Downside Abbey – March 2016

I’ve not long returned from a short retreat at Downside Abbey. The community couldn’t have been more kind and welcoming, and there’s nothing like a bit of Gothic Revival.

I only went for a couple of days, as I hadn’t been sure how I would react to being ‘off-line’ and bound by the daily offices. As it turned out, I wish I’d had a longer time there.

I’m still processing the experience, but I’m sure it’s something I’ll do again (if they’ll have me).

Battle Abbey

Despite being born and brought up about 20 miles away, I’d never visited Battle Abbey, and I dragged the folks there on Saturday.

The Benedictine abbey was built on the site of the Battle of Hastings. Following the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, the abbey became a private house, and is now a school.

On a beautiful summer’s day, it was incredible to think that such a savage battle had taken place on Senlac Hill

…and England fell under the Norman yoke (OK, OK…I know it wasn’t that simple).

Burgundy 2013 – Pontigny Abbey

Sometimes…

…a place is so amazing…

…there just aren’t the words…

…to describe it.

That’s how the Cistercian Abbey at Pontigny made me feel.

 It was founded in 1114, and not one…

…but three Archbishops of Canterbury took refugue here…

…Edmund Rich (St Edmund of Abingdon, the first Oxford don to become a saint), St Thomas a Becket and Stephen Langton.

The community was suppressed during the French revolution…

…and it’s said that the local reverence for St Edmund’s relics kept the church from being destroyed…

…and it continued as a parish church.

What a place to have as your parish church…

…sadly, I don’t think it is now.

These chaps were from Rentokil – after termites I think.

We all left…

…feeling…

…rather impressed…

…by the place.

Fresh Air by the Fishponds

Last night I had that telltale tickle in my throat, and I woke up this morning with a VILE cold. Although we now have lovely fire, I decided to go for walk this afternoon, to brush away from of the cobwebs. I had a wander round one of Eynsham’s treasures – the Abbey Fishponds.


Eynsham had an abbey until naughty old Henry VIII fell for Anne Boleyn, and the church’s money. The Anglican church, St. Leonard’s (on the right), and the Roman Catholic church, St. Peter’s (on the left), are both on the site.


I was a bit late for the autumn colour…

…but there was still plenty to see.

I was also able to enjoy one of my favourite of life’s small pleasures – kicking through piles of fallen leaves.

Dorset 2011 – St Catherine’s Chapel

On a whim we stopped in Abbotsbury (a place of pilgrimage for P J Harvey fans). While Sarah and the girls went to the Children’s Farm, my Pa and I climbed up to St Catherine’s chapel (this meant that I missed miniature goat racing, but you can’t have it all).
[I’m not sure what the Benedictines would have thought about their tithe barn being full of marauding toddlers, but that’s another story.]
The chapel was built as a pilgrin chapel in the 15th century. It’s a striking nautical landmark, and ever since he first saw it from the sea he’s wanted to visit it.
Sadly, the day was very hazy, so the view wasn’t that great. It was lovely seeing the village nestled in the valley.
For a pilgrimage chapel, the climb isn’t that steep.
It’s a beautiful building…
…and it seems right that it stands alone.
The beautiful vaulting made my soul soar.
The atmosphere is wonderful…
…and I’m so glad that it’s still used for services.
I realise that this will sound a bit ‘up my own arse’, but it was very hard to leave.
Chesil Beach and The Fleet looked beautiful in the haze – how lovely must it be on a clear day?

Strata Florida

The ruins of Strata Florida Abbey are in a beautiful spot, in a fold between the hills.

The name means valley of the flowers…
…and it must have been magnificent.
Now there’s not much left…
…(although, philistine that I am, these tiles made me ponder how I’d like the floor if we ever have our kitchen sorted…)
…but ghosts of memories.

Whitby Abbey

Up the 199 steps to the church we went.

Here is my rugged companion looking out to sea. The fencing was new, and it was rather worry to see little bunches of flowers attached to it. In memory of people who’d fallen over the edge?

The wind really does blow here, as you can see from this eroded grave stone.

This bronze copy of a Borghese gladiator is in sharp contrast to the abbey ruins.

I always find abbey ruins very poignant places.

They are like Scotland’s vast openess…

…beauty, where there was once bustle and life.

I like Yorkshire, me.

Spring in Eynsham

Last Saturday, Adam and I made the most of the first decent bit of sunshine, and went for a walk round by the fishponds. This view of St Peter’s made me try and picture what it must have looked like when the abbey was there.

The rain has encouraged some very, furry moss to grow.

I hadn’t realised that Eynsham had a gibbet, but hey this village has everything…:-).

All That Remains of Us

A few years ago, The Boy and I went on holiday with my extended family to Brittany. One day we all decided to do our own thing. By coincidence my parents and the two of us, both went to the same ruined abbey within hours of each other.

It was a place of amazing peace and beauty – sadly I can’t remember it’s name.
This morning, when I was looking for something else, I came across these tomb photos. I remembered that I’d promised to send them to my Ma, as we’d both been rather taken by their location amongst the ferns.
Sorry Ma – better late than never?
[Lorna – yes, it does look phallic – calm down, it’s only a monument]

A Romantic Moment

Who lives in a house like this? The curator of Bayham Abbey.

Thanks to good old Henry VIII wanting a divorce, only the abbey ruins are left.

The site is incredibly peaceful – which is amazing given that it’s on the Kent-East Sussex border, a very highly populated area with lots of traffic.

I was last here when I was very little – I couldn’t remember very much about the site, except the tree above the site of what was the high altar. My Pa remarked that the Romantics would have loved the place. When we researched the abbey afterwards, we discovered that the site (as well as the rest of the estate) was landscaped by Repton, so that the ruins could be thrilled over.

The square building on the left of the gatehouse, is a summerhouse built in the 1800s – so that the denizens of Bayham Hall could picnic while looking at the abbey.