Walking in the World

Monthly Archives: January 2016

Harbingers of Spring


January is drawing to a close and we’re already enjoying some harbingers of spring. We have dozens of blooms poking up in our back garden, and today’s cheery sunshine is warming my soul.

Fair-handed Spring unbosoms every grace; throws out the snowdrop and the crocus first.
– James Thomson

28 Jan 2016

2016 Swedish Labyrinth Pilgrimage


Regular readers will remember my posts about our 2015 Swedish Labyrinth Tour, and we are now working hard on plans for returning in 2016. Once again, we’ll be working with Lars Howlett from Discover Labyrinths, and this year we’ll also be working with Veriditas to weave in an increased emphasis on the spiritual aspects of pilgrimage. Yesterday we recorded a WEBINAR to talk about this year’s journey and show photos of places we’ll be visiting. (Thanks to Anne Bull and Veriditas for making this webinar happen!)

If you long to explore Swedish labyrinths and culture with a small group of like-minded labyrinth enthusiasts, please consider joining us. For more information, please click here to go to the appropriate page on the Veriditas website.



22 Jan 2016

The Church on the Hill

St Peter's Thundersley

St. Peter’s Church in Thundersley always looks disappointingly modern to me, but it is actually quite old and definitely stands on ground that has been holy since ancient times. The original church, dedicated to St. Michael, was built in 1120, but burned down less than a century later, in 1209. A new church erected on the site was completed in 1230, and was dedicated to St. Peter. The current weather vane bears the figures of both saints.

The tower was added later, in 1588, to contain the bell that was given to St. Peter’s to commemorate the English victory over the Spanish Armada. And inside the chancel hangs a helmet that supposedly belonged to King Henry VII who was the Lord of the Manor of Thundersley. The church is, indeed, both old and historic!


The modern (20th century) addition came about when the original 13th century building became too small for the increasing population as Thundersley village expanded.

This week, our local church became personal. While cleaning out Jeff’s mum’s house last month, we found an old plaque that had been presented to the Saward family in remembrance of their soldier son who was killed in Flanders in January 1918. That was news to all of us, having never even heard the name of Bert Louis Saward mentioned. Apparently Jeff’s grandfather Ernest (who used to live across the road from where we now live) had an older brother, whose story we are now beginning to piece together.


Jeff and I walked up to St Peter’s this week to locate the WWI memorial plaque that lists Jeff’s ancestor, public proof of his existence and a private connection to a time and place we hadn’t really considered before. We stood in silence, thinking of a young man with our surname, who died in Flanders in the hell of war, oh so many years ago.

We are holding the thread of his life in our psyches now; our interest has been piqued and our imaginations stirred. I think genealogy does that. As one clue leads to another, a picture emerges and a story unfolds. We will be going to France in search of Bert’s grave at some point, but for now that little corner of a very old village church holds an important piece of a personal history.

16 Jan 2016

Fearsome You Are…


Clearly, there’s more going on here than meets the eye. For one thing, the meeting is taking place in sunshine. In January. In Essex. Secondly, there were no children present when this happened, just two grown up women having tea together. It felt quite momentous.

Not quite sure who’s saying what to who. Maybe I need to get out more…

12 Jan 2016

Winter Gardens


Our wildlife-friendly back garden is the reason we have so many guests at this time of year. It is a wild garden… it may never win any awards from Gardener’s World, but our local critters seem to appreciate Jeff’s attentiveness and care. And I appreciate his generosity in sharing what he sees (and hears) with me. Our winter has been so mild, that we still have plenty of berries, and we are already seeing an odd crocus or two beginning to push up through the soil. It is turning colder this week, so our wild friends will be looking to supplement their diet, and Jeff will be out filling the feeders every afternoon.


And me? I am happy spending my January indoors. I am making soups and experimenting with new recipes for crackers and condiments, interspersed with other creative and/or relaxing pursuits. I have decided that this is seasonally appropriate and that my feet will venture further afield again as the days grow longer, warmer, and drier.


I treasure this inward season when slowing down happens almost automatically, and I have more time and space to attend to my soul. I love that our winter gardens can be both literal and figurative, and that we can each tend them in our own ways.

Soup Pot

11 Jan 2016

Morning Visitor


Sometimes, if you don’t go out into the world, the world comes to you. This little lady, a hawfinch, showed up in our garden this morning, much to Jeff’s delight — he’s convinced that he’s the first birder to find one in a local garden. So, a happy morning for us!


06 Jan 2016


Stained Glass, Canewdon

My energy is coming back slowly…. but before I start in with new walks and adventures, I want to finish telling you about our New Year’s Day outing. Once the swans were fed (and Lucy was coaxed back into good humour at the playground), we drove out to the parish church in Canewdon that I showed you briefly back in October. I had wanted to see the stocks just outside the gate that we hadn’t known about on our first visit, but it turns out that they are hidden in a shed for their own protection, so there was little to see – and even less to photograph.


Walking back through the churchyard, however, we found the church unlocked, so we went in for a look around. The earliest record of Canewdon church dates back to 1086, but much of what we see today was built in the early 15th century – still old enough to boggle my mind. Something happens inside me when I visit these old churches, and I am aware of the many people who have come to this spot for all manner of spiritual reasons. I have a sense of time and progression as I think of people whose daily lives were punctuated by events in that church – baptisms, weddings, funerals, and Sunday sermons. I slipped into one of the wonderful carved box pews, wondering about the people and stories who had rested on that same bench over the years.


I wasn’t the only one indulging in flights of the imagination. Seven-year-old Lucy was quite captivated by the skull and crossbones chiseled into a grave marker out in the porch. Jeff and I know that it is a common enough motif representing death and resurrection, but Lucy was convinced it marked the grave of a Pirate King. And why not? We were very near the coast where all manner of seafarers most likely came and went over the centuries. I’m sure that her imaginings were just as valid as mine, and our day felt richer and more personal because of them.

04 Jan 2016

Greeting 2016


New Year’s Day, 2016: We bundled up early to head into the cold morning to greet the year with a spirit of adventure. We started with the familiar by stopping at Rayleigh Mill, which I have shown you many times through the seasons, and then drove further down the road to Hullbridge to feed the swans and wander along the River Crouch. Poor Lucy did not enjoy the swan feeding experience:




to be continued…

01 Jan 2016

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