Category Archives: England

Lechlade-on-Thames


We began the walk through the churchyard of St Lawrence’s Church in Lechlade-on-Thames. There is a plaque to say that this is called ‘Shelley’s Walk‘ after the poet wrote ‘A Summer Evening Churchyard‘ here.

The walk then followed a tree lined path beside a steam or ditch. The air was crowded with small flies and midges – a sign that Spring had arrived. Birds sang and could enjoy the easy pickings .

We crossed a wooden footbridge beside a screen of poplars.

Then followed the Thames Path back through St John’s Lock, the highest lock on the River Thames, where a statue of Father Thames lay with a plastic paddle.

The ground was soft and the driest place to walk was near the bank of the River Thames where we passed several fishermen. The spire of St Lawrences could be seen across the even land.

I wondered whether it was the same St Lawrence that I knew from Caterham Surrey but realised I didn’t know much about him either. From wikipedia I discovered Saint Lawrence (d. 258), the Christian martyr, after whom all others are named; Saint Laurence of Canterbury (d. 619), second Archbishop of Canterbury, and more.

We walked under the footpath arch of the Halfpenny Bridge, so called because until the town’s people protested and got their way, a half penny was charged for going over the bridge.

Larger barges and river craft do not usually go much further beyond this point.

We walked through a couple more fields than crossed the Thames by a wooden bridge, and headed back to Lechlade over a path called ‘The Seven Styles Walk‘ – here were no styles, just open gates separating small fields.

Back in Lechlade I took a picture of the Christmas Shop. It is open all year round, but was closed when we went by. The business first started in 1985, selling traditional German Christmas products.  Christmas all year round has become an eccentricity of Lechlade.

In town, we went inside St Lawrence’s Church where there was an interesting painting ‘Presented to Brigadier John Cooper by the congregation in gratitude for his ministry – August 2010’. 

We visited the Londis store where there were plenty of toilet rolls available. Abingdon has run out due to Coronavirus panic buying so this was a relief.

We also had some excellent soup and sourdough bread at Lynwood & Co, and then drove home.

Faringdon and Folly


Faringdon seems a normal and very pleasant market town until …

you approach the Pump House where there is a stone diving helmet and some words that when you first read them do not make sense … ‘a man who never has an occasional flash’  … ‘of’  … ‘silliness’ … ‘Mistrust’.

But start at the right place and you get ‘Mistrust a man who never has an occasional flash of silliness.’

In the Pump House is an exhibition about Lord Berners who lived in Faringdon House.

He was a composer , painter, and author. Besides writing an opera and five ballets , he composed the film music to “The Halfway House ” in 1944. As an artist he staged at least three exhibitions in various London galleries. His writings included First childhood, The Camel, The Girls of Radcliff Hall, Far From the Madding War, Percy Wallingford and Mr. Pidger, Count Omega, The Romance of a Nose and A Distant Prospect. To his parties were invited many famous people we still know of to this day, such as Igor Stravinsky, Salvador Dalí, and H. G. Wells.

The museum has displays to remember how he dyed pigeons at his house in Faringdon in vibrant colours and entertained Penelope Betjeman’s horse Moti to tea and painted its portrait.

As well as being a composer, painter, and author, he also built the last ever major folly tower in 1935.

He built the folly tower on the hill overlooking Faringdon.

He liked silly notices and there is a notice ‘Members of the public committing suicide from this tower do so at their own risk.’
Nearby is a piano. The keys no longer play after a long time out in all weather. Lord Berners had a small clavichord keyboard in his Rolls-Royce.

When you look about you can see that Lord Berners continues to influence the people in the town in the number of dyed pigeons and silly notices.

John Ruskin’s 200th Birthday Celebration


There were children from Coniston C of E Primary School singing, and reading poetry. There were also children from the John Ruskin School, Coniston performing on brass instruments. They had a day of Ruskin Celebration and church was one part of it.

Rather than be buried in Westminster Abbey John Ruskin chose St Andrew’s Church, Coniston. He lived beside Lake Coniston.


After the service, some of the congregation gathered round the wonderful Ruskin Cross for a prayer and to lay some flowers.

A lot of his ideas are still very relevant today. Speaking at the service, a lady from the Ruskin Museum in Coniston  traced back some of the twentieth centuries great achievements to Ruskin’s social reforming ideas: the founding of universal education, the minimum wage, the NHS and welfare state. As an art critic and painter he taught many people how to see and appreciate nature and art.

“The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.”  John Ruskin.

