From the Glory of God to the Glory of the Garden
On 24 September, 37 of us set off by coach on a day trip to Essex, our
first stop being Chelmsford Cathedral which on our entering the front
door proved to be a total surprise and absolute delight. After a welcome
'cuppa' we were divided into three groups for a tour.
It was only in 1914 that this church became a cathedral for the newly
created diocese of Chelmsford, covering the whole of Essex and five
London boroughs; and although being the second smallest cathedral in
England it is the mother church for the second largest diocese. In 1983
it was closed for major refurbishment, at which time the beautiful cream
limestone floor was laid, while the pews were removed to be replaced by
flexible rows of chairs.
Among the many beautiful objects we were shown were the font, the altar
and the Bishop's chair, all made of grey-green slate with smooth lines
in a modern yet classic style. We were also shown two extremely tall
cupboards which housed the props and costumes for the Medieval Mystery
Plays, a new version of which was due to be performed in the near
Another feature was the stone balcony on the south side, fronting the
library of cathedral documents, reached by a spiral staircase from the
11th century porch originally used for wedding and funeral processions.
The porch itself held a memorial to the American servicemen stationed in
the area from 1942 to 1945, as well as a Washington window. Two final
items worth mentioning were the Tree of Life , a 20 foot painted window
in 35 panels above the transept, and a stitched panel by Beryl Dean
under the east window consisting of 250 squares in stunning colours
After free time in Chelmsford, during which some of us found the covered
market, we boarded the coach for Marks Hall Gardens and arboretum at
Coggeshall. Our visit coincided with a local school's sponsored walk
trough the grounds, so we kept meeting pupils in various costumes along
the driveway, behind hedges and over bridges, a thousand children taking
part during the day.
We spent three hours in the gardens which cover 100 acres. Time was
spent walking through wet grass or riding on the buggy to places of
interest, including the two lakes, the Walled Garden and the Honywood
Oak thought to be 800 years old. Some of us ventured to Gondwanaland
which takes its name from the ancient continent which 200 million years
ago encompassed Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, South Africa and
South America. This area contains more than 200 eucalyptus trees which
were shedding their bark in magnificent strips of orange and red. Monkey
Puzzle trees (which apparently developed their distinctive branch
structure to avoid being eaten by dinosaurs) were also accompanied by a
recently planted grove of Wollemi Pines, an ancient tree thought to be
long extinct until its discovery in Australia in 1994.
As heavy rain interrupted our perambulations, many of us made our way
back to the converted 15th century barn which is now the visitor centre,
complete with tea shop and gift shop with a well stocked plant centre
nearby. At five o'clock we left for our journey back to Ipswich arriving
in good time and having enjoyed yet another excellent Ipswich Society
trip, with thanks to our organiser, Jan Meredith.