IMGP0201.JPG
Glacial gull west of Linstead Church
From jagged mountain peaks and serpentine river valleys of Scotland to the open valleys of the Midlands and East Anglia, glaciers have played a critical role in shaping modern civilization. As humans became aware of their physical environment, surface features determined geographical settlement patterns. Land formations influenced travel and the creation of territorial boundaries and eventually affected agriculture, trade and war. On a regional scale, human settlement patterns in Suffolk are inscribed into the landscape made by ice half a million years ago.

These days, a highly wrought, ironic, allusive and metaphorical language typifies descriptive writing about environment; a response to an increasingly complicated world, that is shrinking in the mind at an alarming rate. The following are the kind of thoughts you should let roam free when you visit Chediston. The idea of an ancient stone to which an Anglo Saxon personal name has become attached puts the ills of modernity in the context of the passage of five hundred millennia in the Blyth catchment since the last great ice age. Most of the time, its topography looked pretty much like today but with a very thin scattering of people. The most dramatic of these glacial features are the old meltwater channels known as 'gulls', many of which were used by settlers as ready-made tracks between valley and plateau.

Geologically, Ched’s stone belongs to the group of rocks known as glacial erratics, which were scalped from their northern Jurassic and Cretaceous beds by the Anglian Ice Sheet and carried south by glacial flow about half a million years ago. On this time scale, Ched’s stone cannot be beaten as community heritage. But, strangely it is without any encrustation of legend or magic and there is even confusion as to its whereabouts.


Living stone
Stones with names
Puddingstone country
Things Daddy Knows About Ice
Recovering from ice





Living stone
Before there were any written or oral traditions, before there was any idea about one God, or Christian dogma, there was a greater consciousness of a deep spiritual connection with nature and the natural order of things. Nature and humankind were held to be together in a close community. There were no preconceived notions or acceptable methods to channel and express things spiritual. Stones, trees and streams were part of the anatomy of place and things to be imbued with humanity. For example, outside the village of Melvich in Sutherland you will see a huge cloven stone, which has various legends attached. The Devil was supposed to have split it in a fit of pique! Some local people cannot pass the stone without quoting "Rabbits, Rabbits, Rabbits". Another story about this stone is that it is the outcome of warfare between two giant's fighting over ownership of Mainland Scotland and Orkney. This went on for some time, until finally the Orcadian giant proclaimed that he would throw a stone and that wherever the stone landed was the end of his territory. When the stone landed it promptly split in two, one half being the end of the Orkney Giant's territory and the other the mainland Giants.

Now, these ancient mental links with the material world are mostly confined to children who, lacking any well-formed ideas of spirituality, seem to accept most naturally the occurrence of spiritual things--the "invisible friends" of childhood, for instance. Are they spirits? Angels? They are certainly beings we adults cannot ‘see’ because we have lost that innocent connection?

However, if we think about it we still have an inkling of this primitive way of visualising nature in our attitudes towards stone. There are two kinds of stone, living and dead; the living has personality. It is something we pick up on the beach and hold and then can't put down but bring home to keep. That kind of stone has energy. Dead stone is used for paths, roads and walls!

Living stone is also manifest in the great lumps of it that suddenly appear unexpectedly in the landscape and which over the years have become bound to the local community through tales and legends. In the lane by the Saxon church of Old Clee, in Lincolnshire, there is a large flat-topped stone, virtually unknown in the alluvial coastal flatlands. The local children were carriers of whispered knowledge about its magical power from generation to generation. By standing on it, spitting on its shiny surface, and turning three times 'widershins´to grind the spit into the stone, your greatest wish will come true.

The Split Stone of Melich and the Wishing Stone of Clee belong to a class of objects whose status in the hierarchy of things, as objects for curiosity or aesthetic appreciation, is defined only in the mind of the beholder. These mind pictures can still easily be produced childlike, as in Charles Simic's poem "Stone"

Go inside a stone
That would be my way
Let someone else become a dove
Or gnash with a tiger's tooth.
I am happy to be a stone....



