We’ve driven 20 minutes from St Albans for a guided tour of Waltham Abbey Church. As we turn a corner this huge Norman Church looks quite imposing and almost feels out of proportion in the middle of the town with small buildings dotted around it. The clock face catches my eye and is uniquely designed with a dark diamond shape framing it.

 As we’re a little early we explore the surrounding area. The Saturday market is in full swing; locals are chatting and selling everything from handbags to cat food. My husband has slowed down and is mesmerized by a stall selling tools and everything you could possibly need for fixing things, while I linger to look at some colorful summer tops. We stop for lunch and as the sun is shining we eat outside.

 We walk back towards the church and have a look at the gardens and surrounding cloister ruins; butterflies float amidst sunlit cherry blossom trees; birdsong fills the deserted rose garden, perfectly symmetrical in design and full with buds about to burst into colour in the next few weeks.

 We enter the church, our guide awaits and we join the group. It is an attractive interior with high Romanesque columns towering up to form rounded arches all along the nave; I look up to the West End, mesmerized by the beautiful stained glass Rose window depicting the Creation story. Each petal depicts one of the seven days; the light from the vibrant ocean blues, strong apple reds and soft greens of the trees shines into the church. Christ is depicted at its centre holding the sun with a rainbow in the distance.

 I look up and marvel at the dizzying heights of the ornately decorated ceiling forming part of the Victorian restoration. It is covered with paintings of the signs of the zodiac framed in blue patterned diamond shapes all along the nave ceiling; a somewhat strange addition to a church.  

 The guide explains that we’re standing on a site where Christians have been worshipping for over a thousand years; the first church on this site dates back to the seventh century. In 1540, Waltham Abbey was the last Abbey to be dissolved in the Dissolution and all that remains is the nave.

 To end the tour we approach the Lady Chapel, colorful streams of light pour through the stained glass. We’re invited to have a look at a rare 15th Century wall painting covering the entire East wall and depicting the Day of Judgment.

 We leave the church and go and have a tea. As we approach the market square there are few passers by and it has gone very quiet. We sit outside. The atmosphere of the square has totally shifted from a bustling town crowded with shoppers to a deserted space with a single road-sweeper silhouetted in the distance clearing litter.