Monday Meditation: St Luke’s Village Church, Hodnet

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St Luke’s Church is next door to the beautiful Hodnet Hall Gardens, sitting just beside the entrance. This small, intimate church was open for visitors when we were at the gardens in the summer and is well worth a look if you like historic buildings and richly-coloured stained glass windows.

This Grade 1 listed building is Norman in origin and listed in the Doomesday Book. Much of the original Norman nave still exists. It has the only octagonal tower in Shropshire, with octagonal wooden clocks on each side. I had never seen a tower like it. I warmed to this unusual church instantly before venturing inside the porch, its open door inviting us in.

The stained glass windows were beautiful. One is in memory of Mary Heber, an ancestor of the current family in residence, and the other tells the story of The Holy Grail.  It was really difficult to find the right angle to do justice to the vivid colours and images, the sun was streaming through windows and washing out some of the colour. We were the only ones there and took our time, not feeling in anyway rushed by person or event.

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The aisles and chapels are tiled in various colours and intricate patterns. They are in wonderful condition. I spent a lot of time just sitting, contemplating, taking everything in, all the magnificent beauty and craftmanship.

 

 

IMG_3995The families who have owned the Hall have been – and still are – long-time patrons of this church, supporting its upkeep. Many of them are buried there or memorialised within the church. There are some very elaborate marble memorials on the walls and in the family chapel. Unfortunately, my camera battery died and I didn’t realise it had given up on the marble sarcophagus in the family chapel.

I’ve never seen pews like these before, they were all across the front of the congregation, no doubt there for the great and the good! I found them incredibly uncomfortable, forcing me to sit up rather than lean into them.

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I don’t know exactly what it was about this church, but it had a very welcoming feel to it. It’s quite small which makes it more intimate, less intimidating, for all its imposing stone and sense of history. There was a sense of continuity through the family names that you get in small villages, and lots of notices addressed to visitors and parishioners inviting them to look around, providing information and histories, a visitors’ book, but also framed photographs of the current incumbents and articles about local people and activities.

A lovely touch was the invitation to request a prayer for, or thoughts be sent to, someone who needed it, whatever the circumstances, no names necessary, and there were candles and matches if you also wanted to light one on their behalf. No charge. I requested a mention for our dear friend, Terry at Spearfruit.

(Please Note: I wrote this post some time before Terry passed away and I hope it doesn’t cause distress to anyone close to him. He was very much on my mind at the time of our visit).

One project I particularly warmed to was some research conducted by the local Scouts group into the names on the War Memorial in the church yard. This research was left out for all to see and filled in the details behind the names, turning them into real people not just ciphers. The project was at the back of the church for anyone to leaf through, with an invitation to contact the authors if any information is incorrect or if the reader had more up to date details to include.

There was a small piano alongside the ancient organ, and really old prayer books, Bibles, registers in full view, not locked away or removed for fear of vandalism, as in many churches these days. This added to the welcoming atmosphere of this beautiful church.

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I was reluctant to leave, but we had been out all afternoon and now it was approaching evening and the gardens where we had parked the car would soon be closing. If you click on the link in my first paragraph, you can read about this magnificent estate, one of the most stunning and unspoiled places I’ve visited.

A final look up towards the church from the entrance to the Hall:

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

 

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Monday Meditation – A Stroll Around Hodnet Hall Gardens

On the recommendation of 29400512_Unknowna new friend, we recently visited the beautiful gardens at Hodnet Hall, a sprawling, centuries-old estate in Shropshire. It has so many trails, gardens, lakes, magnificent trees, waterfalls – there is always something else to discover around the corner.

It is such a tranquil place, we went on a fine though at times overcast August Sunday and often felt like we were the only people there. It is not a flashy place at all, no amusements, almost no signage (you are handed a map of the trails on arrival), no ice cream vans, no litter, no overhyped overtired children, no gift shop. Instead, young children were happily roaming about, enjoying the freedom and fresh air, often accompanied by grandparents, sometimes extended families; there were young couples, elderly couples and those who were obviously regular visitors to historic houses and/or serious walkers. But as you can see in the photos, we were barely aware of anyone else, such is the design of the estate.

The grounds are structured so that there are many separate parts to the whole, where you can sit or walk through areas of parkland or woodland, waterways or flower gardens and barely hear a sound but for the birds, ducks or swans and the gentle lapping of water. There are wooded glens, wooden bridges and walkways over the water – one looked decidedly like the hangout of the local troll!

