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 in search of food .

Pausing to take a drink I was overcome by the tranquillity of the place.  Then from across the flat sea of fenland crops I heard the sound of the war birds –Tornados taking off from RAF Marham!  Were they Libya bound?

That morning I had heard a report about systematic use of rape by pro-Gaddafi forces! I can’t believe that I can listen to horrific stories like that and be unmoved. It had been like water off a ducks back. Now, in solidarity with the monks who had been there before me and the biblical exiles who had sat by the rivers of Babylon, I sat by the river and wept! 

The path back took me past where the Priory of the Holy Trinity, St. Mary and St. Mary Magdalen had stood and close by the broken shaft of a long gone wayside cross. On the way, I found myself on the brink of understanding and with a Song of Sion forming on my lips!

My body will hang on the cross of the world
Tomorrow,” he said, “and today,
And Martha and Mary will find me again
And wash all my sorrow away,” he said,
“And wash all my sorrow away.

                                                 Sydney Carter: Said Judas to Mary


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