northernvicar walks – March 2017

I started March with walks round the parish. On Saturday 4 March we had a day in Stoke on Trent – the Potteries Museum is excellent. I had a walk beside the Caldon Canal. That was 9 miles in 4 days.

20 miles in the first full week. Darley Park, a trip to the hospital and back, church and school, and a guided walk round Belper. That was part of a Derwent Valley Heritage day – we met some smashing people and it is an interesting town.

Next week was even better – 29. 18 of those were around Derby, then we had four days up north. I had the pleasure of a walk by Alnwick Castle (on a rather grey day), another in Hexham, lovely gardens at Wallington, and Birdoswald and the Wall.

22 miles the following week. I started in Liverpool. We had a lovely visit to the Walker Art Gallery on Sunday, then I left Julie in the library while I walked to the Pierhead. I had a day in Sheffield to give platelets and had a walk beside the canal. On Friday 24 I was in London – walked Euston to Victoria, Tower to St Paul’s via London Bridge, then St Paul’s back to Euston.

I stayed in Derbyshire the next week. One afternoon I left Julie in the Bookshop at Brierlow Barn and walked beside the railway (the freight line to the quarry south of Buxton), and on another did the Cromford Canal from Ambergate to Cromford. 18 miles.

So that is 98 miles in March – 13 more than was required. At the end of last month I said “I should have done 162 miles, I have done 75.” Now I should have done 247 and have done 173. I am closing the gap! I have some churches to write up – but have currently misplaced my Derby Cathedral guidebook.

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northernvicar walks – February 2017

My idea was to walk 1,000 miles in 2017 (after Harry ran 1,000 in 2016). I managed 11 miles in London on 3 February, and got a useful sermon for the Queen’s Accession out of it – there are a lot of royal connections between Euston and the V&A. I also spotted these two plaques on the wall of the Norwegian Embassy and are made of Coade Stone. Coade Stone is an artificial stone and we had the most northerly piece of it in St Mary’s, Ponteland (or so I was once told). This National Trust website will answer every question you ever had about it.

The next day I managed a 7 mile walk down the Derwent from the City Centre by the Silk Mill to Alvaston Park, along the Derby Canal, and back past the owl on the statue of Florence Nightingale which stood outside the old London Road hospital.

4 miles through Markeaton Park to the centre of Derby and back on 8 February. This is the remains of the narrow gauge railway which ran round the Park until last summer. How could they close it just before I arrived?

On Saturday 11 February I was on the first train of the season from Duffield to Wirksworth on the Ecclesbourne Valley Line – website – their dmus bring back my childhood chasing trains round East Anglia. Then I walked up to the Cromford and High Peak Trail – website – and down to High Peak Junction. Then bus back to Duffield. A fun three hours, but only 4 miles of walking.

Add 2 miles past Friargate on Monday 13, and 4 miles to Chapter at the University on 16th. 3 in Sheffield on 24th, plus another 6 – so that makes a monthly total of 41. Slightly more than in January (when I did 34), but I’m still 36 miles down this month on where I should be if aiming for 1,000 miles. I should have done 162 miles, I have done 75. At this rate I won’t even be a Proclaimer. Still, the days are getting longer.


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Claymills Victorian Pumping Station

After we went to Repton we continued on to Burton on Trent – I think it is fair to say that Repton and Burton are miles apart! Leaving the town the I spotted a sign telling us that Claymills Victorian Pumping Station would be in steam the following Sunday (26 February). Here is their website. It is on the north side of the town at SK 263258, so just a short run down the A38 from home, then left over the railway, and easy parking. It is a Victorian sewerage pumping station – Julie was so excited. There was a lot of Burton sewerage to pump, including a lot of brewery waste. Some of the buildings date back to 1885.

There are four large beam engines (1885 by Gimson of Leicester), and three of them were in steam (one of them for the first time for many years). They were last all in use in 1969, just before the station was closed down, then they were all left to deteriorate – the archive photos show that the whole thing was in an awful state.








