Tag Archives: Scenery

‘New House’ Blessing, House Warming and Birthday Celebrations, All in One – YES!

A big THANK YOU to everyone who has sent me birthday greetings and for all your prayers for my moving house and settling in, much appreciated. Yes, it’s all been happening!

Two wonderful days of birthday celebrations started at Xian-Xiao Junior High School on Tuesday morning at my early morning English conversation class (7:45 am start!) followed by coffee with my good friend, Jasmine. Cards and birthday songs from all the kids, and lots of photos – thank you to them and to Jasmine for organizing it all. Plus their wisteria is always in flower on my birthday, so we made the most of it!

Then, Rev. Paul Lau, my good friend from Sabah, Malaysia happened to post on Facebook that he was in Taipei for a conference starting the following day, and such are the wonders of modern technology that a few seconds later, wow, we’d made arrangements for him to come and visit, and he set off! So we rushed around everywhere and ended up having coffee with our Advent Church rector, Rev. Lennon Chang and his wife, Hannah, and sister-in-law, Rev. Elizabeth Wei and Rev. Peter Chen. This was a great reunion for Elizabeth and Paul, who had first met in 1991 when Elizabeth spent a month in Sabah, when Paul was still at high school. The left photos are of all the 3 times they have met, plus us all having coffee!

Wednesday was actually my birthday, and at lunch time, we had our usual English Bible Study with the St. John’s University student fellowship. We’re doing the parables of Jesus, and we spent a happy hour talking about the Good Samaritan. This semester the number of boys in the whole fellowship group is way more than the number of girls, like 4 times more, whereas only a few years ago there were way more girls than boys. Anyway, they are all very lovely – and here they all are – thank you Setu for taking the photo!

I’ve been back in Taiwan now for about 6 weeks and it’s taken that long to move into my new place and get it all sorted. I’m in a flat / apartment block that has just been converted from offices, so being the first person to move in, there was lots to do. And the one person who has done so much to help get it all done is Rev. Lennon Chang. So I invited Lennon and all from Advent Church, plus all the SJU student fellowship to come for a service of blessing for my new house on my birthday ~ a combined house blessing / house warming / birthday party all in one. Yes, I love a good party! And it so happens that my new next-door neighbour, Feng-Ray, who also works in our chaplaincy office, has his birthday next week too ~ so I invited him and his wife, Chuan-Fang to join in for a double house blessing and birthday celebration – 2 houses, one party!

We had LOTS of people come! Lots of LOVELY people no less! Well, it was lots for the size of the place, way more people than we had chairs for anyway! So many, in fact, that it would have been impossible to put them all together for a group photo. If anyone can count them from all the photos, do let me know. Maybe about 30 altogether or more – students, church members, friends and neighbours, including our neighbour upstairs, a Creative Design lecturer from Mainland China, also Calvin, one of our Malaysian students currently on an internship in Taipei, so this is the first time I’ve seen him since I came back from the UK – always grateful to him for his support for our SJU English Bible Study. It was great to see so many old-but-still-young friends and students. Love ’em all! A big welcome to everyone!

The house blessing started at 7:30 pm ~ and with me holding the candle, Lennon took me around the house praying at the door of each room, following the prayers in the book, which everyone responded to. The prayers are really appropriate. Lennon sprinkled the holy water, 3 times, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit after each prayer in each room. All very meaningful. Thanks be to God!

We finished with the ‘peace’ and then we had a huge birthday cake and song for all of us celebrating birthdays in April, which includes Lennon, whose birthday was yesterday. Such fun!

It was especially nice to welcome all the Tan family to the party. And especially because it was David, brother No. 2 of 3, who with his wife, Marge drilled many holes in the wall for me to hang up my pictures, and who designed and made the curtains for my living room. The curtains are so special, very distinctive Tan family style! I’ve spent all week inviting all my friends to come to my new house to see my curtains, cos there aint none other like them in the whole world! The Tan family are in the T-shirt business so they have lots of material, lots of ideas, lots of creative skills and are always willing to help in any way. This is David posing in front of his curtains, and Janet Tan with Rev. Peter Chen in the foreground. Thanks to all of the Tan family for all their friendship and support over the years!

And then, when all the party-goers had just left, my friend Ah-Guan rolled up with one of her friends from Taichung, my first visitors to come and stay!

It’s Tomb-Sweeping Festival plus Children’s Day, so we have a 4-day weekend. Not being ones to hang around doing nothing on a holiday, we’ve been today over to Keelung, to Heping Island…

To Badouzi to see the beautiful painted houses…

And to see the old Agenna Shipyard, now one of Taiwan’s most famous abandoned buildings, it’s a really interesting place, oozing with history and well, abandonment!