Death of a South Nutfield Lad


On the war memorial in top Nutfield are many familiar village names and the words “Lest we Forget” our men of Nutfield.

On the 1st of November 1918 (one hundred years ago) the Surrey Mirror carried this piece… ‘Death of a South Nutfield Lad

“It is with much .sorrow we record the death of Pte. Albert Edward Joiner (“Bert”), aged 19 years, late East Yorks Regt., second and dearly loved son of Mr. and Mrs. G. A. Joiner, 29, Trindles Road. South Nutfield, who was killed in action in France on the night of Sept. 3rd, by a machine gun bullet. It was a relief to know he did not suffer any pain, as was killed instantaneously.

Showing a keen interest in gardening he entered the gardens at Nutfield Priory shortly after leaving school, and stayed there until the time of joining the Colours.

Pte. A. E. Joiner was a member of the Nutfield C.L.B., a very persevering boy, possessed of a very cheerful disposition, refined, and was greatly beloved by all who knew him.

On joining in May, 1917. he was placed at Dover in training battalion, from there he went to Bridlington, in Yorkshire, at that time being the East Riding Yeomanry. In February he was sent to Ireland, where he remained until July, and was then drafted to France, and afterwards transferred to the East Yorks Regt.

Mr. and Mrs. Joiner have received many letters of condolence and sympathy, for which they and all members of the family are deeply grateful. The Chaplain from the deceased’s battalion wrote: “Bv the time this letter gets to you you will have heard the sad news of your boy. Pte. A. E. Joiner. He was killed by a machine gun bullet on the night Sept. 3rd. and the next day we buried him in a British cemetery. We put flowers on his grave, and intend to erect a cross. The news will have come as a cruel blow to you. May God help you to bear it. You must always be proud of your boy. He died bravely doing his duty. Now he is away from the hardship and horror of war, and, I know, would not have you grieve too much for him. His comrades join with me in this sincere expression of sympathy with you.

Thanks to the https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk and Surrey Mirror for this tribute. All Rights reserved

St Lawrence’s Hospital / Caterham Asylum


Not much of the former hospital of St Lawrence’s now remains. A plaque has been put up by The Bourne Society on what was the main gate post.

Beyond that is the new housing on the ground of the former hospital. The road names off St Lawrence Way remember people associated with the hospital: Deacon, Straw, Danvers, Gwynne, Bunce, Drew, Pye, Marcuse. Joey Deacon was well known beyond the hospital.

Beyond the housing the land dips away to an open area, and a tree covered walk in the valley – Green Lane, and beyond that is Surrey National Golf Club.

Old postcards show how the front entrance looked when the building was big enough to house 1,500 and more people from the Metropolitan area of London, and when the hospital was the largest employer in Caterham.

The postcard was written by the mum of Bessie to an aunt saying – this is one of the views of the place where Bessie stays, and she hopes you will write to her.

What has been kept as a screen for the new estate are high trees, the fence and gate posts – once intended to keep people in and now to keep them out.

The admin block was attractive (seen in this 1923 picture by G Aschinger).

Beyond that there was the male side and the female side with the utility corridor connecting them, off which came the kitchen, the pharmacy, the laundry, the swimming pool, recreation hall, tailors shop, dentist, and everything needed to keep a hospital community going.

It was a large hospital built to keep the cost per patient down and had no great architectural merit. The grounds were extensive. It was bulldozed rather than converted, when the era of Victorian Mental Hospitals ended in the 1990s. The residents were rehoused in smaller units by the 1990s Lifecare NHS Trust.

The Loft – 46 Westway, Caterham


In 1982 Noel and Maureen moved to Caterham in Surrey and set up an antique business called the Loft at 46 Westway.

Noel used his photographic talents in the business and that became the main money earner. He took passport photos of many of the residents of St Lawrences Hospital at the far end of the Westway. The snowy picture by Noel is one of the many on his walls in his shop.

Noel was once an adventurer and rally driver who started life in New South Wales, and spent time in Papua New Guinea, and other antipodean locations until coming to Caterham with Maureen, and his growing family.

Next week Noel and Maureen close up shop in Caterham after 36 years to move to somewhere new, and a time to enjoy full retirement.

Cardington R101 Memorial


The last time I walked through Cardington was in November, and I was surprised to see, near the two big hangers, one of the prototype airships outside. Development of the prototype Airlander 10 continues inside the hangers.

The village sign has an airship, and inside the church is a memorial, and a stall with airship memorabilia and newspaper cuttings about the R101 disaster, and back numbers of The Dirigible – a magazine for airship enthusiasts.

