We are currently on the 14:06 train to Cherbourg, with our stop being located in Bayeux. This little town is about 6 miles from the coast, and about 10 miles Southeast of Omaha Beach. We are going to be here for the next few days. This is the part of the trip I was waiting for.
(Bayeux Train Depot, population 10,000)
But let’s look back on the first “half” of our journey. We only stayed one night in Wainfleet, with 2 full days of exploring and a late train back to London. I wasn’t expecting much out of this part of the trip, just a few old churches and some countryside Brits. How I was wrong…
The tour of Bateman’s, the local brewery, was awesome. They took us through the actual production of their cask beer, and not just the tourist two step. There were no automated videos, fake machines, or large groups I felt we had to wade through. Just 5 of us and our guide. She let us taste different types of barley, hops, and other ingredients with explanations of all of them.
(War era brewery truck)
After that tour, we got to visit the town museum, which was the former Magdalen College. The building was not very large, and the museum floor was only about 20 feet by 50 feet. I was thinking “what the heck could this old building contain that would be interesting, just some old artifacts of this tiny country town?” They had a corner dedicated to the British troops serving in the British forces in WWI and WWII. These men earned every distention in the book beneath the Victoria Cross. This is where I got my first hint of general British feeling towards those who served in their military. Before this trip, all I experienced was a few days in London, being made fun of for being a tourist and eating expensive food. Out in Wainfleet, and the surrounding areas in Lincolnshire, these men were a different breed.
(Magdalen College Museum)
Our first church tour was given by John Seymour, the local church warden. He is responsible for the upkeep of the Wainfleet St. Mary’s church. The original part of the church was built in the 1000’s by the Normans, and the final part of the church was completed around 1850. Absolutely beautiful. From the stained glass to the giant organ, one couldn’t ask for anything more. Adding onto the “cool factor” of the tour, he let us climb the very narrow stone spiral staircase of the bell tower, even allowing us to climb up to the roof above the bells. We could see for miles.
On the way out of the church, they had a memorial for those lost in the great wars. Again, this is something that shows those Brits fighting in those wars were not just random citizens, but fathers, sons, and brothers. Coming from all across Britain to answer the call and defend not only their homeland, but all of Europe from Tyranny.
The next morning, we called a taxi from the next town over to come and get us. He took us out to Toynton St. Peter’s. The church there was where our family largely lived and attended for hundreds of years. Alf was the man who showed us around. Alf served in the RAF for a few years, telling stories of sleeping in wooden Rolls Royce engine boxes while he had downtime during the Suez Crisis. After his service, he turned into an entrepreneur, using the skills he learned in the service.
At Toynton St. Peter’s, Alf got us the church burial records and we found a few of out great great great ancestors, although they were too poor to afford a headstone so we could not find where in the yard they were laid to rest. That church also had a memorial to the servicemen from the local area.
So after that we packed up and left Wainfleet, and our gracious hosts of the Woolpack Hotel. Mike and Lynda were fantastic hosts, and would definitely recommend them to you for your next trip to rural England.
Today was a day filled with train travel, from London, to Paris, and finally our stop in Bayeux. Seeing the kind of individuals who got onto the train up to the area around the beaches, this will be a great trip. A trainload of Americans, both former service members and everyday patriots. How impossible it sounds; I still think I am underestimating the effect this trip will have on me. I’ve never really been a sightseeing person, caring for experience more that being able to post a picture on Instagram, but I know this trip will be different.