Keelung was very busy…

And so we didn’t stay too long, and called in at Laomei Algal Reef on the way home – it’s at its best at this time of the year, all green!

(Updated on April 6: And yesterday we went to see the Calla Lilies in full bloom up at Zhuzihu, in a valley in the Yangmingshan Mountains above Taipei… it was beautiful!)

So a very very big thank you to everyone who came to my party – and if you didn’t or couldn’t, well you can see from the photos that we had a great time! Do find time to come and visit, I am now open for nice visitors, and as you know, I just love a noisy house full of happy people!

Following the Star on Epiphany: CMS Link Visit @ Sedbergh, Cumbria!

And what a great weekend it’s been!

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The lovely little town of Sedbergh, book-town and home of the famous Sedbergh School, nestles at the foot of the Howgill Fells in Cumbria ~ but is also part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  A double blessing – even on a dull, cloudy day!

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The church of St. Andrew’s in Sedbergh has been supporting me ever since my parents retired to the town in 1996, and even though there’s no more resident Lee family in Sedbergh, still the church continues to support me – and they always give me a warm welcome each time. In fact, just walking around the town, and friends drive by saying hello – this is our very friendly former neighbour Jean!

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In the last few years, there’s been changes aplenty in the church scene in the town and in the local area. First, in 2014 came the amalgamation of the Dioceses of Bradford, Wakefield and Ripon into what is now known as the Anglican Diocese of Leeds ~ and Sedbergh moved out from the Diocese of Bradford into the Diocese of Carlisle. More recently, the Sedbergh URC and Methodist Churches have kind of come together to form the ‘Cornerstone Community Church’, and together with the Anglican Churches in the area, they are now all part of the ‘Western Dales Mission Community’.

On the first Sunday of each month, including this past weekend, there is a combined service at 10:30 am, alternatively meeting in the Cornerstone Church (which is actually the old Methodist Church) and St. Andrew’s. Today, January 6, celebrating Epiphany, the service was held at Cornerstone, led by the lovely vicar, Rev. Andy McMullon – I preached the sermon and also presented Andy with an artillery shell cross from Taiwan.  The Church of England theme of ‘Following the Star’ this Christmas / Epiphany fitted in really well with my sermon on transformation!

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Running at the same time, and also once a month, is a café-church service at the Sedbergh People’s Hall, attracting those who prefer a more informal style of worship, including young families and teenagers.  This has been going for over 15 years, and originally grew out of a children’s holiday club, an outreach of what was the Sedbergh Methodist Church, now Cornerstone.  So immediately after I’d finished the sermon at Cornerstone, off I went to the People’s Hall for their service, arriving just in time to give the sermon.  What a great welcome they gave me!

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And then in the afternoon, at 2:30 pm we had an informal power point talk in St. Andrew’s Church…

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Since my previous CMS Link Church visit to Sedbergh in November 2014 (see that blog post here), the URC Church has sadly closed its church building in Sedbergh, but in the past, under their previous minister, Rev. Carole Marsden, there were close links with the Taiwan Presbyterian Church – part of a link with Cumbria URC.  At least one young person from Sedbergh has been on the youth exchange trip to Taiwan. Then in 2008 just before the last Lambeth Conference, our Anglican bishop of Taiwan, Bishop David J. H. Lai and his wife Lily, accompanied by Rev. Charles C. T. Chen and his wife, Maryjo spent several days visiting Sedbergh, and loved it ~ in fact, Charles described Sedbergh as ‘Paradise’ after his visit – though presumably the weather was kind to them, cos Sedbergh can be the windiest, coldest and bleakest place on earth at times!

Sedbergh’s Howgill Fells tower over the town; Wainwright described them as a ‘herd of sleeping elephants’ – this is them from the top looking down…

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Yesterday, Saturday, I arrived in Sedbergh in the morning with the intention of going up the Howgills ~ and fortunately the weather was kind, although on the ridge at the Calf, the biting wind forced me down a bit, and so I descended by Cautley Spout, quite a beautiful waterfall. Met plenty of sheep too….

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I stayed in Sedbergh with Margaret and Andy, and it was wonderful. Thank you! And I saw many of my old friends, none of whom seemed any older (I’ve just checked the photos on my blog post from November 2014, and it’s true!)  Especially pleased to meet long-time CMS mission supporter, Mary Gladstone, who celebrates her 93rd birthday on January 7 – she’s on the left in the photo below, taken with Christine.  Congratulations Mary!

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So Happy Epiphany to you all, and special thanks to all in Sedbergh for your warm welcome and ongoing support ~ and to all the sleeping elephants for their charm and splendid views. Ah yes, I love Sedbergh and the Howgill Fells ❤️❤️❤️!

Scotland, ah Scotland!

