Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Sunday, 15 January 2012

A Walk Around the Churches of Knodishall and Friston

An 10 mile circular walk around the Suffolk villages of Knodishall and Friston

An easy ramble across the Suffolk countryside, with the highlight being the hidden ruins of St Peters Church in the old parish of Buxlow, now a part of Knodishall. Theres some fascinating history on this walk along paths that are off the beaten track but nonetheless well maintained.

Leiston to Friston Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
LeistonView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
FristonView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
9 miles
Walk difficulty
Easy

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2012-01-14
Walk Time
10:30 to 16:00
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Cold but sunny winters day

Walk Notes

There was an ulterior motive for doing this walk, as well as wanting to investigate the ruins up on Knodishall Green I also wanted to get some photos of Friston Mill and Hall. Although not directly related to the theme of this walk, I had found that after reviewing some older blog posts I had lost a whole batch of photos. Therefore, this walk would provide an opportunity to take some new shots as well as visiting the little church at Friston which I had never been around.

The main intention of the walk was to visit the ruins on Knodishall Green. I am uncertain where I had originally read about these, but the OS map clearly depicts them just off the road to Knodishall railway crossing. I had half expected to merely find just a piece of rubble laying around the ground, so it was something of a revelation to find the eastern end of an old chapel standing there in a garden to a domestic house aptly named Church Cottage. The edge of the garden was partially fenced with some freshly planted saplings to provide a hedge between the gaps in the fencing. This was clearly marking the boundary of this private garden. It was a pity that there was no sign of activity around the house as I would have loved to ask permission to have a closer inspection of this ruin and maybe ask a few questions. The house stands to the southerly side of where the church would have stood, and one can only presume that this would be within the old church grounds. On the north side was a couple of out-buildings. It makes one wonder exactly what it is like to live on such hallowed grounds and whether there are any ghostly stories that accompany inhabiting such an area. A few years later a chance meeting with an old local of the parish did indeed speak of such a tale relating to the ruins. He declared that on many occasions a phantom shadow has been seen to come out of the ruins, cross the road and go down into the pond opposite. This was a great find, and shows that there are always new and unexplored places in close proximity to where one lives despite how many times one walks around the local footpaths.

The church at Friston was well worth the visit. On opening the door to the building one is presented with a large carved wooden coat of arms displayed on the opposite wall. This impressive artifact is the arms of James I and alongside it is a 16th century bible cover.

We had visited Knodishall church in the summer of 2010 so knew what to expect here and did not spend much time before heading back to Coldfair Green. The path out of Knodishall crosses a field up to the lane into Coldfair Green. This field was abundantly strewn with a huge amount of flint which does make me ponder whether there was some sort of structure occupying the land in the distant past.

One thing which has always intrigued me are the number of 'pits' that cover the land around Leiston. Some of these are huge chasms in the flat farmland, some are small round hollows, some are filled with water, others dry and empty. All are entrenched in a forest of trees and unusable for agricultural use. From a little bit of research it would appear that certainly some, if not all, of these are known as Marl Pits. Marl is a mixture of a mixture of clay and carbonate of lime which was used as both a fertilizer and to help prevent sandy soils from blowing away. The pits were dug during the 1800's and early 1900's to reach a layer of London clay, usually 8-12 feet down, which was spread on the surrounding fields. I have to admit that I had always assumed they were, as local myth had stated, craters formed from stray bombs that were intended for Leiston Works during WWII. An interesting tale was recently related to me about the pit that sits on side of the Snape Road to Friston track where it turns and meets the footpath from Knodishall Common. This is said to have been the location where an aircraft crashed in the second world war. Although the identity of the aircraft is somewhat forgotten from hazy memories with speculation of a Lancaster or spitfire or even a mustang. If this was the case, the remains must still be well buried as there is no surface evidence remaining in the pit.

Throughout the walk we crossed the River Hundred several times and on each crossing there was no water in it. The crossing on Knodishall Common was particularly dry with the river bed completely grassed over and looking more like a footpath than a river.

