National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire – RAF, Far East, Land Girls and Navy

Having visited the Millennium Chapel, we started to explore the grounds. There is no way I will do all the memorials, so we will have a selection of them. The gardens are lovely, and there is a good variety of planting. I like the Alder Tree, although the Arboretum seems cut off from Alrewas by the A38. Access to the Arboretum by public transport is appalling.

The RAF Halton Apprentices Memorial Garden has a centrepiece representing the wheel badge. The base in Buckinghamshire, was open in 1912 when forces from Aldershot needed somewhere to practice the defence of London using their three aircraft and an airship. The information board was fascinating.

The RAF Regiment provides specialist Force Protection for military airbases worldwide. It has been on operation since it was founded in 1942.

The Auxiliary Territorial Service Statue is the work of Birmingham sculptor Andy de Cimyn who used his wife Francesca as the model. It consists of a cementitious render over a reinforced concrete core. The ATS was founded in September 1938, had 23,900 women in the service in 1939, and 212,500 in 1945. 335 were killed, 94 reported missing, 302 wounded, and 20 became PoWs.

We went into the area of the Arboretum which commemorates the War in the Far East. It is perhaps the hardest part. We went round the displays in the Pavilion, and the horror is so overwhelming that silence is almost the only response. Ronald Searle the cartoonist, and former pupil of the Central School in Cambridge (which became the Boys’ Grammar and then Netherhall), suffered appallingly. While working in Suffolk I met men who had served in that theatre where so many East Anglians met their death – and I met their wives and widows. The Sumartra Railway was not a story I know, the Burma Railway I only know through the lens of Bridge over the River Kwai, I have never been brave enough to watch The Railway Man. The Sumatra memorial is by Jack Plant, based on a sketch by Owen Greenwood – they were both prisoners there. The track for the Burma Railway was originally manufactured in Middlesbrough and returned in 2001 to be in this memorial.

The World War I Sikh Memorial is dedicated to the 124,245 Sikh soldiers who fought for the British Indian Army in all the theatres of warm including major battles at Ypres, Flanders, the Somme and Gallipoli. The guide does not say who the sculptor was. It was unveiled in 2015.

The Women’s Land Army and Timber Corps Memorial is lovely – I liked the figures better than the ATS one. The Women’s Land Army existed for two years in WW1 and was re-founded on 1 June 1939 (it was disbanded for the second time on 30 November 1950). By 1943, 80,000 women were working in the Land Army, and about 6,000 others were in the Timber Corps. Land Girls and Lumber Jills. The bronze memorial was unveiled in 2014. It is by Denise Dutton. 1,000 Land Girls worked as Rat Catchers, killing “Hitler’s little helpers”.

There is a selection of naval memorials. We sat in the Women’s Royal Naval Service garden for a while and admired the Wren. It is a memorial to the 21 WRNS and the 1 Naval Nursing Sister who died when SS Aguila was torpedoed in 1941.

The Naval Service Memorial commemorates those who have served, serve today and will serve tomorrow, regardless of rank, trade or fighting arm. It was created by Graeme Mitcheson, from a theme developed by Lt Col Nigel Huxtable. It is comprised of 13 coloured glass panels on a white granite terrace and includes a figure of Kilkenny limestone. The glass depicts the colours of the five oceans – steel grey with spume lines for the Atlantic, turquoise for the Indian, ultramarine for the Pacific and white for the Arctic and Southern oceans. Yellow for the rising sun, red for the setting sun and the blood spilled at sea, and on land. On the memorial’s terrace stands a figure of a sailor, head bowed in respect to shipmates everywhere, cap held in the ‘at ease’ position. The figure faces west, where the sun sets. The terrace has a carved inscription of the Tennyson poem ‘Crossing the Bar’, a phrase used when shipmates pass away (I’m sure I did the poem for O level). The glass panels cast a shadow suggesting the shape of a warship, visible only in sunlight and for a few hours each day. The carved shapes suggest waves and motion while the scale and colour hint at sails in a harbour. It was unveiled in 2014.

The memorial I wanted to find was the one to all the crew members of HMS Barham, from her launching in October 1914 to her sinking on 25 November 1942. I wrote my daily facebook rambling about this later that day:

When we were in Orkney we went to the island of Hoy, and I was wandering round the Naval Cemetery at Lyness. I found the memorial to the Chaplain, the wonderfully named Henry Dixon Dixon-Wright, who was one of the 26 who died when she was involved in the Battle of Jutland.

