Showing posts from 2011

Buckenham Rook Roost

Beneath a winter sky the sun sinks slowly in the west . Wrapped against the cold -  and rapt by the beauty - I pondered on the generations before me who had stood and watched as day turned to night. Millions of sunsets and millions upon millions of the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve.  I found myself signing with the Psalmist:
You appointed the moon to mark the seasons and the sun knows the time of its setting, You make darkness that it may be night in which the beasts of the forest creep forth (Psalm 104)
Across the darkening marsh the whistles and murmuring of widgeon quietened, a thin mist rose and deer emerge from the woodland  to graze beneath a reddening sky.  All this was but the overture to the evening’s main event. I had come to see a wild life spectacular which is repeated every night during the winter period and the station platform was the grandstand from which to view it.
From far and wide streamed “ in a countless host” each as black a clergyman’s cassock and each with shi…

South Cornwall Pilgrimage

In September I was down in Cornwall for a week and made a flying visit to pay my respects to Winwaloe at Gunwallow and the Church of the Storms , Selevan at St Levan and incorprated a visit to the Minack Theatre.  Fiddler on the Roof  beside the seaside?!  Extra-ordinary! Made me think about the place of faith in our Global Village!
On a dafter note I wondered if Selevan preached to the fish down in Cornwall I should have a go at preaching to the seals when I got back home.

John's Garden

Decades ago I made some  clever cogs comment that's in a way has come back to haunt me!

In the middle of the well manicured Vicarage lawn, overnight, a dandelion had the cheek to raise its golden head.

John, the vicar,  spotted it as we came out of morning prayer! I, his curate, spoke up for the interloper! "The beauty! The wonder! God's Providence! " If truth be known it was just a glib comment.

John remembered the exchange I forgot! It took me years  to hear and respond  the Master's command to consider the flowers of the field.

Visiting my old friend I noticed that his garden, for all his fullness of years, is still well tended and well stocked

Taking leave of him I caught sight of a bunch of cyclamen nestled in a rockery by the back gate and thought of the wild cyclamen growing on Nazareth's hills. Something to consider - ehh!?

There's something here about what grows wild in Galilee and is  cultivated in Surrey!

Extreme Fish ! No Swearing!

Great day out Tope Fishing with last Tuesday. 
Many thanks to the skipper Adam and crew Tammy.  Unlike Mr Robson Green I hooked, played and boated the beast without an expletive. Oh! O.K.! One or two  "Why bless me"s!
Duly measured weighed and tagged, the fish was slipped back into the sea and swam off with vigour.  Afterwards I fell to thinking about the effort of winding the fish in. The fishing gear had been provided on the boat. All of the best quality. What we today call a reel Izaak Walton, he of the Complete Angler, called a pulley. George Herbert, one of his fishing chums ( he also fished with John Donne and the Kenna who appears in the Complete Angler was Thomas Ken's half-sister!) wrote :
The Pulley
VVHen God at first made man, Having a glasse of blessings standing by; Let us (said he) poure on him all we can: Let the worlds riches, which dispersed lie, Contract into a span. So strength first made a way;…

Risen Christ over Altenau

On a rocky outcrop, above a small park, stands  the village church of St. Nikolai. Built of timber  in 670, it is a smaller version of the famous Marktkirchein nearby Clausthal.
A weathervane, atop the bell tower, represents Christ Risen from the tomb. Inside the lavish,  but by comparison with rococo Catholic baroque churches, restrained Lutheran Baroque has Christ arisen, above the pulpit.
With this altar piece I had finally discovered a church interior that perfectly complements the baroque music of Handel's Messiah

It was good to find the church doors open and a warm welcome from the Christian community that meets there .
Like many of our Norfolk Churches they welcome visitors and seek to share their faith with those who respond to their invitation to stop and rest a while.

Back in 740 AD when St. Boniface, Walburga and others were doing their thing spreading the Gospel to the, then, heathen Germans,  King  Alfwald wrote to them assuring them of the prayers of the royal monast…

Witches over the Brocken

O.K. the Brocken is no great peaked mountain. Its just the highest point of the Hartz. 
But anyone will tell you that is where the witches gather on the eve of May Day - Walpurgis Night. In Goethe's Faustus the Brocken is where the witches gather: Now to the Brocken the witches ride;The stubble is gold and the corn is green;There is the carnival crew to be seen,And Squire Urianus will come to preside.So over the valleys our company floats,With witches a-farting on stinking old goats. In the tourist towns shops are full of souvenir witches.
The pre-Christian religion seems to linger here.

In the Middle Ages they replaced the feast day of St Walburga on May Day and focussed on the light of the Christian faith driving out the darkness of evil. Walburga was a Devon girl, part of St. Boniface's mission to Frisia and Germany, she died in Heidenheim in Franconia.

A Pfennig Dropping Moment

As I left the Marktkirche in ClausthalI had not expected to see the royal arms and cipher of George III. How daft is that?! George was Elector of Hanover and here we were in the what had been part of George's realm! So you'd expect to see it , surely?
No! One war had drawn a veil over the Anglo-German past. The House of Windsor was not longer of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Moutbatten was not longer Battenberg and my own family name changed from Bergman to Woodham. The next war  completed the job and drew a blackout curtain over it!
Time had come to own my Anglo-German origins. So next day,  when I stood before the war memorial in Altenau and thought about it all, I found that for the first time I really was honouring our dead (unserer toten)!    No only our dead,  but our saints and heroes as well!  I'm thinking about those who saw what the Nazi world view was doing to the country and acted.
Deitrich Bonhoffer understood that the tragedy that had overtaken Germany and its neighbou…

Wandering in the Harz

June took us to the Harz Mountains. We were camping and had family join us for the weekend. It was great!
I'd describe the landscape as Dartmoor with lots of trees and lakes !

