Tag Archives: Scenery

The 5-star Holy Island of Lindisfarne ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐!

Just spent an amazing – and very refreshing – six days on Holy Island, ‘The Holy Island of Lindisfarne’ no less, my first ever visit!  It’s a real 5-star place, though not in the usual sense, of course.  For many it’s a place of pilgrimage, and one that they return to year after year, for others it’s a day’s outing for half term; whatever; when the tides are right, yes, the place is humming with people. At least that’s true in spring, summer and autumn. Winter is pretty quiet, so I hear – weather, man, it’s the weather!

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First step, check the tides, and then drive on over the causeway. Holy Island is quite low-lying, so everywhere ahead is sea or sky, or mudflats. The only landmarks on the horizon are the 2 castles, the nearer and smaller one on Holy Island itself, and far in the distance on the other shore is the massive fortress of Bamburgh Castle. Holy Island weather changes all the time, and the light makes photos look really good – no filter needed! Sunrises and sunsets are spectacular. Be prepared for fresh air, there’s a lot of it, all very wholesome – everyone has glowing red cheeks and goes around well wrapped up.

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Being a place of pilgrimage gives it a special atmosphere, all that Celtic spirituality oozes out of the island in a way that only a few islands do. Following the daily rhythm of Celtic monastic prayer is a gentle way to spend the week recharging batteries, both physical and spiritual. There are plenty of prayer services to choose from in the different churches and retreat centres on the island. There’s also plenty of walking and exploring to be done all over the island. And on cloudy days when the tides are wrong and visitors are few, it’s the surf that comes up trumps and the young people of the district converge offshore – wetsuits and surfboards all ready for the next big wave. So there’s something for everyone; you’ll never be bored, I promise you!  Of course I took plenty of photos, but far too many to share them all here, and anyway Advent Word is coming soon, so I may use them as a series for Advent. So I’ve chosen 21 photos only, a small selection!

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A little history for you of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne…

‘A Place more venerable than all in Britain’ – Alcuin, AD 793

Before the 11th century, Holy Island was known as Lindisfarne, and its history really starts when Oswald (who had become a Christian through the monks of Iona) became King of Northumbria – and like his father before him, set up his base at Bamburgh Castle, on the Northumbrian coast about 50 miles north of Newcastle. Once established, he invited monks from Iona to come to Northumbria to share the Christian faith with the people – and establish churches. Just north of Bamburgh was the tiny island of Lindisfarne, and in 635 AD St. Aidan (his statue is the top photo with the castle in the background) and a group of Irish monks arrived from Iona and chose to establish their monastery on Lindisfarne – it was nearby so it would have the king’s protection, it had a deep harbour, and it was tidal, cut off by the tides twice a day, so giving extra security.

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Holy Island has been described as the ‘Cradle of British Christianity’, and is a place of immense historic and religious significance. It’s also the place where Eadfrith, Bishop of Lindisfarne, wrote the famous Lindisfarne Gospels. It is from the monastery on Holy Island that the early missionaries, led by St. Aidan and St. Cuthbert spread the Christian faith throughout the whole of northern Britain. On the night Aidan died in 651, Cuthbert, then aged about 16, heard God’s call as he tended sheep in the hills. As a result he became a monk at Melrose, and eventually in 664, he came to Lindisfarne as Prior, and traveled extensively, teaching, preaching and baptizing. He felt called to live as a hermit, and did so on St. Cuthbert’s Isle, just off Lindisfarne (see the small island in the above photo), and then for 9 years on the Farne Islands, where many came to seek his help. In 685, he became Bishop of Lindisfarne, but died only 2 years later, in 687. Even before his death he was regarded by many as a saint, and miracles continued after his death. In 875, violent attacks by marauding Vikings forced the monks of Lindisfarne to flee for their lives, taking Cuthbert’s body (which, on opening up his coffin was discovered to be uncorrupted) with them. They found refuge in Chester-le-Street, but in 995 finally settled in Durham, where Cuthbert is buried in the cathedral – or rather the cathedral was built as a place in which to house his shrine.

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In the 1120’s, monks from Durham Cathedral re-founded a Benedictine Priory on Holy Island. St. Mary’s Church (above photo) was already there, built sometime before 1145, and is believed to be built on the site of St. Aidan’s first wooden church. With many changes through the ages, and after major renovation in 1860, it is still in use as the parish church today. The priory flourished until 1537 when it was closed down by Henry VIII. Gradually, its stone buildings fell into decay; today the ruins remain (see photo below) and are open to the public, run by English Heritage.