The boilers are quite amazing too – I bet the team keeping them fired lost a few lbs today (and more in the summer).

There were also other engines and models in steam, some old vehicles, a forge and wood turners, and a second hand book shed. Julie managed with all the site, though the disabled loo was not very accessible. They were very welcoming, and there was a good age range of people – lots of youngsters having a great time. Where better to spend a Sunday afternoon?


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Repton, Derbyshire – St Wystan

Outside Derbyshire, Repton is simply the name of the tune to “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”. It is also home to a public school – the school where “Good bye Mr Chips” was filmed (1939 Robert Donat and Greer Garson). The chippy in the village is called “Good buy Mr Chips”.

St Wystan’s church stands in the centre of the village and school at SK 303271 – website. This is a very full website – lots of history, lots of things going on, and a superb index. We parked outside the church, and Julie came in too – disability access was good. A full, very academic guidebook by Dr H.M. Taylor and lots of more accessible leaflets on sale. Ten out of ten in having a “Welcome to Worship” leaflet and one which advertises the other churches in the benefice, inviting us to visit them. “Three Beautiful Churches – One faith, one life, one love.” This blog could take a while!

I photoed the lych gate, but why didn’t I move the black bin? Fastened to it are panels painted by the school to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. The lych gate is dedicated to the memory of the Reverend A.F.E. Forman, we’ll come across him again inside the church. They had done a leaflet explaining the panel design, and I’m sure I picked one up … I think they are reflecting on the fact that nothing lasts forever.

The spire rises to 212 feet, and it is generally accepted that the tower and spire date to the C15. The oldest bell was cast by Roger Brasyer of Norwich, who died in 1513. Was it cast in Norwich and transported here, presumably by water, round the Norfolk coast and up the Trent, or was it cast here?

The porch is late C14. The upper room was originally reached by a curving staircase in the church. The Saxon columns were removed from the Nave in 1854.  I can’t find out what the stone is in the left photo.

The Nave is high, this is one of those “wow” churches. It was rebuilt in the C14 and contains some Anglo-Saxon work. The font is lovely, but I can’t find any details.

I decided to start at the very beginning, and descended to the crypt in the north east corner. We’ve done crypts at Hexham and Ripon, and here we are in another ancient centre. From the C7 to C9 Repton was the principal residence of the Royal family of Mercia. Christianity came to  Repton and the Midlands in 653 when Paeda, son of King Penda of Mercia, married Elfreda, daughter of the King of Northumbria. Elfreda brought with her four monks from Lindisfarne, including Diurna who became the first Bishop of Mercia in 656. An Abbey was founded here about four years later. 656 was also the year when Penda was murdered. I am enjoying the stories by Edoard Albert – all about the Royal families of this time – website.

This crypt was built in the early C8 over a spring and may originally have been a baptistery. It was later converted into a mausoleum, perhaps to receive the body of King Aethelbald. He reigned Mercia from 716 and in a charter of 736 he described as “King of England”. He was murdered and then buried here in 757. We know King Wiglaf (died 840) and his grandson Wystan, murdered 849, were buried here. Between 827 and 840 Wiglaf had been in charge of a major re-build of the Chancel and the crypt. After his murder, Wystan was venerated as a saint – and the crypt became a place of pilgrimage. It had a very special feel – I lit candles for Theo and Gareth.

The walls of the chancel are much as they were when the Vikings arrived in 873. Wystan’s relics were taken away by the monks. They were returned a few years later, then moved to Evesham by King Cnut. The modern door leads to an upper chamber. There is a wide opening to a rood-loft where relics might have been kept and from where they would have been displayed on feast days. One could spend a very, very long time working it all out – I will come back with the guidebook (although I realise how many times I wrote that while I was in Northumberland!). I didn’t take decent photos of the stained glass either – another excuse to return.

