Meditation in a Country Churchyard.

a tale of two churches

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canterbury cathedralHoly Trinity Church Takeley Village...lacking the mystique.
canterbury cathedral
canterbury cathedral
Holy Trinity Church Takeley Village...lacking the mystique.
Holy Trinity Church Takeley Village...lacking the mystique.

No fear amongst all these memories

The sun made a brief and damp appearance yesterday between two lowering clouds over my little village near Stanstead Airport in England. Seizing the chance for a bit of exercise, I jammed an old pair of sneakers on my feet - ones that looked able to handle the February mud in the fields - and set forth. For some reason, a new and unscalable fence had been erected round the cricket field where I usually passed, so I headed into a ploughed field parallel with the road down to the airport; one strange to me.

One good thing about Britain (there, you thought I'd never say that!) is that farmers are obliged to leave right of way through most of the fields and farms - you take pot-luck with belligerent cows with only two teats - they also are required to leave substantial margins at the edge of fields, so there is always a trodden-down place to walk.

I skirted the large field keeping an eye out for interesting artefacts perhaps turned up by the plough. It’s incredible what comes to light all the time here, sometimes huge fortunes in Roman gold. All I found was a nearly perfectly round flint that might have a fossil in it...I shared it with a startled jackdaw.

As I reached the end of the ploughed section and turned left in between two high hedges onto a hidden, rough piece of grassy hardpan, I could see the spire of a church a couple of hundred yards ahead of me in a grove of trees. This cause some head scratching. I mean, there was no road into here that I knew of; don’t tell me I had entered some weird time warp.

Well, no, as I walked into the large area around the church I saw it was the Holy Trinity Church, which had a sign pointing to it way back from part where I had come from, back on the high road out of the village. I had been fooled, because I had thought there was just a short lane down to it, not the half-mile driveway that put it into the country.

Anyone that knows my hubs will be aware I am not at all religious, but I am incurably sentimental and old graves get to me somehow: I expect they do to many of you.

After checking the new section of those in eternal rest, I carried on to the front of the church (there was no one else there, it would have been spooky in the gathering dusk I expect, if I had thought about it). Here were the old weathered, cracked and crumbling headstones, many with indecipherable messages.

Some of the earliest here were in the 1600’s! There were quite a few in the years from 1700 to 1850. I was smitten. This is just one obscure little church in Hertfordshire, one of thousands similar all over these islands, where the dead have been slowly melding into the common clay for hundreds - in some cases, thousands - of years! Here, in my little local church were simple headstones mouldering in place for all the development that we now call the United States! Columbus only just predated the earliest.

I must admit I was a little teary-eyed by now...maybe it was the cold. But...through all the wars this land had fought, The huge world wars: WW1 in 1914 - WW2 in the 1940’s. All the changes throughout the world over the last 400 years...and these bodies, skeletons and ashes had lain quietly here, in the pitch-dark and cold dirt, under this torn sky and whispering leaves in this humble corner of England, while a phalanx of watchers, most themselves now dust, had filed by and paid their respects, or, in my case, just gawped.

How impossible to comprehend, then, as we gaze at an insect trapped in amber that has been so entombed for hundreds of times longer than the whole of human history?

Some of the very oldest and most humble of markers had the writing erased by the dust, frost, heat and wind of centuries. What a contrast between these forgotten citizens and the later graves, some as recent as the year 2010, with the small toys, colourful flowers and signs of love and attention. I was astonished to find that some of these as old as 20 years still had flowers recently added adorning them. Someone still cared and cherished their memory.

What an ancient country this is. Even recent history is 1000 years old; churches lie in ruins dating back to 800 AD or even earlier. I went to school in Canterbury and often ate my lunch in the huge, gothic cathedral next door that was begun in the 1200’s! I often chewed a spam sandwich and gulped a coke in the little nook where Thomas Becket was slain by King Henry the Second’s assassins...that was a mere 1170.

So my first little walk of the new year took me into some interesting and thoughful territory. I hope you enjoyed my mentioning it.

This article is for hubber Jamie Brown and her Henry...a far better one than Becket’s false friend we hope!

(Many happy returns, Hank).

Note: Google just told me the church dates back to the 13th. Century, but I don't think any of the graves were quite that old - I could be mistaken.

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Comments 17 comments

Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

I certainly enjoyed this blog! Like you, I am not religious but I do like churches (see my http://hubpages.com/hub/My-Thoughts-II-A-Church, if you have a chance).

The churches and cathedrals I saw in France last summer were gorgeous. I am sure the same is true of Great Britain, considering its history. If I overcome my anger over that history, I might even swing over for a visit.