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And what a great wee country it is!  A bit bleak in places, and at this time of year, not always the best weather (read: don’t go to Scotland in winter!) but hey, the people are lovely and there’s plenty of tea, coffee, soup, hot water bottles, coal fires and thick duvets to keep out the winter cold and damp.

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And so it is that I’ve just spent the last 12 days in Bonnie Scotland, in-between 2 weekends of church visits in Co. Durham, but with a free weekend in the middle.  So it’s fitted in really well.  But as I’m a fine-weather photographer, you’ll just have to imagine most of my trip, cos it didn’t half rain for the first few days!  Visited friends in Hawick, West Kilbride, Fife, Dundee, Perthshire and East Lothian, in that order, staying for 1-3 nights with each.  Loved it all!  Grateful thanks to all my friends for their hospitality – and all the teas, coffees, soup, hot water bottles, coal fires and thick duvets too.

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Weather-wise, it improved as I went on.  A wet journey up the A68 to Hawick.  Knew I’d arrived in Scotland when I saw haggis lasagne on the menu, really good!  Cold and wet on the west coast.  Highlight there was the tea party for some of the West of Scotland CMS group ~ new friends and old gathered together.  Then I arrived in St. Andrews on St. Andrew’s Day, where admission to everything was free for that day only.  Especially interesting was the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.  Worth a visit!  And the Chariots of Fire beach was as beautiful as ever.  But then the rain started ~ and the rest was, well, very wet and cold!

Sadly no photos of Scotland’s most famous chain walk at Elie, which consists of 8 long chains going up and down the rocks and cliffs all round the beach, and only passable at low tide.  That was an experience.  Exhilarating.  Not for the faint-hearted.  So maybe it was good that it was late afternoon and the light was going, and it’d been drizzling for a few hours, so I couldn’t see too much.  Some of those rock faces are really scary.  Go with people who know the way, it makes a big difference on those rocks. But all in all, highly recommended!  Also went to church on Sunday at Upper Largo Church of Scotland where there must have been 70 in the congregation, and a very energetic retired minister taking the service.  Lots of friendly people to drink coffee with afterwards too.

Then there was Dundee, where the new V & A was also well worth a visit.  Stunning architecture.  Grateful that my friend had membership plus one, so I could also go in the liners exhibition free too. Loved it.

And so to Perthshire.  Cold.  Oh so cold.  But the frosty views in the sunshine were great.  Heavy frost 2 nights running, but the car started first time.  If you know my history with cars, you’ll know that cars rarely start first time.  Or any time.  And always break down, groan, groan 😉😉!  But on this trip, so far, so good.  This is the area around Glenshee.  Snow on the mountains.  Yes, yes yes!

And finally to East Lothian, where beach views and North Berwick Law were bracing and breezy.  Blown away by both the wind – and the views!

My furthest northernmost point on this whole UK trip was the Glenshee Ski slopes, not yet open, which are just into Aberdeenshire.  Cold and blustery, but beautiful.  Loved it.  From now on, it’s southwards all the way!

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Thank you Scotland – and all friends in Scotland – enjoyed every minute, even the cold and damp.  Can’t wait to come back, and I haven’t even left yet!  Off to Darlington tomorrow, Saturday.  So, goodbye until we meet again, and thanks to you all!

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!

Updated on December 13, 2018:  Last Saturday, December 8, en route from East Lothian to Darlington on a very windy but sunny day, and with a few hours to spare, I called in at Bamburgh.

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First stop was St. Aidan’s Church, which contains the shrine to St. Aidan.  In the ‘icon’ on the left, St. Aidan is shown with King Oswald.  See how the stained glass window on the opposite wall is reflected on the stone pillar next to the shrine ~ gorgeous!

The reredos shows the early northern saints, including St. Cuthbert on the far left holding the head of King Oswald – after Oswald was killed in battle, his head was apparently returned to Lindisfarne and buried there.

Then to Bamburgh Castle, former home of King Oswald. It is truly massive, completely dominating the town, and overlooking the sea from the other side…

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The present castle is largely Norman, and it’s a classic castle, complete with keep, dungeon and armoury.  Today it is owned by the Armstrong family, who open it to the public and also let out some of the stately apartments, including the one on the top floor of the keep.  Just imagine living there!  It’s really great to walk around and appreciate something of the early history.

Bamburgh is also famous for being the birthplace of Grace Darling, and overlooks the Farne Islands, where she rescued so many people from the shipwrecked Forfarshire in 1838.  Inner Farne was where Cuthbert lived as a hermit for 9 years.  Now currently home to thousands of beautiful seabirds.  You can just see it in the distance….

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Ah yes, Holy Island – and Bamburgh – stunning.  Do go if you get the chance!

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!