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Not long after the dissolution of the priory, in the 1550’s, Lindisfarne Castle (which is really only a small fort compared with mighty Bamburgh) was built to protect the harbour against invasion from Scotland, but with the union of England and Scotland in 1603 under James I, its military importance decreased, and eventually it was demilitarized in 1819. Fast forward to 1903, and Edward Hudson of Country Life magazine bought the castle and with the help of the famous architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, he converted the castle into a very stylish holiday home. A kind of bizarre mix of ancient and modern. That didn’t last too long though – it was sold, and eventually in 1944 it was given to the National Trust, who this year have just completed extensive renovations. This is the castle from the old harbour…

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Other relics of a bygone age are the lime kilns near the castle, and the quarry over on the far side of the island. Also the herring industry – many of the old herring boats have now been cut in half and turned upside down to be used as huts.  Resourceful, eh?!

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Fishing is ongoing, mainly of lobsters (mostly exported to France!) and crabs. Over the years, the island lifeboats took part in many rescues, but there is no longer a lifeboat on Holy Island, though some of the islanders continue to also serve as coastguards. There’s a farm with lots of sheep and some cattle, but it seems that much of the island’s livelihood comes from tourism, with people like me staying for a few days, supplemented by hundreds arriving each day as soon as the tides allow. There’s lots of holiday cottages, retreat centres (I stayed at Marygate, such a great place, delicious food and really friendly people), pubs and cafes, even a post office, small school and small businesses, a shop brewing their own Lindisfarne Mead, artists and craftspeople. I saw Tesco and Argos vans making deliveries, and even a mobile library. And all this week, there’s been an ice-cream van parked on the road to the castle, and he’s done great business!

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Rev. Kate Tristram has written a very readable and comprehensive book, The Story of Holy Island, which I have worked my way through in the last few days. That, together with some guide books and displays in the priory museum and church has given me the background to Holy Island and to what I’ve written above. During this week, we have also celebrated All Saints Day and All Souls Day, and Kate was the priest who took the service. She is now in her mid-80’s but still very cheerfully serving in the church as necessary – Holy Island is in interregnum, though they have a new vicar appointed, but not arriving until January. Her chasuble is stunning. She kindly modeled it for these photos, and told me it was one of four made by a group based at the Durham Cathedral, for the Holy Island church. Wonderful! 

Finally I must just tell you about the amazing sculpture in the church on Holy Island, called ‘The Journey’ by Fenwick Lawson, of the 6 monks carrying Cuthbert’s body. Really moving. The photos turn out better at night. He takes the theme of refugees, and mentions ‘The Burghers of Calais’ in his explanation of the sculpture. Most relevant and very timely, seeing as only 3 weeks ago I was in Saffron Walden admiring the sculpture there which is also on the same theme (see that blog post here). The sculptor writes, ‘The Lindisfarne community, with the uncorrupted body of Cuthbert, their saint, founded Durham as refugees. With this significance in mind, and some nerve, considering ‘The Burghers of Calais’ by Auguste Rodin, I saw this epic journey as a great theme for a sculpture: a journey of faith, a journey of hope, and a journey of love for fellow man; a brotherhood forged by the necessity of co-operative effort.’

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So just a taste of Holy Island to encourage you to go and see it all for yourselves, it’s definitely definitely worth it!

Very finally, St. Aidan’s Prayer for Holy Island and his monastic community, to get you in the mood for visiting Holy Island…

‘Lord, this bare island, make it thy place of peace. Here be the peace of men who do thy will. Here be the peace of brothers serving men. Here be the peace of holy rules, obeying. Here be the peace of praise by dark and day. Be this thy island, thy holy island. Lord, I thy servant Aidan, speak this prayer. Be it thy care.’

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This is the causeway, looking back at Holy Island as I left this morning…. sad to say goodbye, it was such a great week!

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PS – Just to put this in a world context: AD 635, the year that St Aidan arrived and established the monastery on Holy Island was also the year that Alopen, a Syriac monk from the Nestorian Church (Church of the East) arrived in China to start his missionary work – he is the first recorded Christian missionary to reach China. Ah yes, it was all happening in 635 AD!

Wanderings in the Wonderful West Country!

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A week or so in the West Country in Autumn ~ and yes, it was great!

