Jenny, who lives near Beyton, created this haunting story. Jenny says the tree doesn’t look so strange in the summer!
I was coming home from a theatre production on a very cold frosty night; the air was still.
I approached a bend in the road. In my headlights I could see a large tree. The tree seemed to have a man and some children standing under its large branches! The man seemed to be holding a large rugby ball.
I had passed this tree hundreds of times before tonight. I stopped the car and walked over to the beautiful large gnarled trunk. I touched the tree, only to realise that the people were actually depicted in the trunk of the tree; the frost had highlighted their shapes! Some of the children were sitting. One of the children seemed to have a
shortened leg with no foot.
I wanted to know more about the tree and its history. I found out from an old resident in the village that the lane next to the tree used to be called Cripples Lane. I intended to find out more about the folk in the tree the next day.
Woman: “Well I couldn’t believe it. I mean NOW, in the cold light of day, I can see it’s just the way the tree twists… you know, with that kind of rotted away bit in the middle of the trunk, but honestly in the dark last night, well, it was … it just was … a man standing right there by the side of Cangles Road.
“There were children just behind him. Three of them – two standing up and one sitting. Looking at it now, I can’t even see why I could see that but… their faces were really jolly – like they’d been having a joke, you know?
“The man was holding something – a ball, it looked like. I don’t know. It wasn’t scary or anything. Just really clear
as I drove up to the corner there. I was on my way home from the theatre – but it was only the panto, so I don’t think it had put ideas in my head!
(laughs a little)
“The sitting-down child looked like it had only one leg – or at least only one foot? Yes, one foot was missing. But look – in the light it’s just wood and bark and crevices and well … just … tree. I spoke to old Mrs Glenister about it this morning – you know what she’s like – she’d have me believe it’s the elves or the pixies or something.
“Although it’s funny…she did mention that the road was once called Cripples Lane – not a word you hear much now, eh? Thank goodness they changed it. But … I don’t know. I guess it was just the way the frost had formed on the trunk and was reflecting in the headlights and that. I don’t know …”
Paris has lived in the village for 12 years and agrees that Beyton is at its beautiful best in the spring. She also says there’s such a lovely community spirit around the place. Paris says, ‘I walk everyday across the fields and one of my neighbours has a tractor and he mowed all the pathways. Beyton is the sort of place where someone’s good enough to spend the time to clear a path!’
But it was a particular area of the village green – where three blossoming trees are located – that Paris kept coming back to during the creative conversation. The photo above shows the scene but NOT in spring – you’ll have to read the poem and imagine those trees in full bloom…
THREE TREES AND OTHER FRIENDS
Our seat is near to what used to be
the old bus shelter, where
there are three blossom trees,
a dark red, a pink and a white
and they all come out together.
On Thursday nights everyone
has been congregating
by the trees near the shelter
and clapping for the NHS.
You know everybody
who lives on the green, their houses
mostly colour-washed white.
The village shop on the corner
is now Hope House and Holly Cottage
and opposite the school house,
Sideways Cottage. They can’t see
out of their windows at the moment.
All one side, from roof
to ground, is a mass of wisteria.
Before the shutdown I’d always walk
with Beryl, my neighbour.
She’s 87 and I’m 80 last year.
We’d walk together every day
and normally, we’d end up
sitting on our seat. Usually
someone goes by, walking a dog
or posting a letter. They stop
and chat, and as the trees umbrella over
we put the world to rights.
Paris with Dean Parkin
Beverley has been in Beyton for nine years, lived in Suffolk for 35 years and, before that, spent some of her childhood in Bury St Edmunds. She’s known Beyton since the 1990s when her daughter’s best friend lived two doors down from Beverly now lives, in a thatched house close to the village green.
“I have a dog, a shitsu cross called Dax, so I walk around the village every day,” Beverley told me. “It’s a friendly village so If anyone is working in their gardens they always stop and talk to you. Normally they just talk about the weather but now we’ve got something else to talk about. They ask how are you? Are you getting food supplies? Are you okay? I think as a village it’s brought us closer together.”
When I asked Beverley to think of a picture of herself in the village, it didn’t take long for this particular image to spring into her mind…
There were daffodils all along the stream
on both sides, and my house
was nestling quietly in the view.
I was walking with Dax, my shitsu cross,
a rescue dog. He’s black and white,
hair all around his face like a lion’s mane.
To our right, a whole lot of trees
and the young willows planted
along the edge of the stream.
In the background the constant drone
of the A14, heavy traffic
driving to Felixstowe docks.
There’s the children’s playground
where I saw the geese on the roundabout.
I wish I had taken that photo!
The geese are a little messy and children
don’t look where they walk but we do have
people who go out on a poo pick.
To our left, the little bridge where it floods
but on this day everything was budding
so there was a lot of green.
Dax is used to me stopping to talk.
He usually just sits and waits
for me to move on or get out my phone
and take a photo. It was last spring
and we were out walking, and I saw my house
was the same colour as daffodils.
