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Essex Fringes

No real plan today, other than to head toward Southend and turn North up toward Suffolk and maybe take a look at Alphamstone before heading for home. We got as far as Raleigh (and the inevitable retail experience) before the traffic got 'difficult' on yet another 'hottest day of the year so far'.

Heading North we avoided the A12, which was also busy, and soon found ourselves at Halstead, northwards on the A131. A right turn signposted Pebmarsh put us on the road toward Alphamstone, and a friendly local pointed out that the church was around the next bend just as we thought we must have missed it.

Alphamstone — Fieldnotes

This is weird. A church, with a whole bunch of sarsens around it.

The two stones in front of the church are not in their original positions, according to a helpful local lady, who also pointed out the sarsen poking inside the SW wall of the church, under the rear pew. Reports of the number of stones varies. I thought I counted as many as 13 stones or remnants, but figures of 9,10 or 11 are more usually reported.

Was this originally a circle? It’s difficult to determine that from what I saw. Most of the stones are on the Southern edges of the churchyard rather than spread around. R*man fragments of a hypocaust were found in an adjoining field, and a kiln site lies nearby, so the area has been in use since the Iron Age, if not earlier.

I'm no expert on cup marks, but several of the stones had round indentations in them. Could this be weathering? Another had a triangular 'groove' cut into it, which intrigued me - see photos for details of these.

Alphamstone — Images

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We then headed across country through the Hedinghams, where we got lost and skirted through Sudbury. At Cavendish we stopped at the Sue Ryder Museum for a bite to eat in the cafeteria, which was nice. In the next village along, Clare, we spotted a bookshop and screeched to a halt. Good call, it was a goldmine and I picked up several archaeological themed books at knockdown prices (9 books for a tenner is a bargain in anyone's books). It proves it's always worth looking…

Slightly further along, we passed the site of a set of ring ditches at Chapel Farm (TL732434). I couldn't see any obvious evidence from the road, despite the crop having been harvested and the field recently ploughed, so we continued on.

At Saffron Walden, we passed close by the Maze, and were going to check out the hillfort at Ring Hill but decided against stopping as time was getting on.

The final stop of the day was reserved for Newport, just south of Saffron Walden.

Newport Leper Stone — Fieldnotes

Just at the northern limit of the town, on the B1383, is the entrance to Shortgrove House. We parked here, and walked the 100 or so yards further south along the road to where the Leper Stone stands at the side of the road. This is a large stone, reportedly the largest in Essex.

Slightly further south in the town, in Station Road lies a recumbent block of puddingstone outside the village hall.

Newport Leper Stone — Images

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ocifant Posted by ocifant
9th August 2003ce
Edited 29th September 2003ce

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