15th April 1945

Glorious warm day.  Had determined to write to Ann, when Jessie Swift came in and asked Dorothy Brewer and myself to go to a picnic at Walton Dam.  The orchards at Walsoken were a mass of blossom.  Dorothy Brewer and I went on ahead along the Sea Bank to Walpole, which she had never seen.  Took a much greater interest in buildings in the light of what O’Neil had told me yesterday.  Noticed the “tumbled” gable a very common feature.

A large brick tower-mill stands near the Seabank and by Walpole Church are two high mounds, most curious, cannot see what they are.  The rectory is a fine house of ancient beautifully weathered brick.  As we went into the churchyard an Italian prisoner came out, saying “good afternoon” very cheerfully.  Walked slowly round the outside by the passage which runs under the chancel, paved with slabs and cobbles, and covered by vaulting with finely moulded bosses and corbels.  In the east wall of the passage there are still two or three iron rings to which horses are tethered, and it was here, one Sunday, more than 150 years ago, that the great Shales was foaled to the sound of the prayers and singing overhead.  Can his owner have had any idea that the wet smelly little thing laying on the cobbles would achieve such fame that years later, when old and stiff, men would raise their hats to him in Norwich market? Felt strongly that some memorial to the “wonder horse” ought to be placed in this passage.

We saw the figure of Hickathrift on the N. wall of the chancel, and then went into Walpole Church, which has a beauty quite unsurpassed.  The absence of coloured glass (except in the E. window) fills the great arcades with cool, clear light, and the building has a wonderful feeling of repose and quiet silence.  The passage under the chancel makes it necessary to elevate the altar about 6 feet, so that it is approached by a flight of steps which are covered with a rich blue carpet, the altar itself bearing a pair of tall candlesticks and a crucifix.  The choir is lined with richly carved stalls and stone sedilla behind them, as if it were some conventual church rather than that of a small simple parish in the Fens.  There are no less than 7 beautiful brass chandeliers, 6 small ones in the choir and one large one just in front of the chancel arch.  The pulpit, most of the pews, and the great arched screen at the W. end are all of the early 17th century, and are in beautiful preservation.  Near the porch is one of those curious little sentry-boxes, used by the parson when taking a funeral service in wet weather.  Went up into the ringers’ gallery in the tower, and looked down the glorious vista of the nave, with the sun streaming in through the windows.  The space between the tower and the screen is as large as the whole of any normal church, with a wooden screen in one corner serving as a vestry.  The church is a national monument.

In the graveyard are several 17th century stones.

We then had to hurry back to Walton Dam for the picnic, which was really rather fun.  Little Mrs. Jewson was there, whose husband was probably released from a prison near Brunswick yesterday.  Her little boy was with her, aged 6, who was 3 when he last saw his father.  He borrowed my glasses, to look at some “forts” coming in from the sea, crying “That’s a German!  That’s a German!  Bang! Bang! Bang!” with greatest enjoyment.  Belinda looked on with astonishment.

Glorious evening and a golden sunset when we all cycled back to Wisbech, a crescent moon hanging in a deep blue sky.

Most of the papers say that Churchill will make “an announcement of utmost importance” on Thursday if not before.  One succulent piece of news, to delight the British as they eat their Sunday dinners, is that old von Mackensen has been “captured” by the Yankees.  What a triumph!  He is well over 96, and long since retired from the Army, but the Yankees are photographed hauling the old fellow from his home, and taking him away in a car.  However wicked an old brute he may have been, one would have wished him to be spared this last indignity.  What an end of the young officer who galloped through France in 1870.

Some of the papers now imply that we are in danger from radio-controlled ‘planes filled with explosives, some of which have already been used on the Continent.

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