In the village cemetery is the mass grave and memorial to those who died when His Majesty’s Airship R101 came down in bad weather in France on 5th october 1930, during a maiden flight. It caught fire on a hillside. Of the 48 crew and 6 passengers, there were 6 survivors. The airship had been built in Cardington.

St Andrews – Headington – at Epiphany


In Old Headington, a village within the city of Oxford, you will find St Andrew’s Church. It flies the Saltire or Saint Andrew’s Cross, the Scottish flag in the heart of England.

The church was open, and warm and welcoming.

One chapel was decorated with white cyclamen with the three Magi kneeling,  bringing their gifts after a long pilgrimage: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

On the other side of the entrance was a window, the lead-work forming tree branches, and the glass delicately painted with leaves.

The church had a new organ. Next to the organ were music books. One older book had a marker at Epiphany.

“OH WORSHIP the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
With gold of obedience and incense of lowliness,
Kneel and adore him the Lord is his name!”

(Post dedicated to John Clapp whose stone I saw in the memorial garden behind the church. He had been the organist in this church from 1993 – 2009.)

Annie’s Tea Rooms – Walk – Thrupp

On Christmas Eve in 1874 there was a railway disaster near Thrupp.

Heavy snow lay on the ground, and a Great Western Train from London Paddington had added an extra coach at Oxford and left at 11:40 AM. The carriage was needed to deal with the crowds of people wanting to get to the Midlands for Christmas.

Passing Thrupp a wheel tyre on the additional coach broke and the carriage left the rails. The rest of the train plunged down an embankment beside the Oxford Canal. 31 passengers died in the crash. 60 were seriously injured.

We parked the car at Thrupp near Annie’s Tea Room.

We crossed the Oxford Canal and then went under the railway. The line was busy with both freight and passenger trains.

The path went through a plantation for a mile or so until emerging beside the meandering River Cherwell. The slim spire of the church in Kidlington could be seen across the fields and was visible for most of the walk. We crossed open meadows with horses, and after the village of Hampton Poyle, saw sheep and cows.

The route then took us to what remained of Hampton Gay. The 16th Century Manor House had burned down in 1887. There is still a farm with a number of cottages nearby.

By mistake, we went off the designated footpath at this point and ended up going under the railway through water and coming to a field with a notice saying  ‘Bull in this Field.’

So we turned back and found the way we should have gone. The path took us under the railway, alongside the River Cherwell.

The last part of the walk was along the canal towpath ending back at Annie’s Tea Room  where we enjoyed Sweet Potato Soup with bread and butter.

There were no boards or memorial to the 1874 railway disaster anywhere we could see.

Elstow – John Bunyan’s birthplace


I am working in Bedford and visited John Bunyan’s birthplace, a village called Elstow – not far from Bedford.

The village has a green where there used to be monthly fairs with all kinds of entertainment from jousting to maypole dancing. The green was the inspiration for Vanity Fair in Pilgrim’s Progress … “at this fair there are at all times to be seen jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind…. Here are to be seen, too, and that for nothing, thefts, murders, adulteries, false-swearers, and that of a blood-red colour”

The stump of a Market Cross remains, and the fine Moot House from the 15th Century.

Nearby is the Abbey Church of St Mary and St Helena. It was once the 7th richest Abbey in the Kingdom with a very extensive building.

A smaller church still remains, and some ruined walls.

Inside the church is the ‘original’ Wicket gate that John Bunyan immortalised in Pilgrim’s Progress. A Wicket Gate is a pedestrian door or gate, particularly one built into a larger door.

In the church is a window showing scenes from Pilgrim’s Progress, and another window, shown above, showing scenes from John Bunyan’s third book, ‘The Holy War – The Losing and Taking Again of the Town of Man-soul.‘ It shows the evil forces to the left, in green, and the good forces to the right, both trying to take the town of a man’s mind – the evil forces by force, and the good forces by invitation.

Pilgrims come in coaches and cars to visit the church and other places linked to John Bunyan. There are more from China and Japan than England. His allegorical book, Pilgrim’s Progress, and his being jailed for what he believed, are greatly admired in those countries.

Over the church door is a seal from the time the Abbey was handed over to King Henry VIII’s forces. It shows Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Saint Helena, who discovered the Holy Cross in Jerusalem.

Elstow itself also has a fine row of houses, some dating back before John Bunyan. The village is cut across by the very busy A421 Bedford Bypass, but you would hardly know it as the bridge over the road has such high walls.