St Peter's Church Thurleigh Bedfordshire and Local Places

The magnificent church of St Peter's in the village of Thurleigh was once my home village for just three years from 2013. Thurleigh is only 6 miles north of Bedford and sits on the side of the hill within the village.

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There was a church here in Saxon times. The current church has some parts still dating from around 1150, with 14th- and 15th-century additions to the building and restored in the 1880s.

The church was again like all my Bedfordshire churches some of the first I had photographed. It was due to how they looked within the countryside on the side of the hills that caught my artist's eye — moving from the Cambridgeshire Fens where the churches didn't stand out due to the flat, dull landscapes.

In 1930-40, a very unpopular Vicar caused the congregation to dwindle. As a result, the church fell into disrepair and was closed in 1945. After some time the villagers sprang into action and started to raise money with newspaper ad needing help and began forming working parties. The restoration work on the tower and the chancel in 1950-60 allowed services again; the nave was completed in 1970.

St Peter's has a beautiful seating area within the churchyard and is for all to use; it is mostly dedicated to the fallen of both wars. The churchyard is well-kept and has lovely views across the west of the village countryside. Also, there is a path that runs to the south and out into the country, if you follow it around you will come across a small nature reserve which has a tree-lined lake which is often full of arguing mallard ducks. If you into birds you will see barn owls and red kites.

As church towers go this one seems unlike all the others, I have seen, it's without embattlement and may look bland but it's not, it has such a rustic look to it with its broken wooden louvred two-light belfry windows. The view of the church is just outside the grounds, and sometimes I was taller.
I lived just outside the village on a working farm and almost next to Thurleigh's wartime airfield that's now the Bedford Autodrome. Thurliegh offered some lovely places to go walking, and if your legs are up to it, a 14-mile lap around the large airfield perimeter ( I managed just 4 miles of it) is on offer. I spent many happy hours out walking here and often not seeing anyone for hours, it is a far cry from the prison-like Fens countryside where there are no places to walk, rambling plays a big part in my life and fact is more important than photography.

This view of the church can be seen from the public footpath that's just outside the village to the west, and can be seen throughout the year even within the trees. The village almost looks like a model that would be well suited to a train set; I always used to think that when driving or walking out from the farm.

Another fine view is the old windmill, now a hotel I think, I knew the lady who lived there and the size of that house was amazing, there was enough room in the kitchen to park 3 cars, well it's alright for some I guess haha.

One thing I did notice when moving from the Fens to Bedfordshire, was the number of thatched cottages and houses. You may see one or two in Fenland but here they everywhere, and of course the rivers are far more beautiful too, with trees lining almost all streams and the great ouse that runs through Radwell and Sharnbrook that's just 3 miles from Thruleigh. If you into nature, bird watching, wildflowers and insects, Bedfordshire offers all this and more, and as you may have gathered I do miss living there!

St Peter's church has some great memories for me, it was here where I took part in my first photography contest. To get a call to say you have won all but two sets of subjects came as a shock to me. I never gave it a thought that I would win, winning best wildlife, best landscape and best in show made me feel that I had done something right in life. I'm a humble person, so I never expect much in life, and I'm not the type to stand in front of loads of people, so my face was as red as a strawberry. My winnings was a one-off handmade bowl and mug made in the same design as an old Saxon stone carving in the churchyard. But the instant fame caused a bit of an issue, Bedfordshire college and one school wanted me to do some lectures, and that to me was miles out of my comfort zone, so I had to decline which now I understand is stopping me from moving on in my artistic life.

Well, happy memories for me even though I was only there for three years. Believe it or not, Bedfordshire is just 55 miles from my home in Wisbech Cambridgeshire, yet felt like I had been taken to another world, from a depressing life in the bleakest place I have ever seen to a world that's full of life, places to walk, eat out, areas to visit and go shopping.

The countryside is gently rolling hills with trees and hedgerows with many large old oak trees which were a sight for sore eyes, in my home county for Cambridgeshire we would be lucky to see one oak tree. The terrible greed created by the farmers where they cut down trees without a care for the natural world.

St Peter's Church Thurleigh Bedfordshire and Local landscape