I have always found Walsingham a strange and mysterious place - even for Norfolk. I drive through on a fairly regular basis and have been known to visit the Farm Shop and in fact was on one memorable occasion mistaken for a member of the clergy in sodoing. For what it's worth I even get my ever diminishing amount of hair trimmed there. And yet I feel it still eludes me. It looks different and feels different but it is very difficult to identify just what it is that makes it so.
A hitherto hidden aspect was revealed last week when visiting friends who live at the very heart of it. Their mediaeval house is unlike anything I have seen in Norfolk over the last 25 years and has been beautifully restored. That said, it was the garden that came as the big surprise. Almost completely enclosed by buildings, each with their own complex and idosyncratic filed roofs, a series of stepped terraces climb away from the house. The overall sense is one of an Italian court or square in which one might confidently expect to find members of some religious order at their leisure. Or failing that, Morse or Lewis wrestling with some intellectual crime.
But as with much of Walsingham, this is not the case and apparently never was. Historically most of the surrounding properties were indeed owned and used by the Church, but the bigger space - now the garden - was, somewhat prosaicly, the yard for the Blacksmith, whose building is to be found at the upper end of the garden.
So a bit more revealed... but still strange and mysterious.