Monday Meditation: St Luke’s Village Church, Hodnet


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.


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.


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.


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:


Copyright: Chris McGowan


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!


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!



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.


There are some interesting structures and sculptures too. 


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:


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:


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

Wroxeter – A Roman City on A Beautiful Summer’s Day.


I have waited 30 years to see Wroxeter. Today, I finally made it.

On our first trip to look for a house when my husband was being transferred across country, I noticed one of those English Heritage signs saying Wroxeter Roman Ruins, or something like that. I made a mental note.

I love ruins. I love old churches, abbeys, castles. I love the ever-presence of past inhabitants. I love imagining their lives. I am overwhelmed by the fact that I am walking in their footsteps, I marvel at the magnificence and complexities of the buildings and wonder time after time how they managed it. In many instances, the architects didn’t even get to see their project finished.

We were among the first visitors to the Yorvik Viking Museum in York, when it was still an excavation site, and they allowed a few people at a time to walk along the viewing platform to watch them work. This experience sparked an historical interest in our children that they are passing on to their children. They love ruined castles. I have lost count of the number of shields and medieval weapons we’ve constructed over the years and the gory battles that have been reenacted. Such places are examples of living history which absorb children’s attention so they don’t realise they are learning while playing.

Ruins are generally situated in such beautiful settings that it can take your breath away. They are so peaceful. There’s no rush, you can just sit and contemplate for as long as you wish, and now that we are unaccompanied, that’s just what we did.


Wroxeter – or Viriconium – was a first century AD Roman city in Shropshire, the fourth largest town in Roman Britain.  Watling Street (the long, straight Roman road that goes across England from south-east to north-west) cuts through the middle heading south. It is surrounded by fields of sheep, there is a Roman vineyard nearby, an Anglo-Saxon church and in the distance you can see Long Mynd in the Shropshire Hills.

Today was a rare (this summer) beautifully warm sunny day with clear blue skies. It was a day calling for an outing. I decided today was going to be the day. It has taken this long for my husband to get on board with my passion for historical sites. That’s why it’s taken so long. He has always hated wandering around anywhere on foot – but especially old buildings –  preferring to be speeding along on two wheels or puttering along in his Morris Minor. However, since he was forced off the bike by an accident and had to do walking therapy, he has become more amenable to my suggestions.

Here are some photos of the site.

(If you’re reading this via email, you’ll need to click onto the blog).

They show the main excavation of the large public baths, the market hall and forum – the tiled stacks in the middle supported the floors of the bathing rooms (at the end of the  bathing rooms there are the remains of the furnace that heated under the floors and walls of the baths – they had their own underfloor central heating!); the drainage ditch for the latrines; a baby housemartin in a nest in the eves of a blocked off farm building and several more nests below; the reconstructed Roman town house (built by 6 builders in 2010 for the TV programme ‘Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day’ using tools, materials and methods available in Roman times where possible); in front of it you can see the remains of the colonnade of the forum and behind it, the furnace that heated the bathing rooms. Oh, and a few sheep who seemed to be plotting their Great Escape ‘over here by the wire!’

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There’s a small museum and the inevitable gift shop on the site, and plenty of benches to perch and take in the stunning views.

I hope you enjoyed our rare day out. I loved every minute of it! Oh, and I have pink knees from the unaccustomed sun.

Copyright: Chris McGowan