Monday, 21 June 2010

Ffald y brenin

Earlier this week we drove nearly three hundred due west from London to the furthest coast of Pembrokeshire.   We were booked to go on a retreat at  Ffald-y-Brenin, a centre about five miles west of Fishguard.   Many Christians have been here since reading  a book called The Grace Outpouring.   

This is view overlooking Cwm Gwaun, a narrow valley of great interest and beauty.  Of course the locals all speak Welsh.

At the edge of the property they have built a wooden cross.   Many of the guests visit the spot to meditate and pray

The whole site has been tastefully designed and maintained.

This is the view of the tastefully designed garden with its pond full of tadpoles.  the pond is fed by a stream that has been piped across the surrounding hills.  The chapel below has been built around a large rock  Several times a day  short Celtic-style services are held.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Prayer in Mayfair

Shepherds Market

A few months ago we decided to do one of those walks around London that are so popular.  We took the walk that goes around Mayfair, the most prosperous part of London. We went passed the American embassy and on to a fascinating area I had never visited, Shepherds Market.  Quite nearby is Claridges one of the most expensive and chic hotels in Europe.

We then went down Mount Street with its fashionable boutiques and on to the Burlington Arcade with its collection of expensive jewellers selling the most desirable and sought-after watches.  
Off Mount Street there is a small oasis of greenery and quietness in the midst of this busy area.  Mount Street Park is an attractive garden  with an fine assortment of trees, where office workers can eat their lunches and chill out on summer days.
Nearby is the Farm Street Jesuit Centre with its beautifully ornate baroque style church.  

 As I looked on the parish notice board I noticed a leaflet advertising monthly Ignatian Days, when a group would be introduced to the practice of Ignatian methods of prayer.  Although I am a protestant I have studied church  history and I am familiar with Ignatius Loyola and the foundation of the Jesuits.  

Ignatian prayer is really quite simple.  While Ignatius was recovering from a serious wound after the battle of Pamplona he asked for some novels to while away the time.  Instead he was given a life of Christ by Ludolph of Saxony.  Ludolph urged his readers to immerse themselves in the gospel narratives and to "hear and see these things being narrated as though you were hearing with your own ears and seeing with your own eyes."  Ignatius adopted this idea and used used intensively in the training of his followers.
 Ignatian  prayer is taking a passage from the Bible and immersing oneself imaginatively  in the text and meditiating on its content, ending with a personal conversation with Jesus.

The  best introduction to all this is The God of Surprises by Gerard Hughes

Friday, 4 June 2010

Suffolk and Norfolk

We decided to have a short break in what is known as East Anglia in this part of the world.  It is very rural and peaceful and has the least pollution in the whole of the UK.  First of all we spent two nights in Aldeburgh,  an unspoilt resort that was once a fairly thriving fishing port.  In fact if you are up early you can go down to the beach and buy some of the last night's catch from the fishermen's huts. The picture above is the view from our bedroom window overlooking the beach.
This is the view of Ocean House where we stayed.   The boat seems a permanent fixture on the shingly beach.  It's always there.

I took this shot of a boat through a mass of very attractive red-valerian, a wild flower that thrives on the shingle.

I took this shot from the bridge at Snape, a village now famous for the Aldeburgh Festival.  It was once a large grain distribution centre, but is now a tourist attraction that has retained its Victorian atmosphere.
Just a mile or two north of Aldeburgh is the attractive seaside-village of Thorpeness.  It is unique because it is the creation of one man, a successful barrister name Glencairn Olgilvie   who decided in 1910,  to build a mock-Tudor village for the pleasure and recreation of his friends and workers.  Its main attraction is the boating lake known as the Mere.

This is the view across the lake.  The historic windmill can be seen and also the rather eccentric House in the Clouds,  which can be hired as a holiday home.

The next day we drove  over to a camp-site near to the old town of Theford.  Part of the journey involved using  the A1120 from Yoxford to Stowmarked.  The journey took us through what I consider to be the most gloriously beautiful countryside in the whole of Europe.  Everywhere nature seemed to be robed in the most splendid robe of vivid greens,  the hedgerows and the masses of may-blossom adding to the scene.  All along we passed through many very quaint and peaceful villages and hamlets.  It was somewhat of a shock to get on the the motorway near Stowmarket.
Just near the campsite is the celebrated Pingo Trail that runs through the nearby forest.  The Pingos we are told are tiny lakes left by the glaciers of the ice age, containing the most interesting flora and fauna.  We cycled through the forest and had a substantial lunch in the sixteenth-century known as the Chequers (see above) in the attractive village of Thompson.

Top above you can see a typical scene from rural Norfolk and just below is an example of a Pingo.