Regional perspective
The following Internet note by Michael Burgess puts Chediston in a wider regional perspective (www.shuckland.co.uk)

"Unlike many other areas of the country, East Anglia for the most part has no exposed native rock. But it has, so it seems, been quite well endowed with a number of 'erratics': boulders brought down by the glacial drift of the last ice age. Our pagan ancestors were enthralled by these strange stones and frequently moved them to other spots and venerated them. A great many of our old churches were built on or very near these stones, in an attempt to woo the heathen population into accepting the newly arrived Christian religion.

Other types of these mysterious stones often served as"way-marks" that is to say, standing stones sometimes several feet high, which marked a point on an ancient track. Veneration came first, but it was allied to, and closely followed by, the use of stones as meeting-places. It was quite common practice for assemblies of the populace to take place on hallowed ground, and in many cases the ancient boulder was the focal point. Even where not in sacred enclosure, the stones were used to hold the manor courts, public moots and other such functions, and these frequently came to be regarded as boundary-markers for the local parishes.

The Longfield Stone was the scene in the 1561 and 1568 of the Court for the Gallow Hundred. This was held on Gallow Hill, near Dunton, in Norfolk. The Court for the Shropham Hundred was convened at a boulder at Stonebridge, near East Wretham, while a 'pudding stone' on Nayland Court Knoll served a similar purpose, this on the Suffolk-Essex border. The Cowell Stone lies at the junction of the Icknield Way and Fincham Drove, and it once marked the parish boundaries of Narbourgh, Marham, Swaffham and Beechamwell. This is also a 'pudding stone' and forms a point on that strange line of boulders called the Conglomerate Track, which runs from Norfolk to Berkshire.

In an alleyway off the main street of Harleston, Norfolk, there stands a large granite block, formerly known as 'Herolf's Stone.' Herolf was a Danish chieftain who stood upon this stone and granted various dwellings to the local guilds, and it is thus claimed that the town's name originates from this.

Many such "erratics" still have an echo of pagan ritual or folk-belief lingering about them, obscure though its origin may now be. "A fallen monolith" sits on the grass outside St Mary's Church, Bungay; a round, grey boulder clothed in linen. This is usually called the Druid's Stone, but a running game once performed about it was said to call up the devil. Similarly, the Witch's Stone (actually a 14th Century tombstone) in Westleton churchyard was the scene of a children's dance which summoned Satan, though here only the rattling of his chains could be heard. The Skipping Block in Norfolk seems to belie some ancient game, though it has no legend. No longer extant, it stood in a significant position at a crossroads, and was once the meeting-place of the parishes of Barnham Broom and Kimberley.

There are certain stones, which seem to have a predilection for water and clocks. Outside a barn at Sheringham, on the north Norfolk coast, are two small stones that are reputed to get up and run across the road when they hear the cockcrow, while a boulder at Caldecote does a sprint at midnight. The 'witching hour' is also the moment when an object called the Plague Stone turns around in the grounds of Brome Hall, and two stone balls revolve atop a 17th century gateway at Parham.

The famous Stockton Stone, just north of Beccles, is one of the few East Anglian monoliths with a curse upon it. It is said that anyone who moves it will surely die. In fact, it was moved a few yards several years ago when the road was straightened and one of the workmen died suddenly. In a pit near the Norfolk village of Merton rests a boulder with far more disastrous implications in its legend. If this stone is removed all the waters will rise and cover the whole earth. The present Lord Walsingham informs me that his grandfather once gathered together some men and attempted to move the stone with ropes and horses. Although they failed in their task, one result was said to be an immediate and licentious orgy!

Another 'erratic' currently lies upon the grave of a certain farmer named Reynolds, in the churchyard at Beeston Regis. It is told that, as Reynolds led his team of horses past the ruined gateway of Sheringham Priory, a hooded apparition leapt out from behind a nearby boulder and tried to stop him. This occurred several times and he swore that to lay the ghost, he would have the stone on top of him when he died. He passed away in 1947, and his wife was also buried beneath the rock twenty years later. The ghost has never been seen since.

"Growing stones" are a fairly well known phenomenon in this area; and the Blaxhall Stone is a good example. This five-ton lump of glacial sandstone, standing in the yard of Stone Farm, was said to have been only the size of two fists when it was first found in a field. One wonders what this egg-shaped mass lived on to grow so large!