At the start of WW2 she was part of the Mediterranean fleet, and saw action off the coast of Africa, on convoys to Gibraltar, and came as far north as Scapa Flow. On the afternoon of 25 November 1941, she was one of a group of ships which departed Alexandria to hunt for Italian convoys in the Central Mediterranean. She was torpedoed by submarine U-331, three of the four torpedoes struck amidships so closely together as to throw up a single massive water column. Barham quickly capsized to port and was lying on her side when a massive magazine explosion occurred about four minutes after she was torpedoed and sank her. 841 men lost their lives.

When I mentioned finding the memorial on Hoy to my colleagues St Edmundsbury Cathedral Neil the Dean told me that the candlesticks at Westminster Abbey had been given in memory of the survivors, and when I did some research I found that on the nearest Saturday to 25 November the HMS Barham Association attended Evensong. In 2011 Gareth and I joined them. It was the 70th anniversary and, for the final time, the survivors carried the Standard to the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior (I’m sure there’s a more naval way of expressing that). There were several hundred of us in the Abbey, and you could have heard a pin drop as a group of very old men made their way down the Nave. Incredibly moving.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them.

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National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire – Millennium Chapel

We haven’t be able to visit churches for the last few months, and I am aware that I have still not blogged my two or Derby Cathedral. On Saturday 1 August we went to the National Memorial Arboretum. Our friends Rob and Anne have sung its praises, but we were not convinced. We decided to pay a visit. We were very glad we did. We booked at 10, and the queue was well organised.

The Arboretum was the brainchild of Commander David Childs CBE and planting began in 1997. The National Lottery paid 40%, and the public matched it. I like the phrase in the guidebook that “From the start it was seen as a place of joy where the lives of people would be remembered by living trees that would grow and mature in a world of peace.”

The first building, once you have passed through the entrance, is The Millennium Chapel of Peace and Forgiveness. The architect was Catherine Harrington. When I walked in I was annoyed at a video screen behind the altar, constantly playing. I am never amused by TV screens in churches or Crems – the symbolism of the cross in our local Crem has been replaced by a TV screen constantly showing “footprints”. No one else seems to mind – I am a dinosaur. In the NMA’s defence, they seem to be using the screen as the welcomers can’t be there. I just wish there was a short pause between each presentation – in case anyone wanted to pray. In normal times I think they have a daily act of remembrance at 11 am. The “No Entry” sign is because of a one-way system in and out – so much we have got to get used to.

The Chapel is constructed mainly of wood and the roof is supported by 12 columns of Douglas Fir, each carved with one of the 12 disciples, by ex-Royal Marine and Shropshire woodcarver Jim Heath. Outside we have Peter, Andrew, James and Thomas – I had forgotten Thomas is the Patron Saint of builders.

Inside we have Philip (who talked to Jesus about the feeding of the 5000), Matthew the tax collector, Bartholomew (said to be one of the first bishops), Judas not Iscariot (a missionary who sailed with a sextant), and John the brother of James (who was offered a poisoned chalice).

The trees and leaves are beautiful on the altar and the kneelers. The altar was made by young offenders at HMP Swinfen Hall, and the altar frontal by the women’s section of the RBL.

The storyteller is rather lovely. Carved by Essex woodcarvers it is makes the link between the apostles on the pillars and the teachings of Christ today.

Anna Crompton’s Millennium Prayer (I think Millennium should have a capital M, but at least they have spelt it correctly) is on the wall outside. She was a Suffolk girl, and I remember a lot of publicity being given to her prayer at the turn of the century. The Open Churches Trust has died in the last 20 years, and our churches are shut. Rather depressing.

Right, off we go into the Arboretum. Three more blogs to come!

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northernvicarwalks July 2020

This cartoon was in Private Eye and it sums everything up better than I can. I should have been celebrating my 25th anniversary of Ordination, instead we are struggling to get churches reopened. We had our first Sunday service at St Matthew’s on 19 July – St Edmund’s has had the builders in, so that delayed things there.

Some local walks to Quorn, Duffield and along the old railway to Breadsall.

A very wet day at Blist’s Hill Museum at Ironbridge.

Trips to Kedleston Hall, our nearest National Trust property.

A new whill3 powerchair from TGA Mobility, named Morgan. It means Julie can get a lot further and I don’t have to push. We took her to Hardwick Hall, another lovely National Trust property.

Facebook ramblings done as usual. I walked 59 miles, so I have done 284 miles this year.