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Tiverton, Devon ~ where my good friend Elizabeth took me to see a really bleak but utterly compelling Russian movie, ‘Loveless‘ which was about as tragic as it possibly could be, followed the next day by a mission support prayer gathering, lunch and a walk around the canal, which were quite the opposite!  And in the middle of the prayer meeting, one of the parked cars even rolled itself down the slope.  What with Russian movies, prayer meetings and rolling cars, Tiverton is quite a happening place!  The people are lovely ~ these delightful people from St. George & St. Paul’s Church gather regularly to pray for mission, including CMS.  Thank you!

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Next stop: Porthleven and Helston, Cornwall ~ where the sea and sky were all blue, and where my good friend Joy was in hospital for a new hip, so I stayed with her daughter and husband in Helston Vicarage – this is St. Michael’s Church, Helston where we worshiped on Sunday, and had a very warm welcome from all in the congregation…

And I visited Porthleven, where the harbour was looking splendid….

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And the old Porthleven lifeboat house has a stunning new wall mural by ‘Sketch’ painted on the front wall in memory of the lifeboat men who served there from 1894-1929, and took part in 28 launches and 50 rescues…. though it can only be seen from the sea and from the pier.  Ah yes, wall murals have come to Porthleven!

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Also walked the coastal path up from Porthleven to Trewavas Head – where, perched precariously on the cliffs, there are the 2 engine houses of Wheal Trewavas Mine, a disused copper mine that had 4 copper lodes and 1 tin lode in operation from 1834-1846, employing about 160 men who brought up a total of approx 17,500 tons of copper ore. The shaft reaches down 600 ft and goes out under the sea. Eventually the mine was flooded and abandoned.  What a relic of time past.  An amazing part of Cornish history.

Y’know what else made me smile in Cornwall?  Firstly the cars – and guess what? They are not all silver.  In fact, hardly any seemed to be silver.  All over the UK, boring old silver is the predominant colour for cars and it just adds to the greyness, especially on a cloudy day.  But Cornwall has cars of every colour. I love it!

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And y’know what else? In the hospital where we visited my friend Joy, there are signs posted up in the ward, behind the sink taps no less, telling everyone not to feed the seagulls. Isn’t that so lovely?  You just have to smile at the thought that such a sign is necessary.  Love it!

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And so to Wiltshire, where I stayed with my CMS friend, Jane in the Wylye Valley….

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where nearby Tytherington Village claims to have the oldest church in Wiltshire, dating to the early 12th century, and it is very lovely!

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There’s alpacas too who are oh so sociable and kept me well-entertained!

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Jane kindly took me to Stourhead which is run by the National Trust ~ the gardens are spectacular and looked glorious in their autumn colours….

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Moving northwards, I left Wiltshire and headed to Gloucester, where the cathedral was looking incredible in the blue sky…

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Gloucester Cathedral, ‘formally the Cathedral Church of St Peter and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, in Gloucester, England, stands in the north of the city near the River Severn. It originated in 678 or 679 with the foundation of an abbey dedicated to Saint Peter (dissolved by Henry VIII).’

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It’s free to go in, and some of the upper galleries are also open, so you can look down on the main body of the church.  There’s lots of things to do, and as it’s half term there were lots of children busy doing things.  A great atmosphere!

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The best things to see are the GCHQ ‘Poppyfall’ all ready for Remembrance Day, as part of the World War I commemoration – on display in the Lady Chapel…

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And the beautiful stained glass windows of the St. Thomas Chapel where the windows are blue…

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There’s also some modern windows honouring Ivor Gurney…

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The cathedral is well worth visiting – my first visit ~ yippee!

It was while I was at Gloucester Cathedral that I learned the sad news of the death of my good friend, Winsome, friend, colleague and neighbour in Dodoma, Tanzania ~ she had also visited me in Taiwan and we had visited her in Sydney, Australia some years ago.  It was somehow fitting to learn this news while at the cathedral, and I lit a candle at the St. Thomas Chapel in thanksgiving for her life and friendship…

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Thank you Gloucester for a great break on a journey!

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And so onto Great Witley, Worcs, to see my good friends, Debbie and Nigel.  Some would say that Worcestershire is not really in the West Country, but hey, it’s still in the west, and, well, not that far away.  Anyway, Thursday was chilly and very grey.  So, what better than to visit the local ruined mansion, built with the profits of ironworks and coal mines, Witley Court.  It is very grey and very austere, and basically grim.  You can imagine what it must have been like, even though it’s now a massive ruin.  What money, what extravagance, what a ruin.

