Earls Barton has always seemed a strange place to me, not big enough to call a town, yet too big to call a village. There’s apparently always a lot going on, yet to the passer-by, there doesn’t seem as if there is much there. I’ve never stopped and had a really good look around, just passed through it on the back road to Gt. Doddington, or else on the old major road to Northampton from Wellingborough, the A4500, where I always seem to get stuck at the traffic lights at the crossroads by the Mitsubishi car sales. I am aware that there is industry, as I see signs for Earls Barton Industry, but as a passer-by I’m not really aware of it. There is no blot on the landscape as you drive along the A45 to signify that there is an industrial estate there, just the sight of ‘rolling English Countryside’ with views over the Nene valley from the A45 on one side, and the sight of a row of houses up on the hill on the other. The lucky owners of those houses enjoy a magnificent view over the Nene Valley, unbroken except for a recycling plant that was purposefully screened by trees, and has a ‘living’ roof. There are a couple of industrial units on one side of the A4500 which are slightly irritating to see as you drive along, but on the other side of the road, there must be hedges high enough to screen the industrial estate which is fairly close. I’ve certainly never noticed any industrial units on my journeys to and from the aforementioned traffic lights at the crossroads.
Years ago I did a circular ramble from the unusual Saxon All Saints Church in Earls Barton, across the fields past Ecton Hall and East Lodge Riding School, into Ecton village then on to Sywell Country Park, where we refrained from doing the two-mile circuit around the reservoir, but walked back again along the road, on a more direct route. There are some fantastic houses along that road. We had the usual roast dinner in the Stag’s Head, looked around the church which was shut and went home again. You don’t really get time to notice much on a ramble as you are generally either chatting away, or looking at your feet so you don’t stumble!
Another visit to Earls Barton years ago involved a quick visit to the Barker’s shoe factory shop, trying not to spend too much, and then a very long visit to Jeyes Museum in the old chemist shop, where we had a quick cup of coffee in the little tea shop first. Now Jeyes Museum is well worth a second visit. I’m not one for spending much time in most museums, but this one contains a dolls and dolls’ houses museum which captured my interest and took me ages to get around. Two hours later we were ready for refreshments. Some of us had a drink in the Old Swan, the others had more tea and cakes in the tiny coffee shop in Station Road. I seem to remember an interesting emporium just around the corner on the main road where my friend and I just had to spend some money on items of clothing and trinkets! The other shop I remember was an old ironmonger/hardware/garden products shop opposite the church that I just had to enter to take in great lungfuls of the smells of a bye-gone day – firewood, cardinal polish, soap, candles, wooden pegs, charcoal, with just a hint of vegetables. Those of you old enough to remember those kind of shops will know what I mean.
Today I am going on another ramble starting at All Saints Church, followed by tea and cakes in the tea shop. I wonder whether that will be in Jeyes or at the coffee shop? They are both very small, and there are usually a lot of us on these “tea shop walks”, as they are known. Maybe there is another bigger teashop. Looking at the April sky above me, I am also wondering if I am going to get a soaking, or just a gentle sprinkling. In any case, this time I will try to notice more about Earls Barton!