A farm at South Lopham in Norfolk, takes its name from the Ox-Foot Stone, a large sarsen slab now in the garden of the farmhouse. There is a mark upon it (now rather indistinct) said to be the hoof-print of a fairy cow which regularly appeared at the spot, to be milked by the villagers during a long period of drought. When the dearth ended, the obliging animal stamped its hoof once upon the stone and vanished. But according to another version of the story, the cow was a fairy beast, which also provided Lopham with milk. Then one evening a villager, who had 'drunk too deeply of the Norfolk nut-brown ale' went down to the meadow armed with a sieve instead of a pail. He milked the cow not only until she was dry, but until he actually drew blood. At this, the poor creature bellowed, and stamped with pain so hard that she left her hoof-mark on a flat stone upon which she had been standing!

There are many, many more stones in East Anglia still to describe, some with legends or folk-tales attached, others with nothing but sheer antiquity to intrigue the beholder. But these mysterious rocks have played a great part in our social history, and should not be simply broken up or ploughed under. They have served as boundary-marks, meeting-places and direction-pointers."


Puddingstone country
Essex has a number of puddingstones. For instance at Arkesden, Essex giant puddingstone boulders can be seen in the bed of the stream by the bridge in the centre of the village; others can be found by the inn and in gardens nearby. A small puddingstone and a sarsen erratic have been built into the walls of the pre-conquest chapel of St Helen near Wicken Bonhunt. The war memorial in the churchyard at Alphamstone consists of a single block of puddingstone. As at Chediston, this erratic has given the name Alphamstone to the village.
Hertfordshire is puddingstone country. Here the rock is part of the underlying geological strata of the county. These stratified Palaeocene 'Reading Beds' consist of mottled and yellow clays and sands, the latter are frequently hardened into masses made up of pebbles in a siliceous cement. Examples of Reading Bed outliers occur in what are otherwise chalky areas at St Albans, Ayot Green, Burnham Green, Micklefield Green, Sarrat, and Bedmond. The Reading Beds were laid down about 60 million years ago when the area was a river estuary receiving river sediment from land to the west. Flints were eroded from the surrounding chalk beds some 56 million years ago in the Eocene epoch and were transported by water action to beaches, where they were rounded by wave erosion and graded by size. A lowering of sea levels and general drying during a brief arid period drew out silica from surrounding rocks into the water immersing the flint pebbles. Further drying precipitated the silica which hardened around the pebbles, trapping them in the matrix. Puddingstone is commonly found in river beds, and is less frequently exposed to the surface. Oxides of iron were also trapped in the silica matrix, giving rise to many different hues when the puddingstone is examined closely. From a greater distance, puddingstone is generally brown or ginger in colour, although pink is possible. The silica is very hard, which led to use being made of puddingstone as an auxiliary building material supplementing flintstone buildings such as St Mary's Church, Stocking Pelham; as a decorative feature or waymark in Hertfordshire villages, such as at Watton-at-Stone; or, during Roman times, for grinding corn.

Hertfordshire puddingstone was credited in local folklore with several supernatural powers, including being a protective charm against witchcraft. Parish records from the village of Aldenham relate that in 1662 a woman suspected of having been a witch was buried with a piece of it laid on top of her coffin to prevent her from escaping after burial. At Standon there is a giant puddingstone, shaped people say like a Goddess, at a crossroad leadind to a river crossing. It is the focus of Standon's May Day festivals every year.


Just a Few Things Daddy Knows About Ice
for Lucas

Starts from water. Starts at zero. Flashes
flow to brittleness. Tightens
as the mercury drops, then cracks
glass. Aspires to the Absolute
Cold of Minus 27
(asymptotic constant like light's speed.
pi's final decimal):
point at which the world
shivers to bits.

More banally:
kills off the dinosaur.
sinks the unsinkable.
Turns the waterfall to stone
and the moisture of your own outbreath
in the air to a tinkle
of falling motes the Russian language
calls the music of the stars.
And clinks in whisky.

Keeps its secret for millenia,
holding the second flood
in the dam, the white continent. Holding
us under the Pole
while weather warms
and the mapped coasts are on the rocks.

Duncan Bush