Rodney has a museum in his garden at Beyton and was so busy ‘painting a dragonfly wing’ that he forgot I was supposed to be ringing him at 3pm. And so began a conversation that took in his childhood in Beyton, helping out on the farm, bringing the cows home, before he went on to tell me about his early life as a drummer and bass player with a band called The Raiders who backed David Bowie on a tour. And how the best guitar solo, ever, is on a record by Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages. However, in more recent times he’s served as a councillor and has been awarded a British Empire Medal for his services to military associations.
But he’s always been very much a boy of the village and when we got to the picture and the poem of his favourite place or time in Beyton, he immediately said, “being alone in the Church”. He explained, “It’s just very peaceful, it’s not big, it’s not over-ornate. I’ve been in cathedrals but as beautiful as they are, I still think Beyton Church is lovely.” And then began flowing with more details about his connection with the place…
FILLING THE HOLE
I went to Sunday school there,
I got so many relations in that graveyard.
I already know which grave will be mine –
I’ll be with my great grandparents.
I decorate the church every Armistice Day
and Mick the Vic, he said, Do what you like Rod
but if you’re going to put mannequins in there
let me know first because I jumped out of my skin.
I’d dressed one up as Churchill and he thought
What is he doing in here? I’ve done battle scenes
and barbed wire, most churches wouldn’t allow it,
but Mick does. I’m never sure what I’m going to do.
Done a couple of damps jobs, re-plastered it.
When I repaired the perimeter wall
I carved my name on one of the bricks.
Where the electrics went in, there’s a hole to fill.
When I was out there, mending the wall,
everyone who went past hooted
and when I collect for the poppies
I talk to people who I see once a year.
My wife offers to help with the jobs,
my grandchildren they offer help too.
That do sound mean, but I just like being
there on my own. I just like being in there.
I like to be entirely on my own when I listen
to music. I go to the top room in my house
and sit back. There’s a record
by Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages
called Jack the Ripper. Turn the record over
and the back of it is called, Don’t you just know it.
The guitar solo on there, I swear to God,
the hairs on my arms are standing up now.
When I’ve done the display in the church
I sit down and look at it from a distance
and before I leave, I always say thank you
to the altar. I’ve always done that.
I’ve written little letters in the local papers
to say go up there, even if you’re not religious.
Go there and sit still for half an hour
you’ll feel better. I just like the silence.
Lindsay has lived in Beyton for 39 years and moved there from Lincolnshire. She got a job in the nearby middle school while her husband, Andy, still works as a landscape gardener. This is where they brought up their three boys and have always been involved in village life.
What does she think of when she thinks of Beyton? Lindsay replied, “Peace and comfort, trees and birds and bird song. We also have lots of pheasants and we’ve got one in our garden that perches on some high place and preens himself every day. We call him Henry because he has six wives.”
When asked to describe a favourite place in Beyton, Lindsay told me about her daily walk at the moment, with her two dogs, to Chevins Wood. “Beyton is at its best in the spring,” she explained, “and at the moment the village green is fabulous, all the cherry blossom is different shades of pink and white and the bluebells are out in Chevins Wood. It’s a special place.”
THE FIELD BEYOND
We go for a walk in the afternoon, half two-ish.
I wear comfortable clothes, turquoise t-shirt
leafy patterned trousers and trainers.
I’m with my two labradors. Bear is the yellow one
and Tula is black. They’re wagging their tails,
it’s spring. Bear is older now
so I haven’t been going as far. They get on
but he wasn’t keen when Tula first arrived.
As a puppy she was always bothering him.
Near our house there’s a row of lime trees
with their skeletons branches but you can see
the green coming through.
Everything about Beyton is geared for spring
and the new leaves coming out. On the village sign
there are geese and daffodils.
It’s hard to take a photo of Tula, black and glossy,
even her eyes disappear. She’s a silhouette.
Bear is a gentleman, he will always wait
for her to eat first or he’ll stand back for you
to go through a gate. He’s very concerned
if anybody’s not feeling well.
You’re not meant to go into Chevins Wood.
It’s private but you can walk along the edge
where I love the fragrance of the bluebells.
I stand there and sniff. Because no-one’s about
they’re saying the birds are singing in places
they’ve never sung before. In the field beyond
there are so many poplar trees
and when they’re in leaf and it’s windy
it’s like they’re clapping, sort of rejoicing.
Lindsay with Dean Parkin
THE FALLING WALNUT TREES OF BEYTON
During our creative conversation, while we making a photo of Beyton in words, Lindsay mentioned a fallen walnut tree which she can when she looks out of her window. “It looks like creature or a hand,” she told me, “or maybe it’s like a dragon sitting in the field.” Her husband, who is a landscape gardener, cut off the outer smaller branches and just left the trunk and the roots. “And the roots,” Lindsay continued, “are up in the air, like a hand stretching upwards.” After conversation, Lindsay found a photo of the ‘clawing walnut tree’ which was happy to share…
The fallen walnut tree has been like that for a couple of years and since then more of the old trees have gone, including one that fell rather dramatically. Lindsay explains, “The other one we saw when it fell during a storm. Well, half of it did! It was about teatime, we were looking out the window but half the tree fell and the other half was left standing…”
Lindsay with Dean Parkin