The most disappointing aspect of the days walk was the lack of refreshment. The Old Chequers at Friston was very mush closed for business. I was told in October 2010 that the landlord had done a runner so had not really expected it to be reopened but even so there was a faint glimmer of hope that just maybe! Alas, it was in a very sorry state. The pub sign was gone along with its mounting pole, unkempt blinds covered its windows. I fear this is another village pub gone for good, the ability to make a living in the village pub trade has virtually been killed off by successive governments excessive taxation on beer. I am losing count of the pubs that have closed their doors for good in the local area within the last year. This is so sad. The case cant be said for the Butchers Arms at Knodishall, the A-board outside clearly states the opening hours for lunchtime were 12-2.30 yet when we arrived at 2pm it had clearly been closed for some time. Looking through the windows I could see the Green Jack Trawlerboys pump-clip at the bar. Such a tease. We ended up walking to the Parrot and Punchbowl in Aldringham which was open for business. I do hope this is not the trend for 2012 with the decline of village pubs accelerating but I have to admit that I fear this will happen. I contemplate having to carry a couple of bottles of ale in the rucksack for walks in the future. It has to be said that the Butchers has since changed hands and is now well worth a visit.

St Lawrences Church, Knodishall
St Lawrences Church, Knodishall

Directions

A simple walk using existing footpaths, lanes and tracks all of which are well defined.

Leiston to Friston

Take the B1069 out of Leiston towards Knodishall. As the road curves around an S bend there is a footpath on the right. This leads along the field boundary, under the power lines and into the back of Coldfair Green. At School Lane, turn left then right onto a piece of waste ground used as a car park. Keep to the right and head for a wooden footbridge. Keep to this footpath avoiding all other paths. This crosses Knodishall common then follows the field boundaries until one last open field where it emerges onto a track to Friston. Keep to the track, past Church Farm and continue out onto Church Lane. At the Church, take the lane left and follow the path down the side of the playing fields.

Friston Loop

Follow Mill road down the side of the Chequers pub. Opposite Friston Mill there is a footpath across the fields to Friston Hall. This is waymarked with the Sandlings markers. Follow the route past the Hall and the avenue. At the first field boundary turn left and keep to the designated footapth. Continue over the first boundary (marked as the Belts) then at the second boundary, turn left and follow the footpath back into Friston. This crosses the ancient Lime Avenue, an avenue which at one time led from Friston Hall down to the Alde Estuary. The footpath enters Friston on Mill Road. Return back into Friston.

Friston to Knodishall, via Knodishall Green

Opposite the church, on Church Lane there is a footpath that leads out across the fields. This is broad, long and slightly winding path. At Little Moor Farm, the path dog-legs left and right through the trees by the cottages before continuing along the field boundary. Cross directly over the B1119 and keep to the path until it enters a small wood. Half way through the wood there is path on the right to Knodishall Green. Take this, and turn right on the road, then left down the track to the cottage. Buxlow Church ruins is in the rear garden to this cottage and can be seen as you walk just beyond the building. Keep to the footpath beyond which leads back across the B1119 towards Knodishall. At the wood, turn left and follow the boundary of the trees around, cutting diagonally across the bottom field to a footbridge across the stream at the bottom. The footpath emerges onto the road. turn right, then left just before the road goes over the stream. A footpath on the right leads over a small brick bridge and up to the road to Coldfair Green. Keep to the road into the village. The pub is on the right as the road junctions with the main road.

Knodishall to Leiston

Walk back towards Leiston on the B1069 and at the end of the village take the lane on the right. This leads through to Aldringham with the Parrot pub at the end of the road. Opposite the pub is a footpath behind the houses. Keep to this until it emerges onto an open field which it crosses diagonally. Cross the road and follow the footpath around the back of the houses to emerge back on the B1069 in Leiston.

Dried up river bed of the River HundredInterior of Friston Church
On the left Dried up river bed of the River Hundred; On the right Interior of Friston Church

Pubs

Parrot and Punchbowl, Aldringham View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Parrot and Punchbowl, Aldringham
Website

Despite the quirky and modern sounding name of this pub, the establishment dates back to the 16th century with the name originating in 1604 when the Kemp family took over the premises. Throughout the ages the pub has been linked to the infamous smuggling stories that surround the area. It was the holding place of smuggled stock with the last recorded seizure being 300 tubs of gin. A tunnel is reputed to lead from the grounds of the inn to Aldringham church. You may also notice a flat stone to the left of the main door of the pub. Once a mounting block, folklore has it that a poor unfortunate shepherd met an untimely death there, his skull later found in a pond that used to be at the back of the property.

Review

After finding the Chequers at Friston closed down and the Butchers Arms at Knodishall closed for the afternoon it was a welcome relief that we found the Parrot still open. Cheerful and friendly pub, too late for food but the Woodfordes Wherry went down well!

