Heart of England

At the churchyard’s  edge there was a stile in a gap in the hawthorn bushes. My friend looked  at the field path on the other side and said perhaps we could walk back to the pub that way.  The day was warm and he had come from London in search of countryside. He’s  a former colleague and we had shared eventful times in the Parliamentary Press Gallery and the Fleet Street of  yesteryear.

Fine, I agreed, but found that the left knee would not support the right leg as I tried to step over the stile. Nor would the right knee support the left. I needed my stick for  balance but lacked a third hand. Close to the stile were strands of barbed wire.

I was defeated but I was happy. A stile  will have been there for centuries. I wouldn’t want to change it.

From the stile we could see for miles into the next county, beyond the river border. The crops were beginning to mellow towards harvest. Behind us a path had been mown through yellow grass covering ancient graves: a little wildlife sanctuary.

The path led  back to the north side of the church which was crisply mown, with new graves. A lovely Victorian vicarage stood nearby. We entered the church,  founded in the 11th century.

Silence:  cool air emanating from ancient stone; an aura and scent of centuries now passed. And worship. And mixed with it, the fragrance of flowers from the previous day’s wedding.

We stood still and took it all in. I gave thanks with a swift sign of the Cross. We walked up to the Chancel and saw a child-sized, bolted door in the north wall. This was puzzling but I have  read that some old churches had a door in the north wall to allow the demons to flee when a child is baptised. I can’t confirm that this is the story here.

And then it was back to the pub and the car. The pub stands beside a weir which is fed by  a still millpond, with water lilies and great clumps of wild irises.

As we  walked by, two black dogs leapt up at the gate of a thatched cottage. ‘Who are these strangers? they barked.

My friend looked out at the wide skies and the bubbling stream, and the ancient hollow willows from which new growth flourished.  Children were playing on the grass.

‘The heart of England’, he said.

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7 Responses to Heart of England

  1. Pooka says:

    Just beautiful, Llew. Makes me want to be there. Perhaps some day.

    This, what you’ve written, is what I envision it would be like.

    • lleweton says:

      Many thanks for your comment Pooka. The images which I have tried to capture in some of these posts convey, I hope, a glimpse of permanence and beauty which is outside time as well as existing in it. They are subject to change, though, as all things are in this world. I’m trying to say that I hope that should you ever visit these places, you will encounter them in a way which does not disappoint on the day. Such moments of insight, or vision, if I may call them that, remain all around though. I don’t suppose I needed to say that, for I state the obvious. Thanks again.
      Llew

  2. Pooka says:

    I hope it all holds together long enough to see. I’m sure it will take longer than my alloted days on this mortal coil to devolve. If not, there are photos and Llew’s blog.

  3. Pooka says:

    Two authors who have contributed to my “heart of England” image: Douglas Adams and Steven R. Lawhead.

    Adams’ books about P.I. Dirk Gently are goofy, but captivating all at once. I’ve never read an author who could so effectively wrap humor and gravity around a setting.
    Lawhead’s Song of Albion series starts (and returns to) Oxford and, with the alternate universe of an ancient Celtic world, just builds up the whole thing.

  4. lleweton says:

    Hallo Pooka: I’m half way through the first novel of ‘Song of Albion. I’ll let you know how I get on. I found the switch to the alternate universe, as you aptly term it, a bit difficult at first, which is odd, because Lewis and Tolkien should have accustomed me to the concept. However, I look forward to seeing how the book develops and how it relates to the preoccupations we dwell on here. Mrs Llew really loves Douglas Adams’s writing. I never got with it because I didn’t take to the television series which preceded my encounter with the books. But that’s just me, as Mrs L would describe it. Many thanks for your comments. I hope to be adding to this blog soon.

  5. Pooka says:

    You’ll hopefully find the series rewarding. I still return to it from time to time. Not as long-lived as Tolkien, nor so epic, but still good.

    I recommend Dirk Gently books by Adams. They’re different from the Hitchhikers’ Guide. Dark and pensive, I think, while still being funny (or maybe .odd. is the word).

    Can’t wait for your next installment.

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