Monday, 25 September 2017

In His Country

The landscapes of the Lincolnshire Wolds - rolling wooded hills and farmland dotted with sleepy little villages - are among the most beautiful in the land. They are also among the least appreciated and visited: the roads are almost eerily quiet, and people of any description are few and far between - which is great news for those of us who do appreciate the beauty of these wolds. Even better, all the churches that can be opened are indeed open - a rare pleasure for the church-crawler in these times.
 I was there at the weekend, with my cousin, on a little tour of 'Tennyson country', the cluster of villages centred on Somersby, where the poet grew up, a child of the rectory (and of the deeply troubled rector, who descended into insanity in his later life). There is no plaque on the rectory, nor any indication that this was the house where one of England's greatest and most popular poets spent his formative years. Outside the church, an information board gives a pretty good summary of Tennyson's Somersby life, but you would not otherwise know that this tiny village was the heart of 'Tennyson country'; this is not exactly an over-promoted attraction. As a happy result, it can still be enjoyed in blessed peace and quiet.
 Somersby church is typical of the Wolds churches - stone-built, compact, unpretentious, with a sturdy West tower and a degree of Victorian restoration. The airy whitewashed interior is peaceful and numinous. Against one wall there's a display case containing a couple of the poet's churchwarden pipes and one of his quill pens - and, under the tower, the great man's brooding bust, by Thomas Woolner, stares at nothing.
 If there is to be a 'Tennyson country', this is just as it should be - a half-forgotten land lost in a very special, very local kind of enchantment.

2 comments:

  1. Sounds super. Tennyson, though? seems to strive for the rhyme, not always happily, from the bits I have encountered. What's the best of him? I don't really know much of these 19th c. Brits.

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