Monday, 3 May 2010

A day with Harry and Oliver

Need a break from pastoral planning and episcopal roundabouts? Where better than a day in the edge-of-the-Cotswolds? So, took off after Mass for the famous village of Lacock in deepest Wiltshire. It's an unbelievably pretty little place frozen in time and completely owned by the National Trust, to whom it was given by the last member of the Talbot family. Unfortunately half of Britain had also decided to descend on this Mecca on May Bank Holiday. However, the village held its own very well against the swelling tide of cars that spilled into the reserve car park and beyond. Jewel in Lacock's crown is the Abbey - a convent for Augustinian nuns that was taken over at the Reformation  by a posh landowner, who converted into a fine house, having pulled down the rather in-the-way-church.
Loads of kids around, coz scenes from the first two Harry Potter films were shot there, but also bits of various Jane Austen and other 19th century novels were also filmed here. 
Unusually, a lot of the original monastic rooms survive, especially the beautiful cloisters.
After a tasty pub lunch, we meandered through Wiltshire and Somersetshire greenery to a living monastery, Downside Abbey. Now why this wow-factor place is not better known I don't know. If its huge nineteenth century Gothic church were in some cute English town, it would be crammed with visitors. As it was, other than two other tourists and some young prospective pupil and his mummy and daddy being shown round, we had the place to ourselves. One of England's best kept secrets, and all the better for it.  Said a prayer to St Oliver Plunkett, who, as regular readers will know, has his shrine there (left, on an old postcard). Beautiful. 
A cup of tea on the way back, and once again aware of the countless wonders of nature and of human ingenuity in our country.  

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