Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

ABC Wednesday 4: W is for...

... Walsingham

Sometimes I'm amazed at how little I know about my own country and its history: I didn't know a place like Walsingham existed until a couple of weeks ago. During medieval times, this was the second most popular destination for pilgrims in England - Canterbury was the first - all because Lady Richeldis had visions of the Virgin Mary in 1061.

Today pilgrims still make their way to Walsingham and shrines and churches of the Catholic, Anglican and Russian Orthodox faiths are crammed into an otherwise small village. Many of the houses seem to be used for housing pilgrims, with glazed pottery plaques dedicated to the saints adorning their walls. I say seem as the door of the one dedicated to St. Anne opened whilst we were passing to reveal a bent old lady intent on watering her potted plants. This made me think some of them might be almshouses. Even the village shops are in on the act - there's a gift shop with a nice line in the largest, most ornate crib scenes you could ever wish for, even in June. The secondhand bookshop reflects the village's heritage in name, stock and the appearance of its owner in the window (click on the picture for a larger image). Here Theology takes up half of the shop's space and Gardening is reduced to sitting alongside others on the single shelf dedicated to Hobbies.

The entrance to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham has a Mediterranean feel to it reminiscent of a Spanish patio garden. It's a place unlike any other I've been to in the UK - the link gives you a good idea of what's there. Inside all is candles, ornate carvings and little notices like the one pictured. Outside again, at the back is a lush, peaceful garden containing lots of lavender, alliums, geraniums, roses and waving Stipa gigantea. It was a lovely spot for a quiet stroll and the shrine's refectory did a very nice, reasonably priced cup of tea and coffee to round off our visit before we took the steam train back to Wells-Next-The-Sea. NAH now has lots of incentive to keep on with his low very fat diet as he's managed to reduce his cholesterol level to an acceptable one without needing to take tablets, so we didn't have any of the tempting cakes on offer :(

PS W is also for... WaterAid. Our choir will be taking part in Sing for Water South West in Bristol on Saturday, a major fundraiser for this very Worthwhile charity. I'll be telling you more about it on Friday. In the meantime, you might like to have a look at my Open Garden blog. This will tell you all about my Sing for Water experiences in London last year as well as giving you a full tour of my garden.

For more Wonderful posts, do visit the ABC Wednesday blog.

11 comments:

  1. Now that's what I like to do sometime going for a ride on a steam train.

    I've heard of a Lord Walsingham before, something to do with Henry 8 I think.

    No cake with your tea/coffee? Bummer! But it's all for a good case. ;-)

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  2. Hello there VP girl !
    I really regret we did not get over to the UK wilst living in Holland .. I think the fact that everyone drives on the wrong side of the road would have given me a heart attack ? LOL
    Seriously .. there would have been so many great places to see .. let alone the list of gardens : )

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  3. I think i need to do a wee tour around England and try to find some of these little havens. Plus, I have never been on a steam train in my life though there is one in the next town from us that does day trips in the summer, maybe this year?

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  4. I've never heard of Walsingham before; I'm impressed if it is the second most visited shrine next to Canterbury, a place I would love to visit! I'm wondering why only 3 petitions for intercessions are allowed, though:)

    Enjoyed the photos and commentary on your last post about front gardens. Here in my area I am seeing more and more homes that have ripped up their front lawn and turned it into an entire garden. The norm, though, is still lawn with a few shrubs.

    I'm still working on getting some "about town" shots. It's been so hot here, though, that I am trying not to go out much during the day.

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  5. It's always the case isn't it, you know more about other countries/regions than you do about your own!
    Good W

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  6. I'd love to visit Walsingham. I've always hankered after one of their icons. It's also known as 'England's Nazareth'. In answer to Rose's query about the limit on intercessions, I think it's to do with the sheer numbers of pilgrims. If you want someone to pray for you, as well as everybody else, you've got to give them a chance to work their way through all the requests.
    I must say, VP, your posts have really inspired me to spend a holiday in Norfolk. You ought to be getting commission from the tourist board!

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  7. One of the joys of ABC Wednesday for me is all the learning! Not only am I looking at close to home but when I visit others I learn about their areas! So interesting!
    Thanks ,
    Sherry

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  8. Very interesting. I knew of Walsingham, but not in any detail. Fascinating that it can be traced back to 1061. It looks a lovely place. And the steam train trip must have rounded it all off so very nicely!
    On, behalf of the ABC Team, thanks for your continued and valued participation.

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  9. Yolanda - marriage to NAH means steam train rides are a relatively frequent occurence. Might you be thinking of Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth I's advisor and chief spymaster? I looked him up and there doesn't appear to be a connection with the Walsingham family and their namesake family. Don't worry about cake - I manage to sneak off and have some with friends from time to time - e.g. I had some wonderful chocolate orange cake at Lacock Flower Festival last Sunday :P

    Joy - you get used to our left handedness after a while. I think you'd like it over here, shame you didn't get the chance whilst you were in Holland, but I suspect you were spoilt for choice on places to go over there too!

    Carrie - sounds like you've just thought of a good day out for you and Andy as well as your next holiday :)

    Rose - it's a very quaint place and quite peculiar. I suspect there's very few places like it over here. I see Victoria's answered your question already. I'm looking forward to seeing your street planting photos when you have them - this weekend perhaps?

    Mara - I like the constant surprise!

    Victoria - it's called England's Nazareth because Lady Richelden's vision told her to build the shrine like the one at Nazereth. It was built in the wrong place and legend has it that she saw a second vision of the Virgin Mary and lo! In the morning, the shrine had not only moved itself, it was much better built than the skills of the local craftsman could muster! We enjoyed Norfolk, but it is rather flat. NAH and I climbed up Cherhill (where one of Wiltshire's White Horses is, plus loads of other interesting things) on Wednesday, as we felt we needed to get up high and get a good view!

    Sherry - welcome! I'm glad you enjoyed your visit :)

    Dragonstar - let's see what can be conjured up for X shall we ;)

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  10. An excellent choice for W VP. The garden looks a most tranquil spot.

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  11. Anna - It was most peaceful and full of scent :)

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