Monday, 30 November -0001

Bizarre and beautiful england

Our country is full of secrets and surprises, as David Long discovers

Written by David Long
  • Thirty-four metres high and about half a kilometre long, the world’s largest nude female sculpture lies near Cramlington, Northumberland. Seven years in the planning, it was created by Charles Jencks using waste from an opencast mine.
  • The first thousand miles of England’s motorway network were sketched out by official surveyors in 1938 using children’s crayons on a map given away free with Titbits magazine.

Bizarre-May29-02-590Silvas Capitalis in the Kielder Forest

  • A small herd of cows made from recycled bits of diggers is visible to cyclists making their way from Consett to Sunderland. 
  • All Saints’ Church at Tudeley in Kent contains 12 glass panels by the artist Marc Chagall. These were commissioned in the late-1960s by Sir Harry d’Avigdor Goldsmid Bt as a memorial for his daughter who drowned.
  • In 1946, Anne Boleyn’s prayer book and a signet ring belonging to Henry VIII were stolen from Hever Castle in Kent. The thieves used a black Rolls-Royce as their getaway car.

Bizarre-May29-03-590Tout Quarry in Portland, Dorset

  • Perhaps the country’s rarest tree is the Audley End oak (Quercus audleyensis) in Essex. This was planted in 1772 at the Jacobean estate of the same name, since when every attempt to grow or graft from it has failed.
  • More pagan than Christian, the Zennor Mermaid is carved on the end of a pew at St Senara’s Church in the Cornish village of the same name.
  • Silvas Capitalis in the Kielder Forest, a giant head made from 3,000 pieces of timber, offers not just shelter but a great view through the eye sockets.

Bizarre-May29-04-590All Saints’ Church at Tudeley in Kent

  • At Ankerwycke on the Berkshire- Surrey border, in the ruins of an ancient priory, the split wreckage of a tree some eight metres wide, is almost certainly England’s oldest. The ragged yew is known to be at least 1,400 years old, and possibly 1,000 years older than that. Legend has it that it marks the spot where Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn would meet to fool around; more certain is that the opposite bank of the Thames is where King John was prevailed upon to put his seal to the Magna Carta.
  • In Kendal’s Quaker Meeting House in Cumbria nearly 80 intricate tapestries tell the story of Quaker history from its foundation to the present day. They were created by more than 4,000 individual Quakers over 15 years.

Bizarre-May29-05-590St Senara’s Church

  • Carved out of the wall of Tout Quarry in Portland, Dorset, Still Falling by Antony Gormley forms part of a sculpture trail, but is easy to miss.
  • Situated high above the finest grousemoor in England, Clougha Pike in Lancashire was commissioned from Andy Goldsworthy by the Duchess of Westminster and stands sentinel like three drystone sentry boxes.
  • An ancient manmade cave in Royston, Hertfordshire, contains a series of strange Christian and pre-Christian images carved into the chalk walls. Clearly medieval, these include depictions of saints including Catherine of Alexandria, George and Christopher.

Bizarre England: Discover The Country’s Secrets & Surprises, by David Long, is published by Michael O’Mara Books, priced £9.99.

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