The organ was added in 1998 and made by Peter Collins. The organ case was inspired by the oldest known in Britain, the sixteenth century case at Old Radnor in Wales. This incised alabaster slab records the burial of Gilbert Thacker who died in 1563. His father  obtained the priory at the Dissolution and left it to Gilbert who was responsible for the destruction of the priory church and most of the monastic buildings.

This is Frances Thacker, of Lincoln’s Inn, a later member of the family, who died in 1710.

This alabaster figure of a knight in armour was formerly at the east end of the north aisle. It is probably Sir Robert Frances of Foremark, who settled there at the end of the C14.

The final memorial in the church (on this visit) is the man we met at the Lych Gate. Arthur Forman – “a true English gentleman”. Let’s also have a couple of “Good Bye Mr Chips” posters.






In the churchyard there is the grave of C.B. Fry. One of those people I’ve vaguely heard of, a great cricketer and sportsman, so I read an article about him here, and a page here.

At the end of the churchyard are 16 Commonwealth War Graves. Actually 15 CWGs and one privately installed tomb (which seems really out of place). They are all WW2 graves, many of airman killed in training accidents while based at Burnaston Airfield, a couple of miles away, where Toyota is now. 10,000 glider pilots passed through the airfield, some of them going on to fly gliders at D-Day and at Arnhem. Snowdrops always remind me of my Theo, who died at snowdrop time – on this occasion they can also stand for young men flying gliders.







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Willington, Derbyshire – St Michael

Tuesday 21 February, and a morning’s drive to explore a couple of villages south of Derby – just a few minutes away down the A38. Willington is a busy village, on the Trent and Mersey Canal – website. One of these days I will chuck it all in and buy a narrow boat. Presumably we could have a butty boat for all Julie’s books. The canal was built in 1770 – I wonder what’s being planned for the 250th anniversary. A search shows me there were celebrations last year for James Brindley’s 300th anniversary.

The railway station was opened in 1839 – one of the earliest stations, on the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway. The name has changed several occasions – Willington and Repton, or vice versa. It closed in 1968, and re-opened as Willington in 1994. As it only has a couple of bus shelters, I didn’t go and photo it. The village once had a power station – here is a website. Forget churches, I’ll blog power stations …

The church of St Michael is in the centre of the village at SK 295282, and men were working on the porch. Did they get a faculty for the “Welcome” sign? Pevsner describes the tower as “pretty, modest” and dates it to 1824. The south door is Norman, but I couldn’t get a close photo of it. The tower cost £80, and the C19 rebuild also destroyed a Norman chancel arch. I like the interior view.

The font is C18 and the pulpit 1820. The Commandment boards have been built into the woodwork at the east end – presumably this wasn’t their original position. The incised slab is C17. I like the altar frontal, but could they please put the white cable somewhere more discrete?







They have done an excellent job of adding a kitchen and a disabled loo, and a discrete projector screen.

I can’t find any details of the hatchment – it is rather good. There is a nice tapestry which commemorates the centenary of the freeing of the bridge over the Trent from tolls. It is a Grade II listed bridge – I like the way the Historic England website says it “extends into the parish of Repton”. It was built in 1839, and the engineer was James Trubshaw (1777-1853), a Staffordshire man who was an engineer to the Trent & Mersey, and to several churches. There is a biography of him available. I will go and explore the bridge at some point.

There is a church website – though it doesn’t seem to have been updated recently. This is a good moment to publicise a new church website for one of my churches, St Matthew’s Darley Abbey – click here. Thanks Ross.




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Guards’ Chapel, London

A day in London on Friday 3 February saw me having a good walk. I walked from Euston to the V&A then back through Chelsea and past Buckingham Palace to the Guards’ Chapel on Birdcage Walk.