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‘Witley Court, a Jacobean country house extended on a number of occasions throughout its history, but which became derelict after a spectacular fire in 1937. The mansion, formerly one of the finest in the Midlands, is now in the care of English Heritage, who describe it as their number one ruin. They have restored the extensive gardens leaving the impressive skeletal ruin of the building overlooking them in a poignant and thought provoking way.’

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Witley Court, Great Witley, Worcestershire, England is a ruined Italianate mansion. Built for the Foleys in the seventeenth century on the site of a former manor house, it was enormously expanded in the early nineteenth century by the architect John Nash. Subsequently, sold to the Earls of Dudley, a second massive reconstruction by the architect Samuel Daukes took place in the mid nineteenth century, creating one of the great pleasure palaces of Victorian and Edwardian England.  The declining fortune of the Dudleys saw the sale of the court after the First World War to a Kidderminster carpet manufacturer. In 1937 a major fire caused great damage to the court, the estate was broken up and sold and the house was subsequently stripped of its fittings and furnishings. Forty years of decay followed before the house and grounds were taken into the care of The Department of the Environment in 1972. Since that point, significant restoration and stabilisation have secured the house as a spectacular ruin.’

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Having checked out the ‘number one ruin’, it was time to see the church (pictured above), attached to the house, but separate, and not affected by the 1937 fire.  It’s the local parish church and still serves the local community.  This is definitely not a ruin.  Quite the opposite. When you see this, you get a glimpse of what the house might have been like, once upon a time.  It’s the inside of the church that is so, well, incredible.

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It’s the ceiling, man, the ceiling!

‘The church, of Saint Michael and All Angels, is a brick building but like the adjoining Witley Court was faced with bath stone by the Gloucester architect Samuel Daukes in the 1850s. The interior is one of the finest Italian Baroque churches in Britain originally from Cannons House at Edgware in Middlesex and fitted to Daukes’s building by James Gibbs. It was completed in 1735.  It incorporates a richly gilded ceiling with a number of paintings by Antonio Bellucci, a funerary monument to Thomas Lord Foley and his family by John Michael Rysbrack and ten large painted glass windows by Joshua Price dated 1719-1721.’

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The last place to check out is the tea-shop ~ far more down to earth and very pleasant, full of cheerful ladies serving food and tea.

Goodbye to Great Witley, where many of the trees are covered in clumps of dark green mistletoe – ah, yes, Christmas is coming!

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And onto Kidderminster, where the brown bulrushes were in full bloom at the local nature reserve…

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The views over the whole area, almost as far as Birmingham from the Habberley Nature Trail were amazing!

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So goodbye to the West Country for the time being as I head northwards this weekend. Thanks to everyone who gave me such a warm welcome and great hospitality – including the seagulls in Cornwall.  Great weather too.  But winter is coming and this weekend may be a bit cold.  Get them Winter woolies ready!

And a Very Warm Welcome to Northern England!

You just can’t beat the north of England for mountains and moorland.   All of the high roads can be spectacular – well, either spectacularly bleak in the middle of a snowstorm or spectacularly beautiful on a sunny day.  This weekend was mainly good weather, just check out these views. The photo above was as I came past the Howgill Fells this afternoon ~ just a hint of a rainbow over Sedbergh in the distance!

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First the Lake District ~ oh so beautiful, especially last Friday, looking down over Elterwater…

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The place for lunch in Elterwater is the Brittania Inn, highly recommended. The best local dish in this part of the world is Cumberland Sausage and gravy – really good!

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The Langdales Pikes were also very clear – this view is from Great Langdale

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And the highlight of Friday evening was the Jesus Church, Troutbeck annual Harvest Supper, held at the Village Institute, and as always well-supported, this year by about 70 people. My first visit. The event is famous locally for the delicious food, and people look forward to it all year!  General advice is not to eat lunch, and there were 14 different puddings on offer. The money raised went to the Bishop of Carlisle’s Harvest Appeal, supporting farming projects in Malawi and South Africa.  Check out this spread….!

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Yesterday, Saturday and off I went over the hills heading eastwards on the A66, via Sedbergh on the open roads, to Co. Durham….

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With lots of stops to see the views…

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And to see the classic cars parked at the Fat Lamb Inn….

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And so I arrived an hour or so later in Spennymoor, Co. Durham for a visit to St. Andrew’s Church, Tudhoe Grange, one of my CMS Link Churches.  My last visit there was in January 2015, recorded here.

