Saturday, 9 January 2016

A Trip Out

One of our New Year's Resolutions this year was that Mr Shoestring and I would go out for a date alone ( those with children will know how much organisation this takes !) once a month. So last Saturday, when there was a break in the rain we went out to this place.

This is St Botolph's Church in Swyncombe in Oxfordshire, one of the oldest churches in England, built in the 11th Century. It was good fun getting there, trying to navigate through narrow Oxford lanes with signposts still painted in black on white metal pointing in directions that did not appear to correspond with the directions of any of the roads at the junctions. We drove through Christmas Common, which was very apt for the season and Maiden's Bottom and one or two two other quaintly named hamlets. Finally there was a tiny sign on a farmer's fence and we swung down a muddy track to find this little church, only a stone's throw away from the ancient English track The Ridgeway and dedicated to the patron saint of wanderers. A chapter about The Ridgeway and its significance in ancient times had intrigued us a few days before and that was why we wanted to go.

In its day, a thousand and more years ago The Ridgeway was like a motorway , providing a safer passage through the whole of Southern England and explains why the church founders wanted it built where it is, in what seems to us a relatively obscure spot. When it was built it would have been like a 'drive-in chapel'. The simple design is from Saxon times and goes back to the beginnings of Christianity in England.

After all the rain we've had it was lovely to see a bit of sun but a bit strange to be taking photographs of these close to the church noticeboard which advertised snowdrop teas.

Not all old churches in England are open to visitors any more for fear of theft but we were very glad to find this one was, with a sign on the door asking you to pray for all the people who work and worship there now and have done for  a thousand years. Inside it was quite awe-inspiring to think that you were standing where people had gathered to worship around a thousand years. Just inside the door there was a stone font dating back to Norman times, it was so heavy the builders must have installed it and that is where it has always been !

This is one of the windows showing the coats of arms of all the many families who have owned the land round about since the church was founded. Something very unusual was that it included the arms of the Saxon family who were there before the Normans and most churches are not old enough to do this.

We found out a lot that we had not known before, took a lot of photographs, walked a bit and enjoyed each other's company and the weather so it was a very successful date all for the cost of a voluntary donation which was another win-win! We look forward to next month's date.

My challenge to you today is :- Have you ever visited an interesting historic site which did not have a set entrance fee ?

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