In my youth I was an oboeist, and my teacher was Ron Hoare. He and his wife Pat lived in Barton and were friends of my mum and dad – to me they were Uncle Ron and Auntie Pat. His real name was Eric Denzil Hoare – apparently a conductor had said “where’s that oboeist who looks like Ronald Coleman?” and the name stuck. I think he had played in the BBC Symphony Orchestra

Ron died quite a few years ago, and I met Auntie Pat again at my dad’s Memorial Service three years ago. We then called in to see her and she had this (or a similar picture) on her wall.

“Is that Coventry?” I asked, because I remembered Ron had told me about being sent to Coventry after the blitz. “No” said Pat, “it’s the Guards’ Chapel in London.” She reminded me that Ron had been in the band of the Coldstream Guards playing for the Morning Service when a flying bomb hit on 18 June 1944. He survived, the clarinettist next to him did not. There is much more about the attack at this website.

I did a google on his name and found Ron listed on this website as Eric A. Hoare (24). He was one of the Coldstream Band who played at the New York World Fair in 1939 and returned on the Aquitania. His name has been copied from a faded passenger list (hence the fact his middle initial is wrong).

The Guards’ Chapel is on Birdcage Walk, just a short walk from Buckingham Palace, and still has a weekly service of Mattins accompanied by a military band. You can find more details at these two websites – this one and this one. I think its real name is The Royal Military Chapel, Wellington Barracks.

The chapel was being used for a recording session, so I had to be careful with wires and microphones. I was (very nicely) asked to leave before they started recording again, so this was just a quick visit.

The Barracks was completed in 1834, and the Chapel opened in 1838 after a long campaign by Dr William Dakins, the Precentor of Westminster Abbey. At the time it was described as “plain”, another description is “bare and ugly”. Thirty years later the interior was restored under the direction of the architect George Edmund Street. He prepared plans for the construction of an apse to form a chancel and redesign the interior in the Lombardo Byzantine style. Over the next 60 years more and more embellishments were added as memorials. To quote the guidebook “The Chapel was justly famed for the beauty and richness of its decoration, every piece of which was a memorial to a member of the Brigade.”

To quite the Guide: “On Sunday 18th June 1944 at 11.10 a.m. during the morning service the chapel was hit by a flying bomb which entered at the western end and exploded. It almost completely destroyed the chapel, only the apse being undamaged. 121 people, soldiers and civilians, were killed and many other injured. The six silver candlesticks and the cross still used for the normal services were in use at the time but were unmoved by the explosion, and the candles remained burning after the chapel had crashed in ruins.” And Ron survived.

A temporary chapel was built, and lasted until 1962. A cloister was added, which houses all the memorial books – seven regimental Rolls of Honour are needed to show the names of all those who died whilst serving in the Household Brigade during WW2.

The new chapel was designed by Bruce George, and embodies the original apse, links with the memorial corridor, includes stained glass recovered, and is built on the foundation of the original building. No attempt was made to replace the memorials or embellishments from the old chapel, instead the chapel stands on 2,000 original memorials. Sadly, more memorials have had to be added from conflicts since.

I was pleased that I had called in, and lit a candle in memory of Ron. I got a lot of pleasure from my oboe playing, even going to Heidelberg with the Cambridge Youth Orchestra on two occasions. Thank you.

I continued my walk through Whitehall, across to the South Bank, then up to meet my daughter at the BMA. An hour in the pub, and the train home. I had walked 11 miles.




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northernvicar walks – January 2017

In 2016 my son Harry ran 1,000 miles for the charity Changing Faces – website. We have never worked out where he gets the running gene from, but we are proud parents. Here he runs back to the Vicarage having completed his challenge. If he can walk 1,000 miles surely, I mused, I can walk 1,000 miles. That is only 2.74 miles a day. I don’t want to start counting every footstep, just measuring the walks. Will it be possible?

On Sunday 1 January I walked to St Matthew’s, Darley Abbey, and back. That’s just 1.4 miles, so I’m 1.34 miles down by the end of day 1.

Monday 2 January was a gorgeous Bank Holiday Monday (not a phrase you write very often). We went to Carsington Water – website. Julie browsed the shops, I walked 5.5 miles. It was lovely.

