The lost village of Eyesy© 2003
Another interesting but tiring day! My original plans were scuppered when I spotted a village not visited before! I headed straight for the church and "did" it thoroughly, then to my disappointment found it locked when I went to do the inside. There were by now 4 or 5 people waiting outside and when I asked if they knew who had the key, they replied that they were waiting for the vicar to arrive for a short commemoration service and I decided to wait for him.
After he had dealt with his business, I approached him and it turns out I know him from phoning! He is also the vicar of Cricklade, a 12th century church, whom I had phoned to arrange for viewing that church! We got on really well and amongst other stories he told me of a church that was no more. Just the gravestones left, the church having been abandoned and the stones re-used many years ago. I needed no second bidding and set off to find it.
It was at a place called Eyesy, no more than a farm now. I drove around, then,finding nothing, went to the gate of a huge 17th century stone built house. Immediately the resident guard dog came for me barking fiercely, but I gallantly held my ground helped by a stout locked iron gate! Eventually 2 tiny boys appeared and after initial language problems (they were Irish!) I persuaded them to fetch their Mother.
When I explained what I was looking for she could not have been more helpful but doubted my ability to get over wooden stiles which punctuated the electric fences I would need to cross to reach my objective. So did I, but I would cross that hurdle when I came to it! Sorry!
I then set off down a narrow lane, opened the heavy rusty iron 5 barred gate, closed it after me to keep the cows in, (I knew they were cows cos of all the bull**** on my tyres and shoes!), and started to drive up a very steep undulating field. When I got to the area of the wood in which the church used to be, I realised there was no way I could get over the stiles. And the electric fence was too high for sure, apart from which I've heard that high voltage on certain body parts leaves one with a soprano voice! And I can't sing!
OK, so I couldn't get over it. But I COULD get UNDER! I eyed the rough cow dung strewn damp ground and decided to live the high life. I had a blanket in the Range Rover in case of emergencies so spread that on the ground and gingerly squirmed my way under. Once on the other side I realised I had a problem. I can't stand up without something to grab hold of! So I found a section of sunken ground and putting my feet into it pushed hard with my arm and did it! I then set off over the very unfriendly terrain towards the wood which held the mysterious ruin.
It was a typical English spring day, white fluffy clouds punctuating the azure blue sky, a light breeze, the song of skylarks muttering to no one in particular, a wasp-like but harmless hover-fly buzzing constantly behind me. I could see the tower of the 11th century church at Cricklade rising from the blue-tinged trees in the hazy distance. Once I had breasted the high point of the enormous meadow, I looked down to a wide meandering brook far below. If I go to heaven, it had better be like this! Once I had established approximately where in the wood the site lay, I then had the same problem as before. I had to slither beneath the electric fence but this time made sure it was close to a tree for support to stand up!
After a bit of a bum shuffle, a few stings from some nettles and the odd rose thorned branch attaching itself to my arm or leg I managed to get to the tree and finally breathed a sigh of relief. I'd done it! I looked around at the densely wooded area, strewn with dead wood underfoot and heavy with the atmosphere of melancholy. Once this had been the social centre of a village. People were married here, had their children baptised, met and made friends, then finally buried here. A complete life cycle centred on one building. And it was gone for ever.
One of the reasons I make a beeline (ok, a wobbly beeline!) for the church in any newly discovered village is that it embodies the social developement of the community stretching back over 1000 years in most cases around here. This one was gone, the farming community that frequented it forced to find jobs outside the area due to cheap imported grain from America. There were many graves and tombs left, some recording dates as far back as 1647. There were still areas of stones, all that was left of a massively strong Anglo Saxon church 1000 years old with 3 feet thick walls.
It really was a peaceful and harmonious place. I felt no sadness about the burial sites, these people had been granted the gift of life for many years. Some don't even make it out of the womb, so in my book anything after that is a bonus! When I'd had enough I made my way to a stile under which I had to slither again. Halfway through my anorak side emerged and I took a picture! Mmmmmmm. It was with a sigh of relief that I reached the Range Rover and negotiated yet another electric fence! The things I do for a picture! Sometimes I think I'd be safer designing new shapes for tiddleywinks! Maybe not!
When I opened the pictures on my laptop I was disappointed to find all the ones taken of the gravestones were blurred! Now there are those who would speak of mysterious forces at work causing this, but the sad fact is that the humidity in the wood was so great that it misted up the lens!