Three days after the walk we took round the lanes on New Year’s Day, mentioned in a previous post, Richard and I took ourselves off for another walk. Elinor joined us. We set off quite early as we needed to complete the walk before lunchtime; Richard had an optician’s appointment in the early afternoon in Halesworth and we had decided we would have lunch in a pub together before the appointment.
Iken is about twenty-four miles to the south of us and is a tiny village near the estuary of the River Alde and near the coast. We have walked here a few times before but not for some time and never in the depths of winter. The day was cloudy and raw, the temperature didn’t rise above 1 degree Centigrade all day ; a day when it would have been pleasant to have stayed at home and read a book.
There is a narrow pathway from the car park down to the estuary.
I don’t know what this fungus is. It was much too cold to stand still for more than a couple of minutes so I had to leave it.
The shore was very muddy and difficult to walk on.
I couldn’t definitely identify these ducks either!
We left the estuary and walked along another narrow pathway adjacent to a few gardens until we got to the road in the village. At a junction on the edge of the village we turned left towards the church which is situated right at the end of a promontory jutting out into the estuary.
This church is mentioned in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle. “Here in 654……Botwulf (Botulph) began to build the minster at Icanho”. There are a couple of other places that have been considered as the possible site of Botulph’s first church (Boston in Lincolnshire and Hadstock in Essex) but this promontory, or hoo is now considered to be the most likely site.Here is a short passage quoted from the church guide written by Roy Tricker.
‘A Saxon minster was a nucleus of Christian worship, witness and learning for a wide area. It was staffed either by a community of monks or a group of priests and from it missionaries travelled to spread the Faith and to establish satellite churches. Botolph remained at Icanho as its abbot until his death in c.680. It is recorded that he was buried by his disciples on June 17th and this has remained his annual feast day. Abbot Coelfrith of Wearmouth and Jarrow, who nurtured the young (though later to become the Venerable) Bede, paid a visit to Icanho in 670 to observe the type of monastic life in operation here, and it is recorded that he was greatly impressed.
From Icanho the monks made missionary journeys into East Anglia and beyond and it may be that the 75 or so English churches which bear (or have once borne) St. Botolph’s name may give some clue to the extent of their work. They include 16 in Norfolk, 4 in Essex and 6 in Suffolk, of which the church at Burgh (near Woodbridge) appears to have enshrined the Saint’s remains for a time. King Cnut authorised the removal of some of Botolph’s bones to the abbey at Bury St. Edmunds, which he had founded in 1020. These precious relics had clearly at some time been transferred from Icanho to the relative safety of Burgh, which was also a fort and a defensive site”.
The invading Danes destroyed the monastery in 870 and some time later the site was marked with a stone memorial cross. The church was rebuilt, again in timber in 900 and re-dedicated to Saint Botolph. The Normans rebuilt the church in flint-rubble between 1070 and 1110 and from then on parts were rebuilt or improved upon over the centuries. By the early 19th century only the western end of the church was in use, the rest being in ruins. The church was repaired and a new chancel built in the mid 19th century. The village was evacuated in 1942 and the church closed so that the area could be used as a centre for battle training. The church, which had been slightly damaged by a fallen tree in a gale and then by the blast from a land mine, reopened in 1947 and the parishioners spent the next ten years or so improving and decorating the church. During tree-felling in the churchyard in 1968 some sparks from a pile of burning logs set fire to the thatched roof of the nave and destroyed it. Fortunately, the chancel was undamaged and was blocked off and made fairly watertight. The Parochial Church Council and the tiny congregation have worked hard for many years to raise money for the church’s restoration. The tower was restored first from 1984 onwards then the nave walls and buttresses conserved and the nave got its new roof in 1987-9. Between 1990-94 the nave floor was laid and repairs done to the porch and chancel roofs, benches and altar rails, the stonework and glass of the windows and the font. The work continues still.
I apologise for the murky picture. It was a very gloomy day and the church had no lights available to us.
The cross is very weather-beaten as one might suppose, but typical inter-lacing Saxon patterns decorate it and there is also what could be a dragon carved on it, but I was unable to photograph it due to the gloom.We left the church and retraced our steps back to the car-park.
We were glad to return to the car and I drove us to Halesworth where we enjoyed a tasty lunch and a drink.