On Tuesday I managed 1.9 and on Wednesday had a lovely hour’s walking along the old Great Northern line at Mickleover – 2.9 miles. This line last saw use as a British Rail test track – website. Now it is the start of the Pennine Cycleway from Derby to Berwick – website.

On Thursday I walked to a funeral visit in Darley Abbey, a pub lunch, a hospital visit, and back to Sainsbury’s. 5.8 miles.

Another mile on Friday and a couple on Saturday through Birmingham and Oxford. I can claim 21 miles in week 1 – so I’m a couple of miles over my target.

Week 2 was a failure – the weather was grot, I wasn’t feeling brilliant, and all I managed was a couple of miles in London on Friday. In Week 3 I managed 1 1/2 miles to school one day and 2 1/2 miles with Hannah on Saturday.

Week 4 was a holiday week – lots of time to walk! 2 miles in Melton Mowbray, 4 miles in Cambridge. Then a mile on 30 January.

So I have walked 34 miles in January, and I should have walked 85. Perhaps I should be a Proclaimer – “I’m Gonna be the man that walks 500 miles”

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Bulwick, Northamptonshire – St Nicholas

The final church was St Nicholas, Bulwick SP963942 – still Northamptonshire – website. I had been here in the  early 1990s when the Rectory was the Reverend Mervyn Wilson. He was a main-mover behind The Rural Theology Association – website – and I was a country Curate with seven villages. He had two villages (Bulwick and Deene), lived in a huge Rectory, had an orchard of rare apples, and was a country parson of the old school. He wrote this article. The world has changed in the last 25 years. Deene is now a CCT church. Bulwick is one of five in the benefice, only has a monthly service, and the Rectory is now owned by someone who seems to have spent a fortune on it. I wonder what happened to the orchard, and what the next 25 years holds for this village church.

We parked in the pub car park, and I walked to the church. The tower and spire rises to 115 feet.

The nave arcade dates from about 1200, the south arcade about a hundred years later.

Some interesting war memorials and kneeler.

Other memorials to members of the Tryon family. The bottom one commemorates Vice-admiral Sir George who died with 300 of his men when HMS Victoria collided with HMS Camperdown and sank in the Mediterranean in 1893 – website.

This one is Sir Henry and Eleanor Fowkes (did 1612 and 1609).

Some interesting windows – I like the angels.

The font is medieval, with a cover that cost £4 in 1866. Nice sedilia too.

I had a wander outside, and enjoyed some graves. The houses of this village are rather good too – way out of my price bracket! This is a lovely part of the world, and needs more explorations.




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Harringworth, Northamptonshire – St John the Baptist

After lunch beside Rutland Water we headed south through North Luffenham and across the railway (barriers controlled from Ketton box). Then the A6121 and B672 which took us under the Harringworth (Welland) Viaduct. The field on the south side of the road is Seaton Meadows nature reserve – website – which means there are lots of opportunities to take photos (the website has a lovely photo of the viaduct through a blanket of wild flowers). There is a history of the viaduct on the village website.

The line between Kettering and Manton Junction (on the Peterborough-Leicester line) didn’t open until 1880 – so quite a late line. It has 82 arches, each with a 40 foot span – total length 1,275 yards. It is the longest masonry viaduct in Britain. The contractors were Lucas & Aird, and the viaduct contains 20 million bricks, 20,000 cubic yards of concrete, and 19,000 cubic feet of stone. It is now used by some freight and a couple of passenger trains a day – I rode over it the other week, see my post about Leicester.

We continued into the village of Harringworth, and we’re now in  Northamptonshire. The church is dedicated to St John the Baptist – SP916074. The tower is C12 with a C14 tower. Enjoy the figures.

The porch is C15, but much re-built, and the arches are C13.

We have a C14 nave, with ancient font and rather nice woodwork.

