I called in at Adel yesterday, the church was closed. This is normally the point where I have a rant about locked churches but I can’t moan about Adel, the church welcomes visitors daily, I just arrived at the wrong time.
We took a drive up to Northumberland to visit the most northerly English Stone Circle, Duddo aka The Singing Stones aka The Women.
Whilst in the area we dropped in at a couple of Prehistoric Rock Art sites. First stop was Roughting Linn where ate our lunch down besides the lovely waterfall. We then walked through the bluebell-clad ramparts of the ancient promontory fort to the large outcrop in the woods. The Fell Sandstone outcrop is covered in Prehistoric rock carvings and is the largest carved rock in Britain. The most of the carvings have been placed around the edges of the outcrop and have been likened to Irish Passage Grave Art.
This part of Northumberland is littered with Prehistoric Rock Art sites, most have wonderful views over the nearby fertile valleys. Many sites are intervisible with each other, quite a few also have nearby earthworks which have been interpreted as Iron Age in date. The carvings themselves are thought to be Neolithic/Early Bronze Age in date, the relationship between the carvings and the earthworks is not fully understood but it does indicate that these sites had a degree of continuity lasting for a considerable period of time.
We headed over to Weetwood Moor to check-out the carvings on the outcrops there before moving on to Chattonpark hill and the wonderful Ketley Crags, a Prehistoric Rock Shelter, its floor covered in deep cup and ring carvings.
On such a night the hills dissolved
And re-assembled in a shifting mist,
Numb with moonlight’s touch.
We learnt that silence was not hostile,
Took upon ourselves its deepest strength
Waiting for dawn’s layered sun.
A moon that placed
As crow’s shout cracked the sky
Fled from the triggered bird-song
Hesitant, then loud.
Before our eyes, a second birth,
A new-created universe,
Green and blue and gold.
Fluted stones whose shape had shifted
With emitted heat
From bearded barley heads,
Buried to the hips,
Reclaimed their circle and identity,
Guarding and inviting
As the sun’s diurnal course
Played a slow game
With shadow shapes
Time and time and time again.
Solstice: Duddo by Stan Beckensall from Northumberland Power of Place. 2001
Map and Lidar images by permission of the National Library of Scotland
I called in to St Oswald’s Church at Lythe today. I’ve been here many times and never tire of visiting this lovely church. The church is a welcoming space, left open for visitors and has built a lovely display of it’s Anglo-Scandinavian collection of carved stones.
This is a marked difference to a number of our local churches which would prefer to keep their doors locked apart from an hour or two on occasional Sundays.
Church attendance across the mainstream christian denominations in the UK is generally in decline and in our area we see many churches locked for the majority of the time. Faith Survey 2020
Not being a christian myself I don’t feel it is appropriate for me to explore the reasons why church attendances are falling, but as someone who takes an interest in local history and the cultural life of the area I feel that local communities are being denied access to these spaces for little or no reason.
Our local churches are not only places of worship, they are also the custodians of local history, their architecture and memorials are physical records of the history and culture of our towns and villages. In my opinion, the exclusion of the greater community from accessing local churches will only accelerate a sense of detachment and lack of ownership of these beautiful spaces.
I’d also like to mention parochial houses being left empty. At a time when access to affordable housing is an issue in so many of our communities, the various church authorities seem to have no issues with allowing good quality houses to lie empty.
St Margaret and St James Church – Long Marton
I had been very much looking forward to visiting this beautiful church with pre-conquest origins.
The porch, I cannot find any information on this stone, it looks Roman. The sheep skull on top of the stone is an odd sight in a church. Then I looked up at the entrance door..
.. I had seen pictures of the tympanum but to see it up close, breathtakingly beautiful.
I had to sit down and drink in the beauty of the carving. If I wasn’t to see anything else on this trip, this was worth the journey.
Christianity has an odd relationship with dragons.
A thirteenth century parish chest. Local built, the wood is three inches thick.
A cross slab put to good use as a lintel.
A lovely window by Stanley Scott of Sunderland, a memorial to a local surgeon.
I walked into the bell tower to look for the second tympanum. The light was fairly dim, the motifs barely visible, my heart sank.
Then I noticed the light switch..
One church, two breathtaking moments.
A beautiful sneck on the church gate, I’m an ungodly person, I love this church.
Even the views are beautiful – Knock Pike
Charles Dodgson is better known as Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I have previously written about his young life at Croft on Tees and the possible influences the area had on his writings, The Conyers Falchion and the Hells Kettles.
When Dodgson was twenty years old his father became a Canon at Ripon Cathedral. During his many visits to Ripon, he wrote Ye Carpette Knyghte and several pages of Through the Looking-Glass.
There is speculation that Dodgson may have found inspiration for some of his characters from the misericords carved beneath the seats in the cathedral’s choir stalls. The links are tenuous but they give me an excuse to post a bunch of photos of these beautiful 15th century carvings.
A few other carvings