander round old churches. The church guidebook is currently being re-written and there was only a leaflet available so I wasn't able to discover as much about the church as I would have liked.

A major renovation of the church took place in Victorian times to try and restore the building to how it would have looked in medieval times. The stained glass windows - all Victorian or later were beautiful. Sorry a few of the photos are a bit skew-whiff!! I really must remember to hold the camera level!!

Fans of the author "BB" (Denys Watkins-Pitchford) (1905 - 1990) who wrote so many beautiful books about the English countryside and its wildlife may be interested to know that as a child "BB" frequently visited Tanworth-in-Arden where his maternal grandfather The Reverend Robert "Gippy" Wilson was the vicar.

I've recently started reading the Merrily Watkins novels by Phil Rickman and am so enjoying them that I've recommended them to my son. When I returned to the car my son suddenly asked if I'd visited the churchyard and seen Nick Drake's grave. Nick Drake was a folk musician and is often mentioned by Lol Robinson in, at least, the first two Merrily novels. So back I went to the church and had a look round the churchyard where I found Lesser Celandines and Primroses in flower

and Nick Drake's gravestone. Nick Drake had lived in the village during his childhood in Bates Lane. The epitaph on his gravestone reads "Now we rise and we are everywhere! from his song "From the Morning" on Pink Moon.

Usually when I go on a trip like this I try and do more research beforehand but we rather went on the spur of the moment when a planned trip to Kenilworth was postponed. The initial research I had done suggested that The Folly Brook and Oak Tree House in BB's story for children "The Little Grey Men" were inspired by a brook in Warwickshire near Tanworth. BB said that "Warwickshire is one of the laat England counties where one might meet with a fairy....." so I was rather excited to find this stream near the village! I could just imagine Baldmoney, Sneezewort (later joined by Dodder) setting off on their quest to find Cloudberry.

It was very similar to how I imagined the brook to look. However, I have since discovered that it is now believed that, although the story is set in Warwickshire being the last place in the country where gnomes can still be found, BB based the Folly Brook on a tributary stream of the River Nene in Northamptonshire! It could well that The Little Grey Men was written due to an encounter "BB" had as a child with one of the little people :)

Not far from Tanworth is the Umberslade Estate where "BB" used to fish in the River Blythe and one of his favourite walks was along the Long Walk on the estate. I am still trying to find out if the estate is open to the public but if it is I'll go back and follow in his footsteps.

I am very grateful to Bryan Holden, an expert on "BB", who kindly gave me so much information on "BB" and the local connection at Tanworth, Umberslade and Henley in Arden and recounted so many amusing stories about "BB"'s childhood and adventures at Tanworth. His publishing Company Roseworld Productions produce many beautiful "BB" books, posters of the Little Grey Men and much more. B bought me "BB's Butterflies" for Christmas published by this Company and it really is a book to treasure. From Bryan I discovered after my visit that "BB's" grandparents, parents and twin brother are buried in the churchyard of St Mary Magdalene (although "BB" himself is buried in Northamptonshire. BB"'s father was once curate at St Alphege's church in Solihull (I once did a post on this church) and married there.

On the way home we stopped off in Earlswood and ate a sandwich in a pub car park overlooking a wood. There was method in my choice for a lunchtime stop as a Firecrest had been seen in this very location over the previous few days. This is a species I have never seen despite attending several local "twitches". Unfortunately, I didn't see it on this occasion either despite wandering round the very muddy (luckily I always keep my wellies in the car!) woodland for half an hour or so. According to some other birders it was last seen here earlier in the morning!

Roseworld Publishers Website www.roseworldproductions.com


Margaret Birding For Pleasure said...

Hi rr. Thank you foe a very interesting post. Beautiful village shots and fantastic stain glass windows.

Ragged Robin said...

Margaret Adamson Thanks very much Margaret. I'm glad you enjoyed the post :)

Anonymous said...

Sod's law about the firecrest :-(

I LOVE the Little Grey Men books and I am also reading Merrily Watkins at the moment (can't put them down in fact). It was such a surprise to see Lol Robinson's name in your post!

Lovely pics of the all the stained glass- a friend of mine has just won some on ebay which she's hoping to hang in her house.

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales Many thanks :) A right pain about the Firecrest but never mind - sightings are never guaranteed!!

I can't put down the Merrily Watkins books either. In fact I am rationing myself so I have some to look forward to! Read one then read a different author before returning! Its a long time since I found an author that once I start a book I can't put it down !

I love stained glass. In fact, there's a stained glass museum at Ely Cathedral - one of these days I'll visit :)

Em Parkinson said...

Yes - I'll fight you for the corner house!

Wendy said...

This looks another lovely and fascinating village in your part of the world, Caroline. I love discovering places that have a connection to a famous author and book - it is so interesting seeing them as sources of inspiration. The stained glass windows do look incredibly beautiful.

Ragged Robin said...

Em Parkinson - lol :) I got there first :) !!

Wendy Many thanks :) Somewhere I have a book that links authors to places etc. I really must dig it out :) I know Flora Thompson's Lark Rise to Candleford villages are not far away in Oxfordshire. Another place to go to one day :)