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I was very warmly welcomed by the vicar, Rev. John Livesley, and all his lovely family. Such gracious hospitality, and so much delicious food, it felt like I did nothing much else but eat, eat, eat, eat all weekend!  I’ve been supported by this church for many years and nobody ever seems to get any older. Photos galore of lots of smiling people!  Specially delighted to see Rita and Cliff, former churchwardens…

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And the current churchwardens – with Shirley, the Mother’s Union leader…

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Those giving out the books were also smiling of course…

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I gave the sermon and also spoke to the children in the Sunday club that followed the service. Loved it all!

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At the coffee hour they kindly presented me with a cheque for CMS, money raised at their brunch a few weeks ago. Thank you John and all at St. Andrew’s!

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Ah, yes, thanks be to God for safe travels, great views, wonderful churches and warm welcomes!

Cathedralling in Eastern England!

THE most amazing 3 days of completely blue skies and THE most amazing visits to 3 cathedrals!  Almost, but not quite, cathedralled-out for a while. Added to Norwich, where I was last Friday, that makes 4 cathedrals in less than a week. Phew!

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First was Ely, Cambridgeshire, where I went on Monday en route from Suffolk to Lincolnshire. Stopped to check out the city and the cathedral, and got myself on an octagon tower tour at the cathedral. YES YES YES!

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Ely Cathedral has its origins in AD 672 when St Etheldreda built an abbey church. The present building dates back to 1083, and cathedral status was granted it in 1109. Until the Reformation it was the Church of St Etheldreda and St Peter, at which point it was refounded as the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Ely, continuing as the principal church of the Diocese of Ely, in Cambridgeshire. It is the seat of the Bishop of Ely and a suffragan bishop, the Bishop of Huntingdon. Architecturally it is outstanding both for its scale and stylistic details. Having been built in a monumental Romanesque style, the galilee porch, lady chapel and choir were rebuilt in an exuberant Decorated Gothic. Its most notable feature is the central octagonal tower, with lantern above, which provides a unique internal space and, along with the West Tower, dominates the surrounding landscape.”

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The big advantage to Ely is that the city is so small – and so lovely – and car parking is free, so what you save on the car park, you can spend on the tower tour. Ely doesn’t just offer one tower tour, but two. I chose the octagon tour and it was amazing. Ely Cathedral is not cheap, £9 admission charge, and about the same per tower tour, or buy a special package of entrance and one tower tour for £16.50.  And it was well worth it to go up into the octagon and see down into the cathedral as well as walk around on the roof.  And we had a really good tower guide. The views were amazing, over to Suffolk, Cambridge and all places in-between. There’s also a sculpture exhibition at the cathedral, in fact there’s all sorts of modern art all over. I like it.  Ely has a nice atmosphere, and the weather was perfect. Blue sky – yippee!

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I’m staying in Bourne, Lincolnshire, my first visit here, staying with good friends, Hall and Sarah. On Tuesday, Sarah took me to Lincoln Cathedral, and that too was my first visit. Loved it, big time! So massive, so huge, so in your face as you arrive in Lincoln from outside of the city.  Sarah had planned the whole trip to include the Holy Communion service at lunchtime and a roof tower at 2:00 pm. The roof tour is incredible. We went up inside the cathedral at great height and walked out onto the roof, then inside along by the rose window and looked down at the nave and aisles.  Also had a great guide. These cathedral tour guides really know their stuff.  He told us all about the fires, the earthquake, the storm, the battles and all the damage to the cathedral as a result.  Incredible.  Admission is £8 plus more for the roof tower. Tower tours happen only on Saturdays, but roof tours happen more or less every day and well worth it! Must go!

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Lincoln Cathedral or the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lincoln, and sometimes St. Mary’s Cathedral in Lincoln, England is the seat of the Anglican Bishop of Lincoln. Building commenced in 1072 and continued in several phases throughout the medieval period. It was the tallest building in the world for 238 years (1311–1549), and the first building to hold that title after the Great Pyramid of Giza. The central spire collapsed in 1549 and was not rebuilt. The cathedral is the third largest in Britain (in floor area) at around 5,000 square metres (54,000 sq ft), after St Paul’s and York Minster. It is highly regarded by architectural scholars; the eminent Victorian writer John Ruskin declared: “I have always held… that the cathedral of Lincoln is out and out the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles and roughly speaking worth any two other cathedrals we have”.

