A Lovely Church in Lonely Place

My favourite church on the Peninsula is All Saints at Ramsholt. I still think our own St Margarets is lovely but, as someone put it, All Saints is ‘hauntingly beautiful’. It does not even have a proper road to it just a tarmacked lane often covered with the soil washed off the fields which are sandy and light. My SatNav does not even recognise the lane as a road. The area was used for part of the film ‘Yesterday’ by Danny Boyle. There is a scene, I have seen, where the star is playing guitar and singing outside the Ramsholt Arms.

Looking towards the mouth of the Deben from Ramsholt Dock

The only cars that appear to go down the lane are those whose occupants want to take a photograph. The exception to this, apart from when the church has a service, is at sugar beet harvest time. The sugar beet articulated lorries, which are far too big for the lane, come to pick up the produce to take to the factory. Maybe it goes to the British Sugar factory at Bury St Edmunds along the A14. I saw on a cooking programme, what else is there to watch on terrestrial tv, that they originally produced sugar from beetroot. Apparently beets are full of sucrose but the sugar came out a bit pink so they developed the plant into the beet that is grown extensively in this area now. A beet can contain about 20% sugar and the pulp is fed to animals so all in all it is good crop for the farmer. Beets do not produce anywhere near the world’s sugar needs and we rely heavily on sugar from cane. The good thing about sugar beet is that it can be grown in temperate climates and it is not so reliant on good weather.

The Ramsholt Arms from the dock

Ramsholt is a very lonely place in autumn and winter when the holiday ‘crowds’ have departed. You will rarely see another person on the walk from village to village except maybe just another person walking the other way. The Ramsholt Arms pub, however, always seems to have enough customers to keep it going although I suspect that you will never get too many locals spending an hour or so just having a drink. I saw a complaint that it is now just a tourist pub. Yes I think that person maybe right but then what is the alternative. No pub, which is is likely if it did not make money whilst the sun shines. Only 32 people were reported as living in the Parish in the 2001 census so not much local trade. I prefer to see a pub there even if it is very busy on a sunny day. Sitting outside the pub when the Deben is at high tide is so very relaxing after the walk from Shottisham.

Canidida Lycette Green in her article, Unwrecked England ‘Ramsholt’ reports the musings of one Ramsholt resident. ”Australia’s famous son, the painter Arthur Boyd said that the low, tussocky expanses around his cottage reminded him of Down Under. There’s a hard, watery light here, a wide sky. Ramsholt is a dead-end and utterly isolated place, the last village in Suffolk where you could hear the purest form of the local dialect with its distinct lack of s’s.”

The creek below the church cut off from the Deben by the flood wall

A distinct lack of s’s is not something that has struck me about the Suffolk accent. Try saying Hollesley, the Suffolk way, without an ‘s’. I do tend to listen to the way people say stuff rather than what they say. Often accents are more interesting. It is sad that the Suffolk accent is on the way out but then the county is very much a place to ‘move to’. I suspect the percentage of truely Suffolk folk decreases each year with the influx of ‘others’ and holiday cottages taking over the houses of the departed true Suffolk folk. Soon, maybe, there will eventually be few Suffolk ‘speakers’ left.

A pretty cottage with a great view

Is there a different reason for losing our accents? I do believe, that recently, our speech has been dumbed down and Americanised. I just cannot control my disaffection at the way young people, and some not so young, have of adopting HRTs (high rising terminals) at the end of each and every sentence when it is not a question, putting ‘so’ in front of every answer and saying ‘can I get’ when what they really mean is ‘may I have’. I believe that this is solely caused by a proclivity towards American TV and films. Is the love of programs from the USA changing what we say and the way we say it.

All Saints Church from the flood wall. This was my first view of the church

It is impossible to watch the very unwatchable ‘Pointless’ without a whole possee of HRTs and pre-answer ‘So’s’. I will not go on further about these, especially as I don’t want you to spend you lives listening for these to come up in places where you would not expect them, e.g. the hidden BBC program announcer who insists on using HRTs at every turn. Mind you when I was young and with parents who took us regularly to watch Cowboy films at the cinema, we spent our young lives with handerchiefs tied round our mouths in our make believe games of cowboys and indians. A complete influence of American films. I knew what mesa grande meant and where at Dry Gulch cowboys had a bad day. Much later I had a black bikers jacket white tee shirt and jeans very Elvis Presley style or Brando which I think on reflection was ironic. So the influence of the the States has continued, less strong at times, since or country was ‘invaded’ by GIs in the war.

The sunken track that was the path to the original village which has now sadly dissapeared

Candida does go on in a vein that is not so insulting about the area. I think that the initial insult may have been an appetite wetter for the rest of the article which is quite complimentary. In fact I like her site very much and will pass though all of its pages when I get the chance. She describes the pub as one of the last vestiges of a thriving community which imported coal via its jetty and where some poor soul used to take his carrots across the river from where he wheeled them in a barrow to Ipswich six miles away. Candida says that the sunken track to the right of the church from the road led to the original village. I cannot find any details of the original village at the moment but a local told me that she played with someone who lived in the cottages there. Ms Green does venture into the insulting once again by calling the original village site a scrappy and lumpy bit of rabbit land. Not kind at all.

