Updated: May 12
The wonderful thing is that there are so many footpaths leading to the parish church here, that it's almost impossible to take the wrong route! The castellated tower is visible through the skeletal winter outlines of birch and oak, providing a way-marker, much as it must have done to parishioners in the area since the church was established in the 15th Century. Indeed, our visit here had been inspired by views of the church glimpsed from Falmouth, over 2 miles to the east.
We set off over a stepped stile, along leaf-littered narrow footpaths, initially bordered on one side by a building site for new houses, and on the other by open fields: here one really feels 'on the fence' between rural and urban life. Though the sounds of the building site continued, the route was soon enclosed on both sides by partially-clothed trees, and the repetition of granite stiles we climbed led us away from the modern pavements we'd left behind.
Several footpath-junctions later, we came to the perimeter of the church enclosure, the rounded shape of which is suggestive of the original plot of 'god's acre' where a church has stood since the 13th Century, and probably long before. Enclosed mainly by a stone wall, and with a pretty lych gate at the southernmost entrance, the warm colour of the stone - iron tinted granite and hardened sandstones and slates - seems to effuse the churchyard with particularly soft light.
Alongside the path to the west of the church - near to the beautiful tower - are two rounded cross-heads, one on either side of the path. It isn't possible to tell if they are mounted on shafts, and there are no records of when they were placed in proximity of the church, but it seems likely that they may have been at one time wayside crosses, placed along paths leading to the church to guide the parishioners on their journey, and act as devotional objects as a prelude to arriving at the church itself. It is wonderful to consider the landscape around here at that time...how familiar and reassuring the sight of the tower will have been to so many generations of local, and not so local people: at one time, Falmouth was within the parish of Budock, so people may have travelled several miles to reach its enclave.
A view along the north side of the church reveals how much higher the churchyard is than the level of the churches foundations. Successive layers of burials have raised the level of the ground here by at least one metre. In the distant past, only very few wealthy parishioners had stone epitaphs created after their death, and these were typically placed in the church building itself. The majority of people were buried without a headstone, and once the churchyard was full, later burials were added on top of the existing plots. In this way, the level of the churchyard can be significantly higher if the churchyard has been long established, prior to the practice of most burials having a headstone from the middle of the 19th Century onwards.
The sense of a long and intimate parish history is almost tangible here, in the quiet, tree-dominated enclosure of the church. As we move away, back towards the busy roads and building sites, and see the extensive development of Falmouth on the opposite side of the river, a sense of peace from this place remains within. The speed of modern life is tempered a little, and the moss, leaves and drying ferns on the path leading back to the car seem more real than before.