Country Diary: Out and about discovering hidden delights

St Thomas' Church, Gristhorpe
St Thomas' Church, Gristhorpe

“June is bursting out all over,” as the song goes, and the countryside is fresh and flourishing after welcome rainfall. Wild dog roses swiftly follow May blossom, and the fragrance of lilac and lavender perfume the air. Now is the time to get out and about and explore more hidden delights during long summer days.

Visit churches or chapels with their exquisite floral displays. St Mary’s Parish Church proved a real highlight to recent events, depicting the colourful portrayal of religious days and festivals with sensitivity and imagination.

Today, we naturally think of churches and chapels to be constructed of stone or brick, taking years to build, and being very expensive to maintain. It came as quite a surprise whilst calling at Gristhorpe, about two miles inland from Filey, to discover a different scene.

Close beside the Bull Inn, you’ll find St Thomas’ Church, made of corrugated iron. When we first viewed it many years ago, I imagined it may be a temporary structure, but time has proved otherwise. Apparently such tabernacles are found in towns and cities, and on moors and mountains all over the world. Some have been standing since Victorian times. Why not? Given a coat of paint and tender loving care, for a minimal cost they may at any time be converted into a community centre; hall for film shows; store room or WI centre.

It all began in the 1830s when corrugated iron was developed. Later, to prevent rusting and deterioration, the panels were galvanised by coating them with zinc. How much did this cost in those days, for a small church requiring only a little plot of land? Somewhere in the region of only £100!

The tabernacle sections were manufactured at businesses elsewhere, with a variety of designs and sizes on offer in the catalogues.

Having chosen a design, the sections were bolted together on the selected site. Corrugated iron panels formed the exterior. The interior was boarded with tongue and groove pine boarding. Felt was placed between the two layers for insulation. The tabernacle was painted inside and out with a choice of colours, when all was completed.

What roof would you choose – thatched or tiled? Would your floor be of beaten earth, wooden boards or flagstones? Lighting may have been by candles, oil lamps or gaslight. A stove with a pipe chimney could be used to burn wood or coal.

In these days of technology, are we happier and healthier, or more stressed out by the pace of life?

Well, on the rich, moist banks of woodlands, the white, star-like flowers of ramsons emit their powerful aroma of garlic. This plant has been used to relieve hyper-tension in the past.

Now, as foxgloves begin to bloom, we recall its potent drug digitalis. It steadied the heartbeat and gave life to people with heart disease.