Now the pub has been upgraded but it does retain a lot of its original charm a lot like the pubs around here. From the dock, in the sun, against the backdrop of trees rising up the hill the Ramsholt it looks really inviting.

A couple of cows enjoying the ‘scrappy bit of rabbit land’

The Deben and its banks, above which All Saints Church sits, has changed a lot since it was all heathland stretching from the Deben to Snape in the north. The only piece of heathland in Ramsholt sits above the Ramsholt Dock Cliff. Sir Cutbert Quilter in the latish 1800’s bought 8000 acres of land around the north shore of the Deben and then set about planting woods to breed partridge for shooting. You will often see a couple running down the lanes in the area although I suspect that mostly they shoot pheasant around here. Well, I believe that after I saw in a shooting brake type van, in Bussock Lane, full of happy guns followed by a 4×4 with quite a number of pheasants hanging in the back. Enough to consider a life as a vegetarian.

The woods that Sir Cuthbert planted, or what is left of them, have some interesting names. Zoe’s Wood, Princes Mary’s Wood and Mary’s Grove. When Sir Cuthbert built Bawdsey Manor he decided to re-route the road to Bawsey Ferry from alondside his new manor across the marshes. He also moved the original road off the Peninsula, Bussock Lane, further west to its current location. What you can do with a bit of cash!

The land below the Church is full of streams some of which flow into a creek like watercourse which I assume was the stream that seamen used to row up to the well by the pub, The Anchor, to get fresh water. The pub no longer exits like the rest of the old village. The licence was moved to a building above the dock in about 1820 which was called The Dock Inn. In the early part of last century the pub was moved again to the current location. The current pub started life as a Hotel in the 1920’s I believe when the holiday trade started. Robert Simper in his book The River Deben has a photo of the Ramsholt Arms in 1908 with shelters which were built to serve tea to people who came by horse and cart.

The entrance to All Saints Church in a field of poppies.

The predecessor of the Ramsholt Arms, the Dock Inn, was shown in the 1865 Post Office directory as run by a John Pooley. There were only 4 other buinesses in Ramsholt at that time three farmers and a coal merchant Samuel Page. It was a small place even then with only 180 souls reported in the 1861 census.

Another sunken lane which leads across the valley to the old school house

The Deben was a busy River in its hayday with sailing ships and later sailing barges bringing in and taking out cargoes. Woodbridge was a port and several other landing places existed up and down the River. Timber was imported along with the horse dung from London Streets which was off loaded on the opposite side of the Deben at Waldringfield. A good source of fertiliser for the fields although the population around Waldringfield were not happy about the smell. The dock at Ramsholt was built to ship coprolite out. Coprolite is fossilised animla faeces and appeared near the surface across a lot of the area around the Deben. It was mined and shipped to Ipswich where it was processed into fertiliser probably in, or near, the steet in Ipswich called Coprolite Street. Coprolite was discovered around Suffolk by John Henslow who was a local botonist and professor at St John’s College Cambridge. Although extensively mined on the Wilford Peninsula a lot of the pits were filled in with spoil during the building boom.

The local ordinance survey map shows a lot of ‘pit disused’ markings and there is even a pair of ‘Pit Cottages’ shown near Shottisham Hall. You can see a couple of coprolite pits on the walk to the church across the fields after you pass the board for the Pliocene Forest. Ramsholt dock was later used to ship out straw and then sugar beet with the last cargo going out in the 1920’s. There was a ferry here for some centuries but now no longer. The only way to cross the Deben for walkers below the Wilford Bridge is by the Bawdsey Ferry. This only runs in the summer so not good for the autumn or winter walker.

What are these? Old river defences or part of the oyster beds that were cultured around here

Just up river from the dock and below the wood, interestly named Craigpit Plantation, is a stretch of river which was a busy port in the 14th century when Edward III assembed his fleet to invade France. It is difficult to imagine as you look down from the wood because it is very quiet here. If you look at the flood map you can see an inlet at about this point which should have existed about that time and probably a good place for ship activity. If you carry on from this point towards the dock you get, what is to me, the best view of All Saints Church, up from the river wall.

It is not difficult to imagine why holiday makers make their visits to the Peninsula. It lacks good beaches but is does have some interesting coastline, views and things to visit. It also has a great set of walks. My favourite time for a walk to Ramsholt is that from October to March when it is a very lonley place and it is free from visitors from outside the area. I will never forget the first time I saw All Saints from the flood wall on the walk down to the dock from Stonner Point opposite Waldringfield. I was following the Angels and Pinacles Heritage trail from St Margarets Shottisham to All Saints but unfortuantely the call of a gin and tonic at the pub was an easier end to the walk than up the hill to the church. I visited the church on a later walk.