After our visit to Lanhydrock, Paul and I decided to drive out over Bodmin Moor. Yes, I’ve probably read Jamaica Inn too many times (and other things by Daphne du Maurier and other books set in Cornwall). Anyway, the village of Altarnun naturally stuck out at me on the road map so I made Paul pull off the road and stop so I could get a look. It’s no surprise Daphne du Maurier wanted to use this village in Jamaica Inn. It’s tiny, and except for the occasional car, it really could be the early 19th century. Since it was a Wednesday evening, I didn’t expect to get to see inside St Nonna’s, so I contented myself with taking photos from outside. That is, I contented myself until the Altarnun Bellringers started arriving for practice and invited us in!
I just want to take a moment to say how amazing the Altarnun Bellringers are. They were so friendly and welcoming and took the time to let us in the church and even up into the bell chamber to show us how change ringing works. I’d read The Nine Tailors on a previous trip to England, but I really had no idea. If you keep scrolling, you’ll see that Paul and I got to ring the bells ourselves. We really couldn’t have asked for a better evening. To top it off, Paul even got to geek out about the enormous lock on the church door–we’re really weird, what can I say?
St Nonna’s has a proper churchyard with the most gorgeous headstones. Everything about St Nonna’s is completely different from churches in Wichita. Here, the bells are automated or–shudder–recorded, if there is even a bell tower at all, and people are buried somewhere else, in hideously homogenous cemeteries where the headstones are flat so groundskeepers don’t have to mow around them. If that’s efficiency, I don’t want any part of it. I like beauty and things that have been around a long time. Altarnun offers that in spades.
Are you the kind of person who likes old locks or proper graveyards? You should sign up for my newsletter because it sounds like we could be friends.