It is a late C13 chancel. The Sedilia is, to quote the guidebook, “rather battered by time during its 500 years.” The kneelers are more C21, and rather fun. The tapestry is 1989 – I like the Kingfisher, and the kneelers are lovely.

The East Window was installed as a War Memorial, rather nice glass.

In the north aisle is a vault which was used as the burial place for members of the Tryon family at Bulwick Park from late C17 to 1833. The ironwork dates to £1700. The organ came from Deene Church, and the monuments are worth a good look. I like the arch shape on the windows.

Back outside, look at the viaduct and the snowdrops.




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Apethorpe, Northamptonshire – St Leonard

The next church we stopped at was Apethorpe – TL025957. On my return I look at the Apethorpe village website which gives details of the new Vicar, but not much about the church. It doesn’t mention the Palace, see below. It is another parish in the Oundle deanery – website. There are some very good photos of this and other nearby churches at this website.

There are signs in the village to Apethorpe Palace, and I remembered seeing a TV programme about it – which I researched when I got home. The Palace was on the heritage at risk register, and English Heritage stepped in, £10 million was spent. It was then sold to Baron von Pfetten for only £2.5 million – the argument being that he will still need to spend more millions on it. The EH website says “Among England’s finest country houses, Apethorpe was begun in the late 15th century. It contains one of the country’s most complete Jacobean interiors and hosted 13 royal visits between 1565 and 1636. It has a particularly important place in England’s history because of this role it played in entertaining Tudor and Stuart royalty at the pinnacle of its influence around the turn of the 17th century. Its state rooms are arguably the most complete in the country and provide a fascinating window on a rich period of English history. The architectural importance of Apethorpe lies in the breadth of architectural elements which survive today from almost every period of English architecture since the late 15th century.” The website is currently advertising guided tours in summer 2015 – we’ll be in touch later this year to see if there are guided tours in 2017.

There is a Manor House next to the church, on which a huge amount of money is being spent.

There was a C12 church, and the building was probably rebuilt in 1485. The tower was built in 1633 and the Chancel Arch in circa 1480. The clock is by John Watts and dates to 1704.

Most of my readers will know that my wife is disabled, so she tends to sit in the car with a book while I go and explore. I entered this church and thought “nothing special”, though I wondered why Charles and Camilla had signed the Visitors’ Book. Then I saw something in the south aisle, went to investigate, and went back to get Julie.

The Nave is simple, and the Chancel rather lovely.

The East Window is of the Last Supper by John Rowell of Hugh Wycombe, signed and dated 1732. It is a painted glass window, but the artists had not mastered the art of fixing colour, so most of the windows faded and were taken out. This was one was restored in 1994.

The large oil painting of “Christ walking on the water” is by R.S. Lauder, a Scottish mid-Victorian artist. It would look better properly-lit in a Gallery. There is a lovely wooden chest, and an C18 font.

Some nice memorials. I found this little child very moving – although I didn’t make a note as to her name.

In any other church, this would be enough. But there is more to come. We have the tomb slab of the Lord of the Manor, Sir Richard Dalton, who did in 1442. The effigy is half size, and in armour. Above the head is an unusual Annunciation scene, with figures of God, theVirgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel. It would originally have been brightly painted.

We have a stained glass window of 1621. It has Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Christ on the cross, the Ascension (with bodies rising from their tombs), and Christ surrounded by angels and patriarchs.

Most amazing of all, we have the Mildmay Monument. From the outside you can see how the church has been altered for it. The effigies of Sir Anthony (died 1617) and his wife, Lady Grace Mildmay (died 1620). She is in full mantle, ruff and headdress, he in Greenwich army. Sir Anthony was the son of Sir Walter Mildmay, founder of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. At the corners are standing female figures, Piety, Charity, Wisdom and Justice (why did I only photo three of them?). Sadly the only guidebook to the church is a double sided A4 sheet – I would love to know more.


When you think you’ve seen everything, look up at the decoration above the arches.

Julie made no complaint that I had got her out of the car to see all this.


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