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There is a sixteenth century timbered building that has become the tearooms but used to be the stable block of the original mansion. Its interior is not for the faint-hearted i.e. me! The walls are covered in the heads of African game, including a huge water buffalo, and there is even a fully stuffed lion and tiger, just standing there to left and right of the entrance! No vegan food here!

But back to the start:

The small pay booth by the entrance gates is manned by a lovely elderly gentleman called Tony, who is so welcoming and knowledgeable, and always happy to chat.

The driveway into the gardens is flanked by beautiful multihued hydrangeas, they grow throughout the grounds in indivdual gardens and along the paths: blue, purple, all shades of pink, white, so many I could have spent all visit just photographing hydrangeas and little else!

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The current house is Victorian and was built when the family decided to move across the grounds to a higher, less damp position, but it was renovated in the 1960s. These steps lead down to one of the lakes:

The middle photo is of the other side of the house to where the main drive leads. Unfortunately the house is roped off, only the gardens are open to the public.

The bottom picture is the stone garden, a separate circular and sheltered spot where you can sit and just listen to birdsong.

The lakes are stunning. There are 5 of them, in varying sizes and settings. Some are quite wild and dark, set in almost rainforest-like conditions, one has pike, one has waterfalls, some more restful with swans and lily pads.

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There are some interesting structures and sculptures too. 

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The structure top left is the old smoke house – it has a seat in it these days.  The building below it is a 16th Century dovecote, a symbol of financial and social success. Pigeons would nest there and the young squabs taken before they could fly, destined for the dining table and regarded as a rich man’s delicacy. Below is the tithebarn or threshing barn from the same period:

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But this was my favourite view, we sat here for a very long time in quiet contemplation – my camera had given up when the battery died so I had to take this with my iPhone and it turned out to be my favourite. I leave it here for you to enjoy:

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Note there are no photos of big game!

(See also my post on the beautiful St Luke’s Village Church next door to the Hall).

Copyright: Chris McGowan

I Love My Garden!

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(Image Credit: timelesswheel)

It’s yet another heavy, darkly overcast day and I felt so disappointed that yet again there was no sun showing off the garden to it’s best advantage. Yesterday, I had watched as the rain distorted the view we have from our kitchen window, and sighed. I have always looked forward to this time when all the blossom and the rhododendron flowers burst forth in a synchronised display and the garden looks altogether very pleased with itself.

I could see that there would be more heavy rain before long which might ruin the display so, checking first that it didn’t feel as wintry as it looked, I decided to make the most of it and sit outside drinking not only a cup of licorice and cinnamon tea, but also drinking in the spectacularly colourful show around me.

I love my garden. I love the peace of it. I can sit there in contemplation and hear only the birds, the bees, the occasional thwack of leather on willow in the distance (that’s cricket to my American readers!) or wood on wood from the local bowling green. Sometimes I can hear young children laughing and splashing in their paddling pool – children laugh so uninhibitedly, it always brings a smile to my face.

My garden is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination; it is informal, wild plants have insinuated themselves and been welcomed if they fit and don’t get greedy, while other cultivated plants have self-seeded in nooks and crannies, like the pink nemesia covering an ugly corner of the path, and have been allowed to take up residence.

I never fail to have my spirits restored and uplifted when I’ve been in my garden, even for just five minutes. Breathing in the fresh air scented with floral perfumes and sometimes wood smoke fills me with joy and gratitude. I feel renewed. Any stresses and frustrations are lifted for a while as my brow unfurrows and I lift my gaze from the ground and up towards the sky, the trees, the shapeshifting clouds.

I am always grateful that I have been fortunate to have this space and I wanted to share a part of it with you.

Forgive the quality of the pictures, I only have the iPad camera!

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The baby apple tree will hopefully have a better backdrop soon: my lovely daughter has volunteered to paint the garage against which it stands after I gave up on the fairies performing this kindness over the past couple of years!

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The bright pink azalea and the irises are from last year when the sun was more generous with its rays, this year the frosty hail and constant rain destroyed the azalea flowers before they could sit for a while and be admired, while the irises are still thinking about waking up.

I hope you enjoyed the show!

Copyright: Chris McGowan