Looking for calm? Yearning for a slower pace and a place to feed your heart and soul? Indulge yourself in the simple things, the peaceful space of an off the beaten track church and churchyard cared for with a light touch by the Friends of Friendless Churches. They are all very remote and only one has a phone signal!
Time slows down when you pass through the narrow doorway in the thick stone walls of St Mary’s. This tiny church hunkers down amid the endless racing skies and scrambling fields at Tal y Llyn offering shelter and calm.
Like so many Welsh buildings it is difficult to date Tal y Llyn, but its origins are clearly medieval. St Mary’s is decidedly religion without pretension; simple, massively structured, plainly limewashed walls shelter a space in which there seems to be no differentiation by wealth. Everybody sits on a backless plank, trenched at one end into a low stone wall, and supported at the other by a timber paddle.
Located on the Llyn Peninsula, looking out to the Irish Sea, Penllech, which means ‘end of the rock’ or ‘headstone’, is aptly named. It became redundant due to its remote location and was vested with the Friends of Friendless Churches in 2009. It is medieval in origin, rebuilt by Samuel Jones in 1840.
Constructed in the distinctive Old Red sandstone of Monmouthshire, and sitting in a near circular ancient churchyard, the stonework of St David’s tells many stories of alteration and infilling. The interior was untouched by the Victorians, and the medieval rood loft survives, leaving an atmosphere of ancient simplicity.
The church that time forgot. A single cell church that survives almost entirely as the Georgians left it. The church overlooks the beautiful Newport Bay and is hidden by bracken, primroses, cowslips and bluebells, which homes chiffchaffs and willow warblers.
The interior of St Andrew’s couldn’t be simpler. The church is thought to be an early 19th century rebuilding of a medieval church, although no early fabric can be seen. Instead, the church is valued for its survival as a modest but moving late Georgian Anglican box, with Gothic windows, and a completely intact, single chamber interior.
A church of extraordinary oddness, All Saint’s is small, modest church tightly bound by a churchyard wall set in a vast open field of a deserted medieval village. The new village can be seen glinting to the north, but this church sits in bucolic bliss, where lowing cattle and babbling brooks fill your ears and wild chamomile crushed underfoot fills your nostrils.
Tucked behind a hedge in the heart of Derbyshire countryside, it’s easy to miss the narrow opening in the farmyard wall that leads to All Saints, an important archaeological site from the early to late medieval period.
The only remnant of a medieval village, built in soft clunch and dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, Caldecote church retains an elaborate canopied stoup, a fine font, and is host to a Fuchsia Festival each summer thanks to the Local Friends group.
Normally, though, it is filled with peace and stillness.
This austere Strict & Particular chapel sits on the edge of the estate of one of the country’s most flamboyant châteaus, Waddesdon Manor. On the side of a dusty road, the white washed walls and simple pews of the chapel are often overlooked by those seeking richer pleasures deeper within the estate.
For a tiny and once very forlorn church, St John the Baptist is now in much better condition in the care of the Friends of Friendless Churches and with volunteer local group the ‘Spirit of Sutterby’ working hard to connect this simple 15th century church with its surroundings, in history and in nature.
Open to the wild coastal elements, a roofless ruin since 1866 when a window was blown in during divine service. But this doesn’t stop this Grade II* church being used each August for an annual service held by local people, or by visitors seeking solace.
Standing in splendid isolation in a field in the Cambridgeshire Fens, St Andrew’s has become a milestone for countless travellers. More than fifteen million people pass it every year as the East Coast Main Line between London and Scotland rattles past, just a couple of hundred yards from the church’s creamy limestone tower.
Few travellers take the time to journey across the Fens to seek out this lonely historic building. It sits near the edge of Woodwalton Fen, a nature reserve, and a remnant of the wild wetland habitats of pre agricultural East Anglia.
The Friends of Friendless Churches is a charity established to rescue, repair and campaign for historic churches in England and Wales. We now care for more than 50 ancient and beautiful churches, often in magnificent natural settings, preserving them as peaceful places for visitors and the local community to enjoy.