Mon May 2
I had a lovely w/e, thanks to the hospitality of Fr David Cherry, Vicar of St Mary’s. Altho he was exhausted from Holy Week, he ensured I had a relaxing stay – 8 hours sleep one night……very rare! Saturday I went out to Kenton to have lunch with my friend Joan. Sunday after High Mass I took Fr David to lunch, then walked around Chelsea & Sth Kensington. Monday I went to Chiswick Park – a lovely park with a grand old home. Lots of families enjoying the sunshine on a bank holiday. In the evening Fr David cooked dinner for us.
After Mass & breakfast I went for a walk around Pimlico, where I lived in ’75, noticing changes & reflecting on those exciting days of my youth! At 12 noon I collected my hire car & drove to Heythorp Park (nr Oxford). This is the former manor of the Duke of Shrewsbury, built in 1707. From 1922-1969 it was a Jesuit seminary – I found the former chapel. It is now a resort & there is a new Crowne Plaza hotel adjacent to the manor. I decided it would be fun to stay here, making out I really was a Noble! After checking in I walked around the grounds. These are huge & contain a golf course, as well as parks & forests. I walked into the nearby village of Enstone & found a 12th cent church dedicated to St Kenelm – a 9th cent local saint associated with the former Winchcombe Abbey.
Today was a lovely sunny day & after breakfast I walked the length of the huge lawn that goes down from the manor house to a little lake. At 11.45 am I walked to the village & met 2 friends from 20 years ago for lunch – Alan & Elizabeth Mills. They live in Oxford & drove up to meet me at The Crown. It was lovely to see them again. After lunch I walked back along one of those gr8 English institutions, the Public Footpath. This led thru lovely fields & over a creek back to Heythop Park. At 3.30 pm I went for a drive around local roads & laneways – not sure where I was heading, but finished up at Burford Priory, a former Anglican convent set in spacious grounds. A very nice day.
After 2 days at Heythrop Park I drove to Tenby thru wonderful Welsh countryside. Tenby is a little coastal town, from which you can get a boat to Caldey Island. I have always wanted to visit Caldey – but alas, the weather today prevented boats sailing. So I decided to drive to Bronwydd – 40 mins away. Here is the Gwili steam railway, one of the Welsh little railways which goes 2.5 miles to Danycoed & back. It was a wonderful ride thru a cute valley, in an old coach used for a 2008 movie about Dylan Thomas.
No boats to Caldey again…..so drove on to St David’s. This is a place I have always wanted to visit – a quiet coastal town, It’s a city, actually, because it has a cathedral….the smallest city in Britain. containing a magnificent 12th cent cathedral. I got there at 2 pm, so had plenty of time to explore the town & cathedral. The cathedral is v interesting, with a nave that slopes down from the Quire, & with several mediaeval chapels. It is obviously a place of worship & prayer. Originally a monastic foundation, it contained the gr8 shrine of St David, now restored. The cathedral was not ransacked too much during the reformation – probably because near the high altar is the tomb of Edmund Tudor, grandfather of Henry VIII. After time in the cathedral I visited the 14th cent bishop’s palace next door – a remarkable ruin. I bought real English fish & chips for supper (should be Welsh fish & chips, I guess!) & walked to St Non’s chapel. St Non was St David’s mother & there are remains of a 5th cent chapel + a restored holy well. I then discovered a 1920’s St Non’s chapel on the cliffs – open & with votive candles flickering. I continued walking along the cliffs until I found a small bay with a lovely beach. The cliffs & whole scenery reminded me of my favourite novel/movie – Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca.
I went to 9.30 am Mass at the cathedral, then stayed for Sung Matins – a Service I have not attended for 50 years! The choir of men & girls did well, & a treat was Stanford’s Te Deum. Quite a large congregation & impressive worship for a small town. In the a/noon I drove along country roads, finding small churches & villages. I finished up at Henllan, where there is another Welsh steam railway, Tifi Valley. This one is small gauge & went along hills, with marvellous scenes of the valley below. An enjoyable a/noon, which concluded with a delicious dinner in a restaurant in St D’s. Afterwards I went for a walk out of the town, & found some wooden steps off the road that led to a footpath. This took me thru hedges & over a creek, which I slipped into! But it was worth it for the lovely scenery 🙂
Today I drive to Crickhowell. This is a Welsh village near the Black Mountains. I will stay with Jill Bishop, the widow of a priest who spent 3 months with me at Fitzroy in 1991. I stayed with Jill 2 years ago & wanted to come back for a longer stay. It will be a nice time of relaxing & chatting!
