Wayside Preaching Cross at St John Baptist Church Berkswell

Berkswell – A Place of Worship since The Dark Ages

At Berkswell in the West Midlands, sits a magnificent 12th Century church dedicated to St John the Baptist. It is a beautiful building, with one of the best preserved crypts in Britain. The crypt was built around 1150 but there are written records suggesting that this is the place of burial of St. Mildred the Abbess of Minster-in-Thanet who died in 725.

A place of worship dating back to Saxon times.

Outside the main church entrance is an ancient Saxon well, where Christian missionising monks from Lichfield baptised the converted locals.

Ancient Spring at Berkswell Ancient Spring at Berkswell Ancient Spring at Berkswell Ancient Spring at Berkswell

From as long ago as The Dark Ages, this spring was dedicated to a Saxon deity. It is believed there was a statue here. Indeed, the foundation stones of the Wayland Preaching Cross in the churchyard are believed to be the foundations of this statue.

Saxon stone foundations of the Wayside Preaching Cross at St John Baptist Church Berkswell Wayside Preaching Cross at St John Baptist Church Berkswell

Saxon! To visit this site, where people have been worshipping at this ancient spring since the eighth century, is both a humbling and overwhelming experience.

But why were we here?

It all started at a church in Kingston Lisle, when I was asked to place my donation envelope in the vestry, and then spent a good quarter of an hour looking for a piece of furniture – or whatever a “vestry” was…

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The Sheepwalks near Enville

A Stroll Across The Sheepwalks

It seems whenever there’s stones involved, Ruthie and I don’t seem to have much luck. Only recently there was the reticent Blowing Stone at Kingston Lisle, which refused to sing when I blew into it, thereby denying me the Kingship of England. As for the Devil’s Ring and Finger at Mucklestone, I’m still seething about the helpful gentleman who advised us to “just follow our noses” in seeking it out. Two hours later we hobbled back to our car, our legs covered in nettle stings, the only stone seen being the one we wanted to throw at him on the way past.

Then there was the Bolt Stone, hurled in anger by the Kinver Giant at the Enville Giant after catching him tickling the fancy of Mrs Kinver Giant whilst he was collecting water from a nearby well. It had missed its mark – by a long shot – landing in a field near Pigeon House Farm. In 1847 the farmer blew it up with dynamite. He was obviously tired of driving his tractor round it.

We’d set off to find a fragment of the Bolt Stone by walking a footpath from Kinver village to the lovely hamlet of Compton. There, in a field at Compton Court Farm, I’d mistaken a mere pond for The Bolt Stone crater itself. My excitement quickly waned as Ruthie realised my error and made haste to tell me so. With heavy hearts, we set off up the hill towards The Sheepwalks with stunning views all round of Kinver Edge, the Clent Hills, the Cotswolds, Brown Clee Hill and the Rowley Hills…

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Holy Austin Rock, Kinver

Stone Tossing Giants of Kinver and Enville

Many, many years ago, in the village of Kinver on the Worcestershire and Shropshire border, there lived a happily married pair of giants. Continue reading Stone Tossing Giants of Kinver and Enville

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Harris Hawk

A Harris Hawk on The Darwin Walk

In 1985, the late John Sanders, vice president of the Lichfield Civic Society – a body set up to protect the city from irresponsible and destructive planning applications – devised a 10 mile walk around the perimeter of Lichfield to commemorate the link between the city and its most famous child, Erasmus Darwin, philosopher, zoologist, champion of the anti-slave movement, and grandfather of Charles Darwin.

Thirty years later, Ruthie and I embarked upon this historical walk, following the directional instructions given on the website, which we have merged into the following narrative. The directions are replicated from the official Darwin Walk website, followed by our photos and comments.

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Beech Trees at Wayland's Smithy

The Beech Guardians of Wayland’s Smithy

The Ridgeway. A national trail described as Britain’s oldest road which, from prehistoric times, has been travelled by peasants, herdsmen, Romans, Vikings and traders. It runs from West Kennett in the West Sussex Downs all the way to Ivinghoe Beacon in the Chilterns, some 87 miles away, although it originally ran from Dorset to The Wash.

The Ridgeway. Walk its length and you’ll brush shoulders with the ancient history of Albion, encountering ancient forts, long barrows, stone circles including Avebury, and the famous Iron Age White Horse at Uffington.

We took Betsy, our Mazda Bongo, on a trip to Britchcombe Farm, a campsite just beneath White Horse Hill, and after a day visiting the nearby Blowing Stone at Kingston Lisle and the charming village of Uffington, we spent the next walking the ridge to immerse ourselves in the spirituality of the place, taking in the White Horse, Uffington Castle, and a Neolithic long barrow known as Wayland’s Smithy.
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