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St. Mary's Church, Astbury.

I visited St. Mary's Church at Astbury, just outside Congleton, yesterday. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I visited the churchyard, as the church itself was not open, and although I was slightly disappointed, the mild and damp day didn't stop me from having a good old look around . Happily it has much to offer, most notably a venerable yew tree said to be two thousand years old, which leans across the path as if to ask you why you are here, understandably, as it is older by far than the church buildings, and as old as Christianity itself. Sturdy wooden beams support the gnarled trunk.

A remarkable canopied tomb rises above the gravestones, in an elegant arched structure which houses the very weathered effigies of a knight and lady. Their details are more or less obliterated by exposure to the elements, with the poor lady having completely lost her head. On the grass at either side of the tomb are two further effigies, equally effaced, of a knight and a cleric, the latter of which appears to be holding something (possibly a chalice). Just why these medieval monuments should be outside in the churchyard rather than safely inside the church is a mystery I have been unable to find the answer to as yet.

Looking upwards towards the parapet of the church, one can see an arresting row of gargoyles with unsettlingly expressive features. They appear fiercely protective of the church, staring out in challenge. The photo at left shows one of their number, a grinning creature who looks like a cross between a Blue Meanie and Tim Burton's Cheshire Cat, with his sinister wide grin. Frustratingly, I wasn't able to get any decent photos of his fellow gargoyles, some who sport interesting facial hair, and one in particular who is accompanied by two small doppelgangers, his expression that of an irritated parent obliged to bring his equally irritating offspring along.

I hope to visit again for a closer look.

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