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northernvicarwalks June 2020

Covid continues, aided by a shambolic government. We learned about social distancing and managed to get one church open for Private Prayer. I made lots of phone calls, and posted on facebook every day. Here are my ramblings.

I managed several walks north from home, out over the hills behind Quarndon. A total of 37 miles this month takes my total to 225.

We managed two days out, both in Yorkshire. This picture seems appropriate.

Renishaw Hall Gardens near Sheffield are gorgeous.

Harlow Carr Gardens near Harrogate are also gorgeous, and they have a good bookshop.

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northernvicarwalks – May 2020

This cartoon sums up the shambles that was May. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. It will be interesting if people reading this blog in 20 years time have any idea who the cartoon relates to. I know an historian should give his sources, but I will not mention the evil man’s name.

The first half of the month was spent walking round the garden, going some cooking, and trying to hold everything together.

Thursday 14 was the first proper walk, a circle through Quarndon and the outskirts of Duffield. Lovely to see that the tree is still there, and the log is good too.

I managed some walks the next few days. We’re not supposed to drive somewhere to walk or use public transport, so I have to be able to start and finish here. Fortunately there are lovely walks from my own front door. I managed 52 miles in May – add that to Jan 60, Feb 19, Mar 28, Apr 29 and I’ve done 188 this year.

I also managed a daily facebook post – here are the documents. Finally, enjoy the rose. Beauty in the time of Covid.

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northernvicarwalks [or doesn’t walk] – April 2000

Here we are in the time of Covid-19. This is one cartoon which sums up the month. The one below sums up what it felt like not to do Holy Week and Easter in my churches. You had to try and smile (or else you’d cry). If you want to know what we got up to in our two churches, have a look at

The furthest I got in the month was Nottingham Road Cemetery. The staff there (and at the Crem) are being superb. We tried to keep in touch with people through emails, phone, and facebook. Here are my daily facebook ramblings.

I did some cooking. Here is Derbyshire Shepherd’s Pie and Orkney Bere bread with flour from Barony Mill –

I spent a lot of time enjoying (and working in my garden). I will never complain about the size of the Vicarage garden again. The magnolia was gorgeous.

Bluebells and tulips (must plant more bulbs for next year).

I had the pleasure of company.

I walked 29 miles this month – so that’s 154 this year. At least you can see where I’ve been.

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northernvicarwalks – March 2020

I didn’t do much walking to start the month, and I’ve already blogged the Norwich day. Covid19 is sweeping the world, and life is going to change. On Friday 13 March I went for my favourite walk – up to Quarndon (I love this tree), then left and north to the west side of Duffield. One rather muddy stretch. Croot’s Farm Shop sold me coffee and cake, and a rucksack of provisions. Then to the Duffield Coop for the rest of the stuff I needed, and the bus back. 5 1/2 miles.

I had some Nordic walking sessions before Christmas, and was finally able to join them for another walk on Saturday 14 March – I drove north to Hathersage, about an hour’s drive. We met at the Millstone Inn, and Sue led a 4 mile walk – it was nice to meet some of the other regular walkers, a very friendly bunch. I had done some of this walk on the second of my Derwent Valley walks (must finish the walk sometime). Down beside the river, then up past the signal at the west end of Grindleford station. We then had coffee and cake. We were almost the only people in the pub – the next few weeks are going to be interesting. I fear this will be the last coffee and cake outside the house for quite a while. The pub has an accessible loo and a portable ramp in, so it’s on the list for a meal out with Julie when all this is over.

On Sunday 15 March I had the privilege of preaching at the Cathedral. It was part of their series on John Bell’s hymns, and I did “We cannot measure how you heal”. I have realised I have a lot of photos of the Cathedral and should be able to write a blog while everything is closed.

On Monday, St Edmund’s was looking lovely – I can also write blogs on my two churches. Public worship was suspended on Tuesday 17 March, churches closed a few days later, and we are told to #stayathome. When you have a garden as large as mine it is not too much of a problem. I managed to walk 28 miles this month – 20 times round the garden is about 2 miles. That’s 125 miles in the first quarter of this year.

On Friday 20 March I started a daily post on Facebook – my page, and the pages of both of my churches. I also print it in hard copy – don’t trust this new fangled interweb – so let’s attach a pdf to this blog as well.

