Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Rising of the Sun and the Running of the Deer…



It’s great to get outside on a winters day, to stretch the legs and walk off the turkey. 21st December is the shortest day. From then on the days will begin to lengthen and the singing of the birds surpass organ music and singing in the choir!

If you want a winter walk that with the sight of deer, head for Holkham. I you leave the car park in front of the Hall and head right around the lake and you will be on the Holkham Lake Path - leaflets are available at Holkham or on-line at www.holkham.co.uk/html/park_03.html. I can guarantee skeins of pink footed geese flying overhead and herds of deer sheltering beneath the trees. The deer are quite used to people, are tame and are very photogenic.

Following the path round the lake and into the woods you’ll soon come to the Holkham church. Heavily restored, it’s only the dedication, the site its self and west wall that give clues to its ancient foundation. Perched on a hillock, it is dedicated to St. Withbura, the 7th century royal princess-turned-nun who was the first abbess of Dereham. The west wall shows signs of being as old as any church building in Suffolk and Norfolk. Famously Withburga and her sisters were supplied with milk from a doe deer that came every day to be milked!

I’m not sure if the church can offer visitors and pilgrims merry music or sweet singing save for that of the birds. Last time I passed that way the door was locked – conveniently they appeared to have locked God out. In the stillness and beauty of a place where prayer has been valid I thought I caught a glimpse! Rather, like the fleeting vision of a deer passing silently through a glade! There is certainly a holly tree in the churchyard but you would be hard pressed to find any ivy. Holkham’s foresters have a hatred of it and wouldn’t let it choke any of their beautiful trees.

© Richard Woodham 2008

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