All the best. Cheers!


diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

I'm not an Anglophile either, Mr Happy, but the place is definitely worth a visit...Bob


BobbiRant profile image

BobbiRant 5 years ago from New York

This sounds and looks like a very pretty place to visit, and very peaceful. Nice hub.


diogenes 5 years ago

Thanks, Bobbi. I felt tempted tp lie down and stay there Bob


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

Hi diogenes,

I really enjoyed this hub. I am not a person who goes to church or chapel very often at all, but like you I do like churches, cathedrals, old graveyards which have their own stories to tell.

When I first met my partner Dai six years ago he was in the process of following his family tree!!!

He grew up in Bristol and his descendents were Tremletts or Gough mainly.

We went round so many places scouring for the history and came accross a really old church called ArnoldsVale.

The graveyard was huge and the older part dated back so so far!!!!

Out from behind one of the older tombs popped a black cats head and it made jump momentarily before a warm glow filled me and the thought 'This is the start of much happiness' came to mind!!

Dai swears to this day that he saw no cat (I'm not too sure about this!!)but I know that I did and the thought that came with it.

It then disappeared as quickly as it had popped up.

Anyway as we walked around some of the local knick knack shops I saw a black cat fridge magnet and had to buy it.

I promptly named it 'Arnold.'

I am not very superstitious and I am pretty level headed but what happened that day has stayed with me and it was the start of more happiness than I had ever known.

Our partnership is thriving and growing stronger each day and six years later I still pinch myself at times to make sure that I am not dreaming.

Arnold the black cat was the first of my collection of fridge magnets that I have since collected from everywhere we have been to.

They are covering the top half of my fridge freezer and are making great progress over the bottom half now.

I have never forgotten this black cat and they are supposed to be lucky aren't they??

Thank you for this great hub and for giving me a chance to tell my story.

I push all the buttons on this one.

Take care,

Eiddwen.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

That was such a lovely hub to read and your descriptions where so vivid, I felt I was there. I heard that God forbit, Bob lol. Thank hyou and take care.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

That is something I think I would like about England too. There are some odd experiences to be had in grave yards. I've had a few, but I am not superstitious at all. Once on a dare, I spent the night in an old grave yard alone. It was quite peaceful. Thanks for sharing.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Eiddwen: Glory! What a comment, it was better than my hub! Lovely story, too, in fact, it would make a great hub, how you began the collection and all. Good luck to you both...Bob


diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Thanks, HH...You would have been welcome...Thanks fo kind comment...Bob


diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Austinstar. When I lived in Florida, a local graveyard was where the kids went to make out and smoke pot, etc. The thing I have often found in them is snakes: grass snakes in the UK, but huge rattlers in Mexico. They are a little oasis I supposed...Bob


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 5 years ago from UK

Hi Bob, I love country churches and churchyards, too. There is a tiny church near to us, nestling in a fold in the Downs, which lays right back off the road, and can only be reached by footpath. It is one of the most peaceful and glorious places I know, and it is made doubly interesting by the fact that many of the stones used to build it were recycled from a Roman Villa. The beautiful carvings that must have once adorned the original building can still be seen randomly placed here and there inside the church. These old churches are fascinating places, and have many a tale to tell. Sounds as though yours is no exception.


j.amie profile image

j.amie 5 years ago from PA

Beautifully written! I can imagine being there. When I was a young'un my pops used to take me out to old grave yards and house-places. The grave sites for reading head stones and speculating..marveling at the time gone by, and the house-places to go "prospectin'" with his metal detector. Of course, the history upturned by his Geiger counter in our infant country can't compete with what you have at hand. It was interesting nonetheless, and my fascination with history was born in those grave yards. I think I slightly over-romanticize it actually.

Thank you for the mention, I am honored. Now... to get Sir Henry in front of the computer to catch up!

There was an old church I visited in Norway...somewhere along the drive from Oslo to Aalesund. I have some impressive photos from the grave site there. Will see if I can find them and send your way.


diogenes 5 years ago

To Amanda and Jamie: It's curious how one can be so sceptical of religion and yet love much of the pageantry and architecture. A bit like the bullfights, you can feel for the bull and want him to "win," (not that he ever does except in very rare cases), but you can marvel at the great theater that is the bullfight in the great plazas of the world. Thanks for comments guys...Bob


Garnetbird 5 years ago

I loved the old English "kirkyards" next to churches and the celtic cemetaries. Interesting Hub. Refreshing.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Garnetbird: Kirk is also the Scots word for church...interesting...Bob


Bijosh profile image

Bijosh 5 years ago from from the cosmic sea, sustaining life and radiating purity.

good hub.gained some insights.thanks


diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

KInd comments...thanks...Bob

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