I have had a lovely 3 days! After I arrived on Monday I re-aquainted myself with the village. On Tues Jill & I drove to Abergavaney, walking around the town & spending time in the 2 churches. St Mary’s is an old priory church with excellent buildings & Holy Trinity was built for the workers in the parish. On Wed we drove to Croft Castle. This is a magnificent building still inhabited by the Croft family. There is also a delightful walled garden & an old church. I also climbed several miles to an old iron age fort. This was fascinating, with a magnificent view at the top.
Today I drove to Cornwall & got as far as Portwrinkle. I am staying at the Whitsand Bay Hotel, overlooking the sea. This is an old-fashioned hotel in a magnificent house built 100 years ago from an earlier mansion for Lord Graves. It has a wonderful atmosphere, with a lounge you would like to relax in all day. I was given a lovely room with a 4-poster bed & grand view of the sea. The reason I am staying here is because the hotel has ESPN – which means I can watch a direct telecast of the AFL C/wood v Geelong game tomorrow! After settling in to my room I went for a walk along the cliffs. The footpath winds thru a golf course, military firing range & the on the local road. I decided not to risk sudden death by walking thru the firing range, but wondered which was more danerous – Wesh golfers, British soldiers or local drivers!
After watching the AFL live on TV I drove thru wonderful Cornish scenery, stopping to look at ancient churches & castles. Eventually stopped at Rame Cross – a small hamlet with a nice B&B & a pub with good food. Ann & John were excellent hosts & had visited Australia, where both have family. Today I drove to Truro & spent an enjoyable day discovering that lovely city, starting with the cathedral.
At 9.30 am I attended Mass at St Corentin, Cury. Cury is in the middle of nowhere, on the Lizard Peninsula, & is the reason for my visit to Cornwall. I have a stall in this 13th cent church, as I am a “Knight Religious of the Order of St Corentin” – a revived mediaeval order of knights. The Bonython family from South Australia are originally from here, & there is still a Bonython estate nearby. I was made very welcome by the people, who couldn’t believe an actual Knight of St Corentin had arrived for Sunday Mass!
After Mass I drove up to London. I was planning to stay near Windsor, as I have to return my car by 12 noon Monday. This proved to be a wonderful finale to my 2 weeks driving around the country, as I finished up at Burnham Abbey. Burnham Abbey is the home of the Society of the Precious Blood – an Anglican community of nuns founded in 1905. Originally working with the poor, they adopted the Augustinian rule, & revived that order when they moved to Burnham Abbey – a former Augustinian abbey founded in the 12th cent, & suppressed by Henry VIII. Their chapel is the former chapter house. I 1st visited here on Easter Mon 1975, when I was considering my vocation to the priesthood. That day I met 2 Aussie sisters, Dorothy M & Margaret M, & they offered to pray for me. We have kept in contact ever since. I last visited here in 96, when I said Mass in the chapel, & was hoping to find it by memory. Fortunately I found the local rectory, & the Rector was in. He gave me directions, & at 3 pm I knocked on the abbey door. Sr Margaret opened it & welcomed me back. I was given a room in the guesthouse, glad to finish my travels with a time of spiritual renewal. I joined the sisters for Vespers, had supper & finished the day with Compline.
Lauds was at 7.30 am & Mass at 9.30 am, after which I drove into London. There was an accident on the M4, which delayed traffic by 1 hour, but I was able to return the car by 12 noon. I then caught the tube to Bourne St. Fr David had prepared the guest room in the presbytery for me – this is not where he lives, but a parish centre. I have stayed here back in the 90’s, & it is good to be back here for the week.
Today I begin my birthday celebration! Lunch with Adrian Mumford, secretary of the Diocese in Europe, then dinner with my friend Joan in Kenton.
My birthday……..am I really 64? No-one ever believes me! Lunch today with Phyl – a woman I worked with here in London back in 74/75. We have kept in touch all these years. It is her b/day tomorrow, so a double celebration. At 6.30 pm I said Mass at St Mary’s – the 1st time since my last Sunday at All SS 10 weeks ago.
Another b/day lunch – with an old friend from Fitzroy who has been living in London for 15 years. Afterwards a much-needed haircut.
This morning I wrote my sermon for St Mary’s Patronal Festival – which Fr David has kindly invited me to do. This is not until May 31, but with my travels over the next 10 days I may not get time nor a quiet space with a desk. I have always done my sermons on Fridays – this is my 1st since Mar 6. Afterwards I went to the local pub to watch the Fri night AFL game live. In the evening I am going to the Induction of the new Vicar at St Mary’s, Kenton. It is a nice coincidence that this is on the week I am in London, & I am glad to be able to attend because of my friend Joan. I have known the previous 2 Vicars & preached there a couple of times.
