Sunday, 28 June 2020

Of Roods and Foods - in memory of David McLees

Tomorrow I conduct the funeral of parishioner and friend David McLees. A man I spent hours with, sharing his journeys, spiritual and geographical. In more recent years we made several trips or "church crawls", including this one to the lost rural parts of Monmouthshire around Usk. Wonderful day, lovely guy. I originally posted this three years ago...

As it's the relatively quiet time of August - schools out, parishioners on holiday - I thought I might give the old blog a whirl.  Talking of August, I was really glad of the lovely weather today as I had arranged to go on a  small "church crawl" with a friend who is equally, if more knowledgeably, interested in old churches and cathedrals.
We set off for the Usk area of Monmouthshire, and first call was the tiny church of Bettws Newydd. Plain on the outside, nevertheless I fell in love with the place even before going in, as the path to the church passes under an absolutely enormous yew tree. Noone knows how old it is - 500 or 1,000 or even 2,000 years. A new trunk has grown up inside the old one which has decayed into fantastical shapes.
Once inside the church, the main reason for visiting spreads itself across the width of the church. A rood-screen complete from about 1500 except for the actual figures of the Crucifixion. The books say this makes it unique in Wales and England. The oak was dark, the air was still except for someone mowing the grass in the churchyard. The holiness hung in the air...
But soon it was time for food as well as roods. I was treated to lunch at The Hardwick, led by top chef Stephen Terry (below), it is one of Wales' top restaurants, outside Abergavenny  on the old A40 to Monmouth. Yum! I fancied pork belly and black pudding as per menu: "Deep Fried Pork Belly & Black Pudding, Pickled White Cabbage, Apple  Mustard Sauce" The waiter helpfully warned me not to expect a slab of meat and pile of black pudding. Instead these would be thinly layered and fried in a very thin sort of batter.  I went for it... helped by a glass of Rioja. Having skipped a starter I felt entitled to a dessert : "Valrhona Chocolate Mousse, Honeycombe ; Salted Caramel". Oooooh boy. Fr M approves big-time.
Time to get back to roods after foods. Somehow we found our way to nearby Llangwm Uchaf, lost down another country lane - possibly the reason why this and Bettws Newydd escaped the ravages of the Reformation. Not quite as captivating as Bettws Newydd in my opinion, nevertheless we were treated to more wonderful carving from that period when some historians would tell us that the Catholic Church was full of corruption etc.  There is nothing corrupt about these rood screens that have come down to us - beauty hidden down Monmouthshire country lanes. Take a look if you want a different day out.

No comments:

Post a comment