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All Saints, Waterden
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As you leave the Creakes and head Walsingham-wards, there is a change. The lanes narrow, the hedgerows become higher. The churches are smaller, more remote, the villages tiny if they exist at all. You are entering the very heart of the most intensely Catholic rural area of England, and there is magic in the air.
I had been looking forward to Waterden. For many years it was disused, but the Norfolk Churches Trust, under the guidance of the redoubtable Lady Harrod, took it under its wing, and eventually returned it to parish use. This is all the more extraordinary because, really, there isn't a parish, or at least no people. Apart from a single farm there are no other buildings. The enthusiastically Anglo-catholic parish of South Creake maintains regular services here, and the church, like so many in this area, is always open.
Or, at least, it usually is. Unfortunately for me, urgent repairs to the chancel roof meant that it is temporarily closed up until July. Despite the scaffolding and plastic sheeting, it is still possible to get something of the character of this tiny building, especially at the west end with its strange little square window as if it was a farmhouse kitchen. The building was obviously used for domestic purposes, perhaps for centuries, and it is the unstoppable power of Walsingham that has reached out and made it a spiritual touchstone again - with Lady Harrod's help, of course.
I will go back. I am in Walsingham several times a year, and one day I will suddenly need to escape the bustle of that place, and wander out among the lonely high-hedged lanes to Waterden again. Until then, enjoy with me Peter Stephens' marvellously evocative image at the head of this page, and his lovely shots of the interior below.
Simon Knott, May 2005
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