Sunday….maybe we should go to Church

Tarr Steps, Dulverton

There is something about an old church or cathedral that creates a unique ambience no matter if you are religiously motivated or not.  Somewhere away from everyday noise with its hustle and bustle, somewhere that calms the spirit, somewhere that has a feel all of its own.  This is All Saints Church at Selworthy, Somerset situated on a high hill above the village, sheltered from the sea on one side but giving expansive views over Exmoor.  The interior feels spacious, deceptively so. Perhaps it is the high wooden ceiling and tall windows that creates that impression.  But from the outside you get a better impression of its size, creatively built into the slope,  a landmark seen for miles around…


All Saints was built in the 15th c, though if I recall correctly, the tower is earlier dating from the 14th c.  Typical of this part of Somerset the church has a Limewashed exterior which picks up the evening glow.  I suppose it is the fact that people have found this church of importance to them for over 600 years that adds to that spiritual feel….a place where one can feel the history of those who have gone before.

9th February

© David Oakes 2014

Saint George………But no Dragon’s

As you approach the village of Ticknall in South Derbyshire it is probably the spire of the village church you first see.  The church is named after Saint George and is an imposing building on a low rise to the north of the village…..


Records show that there has been a church on the site since the 1200’s, possibly much earlier.  It was attached to the Priory of Repton, some 6 miles away and was later dedicated to Thomas a’ Becket.  But the church you see to-day is not the original church.

The East window of that first church can still be seen in the church grounds.  There is also a ‘Preaching Post’ that may pre date that first church and was later relocated to the church grounds…..


Behind that post and to the left of the church drive you can also find remains of the original gable and tower.

The village of Ticknall enjoyed a period of expansion in the 1700, employment in agriculture, mining and industry saw the population increase…it increased to such an extent that the land surrounding the church was acquired to enable both the expansion of the graveyard and to allow the building of a new larger church. 

Thanks to the commitment of Sir George Crewe from the adjoining Calke Abbey Estate the church was commissioned and I think completed in 1842 and named Saint George of Ticknall.  But the villages fortunes changed again and the population soon dwindled and has remained low ever since…..


The interior is simple but stylish, a wooden arched ceiling and stone pillars set the scene which is well lit by large arched stained glass windows….


The side chapel has various memorials to members of the Harpur Crewe family and an ornate wrought iron suspended screen features the Harpur Crewe family logo of the Boar…..


A walk arround the graveyard, reading the headstones tells its very own story and history of the village…but it is an experience in any old graveyard that I find very poignant.  Take this headstone set aside beside the old eastern window for one John Rolling who died in 1835 – at the age of 37, like so many of his and earlier eras, so young…..

t6Because of that decision to expand the church grounds, Saint Georges can enjoy the benefit of serenity with so much open space about it, a feature not shared by many of our English churches often crowded by village buildings seeking the security of the church……..


26th August

© David Oakes 2013

There is more to a place than the obvious……


Although you may never have visited this Highland castle, I reckon it will still be a familiar view for many of you. 


Eilean Donan Castle, Loch Duich

It is of course Eilean Donan Castle.  No one can fail to be impressed by the Castle and its dramatic location on the shores of Loch Duich. Thankfully for the current owners a great number of visitors pause in their journey to the Scottish Isles and take a tour, if you have the chance do just that.  Whilst much of to-days visitor experience centre arround the Jacobite Rebellion’s it’s history goes much deeper and is much more complicated (and for those who would like to know more then the following link is a start )

On a calm peaceful morning it is hard to imagine the violence that the castle has seen and some of that violence inflicted by English warship whilst the castle was defended by Spanish Military who were supporting the Jacobite ‘Old Pretender’. But the castle is perhaps an indication that there is much more to the area than just a castle

Two miles south of Donan is an equally important site which people on the ‘Road to the Isles’, heading for Lochalsh and the Isle of Skye must pass.  