At times the scenery had me wandering about in a hymn that I have never much enjoyed - O Lord my God when I in awsome wonder consider all thy hand hath made!  It was the verse that goes  "When through the woods and forest glades I wander, and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees".

Yes, well we were doing that and swimming in the cold blue lakes (remember your baptism!).  The tall trees are such - think soaring columns in a cathedral -  that they  lift your eyes and heart to heaven!

Its a bit off the beaten track for most Brits . The footpaths are wonderfully kept and well way marked. The natives are friendly!  We stayed at Camping Prahljust just outside Clausthal-Zellerfeld. I'd recommend it to anyone.

Way of the (Whissonset) Cross

(Forgot to post this in March ! Better late than never!)

At Whissonsett there is a Saxon cross half as old as the Christian faith.  

At Mileham a striking new east window. 
I wanted to see both so I decided to walk. I'd take in the Coke family memorials at Tittleshall and the deserted village of Godwick on the way and make it a way of the cross.
 In as much as the walk went to plan it was good. The memorials and Godwick village acted as momento mori – reminders of my mortality. The cross and the window (did what all good sacred art does) linked particular times and places to the eternal realities. I particularly like it that Pippa Blackall's stained glass Baptism of Jesus has, in the background , the Lamb of God pastured with Richard Butler-Stoney's Guernsey cows! For all the beauty and meaning of these works of art it was the unplanned elements of the walk that made it a way of the cross. It was such tough going! I had allowed 3 hours to walk the circuit. It took 5! 
I g…

Walk on the Edge

I parked opposite Pentney church and walked back towards Narborough.  At the first opportunity I turned right and followed a road and then bridle paths down to the river, where I joined the Nar Valley Way and  headed west towards Pentney Abbey.  
The abbey used to sit on an island surrounded by the waters of a tidal creek, where the Nar flowed into the Fens. Today the Fens have been drained, the river embanked and the only thing that’s left of the priory is its gatehouse! But, if you were looking for Norfolk’s version of St. Michael’s Mount, or Holy Island,  Pentney Abbey could have been it!
At one time the Nar was called God’s Holy River on account of all the religious houses on its banks. It’s still a holy, wild and lonely place.
In a strong wind birds kept their heads down.  But several brave Skylarks and Yellow Hammers sung out their songs and Swifts, Swallows and Sand Martins swooped and dived.  From the water meadows along the valley nesting Curlews and Oyster Catchers set off …

Considering Birds, Flowers, Butter (and) Dragon Flies

One day last summer......

High summer with big blue skies, a warm sun and butterflies and dragon flies on the wing. On such a day I went to Strumpshaw Fen. My intention was  to “consider the flowers of the field”.  You can go there at anytime of year “to consider the birds” . June is the month for flowers!
Strumpshaw Fen’s wildflower meadow is a remnant of, once common,  flower rich pasture. Plantlife UK estimate that 97% of the habitat was lost between 1930 and 1980! The names of the flowers are poetry in themselves : - Ragged Robin,  Yellow Rattle, Marsh Orchid, Marsh Cinquefoil, Yellow Flag.  They were a joy to behold!
Soon  my attention was taken by the Swallow Tailed Butterflies – what beauty !  Next it was the turn of dragonflies…….
A chance meeting with a wildlife photographer led to a master class in dragonfly identification. It was difficult not to share his enthusiasm. At the very least I can now tell the difference between a Four Spotted Chaser and a Norfolk Hawker! And I wan…

Holy Land

To the west of the B1113 is the source of the Little Ouse on the east the source of the river Waveney. When it rains Norfolk is an island!  Holy Island?

Holy Land
When rain falls hard on Lopham Fen Flooding marsh and filling drains Norfolk is an island then And in my mind it still remains
Down the river line the Ouse Traces the bounds to fenland drains Round wash and coast to Yarmouth strand Then up the Waveney home again
Walsingham a Nazareth Broadland lakes a Galilee Where fishermen are called to faith And Christ comes walking by the sea
Into a boat to the other side. One lies sleeping in the stern. While sandwiches on picnic rugs Are taken, blessed and shared in turn.
A green hill outside a city wall A place of punishment provides. When viewed from it’s own Olivet The city’s temple seems to thrive.
Blind, halt and lame, the deaf and Dumb, addicted, prisoner, stranger, ill Christ’s presence in his little ones Challenges his followers still
And Providence whose birds and flowers Sing and blow along my way Lea…

Immodesty at Wroxham

I went to take pics of St. Mary's Wroxham yesterday for tourist websites. Its part of what I do for Churches Together on the Broads.

I've been in and out of the magnificent doorway at St. Mary's for decades and never stopped to look before! There next to the carvings of foul fiends is this immodest lady showing her parts!   What is called a sheila na gig from the Irish Gallic

What's it all about, then?  Rude ladies represented on church doorways?  I imagine sheila na gigs are not primarily a warning against lust etc.. but more likely to be a reminder that "man born of woman has but a short time to live!" All those born of woman will die!

 Just inside the door  is the original site of the font.
What I think is being communicated is something like:- When you enter the Church and become one of the baptised  you are no longer subject to the powers of evil and death.  You have been born again - given new life!