St Mary, Sturmer, Essex
Sturmer is an unremarkable parish, a straggle of suburbia to the Suffolk town of Haverhill, apart from two facts. It was the birthplace of the Sturmer pippin apple, registered with the Royal Horticultural Society by Ezekiel Dillistone in 1827, and it was also the birthplace of the actress Charlotte Rampling, a controversial figure in England in the 1960s, and today one of the stalwarts of alternative French cinema.
St Mary is a pretty little tower-capped church on a ridge above the busy traffic of the Braintree road. The lane up to it is heavy shingle like a beach, impossible to cycle, and I had to push my bike the quarter of a mile up to the churchyard, which is still in use. St Mary sits beside the Hall, now a wedding and conference venue. The church has a sad, abandoned feel to it, and the only recent notice was one with the telephone numbers of the keyholders. Perhaps it will be declared redundant, and the Hall next door can add it to its portfolio.
Looking through the windows (and in BoE) it hardly seemed worth going for the key. Besides, I was only two miles from Kedington, one of East Anglia's best churches, and I knew where I'd rather be.