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Norwich, Norfolk – St George Colegate

St George Colegate TG 229090 has a nice sign outside saying the church is open, but they need to do something about the vestibule, it hardly says “this church is worth visiting.” I did like the poster for the Lent Group where they are discussing “What we (try to) believe”. My sort of church. They have a very nice little leaflet which explains what happens in a morning service, and whereabouts in the church it happens – might do something similar. (This is the pillar they sit behind so they can’t see anything. These are the pews at the back of the Nave, which they sit in first).

The church itself was built between 1460 and 1510, but all the fitting are Georgian, the Victorians didn’t get to this church. The west gallery is supported by wooden Tuscan columns, and the organ (which dates to 1802) is in its original position. It was built by George Pike England, son of a very famous London organ builder George England. It was inaugurated at Easter 1802 with a performance of Handel’s Messiah. The original part is in good order, and a second manual and full pedalboard was added later. It was originally surmounted by this figure of Fame, which is now on the south porch. One of the organists who played here as a child, apparently sitting on his mother’s knee, was William Crotch (1775-1847) – generations of choristers have enjoyed his responses (and his name). At the age of 3 he was taken to London, and in 1779 J.C. Bach arranged for him to play for the King. He went on to be Professor of Music at Oxford and the first Principal of the Royal College of Music.

The wonderful leaflet “St George Colegate and the Georgian Connections” tells me nothing about the font itself, but does tell me that Luke Hansard (1752-1828) was baptised here – as in Hansard’s record of the British parliament.

There is a lovely selection of memorials and no doubt there could be wonderful research done on all of them.

Timothy Balderston (1682-1764) was Mayor between 1736 and 1764. His wealth came through the weaving trade. The memorial describes him as “an honest man, a steady friend, a worthy magistrate and a good Christian.” John Herring (1749-1810) and his wife Rebecca lived at 4 Colegate. He was Sheriff in 1786 and Mayor in 1799.

John Crome (1786-1821) was the son of a journeyman and pub landlord. At the age of 13 he was working as errand boy for Dr Edward Rigby. He spotted his potential as an artist, and introduced him to some significant people. In 1783 he was apprenticed to Francis Whistler, a sign, coach and house painter in Bethel Street. He often sat and painted on Mousehold Heath, and started taking his own commissions on 1790. In 1803, with other artists, he founded the Norwich School of Art. He was churchwarden here, and founded the Dirty Shirt Club, a discussion group to which members could come after work (hence the clothing). They still call their discussion group by that name.

They had the War Memorial nicely organised too.

They have some memorials from the various Mayors who have worshipped here, including a recent one. I like the eagle and a very Georgian altar.

Outside the church is a water conduit, and the whole area is worth an explore. I thought I knew Norwich quite well, but realised that I don’t.

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Norwich, Norfolk – St Martin-at-Palace

St-Martin-at-Palace is on the corner of Bishopsgate and Whitefriars – TG 234 091 – and is the HQ of Norwich Historic Churches Trust, The East Wall dates to 1070, nave and chancel C11/12, south nave aisle 1400, and the chancel chapels 1490. The chancel collapsed in 1851, and was rebuilt (as was the porch). The tower fell in 1783 and rebuilt in 1874.

The church closed in 1973 and was used as a store for the Diocesan Furnishings Officer. It was re-ordered in 1985 and taken over by the Probation Service. The re-ordering involved the screening off the two chancel chapels so they could be used as meeting rooms, inserting a mezzanine floor in the north aisle and an amazing three-tier structure in the nave. They dug down and went up – and none of it is accessible if you are disabled. The course we were on met in the Chancel, which had a step into it (and no ramp). The Probation service moved out in 2013, and NCHT moved in – they are developing the area as a better visitors centre, so one hopes they will address some of these things.

We sat and looked at the east window of 1952, made by the William Morris workshop – Jesus, Mary and a Roman Centurion.

This glass is C19.

In the (locked) north chapel is the tomb of Dame Elizabeth Calthorp (died 1578). She married three times. Her first husband was Sir Henry Parker (1507-52) who held various posts at Henry VIII’s court, then Sir William Woodhouse of Waxham (1517-64) who became Vice-Admiral of the Navy in 1552, and finally Sir Drue Drury (1531-1617) who became Gentleman Usher of the Privy Council in 1559. Her mother, Amy Boleyn, was a first cousin of Queen Anne Boleyn. There are some other nice memorials too.

No doubt there is more that they could do, but it’s an interesting place. They have lots of leaflets and guides to Norwich churches.