Glen Shiel may well be passed un-noticed, unaware of the bloody battles that took place there. Even more will pass by this church an not know of its existence…..yet for me its location is equally dramatic and its historical connection much more poignant than the clinical Visitor Centre experience at the castle.

Clachan Duich, Morvich  Kintail, Glen Sheil, Scotland 

Clachan Duich (or church of stone by the Loch Duich) is its name to-day.  In times gone by it has also be known as the Church of Saint Dubhthac. Whilst the roofless building has foundations that go back to the 11th century experts say there are records that the site has religious connections going back to the 3rd century. 

It location is hard to beat, on high ground above the Loch, in the shadow of the Five Sisters of Kintail in a relatively sheltered valley at Morvich and on a clear day are evocative views to the Islands.  For years it has been the Clan Burial ground for the Clan MacRaes of Kintail and many Clan warriors are buried here, for feudal wars were much apart of those early years. But others who fell during the Jacobite uprisings are also here.  Step inside the roofless walls and you will find a simple, but very large and rusty iron cross together with a memorial to all who lost their lives at the Battle of Sheriffmuir.

So pause for more than just a few moments on this special spot….enjoy the beauty, peace and the tranquillity of the moment but reflect upon the fact that you are standing on and amongst REAL history….a history of passion, believe and much bloodshed.

14th June

© David Oakes 2013

A VERY Old Church………..

The last day of our break in Lakeland and we had in mind a very Old Church to visit.  So it was off to the North East of the lakes and Ullswater one of the regions largest lakes.  Carving its way into the mountains Ullswater is an attractive tourist spot offering boundless walks, and even grand cruises along the Lake….



But it was onwards up another narrow hairpin pass and into Martindale to find a very old church.   Tucked away in Howegrain Valley you find a stone built church hiding behind it stone built enclosure…….


It is named as ‘The Old Church of St. Martin’ not just because it is very old but due to the building of a newer church, further down the valley that was more accessible for the parishioners.  But make no mistake this is an old church, the first written record dates to 1220 but it is apparent that the church was well established by then.  It is also thought that an earlier chapel existed on this site……..



The Church has a single tiny bell in an exposed ‘open Cote mounted directly above the covered oak doorway.

The interior is much like many other old small country parish churches…very simple and plain.  Open upright benches for the congregation.  The stone flagged floor is relatively modern being installed in 1714 as a result of complaints from parishioners not wishing to meet in a church that had on occasions a muddy wet floor…….


On the left of the wood alter is a very special stone used as a Font.  It was recovered from a Roman wayside Shrine that was beside a Roman Road that still runs along the mountain ridge just beyond the valley…….




Like all old churches there is a Yew Tree in the church yard.  Planted by tradition to ward of evil spirits and ghosts!  This Yew is reputed to be over 1300 years old.

The charm of this isolated church of St. Martin nestling below the hills, surrounded by stone enclosures, cattle and innumerable sheep has to be experienced to be believed… if you have the chance to visit, please do, it will be well worth the journey…..and some real time to pause and contemplate (or mediated if you wish)……


The Old Church of St. Martin, Cumbria

19 September

TIME PAST……and present!

“Have you an image of an old Sundial?” asked the editor. “preferably on a Church Steeple”….my answer was yes, and it was his lucky day as like all good suppliers, he could have ‘2 for the price of 1’.  Now before you admire my generosity you better view the picture.


Both Sundials date to the 18th century and the inscription on the one to the right reads Lux Umbra Dei translated as ‘light is the shadow of God’.

The Sundials can be found on the same steeple of Saint Andrews Church, Naunton, Gloucestershire.


The church built of golden Cotswold stone dates back to the 15th century, but like most churches of that era replaces an even older Saxon church and lies in the heart of a Cotswold village and ancient Gloucestershire farming community.

I have few notes so can tell you little more about its history other than to add that it is well worth a visit………particularly on a late summers evening when the stone work glows at its best and the church yard has an ethereal golden light.


















25th JUNE