Butchers Arms, Knodishall View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Leiston Road, Knodishall

Brick building on the main road through Knodishall. It is interesting to note that several of the early landlords during the 19th century were also butchers which is probably where the pub takes its name from. Originally a Lacons house, the building still retains two of the ceramic Lacons falcons on the exterior of the building. After a period of closures the pub has now reopened and is becoming a popular local renowned for it good food. There are usually three ales on offer with Adnams and Woodfordes being on regularly together with a guest ale. Regular live music, quiz nights and the occasional beer festival are also hosted here.

Review

Although not included on this particular walk, it is worth noting this pub for its fine food and real ale. On a more recent visit both Woodfores Phoenix IPA and Mauldons Mid Autumn Gold were on tap, both which were very pleasurable drinking. Friendly local.

St Marys Church, Friston
St Marys Church, Friston

Features

St Marys Church, FristonView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The present building dates back to Norman times though there was probably a church on this site prior to those times. The unusual square tower is from the 14th century though it may well have Victorian additions and renovations. The brick porch is an 18th century addition and the church door dates back to the 12th century. The church bells were installed in 1465-9 and one of these is still in place along with another that is dated 1614The interior is highlighted with a stencil painted walls and roof, the decoration dating from the late 19th century as is the eastern stained glass windows. The eastern window on the south side is said to contain some ancient glass from the 12th century

When entering the church one is immediately confronted by the large coat of arms of James I. This eight feet wide by six feet high wooden carving was found in pieces in the belfry during the 1930s. Alongside the arms is the encased leather and brass cover to 16th century Bible which was found in the old Parish chest.

Buxlow St Peters Church RuinsView in OS Map | View in Google Map

A ruined church from the ancient parish of Buxlow

Standing in the garden of a domestic house named Church Cottage on what is now known as Knodishall Green are the ruins of St Peters Church. This was the parish Church of Buxlow (Buxloe), a parish which was consolidated with Knodishall in 1721. A list of rectors for this church dates back to 1301 when Johes de Melford was the rector. John Hacoun, who was rector from 1393 to his death in 1396 was buried in the Chancel of St Peters.

Documentation records the names of rectors from 1301 through to 1716 which indicates that the church survived the reformation and even the Restoration in 1660. The final name that is recorded is that of Robert Witchingham who became the rector in 1716 when the patrons of the church was Robert Jenny esq. The Jenney family was in possession of the manor and surrounding land from the year 1435.

All that remains of the Church today is a curved flint wall with the outline of a window. This could have been the curved apse of a Norman chancel which faces east towards the distant dome of Sizewell Power Station. Presumably the rest of the church would have stood between what is now the house and some outbuildings at the back of the garden with maybe a tower in line with the house, though this is all conjecture.

An interesting story emerges from the year 1300. At the time Edmund Plantegent, Earl of Cornwall held a knights fee in the parish of Buxlow. A knights fee was a measure of land deemed sufficient from which a knight could derive not only sustenance for himself and his esquires, but also the means to furnish himself with horses and armour to fight for his overlord in battle. Several acts of aggression were recorded between Ralf de Grenham, baliff to the Earl of Cornwall, along with John de Corndebof who assumed the right for fixing the assizes for bread and ale in the parish of Buxlow, to which the privilege fell to the manor of Leiston as it was royal demesne, and that Theobald of Leiston was doing the same without warrant.

Some archaeologists maintain that the area around Buxlow was the location of the Roman fort Sitomagus and that the name Buxlow is derived from the Saxon word for tumuli or artificial mounds which this area is said to once have been densely populated with.

Local folklore maintains that a ghostly shadow can been seen to rise from the ruins of the church and float across the track to go down into the pond on opposite. This tale was related by an old local at Coldfair Green. There may be some confusion here as to the exact location as the nearby Buxlow Manor is also known as Ghost Hole so it may be that this phantom is connected to the old manor house or the pond in its grounds.

References

St Lawrence Church, KnodishallView in OS Map | View in Google Map

This flint and cobble church, possibly dating from Norman as indicated by the blocked northern doorway. The nave and chancel windows probably date from between the 14th and 16th centuries with the tower dating from 1460. The church is flanked with a series of diagonal 19th century brick buttresses. Inside a candelabra hangs from the chancel roof and two brasses behind the pulpit are dedicated to John and Margaret Jenney who paid for the building of the tower. Presumably this is the same Jenney family that were patrons of the church at Buxlow.

View of location of the Church ruin at Buxlow
View of location of the Church ruin at Buxlow

Images

Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on any image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery

Maps

Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: ... 2017-02-05

2014-10-26 : Addition of the local tale of the ghostly shadow at Buxlow Church plus addition of Butchers Arms details

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