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northernvicarwalks – Norwich

Norwich Historic Churches Trust were having a day conference on Medieval Pilgrimage so I caught the early train across from East Midlands Parkway. Elaine joined me at Ely, and we crossed Norfolk together. It is a shame seeing so many signal boxes going derelict. We walked along the River Wensum to Pull’s Ferry – always one of my favourite walks. I also remember walking it with grandad when I was a lad. It’s a C15 building, named after John Pull who ran the ferry from 1796 to 1841 (makes you wonder how many times he crossed the river). The ferry house next door was built in 1647. Originally there was a canal built from the river up to the Cathedral for the transport of the stone – there must be a PhD in how stone was transported to these Cathedrals and how many canals were dug across the country.

We continued beside the school playing fields, then onto Bishopsgate and beside the Great Hospital, founded by Bishop Walter de Suffield in 1249. Sadly St Helen’s church was locked – see Simon’s wonderful website, We walked round the Cathedral perimeter wall, and stopped to pay our respects to Edith Cavell – excellent website at I did a series of articles about World War 1 in the GER magazine, and there is a fascinating article to be written about how the Country coped with her death and the death of Captain Fryatt, the GE shipping commander who was also shot.

I’ll write the church of St-Martin-at-Palace, the HQ of Norwich Historic Churches Trust, up later. Then we walked up Wensum Street, ate, and went for an explore. We walked past St Clement-at-Fyebridge, which was probably established around 900 AD, and enlarged about 500 years later – NHCT has produced a selection of leaflets, there are lots of walking tours around the City.

The Octagon Chapel on Colegate looks fascinating too. It stands on the site of St John Colegate and, in a typical ecumenical gesture, the NHCT leaflet tells me nothing about the Chapel! There is a superb website – – well done the local school. Then we went into St George Colegate – and I’ll blog that one separately.

Just along the road is St Michael Coslany, founded late C10 or early C11, but rebuilt in the C15. The east wall is, to quote one of the walking leaflets, “glorious medieval flushwork wall [where] cu white limestone has been inlaid with darker flint to create a patterned surface that echoes the arched forms and fine tracery of the large windows.” The Chancel flushwork is a Victorian copy. The church now houses a circus group, and I wasn’t brave enough to walk in and have a look (I might have ended up on a trapeze). Also known as St Miles, this is the church that used to house the Inspire Science Discovery Centre. The kids used to enjoy that – once we had a trip here for Gareth’s birthday (16 December) and had the place to ourselves. Happy memories!

We came down to the river by the Bullard Anchor Brewery – Founded by Richard Bullard and James Watts in 1837. There are lots of fascinating riverside buildings along here, but the frustration was the number of places where what looks like a riverside path peters out just round the corner. We saw one boat on the river – if Derby can make something of its waterside heritage and plan a waterboat service, Norwich should be able to. Many years ago I went on a Cambridge University Railway Club trip to Trowse Swing Bridge, and they swung the bridge for us – must see if I can find the photos. [Another job to add to the list of things to do while we’re locked down for Covid-19]. I also photoed St Gregory, and I’ve added those photos to the original blog.

St Andrew’s church has a North Porch that can be dated to 1467, about the same time as the lowest portion of the tower, then another building campaign started in 1499. The church was ready to be glazed by 1508, and Robert Gardener, who was thrice Mayor of the City, was one of those who left £10 for that work. Apparently the church is open for visitors for an hour on Sunday after the morning service “with a focus on teaching the Bible and the use of contemporary music” and on Thursday afternoons. Must visit on a Thursday!

Back over the river, and past St Edmund’s church. This church seems slightly marooned, and it was firmly locked, but it stands against the line of the Anglo-Saxon fortifications, the town’s protection against the Vikings. Edmund’s martyrdom was about 50 years before the church was built, so the dedication was probably a form of spiritual protection for the City. In medieval times, part of the king’s shirt, the one he was said to be wearing when he died, was held in a crystal casket here. Simon got inside in 2018 – – it’s now the Fishergate House of Prayer –

The walk back was lovely – daffodils, and the Cow Tower, which I don’t think I’d ever been to before. One of the earliest purpose-built artillery blockhouses in England, built about 1398 to command a strategic point in the city’s defences. Nice bridge too. This is all part of the city I had never been to before. Back past Pull’s Ferry, and to Thorpe station.

Time for a leisurely coffee, then the train back to Ely and on to Nottingham and East Midlands Parkway. It had been a good day – 5 miles walked.

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