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The first bishop of Lincoln was Remigius de Fécamp – reputed to be cousin of William the Conqueror, and it was him who asked Remigius to build the cathedral. Remigius is shown in the rose window, holding the cathedral in his hand.  We got so close, we could even touch this window, even though it is way up high!

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Also in the cathedral, we lit a candle in memory of my good friend in Taiwan, Rev. Hsu, who died this week, and whose daughter, Alice and husband, Bishop Roger from Mauritius, are mutual friends of the 3 of us, it’s the Madagascar, Mauritius, Taiwan / CMS, USPG connection.  Rev. Hsu and his wife have lived in the Shuang-Lien Elderly Centre, near St. John’s University, Taiwan for about 5 years now, and I visit them often. Their life story and testimony are quite incredible, and he will be much missed.  Quite timely that he should die just on the day I was visiting mutual friends of his family.  May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Yes, Lincoln Cathedral is quite amazing.  And they have a really good and very professional instagram page, full of interesting things about the cathedral, which is partly why I was so keen to go.  Check it out at ‘lincolncathedral’.  And unlike Norwich which greets you at the main entrance with a statue of Wellington with a cannon, and Ely which has an actual cannon in front, instead Lincoln has a statue of the famous poet and native of Lincolnshire, Tennyson, and a quote from one of his poems…

And yesterday was Peterborough Cathedral, but first Hall took me to visit Crowland, a town just outside Peterborough, famous for its abbey and its 14th-century three-sided bridge – Trinity Bridge. This stands at the centre of the town and used to be the confluence of three streams, but now just stands in the street, water nowhere to be seen!

Crowland Abbey is incredible. “In about 701 a monk named Guthlac came to what was then an island in the Fens to live the life of a hermit. Following in Guthlac’s footsteps, a monastic community came into being here, which was dedicated to Saint Mary the Virgin, Saint Bartholomew and Saint Guthlac in the eighth century…… The abbey was dissolved in 1539. The monastic buildings, including the chancel, transepts and crossing of the church appear to have been demolished fairly promptly but the nave and aisles had been used as the parish church and continued in that role.”  The bells are famous too, maybe the oldest in England, certainly the first to be broadcast on radio by the BBC in 1925, and they have the longest bell-ropes in the country.

And so to Peterborough. The cathedral has a huge wow factor as you come round the corner and see the west front right in front of you.  Amazing.  And with a deep blue sky behind, it’s stunning.  The west front of Lincoln Cathedral would be stunning too, but is largely covered in scaffolding ~ so Peterborough definitely has the edge!

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Peterborough Cathedral is the seat of the Anglican Bishop of Peterborough, and  is dedicated to Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Andrew, whose statues look down from the three high gables of the famous West Front. Although it was founded in the Anglo-Saxon period, its architecture is mainly Norman, following a rebuilding in the 12th century. With Durham and Ely Cathedrals, it is one of the most important 12th-century buildings in England to have remained largely intact, despite extensions and restoration.

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Peterborough Cathedral is known for its imposing Early English Gothic West Front (façade) which, with its three enormous arches, is without architectural precedent and with no direct successor. The appearance is slightly asymmetrical, as one of the two towers that rise from behind the façade was never completed (the tower on the right as one faces the building), but this is only visible from a distance.”

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This year, Peterborough Cathedral is celebrating its 900th anniversary, and has an exhibition showing Tim Peake’s Soyuz spacecraft – Soyuz TMA-19M – and a Space Descent VR experience. This is also a great wow factor,  coming round the corner and seeing that spacecraft on display brought gasps from everyone as they saw it. It is really very small for 3 people but Tim Peake and 2 other astronauts descended in it from the international space station back to earth after their trip in 2016.  The virtual reality experience is well worth £5 for 20-25 minutes sitting and experiencing their great descent.  Really amazing.

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The cathedral is free to enter.  Yes, free!  Definitely must go.  Yesterday, we also went to Choral Evensong, where there was a mixed choir of boys and girls singing, beautiful!  And this was the view of the west front last night as we left Peterborough Cathedral.  WOW!

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This has been a rather amazing few days, thanks largely to my good friends in Bourne who organized everything so wonderfully.  Grateful also to Almighty God for His many blessings ~ the weather, the cathedrals, the views and the roof tours, all amazing.  Really grateful for having seen and experienced so much.  No more cathedrals for a while.  Back to the road – and the real world!

Welcome to East Anglia!

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East Anglia is a land of big skies. They go on forever, and change colour frequently at this time of year as an orange sunrise gives way to blue skies ~ that change to grey to black, and the storm clouds come, the rain pours down and then the sun comes out, leaving rainbows and white fluffy clouds. Never boring, in fact I spent half of the weekend chasing skies of different colours all over everywhere!

