Blessings #155 – A Walk in the Woods

One of my most favourite places is Borrowdale in Cumbria. As I drive down into Borrowdale from Keswick I always feel like any stress that I am feeling is progressively being lifted from me.

Leaving the wide open expanse of the Derwentwater valley the road enters into a narrow cutting beyond Grange. Following the route of the river Derwent the road twists and turns for a mile or so before it opens out into Borrowdale.

Beautiful Walking in BorrowdaleSurrounded by hills on all sides Borrowdale is like a land that is cut off from the rest of the world – a secret, hidden place,

Some of the valley sides are displaying rocky crags, some are covered in grass and heather, but my favourite are the ones cloaked in ancient woodland.

This isolated place has managed to avoid the imposition of rows upon rows of conifers. It’s steep sides and remoteness have meant that the original broadleaf ecosystem still persists in all its splendour.

On August Bank holiday this year the weather was glorious and we were visiting family in Keswick. Even though we were really there to see family it always seems a shame not to get out into the countryside for at least part of the day. I set out from the busy market town with the view that I would park at the first place I could find. Passing crammed full car parks at Kettlewell and Grange I carried on into Borrowdale. No parking in Longthwaite or Seathhwaite either, so Seatoller it was, but only in the last parking space in the car park.

Heading for the gate at the rear of the car park I took the well trodden path along the river through the woods towards Longthwaite. Here the northern, eastern and southern sides of High Doat is covered with Jonny Wood. High Doat is not a huge hill but the woods like magnificent.

There’s something very special about the way that summer sunlight shines it’s way through a mixed broad leaf wood. The variety of green hew is sometimes breathtaking.

The floor of the wood is visibly alive with flora and fauna of immense variety. The birds might not be too visible but their song makes the presence of many species obvious.

Beautiful Walking in BorrowdaleEvery now and again the trees part to give fabulous framed views of the crags beyond.

After a little way the path and the wood drop down towards the river with elegant vintage trees bowing down to the clear crystal stream as it babbles and bubbles over rock and through crevice.

As I walk along I contemplate the things that these trees have witnessed. It’s a way to put thoughts and worries into perspective.

A wonderful walk and a great blessing.

Count Your Blessings #135 – An elevated view

Crossthwaite ViewsThe buildings where my church meets is situated on a triangular plot of land on the edge of Preston.

On one side there is a local road with houses on the other side. On another are the backs of houses. On the third is a main road, East Way, beyond this main road, a few hundred yards away, is the M55 motorway which is elevated above the level of Easy Way. Up there on it’s embankment it obscuring the view of everything beyond.

All in all it doesn’t make for the most inspiring of views. It’s fine if you want to know how many people have been to the Pleasure Beach in Blackpool and are now stuck in the queue trying to get onto the M6. Other than that it’s an ordinary urban view on the edge of a city.

But all of this tarmac and concrete hides a secret.

The church buildings have, until recently, all been on ground level. From down there the secret is completely hidden behind the M55.

A recent set of extension has added a new, two story, part to the side of the building facing north and the M55 embankment. One of the things that the architect wanted to create in this new part of the building was a light and airy space. There are big windows on both the ground and first floor, it’s facing north so they needed to let in as much light as possible.

(A quick aside. If you are not from the UK, you perhaps think that the first floor is on the ground, but here in the UK we call the floor on the ground the “ground floor”. The floor immediately above ground level we call the “first floor”, not the “second floor”, OK?)

Up on the first floor these big windows open up the secret. The elevated position reveal what is hidden beyond. It’s not visible every day, the weather conditions have to be right, but that just adds to the mystery.

Recently I was in a meeting on the first floor and was sat facing the window. It was a crisp clear day, cold, but fine. It was a morning meeting and we started in the dark. As time progressed I looked out of the window to see the sun rising in the sky lighting up the snow capped mountains of the Lake District beyond.

The Lake District was recently voted Britain’s greatest natural wonder. I’m not sure about that, but they are quite impressive all the same, and they are only 30 miles, or so, away.

You wouldn’t know they were there from the ground, up on the first floor the view is glorious. It’s an elevation of only a few feet, but it makes all of the difference.

In the Bible Jesus used to go off and climb mountains when he wanted to be alone with his father. I always thought that this was so that he could be closer to God, because I thought of God as “up there”. Recently I’ve wondered whether he went up into the mountain so he could get a better perspective down, not up.

God, of course, is everywhere and you don’t need to climb high so he can hear you, but looking down on a situation certainly gives you a different view. It gives you a longer view. It gives you a broader view. It gives you an unobstructed view.

(The picture isn’t one taken from the window, it’s one I took while in Keswick on a quiet day, special days)