But you need a co-conspirator to get into the really secret places, as these are invariably locked up. This time it was the building firm who let me in and lent me a light as I hadn't come prepared.
I hasten to add that I did get permission from the vicar, who kindly warned me that the steps weren't necessarily in the best of condition. I kicked off my shoes, said a small prayer, gave a good solid tug on the rope of uncertain anchorage, and went up.
It was dim and dusty and full of graffiti
The stones were pieced, scored with compass marks, scratched with grids and arrows
At one of the doorways the tradesman Issac left his mark as "maker"
Some of the graffiti was younger, some older.
Some pieces were easier to read then others
But to be honest, the further up I climbed the more nervous I became. I started to want to go back down. I had seen lots of graffiti, and getting the photos was tricky in the half dark. If the rope gave out now it would be a long neck breaking tumble.
Then I saw (to my mind) the best piece of graffiti in the tower. Scratched into a stair rise was what seemed to be elevation of a grand house, vaguely tower like itself with three stories decorated along the roofline with stone ball finials.
Why and who had sat up here scratching it into the stair rise? To take the picture I leant back as far as I dared and tried not to romanticise about the motivation behind the graffiti or the drop beneath me.
Once my feet were firmly back on the ground and I had dusted myself down I thought some more about the design and those stone spheres. The only time I have seen that kind of ornamentation is on Clare College bridge in Cambridge. That was built in 1640 so was it a 17th c builder up there creating his fantasy build? Or was someone recording something that could be seen from the top of the tower?
If course I'm never going to know and it really doesn't matter. I'm not a professional archaeologist, or historian. It's probably just as well. I'd never be allowed these flights of fancy.