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At this time of year, the fields are full of sugar beet – or corn stalks after the harvest, or green grass of the common land, being grazed by a few friendly horses.  Cows too, nearby…

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The village of Mellis in north Suffolk is one of my CMS Link Churches, and I’ve just been staying there for the weekend. Actually it’s part of the benefice now called South Hartismere, and one of 4 parishes that my father took care of as vicar, way back in the 9 years before he retired in 1996. These days there are 8 parishes, wonderfully taken care of by Rev. Julia Lall, and they’ve been supporting me for many years. On previous visits, I’ve always stayed with Julia, churchwarden of Thornham Magna, but this time, I’ve had the honour of staying with the churchwarden of Mellis, Betty and her husband, David. So hospitable and welcoming. Even the cats love to share their space with visitors. Thank you!  This is Betty lighting the candles in the church, ready for the service, with the church teddy bear, Fr. Ted all ready too…

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Mellis is very unusual, in that central to the village is a huge unfenced common, and virtually all the houses are built around the edges of the common. Most are hidden behind hedges and hard to find, with just the roofs peeping out above the trees, many of them thatched. This being Suffolk, lots of the houses are pink. Suffolk is famous for its pink houses, due to the whitewash traditionally being mixed with oxblood – as a binding agent, or maybe to ward off evil spirits, or both.  These two are actually in the neighbouring village of Thornham Magna ~ the left photo is of the Four Horseshoes…

Also peeping out behind the trees on the edge of Mellis common is St. Mary’s Church. This area has lots of churches dedicated to St. Mary.  The church took ages to find, despite lots of signposts to ‘St. Mary’s Church’! Eventually I found it hiding behind the trees, and on Sunday at 10:30 am, it was the Mellis Harvest Festival – in the pouring rain, which stopped mid-afternoon, and the sun came out. But the church looked stunning anyway. We had a lovely service, with children from the local school and over 40 people there. I did the talk and there was sherry on offer afterwards. Sherry!

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Earlier on the Sunday morning, I also preached at the 8:30 am communion service at Thornham Magna, (also St. Mary’s, but Mary Magdalene) led by the vicar, Julia. I presented her with an artillery shell cross from Taiwan, also one for lay reader Jean, in honour of it being the 50th anniversary next year of women first becoming lay readers. These ladies are doing a great job in rural Suffolk!

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Thornham Parva is not far away, the church is really incredible – and very famous, due to its thatched roof, and the retable inside. And of course, surprise, surprise, it’s also dedicated to St. Mary…

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And finally there’s Gislingham Church, yes, another St. Mary. This one was closed for repairs. Gislingham is the largest village in the immediate area.

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The telephone boxes of this area are interesting, the one at Mellis is now all stained glass showing local nature scenes, while the one at Thornham Magna is a bookswap…

And just up the road, in the neighbouring benefice of North Hartismere is my good friend, Adrian Watkins, he’s been vicar there for the last 3 years, based at Oakley.  Adrian was one of our favourite regional managers at Church Mission Society (CMS) in London and then Oxford, but then he left for theological training. Really miss him at CMS. So I just had to visit him. What’s more, he’s a successor to Rev. Christopher Idle, who was vicar at Oakley and some of the other churches in the area – and whose 80th birthday party and book launch I had attended last weekend in London. Gosh, it’s a small world! Adrian has a very large rectory and a very small dog. Quite some contrast. And he has lots of special hens and guinea fowl with all sorts of unusual names. And y’know what, his church at Oakley is not (repeat, not!) dedicated to St. Mary. St. Nicholas, in fact. Yippee!

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And what else? Well, a visit to northern Suffolk would not be complete without a visit to Norwich, so that was where I went on Friday on my way to Mellis. Actually Suffolk is in the Diocese of Edmundsbury and Ipswich, but Norwich is, well, THE place to go. I went first to visit a friend, then down to Norwich Cathedral. It’s quite a place. Free to get in, suggested donation of £5. A bargain, guys! There’s a labyrinth in the cloisters, 3 beautiful modern windows and an amazing font kind of made of a chocolate machine (yes, true!), and the most stunning glass door to St. Catherine’s Chapel, with words from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets engraved on the door. Not easy to photograph, but well worth seeing. Must visit! And one day I hope they’ll offer tower / steeple tours like lots of other cathedrals. I just love tower tours!

