Friday, May 14, 2010
Reducing your carbon foot print? Travel by bus! The X1 starts at Lowestoft and passes through Yarmouth, Norwich and Kings Lynn. At Peterborough it connects with the number 37 (Spalding) which will take you to Crowland and its famous abbey church.
It was a boat that brought St. Guthlac to Crowland on St. Batholomew’s Day 699 AD! On what was then a marshy island he established a hermitage in the ruins of a plundered grave mound. Struggling with demons, marsh ague and strict asceticism Guthlac followed in the footsteps of St. Anthony of Egypt and the desert fathers. As his reputation for holiness grew many found their way through the watery Fenland wilderness to seek his counsel. Among them was the future King Ethelbald of Mercia.
After Guthlac’s death in 714 AD Ethelbald founded an abbey on the site. The abbey endured through several re-foundings and re-buildings until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. Thereafter the cloisters and monastic buildings were abandoned and semi-demolished but the nave continued as the parish church and is still in use today.
The 19th century poet John Clare wrote of “the old abbey struggling still with time” and captured something of the feel of the place when he visited the abbey by moonlight
The grey owl hooting from its rents awhile;
And tottering stones as wakened by the sound,
Crumbling from arch and battlement around.
Urging dead echoes from the gloomy aisle
Away from the abbey a curious 14th century stands in the middle of town . Trinity Bridge has three arches that once crossed three separate streams. These have been long diverted away from the streets and the bridge leads nowhere. It’s said to replace a wooden bridge established by Guthlac’s friend King Ethelbald. A mysterious statue – Ethelbald or Christ in Glory – has been incorporated into the stonework of the bridge.
If you were to travel by car you might extend your trip to include Helpston John Clare’s home village and Barnack whose famous, now disused, quarry provided stone for the abbey and bridge. In the grass covered holes and hills of the quarry wildflowers abound – among them the rare pasque flower that flowers around Easter time. For those more interested in the flowers of the field than ruined buildings the 201 bus to Stamford passes through Barnack and runs every hour.