Ordinary day: washing, Mass & footy at the local pub….all very necessary, of course!
High Mass at St Mary’s, Bourne St, followed by lunch with Fr Nick Mercer. Fr Nick was assistant at St Mary’s in the 90’s & a wonderful host when I stayed here several times. He is now Vicar-General of the Diocese of London. After E/song & Benediction I will say the 7 pm Mass. Then joined a group of the younger parishioners at the pub 🙂
Today I catch the train to York – a city that, surprisingly, I have never visited. I am staying with an old friend from London in the 90’s, John Wridgeway-Wood – a superb church organist. I will stay here 5 days, then go to Norwich for the w/e……….& Walsingham, of course 🙂
Had a gr8 day with John. 1stly he gave me a tour of York city, incl walking along part of the city walls (the part with a railing!) & All SS, North St – the anglocatholic church of York, which has amazing 13th cent stained glass windows. Then he took me all thru York Minster. John is a carillonneur, so we entered thru the workers door (which was free, of course!). It is a huge & awesome cathedral. We then had a/noon tea at Betty’s – a York institution – & concluded with beautiful Choral E/song. In the evening we had dinner at an Italian restaurant in a former girls’ school.
Today we visited the Bar Convent. This is where the RC order IBVM was founded by Mary Ward when it was still illegal to be an RC in England. The Irish congregation went to Australia in the 19th cent & it was reading their history last year that helped my thinking about my future! After that we went to the national railway museum. A huge complex, with the wonderful royal carriages. At 3.45 pm John took me up the Minster bell towers. Today was his day to play the carillon at the Minster, & I was fascinated by this. Just for me, he played 3 Marian hymns (Immaculate Mary, Joy To Thee, Queen & Ye Who Own the Faith!). Then at 4.45 pm he played the club song of Collingwood FC……the 1st time a football club song has been played from a cathedral 🙂
Wet & overcast today. We drove to a village pub for lunch, then to a 9th cent church with marvellous murals. Late in the a/noon John Sistron came down from Newcastle to see me. John was a friend in the 60’s & I haven’t seen him for 40 years! Lovely dinner & lots of catching up.
Today John & I drove down to Norwich. We arrived in time for the 5 pm Mass at the Julian shrine. I am staying with Fr Martin Smith at St John’s, Timberhill & John is renting a house near Walsingham with a group of friends. It was good to see Fr Marttin again. I have known him for 15 years & he is a marvellous host with a wonderful parish. We had lots to chat about & catch up with on Fri night!
Yesterday was a relaxing day, with Mass at St John’s & interesting walks around Norwich. Today began at 8.30 am saying the Office with Fr Martin. This is the 1st time I have said the office publicly with another priest since I left St Mark’s 8 years ago, & was really good! At 11 am I concelebrated the High Mass, which was lovely. There was a warm welcome from the parishioners, many of whom have got to know me over the years. Then a superb lunch cooked by Fr Martin (how does he find the time to cook a roast lunch on Sunday!)
Today was the National Pilgrimage to Walsingham – & a wonderful conclusion to my month in the UK. The St John’s parish bus left at 9.30 am, arriving 1 hour later. The Mass was at 12 noon, & I was 1 of the HC ministers – a privilege I valued, since I have only been to the National in 1990 & 2000. There were so many priests who recognised me – & bishops….I realised I know more bishops in the UK than I do in ECUSA or Australia! The Mass was lovely – & what a joy to be concelebrating a Mass in honour of Our Lady with 1,000’s of anglocatholics. Altho rain was forecast it held off, & also for the a/noon activities. I shared a picnic lunch with the lovely parishioners from St John’s. At 2.30 pm it was time for the a/noon Service – sermon, procession thru the village reciting the rosary & Benediction. It was a wonderful act of worship. The procession seemed to go for miles & the love & joy just shone thru. Benediction at the end was beautiful – taking place in the Abbey grounds for the 1st time, which I thought was excellent. Afterwards I went to the Priory for a/noon tea, mixing with bishops & shrine guardians! Then at 5 pm it was Vespers in the sisters’ chapel, which included the installation of my dear friend, Mother Teresa, as new Revd Mother – a wonderful conclusion to the day.
I catch the 10.30 am train to London, & preach at the 7 pm Dedication Festival of St Mary’s, Bourne St – a gr8 honour 🙂