There’s plenty of other stuff in Norwich. Nearby is Mother Julian’s cell in a church. I went to check it out, but let me be honest, I didn’t like it, so there’s no photos to show you.  But I can highly recommend visiting Colchester, where I was visiting my good friends, Shelagh and Richard, for 2 days, in-between visiting London and Suffolk. The day we visited the town it was dull and a bit wet, but there’s tons of old Roman stuff to see, the castle and the walls and a huge number of churches. Some have been converted to music centres and theatres, but the most interesting was St. Helen’s Chapel which was built in the grounds of the Roman theatre, possibly by King Offa in the 8th century, then restored by the Normans in 1076, and these days is used as the town’s Greek Orthodox Church, with an amazing icon of St. Helen of Colchester, the town’s patron saint – she was mother of Constantine.  It’s a real surprise to enter the church and see what’s inside!

So a wonderful time had in East Anglia. Thanks to everyone for making me feel so welcome. This was the view as I left the area yesterday heading for the flatter lands of the fens. But hoping to be back in East Anglia in a few weeks time – for Part 2!

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Mountains and More @ The Lake District!

So here I am, in the Lake District for a week visiting family – and friends – and based at Troutbeck.  It’s deep in the Lake District.  Of course, the Lake District is famous for mountains, lakes, steamboats, views, daffodils, poets, slate mines, sheep – and tourists.  Seen them all, well, except daffodils, and maybe poets.  The Lake District is contained entirely in Cumbria, and Cumbria is so famous for its mountains that people forget about the coast, but it’s beautiful, especially on a sunny day…  This is it!

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THE Lake District place for coffee is to bring your own and sit on the seat overlooking Tarn Hows ~ with views of the Langdale Pikes…

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And Coniston Old Man and Wetherlam…

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THE place for lunch is the Bluebird Cafe on Coniston Water, where you can watch the steamboats

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Other highlights ~ a wonderful trip to St. Bees, on the west coast of Cumbria, with views over to the Isle of Man.  Two of my Taiwan friends came to St. Bees to start the 309 km (192 miles) Coast to Coast Walk, so we went over to meet them for the day of their arrival. Drove a whole circuit of the Lake District, took the northern route over via Keswick and came back by the southern route via Sellafield and Newby Bridge.  Quite a trip, very spectacular.  St. Bees beach (see top 2 photos) is the official start of the Coast to Coast Walk….

We ended up at the St. Bees Priory drop-in coffee morning, where we met lots of lovely local people who entertained us with tales of the St. Bees Man (fascinating stuff – but gruesome, especially over coffee and cake!).  Also met a lady who had learned all about the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (Formosa) when she was a child in the then-Presbyterian Church (now URC) just up the road in Whitehaven.   Ah, it’s a small world!

The west coast of Cumbria is really very remote, but in the 19th century, it was very famous for its theological college, there being only 3 at the time: Oxford, Cambridge and, yes, St. Bees…

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St. Bees Priory is the huge sandstone church with an impressive main entrance…

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And inside pretty impressive too…

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Where else? Well, apart from visiting lots of lovely friends, I did give the sermon during the Sunday service at Jesus Church, Troutbeck on Sunday morning, and a talk about Taiwan on Tuesday afternoon more locally… thanks to everyone for their warm welcome!

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And I mustn’t forget the local pub, the ‘Mortal Man’…

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And now? Preparing to set off down south tomorrow. But do spare a thought for my Taiwan friends on their Coast to Coast Walk over the next 2 weeks.  The weather has been very unsettled so far, with rain and sun and cloud and wind in equal amounts ~ so wish them well!

Goodbye Taiwan!

Gotta go when you gotta go ~ and so goodbye Taiwan until next year!

So much going on and so little time ~ so a small selection of other people’s photos of the last few weeks.  Teaching, preaching, eating, drinking, sightseeing and more…

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And, my friends from Taichung who came for the weekend ~ we went on the Pingxi Line and to Shifen Waterfall.  Ah, selfie heaven!

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This is the alternative Pingxi Line set of photos – the ones I took – ah, gotta love ’em all!

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It’s time to go when it’s time to go ~ and all UK people in Taiwan apparently know that to prepare for a 6-month visit to the UK, just before they leave Taiwan they must go to visit the dentist and hairdresser – cos both are so expensive in the UK, and not so easy to arrange either – but here, ah it’s wonderful!

So that done, I’m ready to go!  Prayers appreciated…