Amongst the Ruins – Monday Inspiration

Continuing on with the recent theme of the spirit of place, I thought I would post about another place that I find incredibly inspiring, one that I had the chance to visit again over the bank holiday: a ruined and roofless church in Bedfordshire…

The church for the now vanished village of Segenhoe was dedicated to All Saints, the earliest parts of which date to the late Anglo-Saxon period.  This quiet corner is the perfect place to indulge in a little inspiration – and a cup of tea 🙂  It was raining during our visit, and the colours chosen for the photos matched the moody, gothic atmosphere perfectly…

Musings on a Walk Through a Victorian Cemetery

Cemeteries, although perceived by some to be dark and morbid, can serve as an immense source of inspiration and provide a very real connection to the past.  And it is in just such a place that I spent my Saturday afternoon…The cemetery in question was to be found in Bedford.

It opened in 1855 and reminders of Victorian gothic art and architecture are dotted all over, from the monuments themselves – obelisks, angels, Grecian urns and Celtic crosses – to the buildings, including the cemetery chapel and the gatehouse.  For such a small town, people from all over the world ended up being buried there, and it makes you wonder about their stories, especially how come it was this small town where their story reached its conclusion.

It is also interesting to see how inscriptions on the stonework changed over time.  Sometimes only the names of the deceased are recorded, perhaps alongside the date of their birth and death, whilst other gravestones bear witness to the manner of the death, such as an accident or as a result of war.  Other information includes where they lived in life, not just the name of the town or village, but the exact address, as well as who their close family were…Finally, it is the names themselves that perhaps, alongside the skilled stone-masonry, which draws the most fascination.  Some certainly sound exotic to our modern ears.  The one that I found most unusual was Hepzibah…A quick Google search says that the name means ‘my delight is in her’ in Hebrew.

A walk in a Victorian cemetery can tell us a lot about contemporary attitudes towards death and the departed.  Although there is no doubt that they are places whose primary function centres on sadness and grief, there is beauty and light here too.  Landscaped grounds, gently twisting paths that are lost to sight behind a carefully placed tree, benches for you to sit and stay a while…it’s as if they were trying to create their own little Eden, a place for the living as well as the dead…

Echoing the Past: The Spirit of Place – Lets Go Retro!

Over at Blue Butterflies and Me, Sindy is hosting the Lets Go Retro Challenge Challenge, in honour of Mercury being in retrograde.  The challenge is to reblog / review / revisit blog posts of the past…

retro challenge

The original post I decided to use was a piece of very short fiction (in 50 words or less, in fact), entitled, Echoes of the Past

Footsteps echo on the ancient ground.  Snippets of conversation carried on the wind of time.  Shouting.  Screaming.  Laughter.  Crying.

Experience imprinted on the landscape.  Memories forever carved in stone.  Life and death remembered.

Stories waiting to be told…truths waiting to be heard…

The past is never silent.

woodsLooking back on this piece, I recall how I’ve always been aware of, and for that matter, been inspired by, the spirit of place.  The idea that everywhere you go, the past and the present mingle (to different degrees), to create what you now see and experience there.  That each and every environment you place yourself in is unique, forged by others who have come before, or who are there now.

It might be a romantic view but I believe it is interesting to think that wherever we go, whatever we do, we make our mark on that place.  Of wellcourse, this is in no small part helped by my over-active imagination.  I love to spend my free time exploring castles and abbeys and churches, both ruined and intact, and wonder in whose steps am I walking?  What was their life like?  What is their story?  Another love is visiting sites much older than these…sacred wells, Roman ruins, stone circles…These places are an invaluable source of inspiration for writers.

Some places evoke feelings of peace and tranquillity.  As I write, I am reminded of an ancient sacred well that I regularly visit.  The place radiates harmony, and in the stillness you can imagine others who have passed this way throughout the centuries.  Were they on a pilgrimage?  Were they hoping for a cure to a particular ailment they were suffering from?  Were they simply asking for a blessing of health, wealth and happiness?

church ruinsAt the other end of the scale, I have felt serious discomfort whilst exploring the dungeon of a twelfth century castle, and couldn’t wait to leave it.  The stories of those who found themselves imprisoned within, would not have been happy ones.  But how did they find themselves there?  Had they really done anything wrong?  Or did it have something to do with the Medieval merry-go-round of politics and power?

As a writer, but also for myself personally, the spirit of place is important.  To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter what the place makes me feel or think, as long as it makes me feel something.  And for as long as it does, it will help to feed my imagination and creativity.

In Search of Inspiration

Last weekend we stopped by a tiny village church in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, St Margaret of Antioch, Knotting, Bedfordshire.

It is a beautiful little church and has always been so quiet and peaceful when we have visited it, and so is a great place to write a little poetry, a few inspired paragraphs or pieces of flash fiction.

The earliest part of the building is Norman and there are areas of the churchyard that are a full of wild flowers, making it a haven for butterflies and bees…

St Margaret of Antioch, Knotting 3

St Margaret of Antioch, Knotting 2

St Margaret of Antioch, Knotting

St Margaret of Antioch, KNotting 5

St Margaret of Antioch, Knotting 4

 

Echoes of the Past

Footsteps echo on the ancient ground.  Snippets of conversation carried on the wind of time.  Shouting.  Screaming.  Laughter.  Crying.

Experience imprinted on the landscape.  Memories forever carved in stone.  Life and death remembered.

Stories waiting to be told…truths waiting to be heard…

The past is never silent.

Gargoyles and Grotesques

I have always loved and been inspired by church architecture, and one feature of churches that I love above all others are grotesques.

Grotesques are stone carvings, often strange, distorted or fantastical in appearance.  Their purpose was said to be twofold: to protect a building by frightening away evil spirits and to serve as a reminder to parishioners of the ever-present danger of falling into evil.

I took this photo of the grotesque in St Michaels and All Angels, Edmondthorpe, Leicestershire a couple of weeks ago.

I took this photo of the grotesque in St Michaels and All Angels, Edmondthorpe, Leicestershire a couple of weeks ago.  This church is in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust.

Gargoyles are a form of grotesque, the difference that separates them is that a gargoyle will have a water spout coming out of its mouth in order to direct water away from the sides of a building, where over time it will cause damage.

This is one of the gargoyles from St Peters church in Tempsford, Bedfordshire.  You can just see the start of the water pipe protruding from its mouth...

This is one of the gargoyles from St Peters church in Tempsford, Bedfordshire. You can just see the start of the water pipe protruding from its mouth…

The same carving as above, showing the water spout and face of the gargoyle...

The same carving as above, showing the water spout and face of the gargoyle…