The Broads are my
local wilderness. I love the landscape, the
wildlife and the slow waters. Under the wide skies I can be at one with nature;
re-imagine Jesus’ lakeside ministry; slow down and escape from our 24/7
lifestyle; all that’s needed to catch up with a 3 mile an hour God.
Long ago, on an island where three rivers meet, hermits established
a community. Following the example of Egyptian monks, the tidal marsh and reed
beds was their green desert! In time the community became a Benedictine monastery and, until Henry VIII’s reforms, St.
Benet’s Abbey was a powerful centre for the Christian faith. Still the abbey has a powerful attraction.
Wandering on foot or by boat, I find my eyes searching for
the familiar outlines of its ruined gate-house and scanning higher ground to catch
sight of church towers on the horizon. Higher
than most is the one they call The
Cathedral of the Broads - St. Helen’s, Ranworth
Visitors are invited to climb “89 spiral steps and two ladders” to see the view from the top.
If you know where to look, St. Benet’s is
clear to the naked eye and above your head.
Depicted on the wind vane, is the figure of a monk. It is said that Pacificus and his little dog rowed from the monastery to oversee
the installation of the church’s famous rood screen. Some believe his ghost still makes the
journey and on misty, moonlit nights one could easily imagine such a thing!
Less spookily, the misericord seats in the
chancel were most probably brought over
from the abbey after its dissolution.
One day, returning from the top of the tower, I went to pray
in one of those seats. The carving on the ledge had a demon in the middle, an
opium poppy to one side and a rose on the other. The message still seemed just
as clear and relevant as when it was first carved, “choose to be alert and attend in prayer: don’t drop off into numbed
sleep, or fanciful dreams”.
In solidarity with the monks of old I said a psalm or two
and pondered Jesus’ question, “ What did
you go out into the wilderness to see? A
reed blown by the wind? “
Traffic! It felt I’d been tailgated every mile of the way -
aggressive drivers in my rear view mirror and almost in my boot, pushing me to
go faster! Finally, at journeys end I parked by Moreston Creek and let the
tension drain out of me. It is a sort of
lands end! The North Pole is 2222 miles away and ,
apart from Blakeney Point, there’s nothing in between but sea and ice!
I thought I’d join holiday makers as they went out to see
the seals but when I’d arrived early the ferry still sat firmly on the bottom. Round about it long billed waders delved the
rich mud and a Little Egret stalked its
prey in the shallows pools. The liquid
trill of a Curlew’s call carried on the and on high Larks sang their hearts
Soon a trickle, had turned into a stream of water pushing into
the creek , lifting the grounded vessels and turning their bows to the flood.
With that the ferrymen quickly got their passengers aboard and we were
manoeuvring between the muddy banks and an honour guard of Oyster Catchers, on
our way to the outer harbour and the sand banks.
Beyond the Point ferry boats dodged one another as they cruised
up and down. Curious holiday makers looked at the seals and curious seals looked
at holiday makers! When all the oohs
and ahhs were done and all the photos
had been taken, the boats headed back into the harbour and we were given the chance to land on the Point.
Looking back to where my car was parked, I felt that I had
gained some perspective on our hectic 21st century life style. Calm and breathing easily I felt more in
harmony with the rhythms of nature. “ I have calmed and quieted my
soul like a weaned child upon its mother’s breast” (Psalm 131.2)
Jesus had urged his friends, “ Come apart and rest awile.” Then they had got into a boat and gone over
to the other side! As a former vicar of
Beeston Regis used to say, “Holidays can be holy days!” Hmnn…..
I went out to Blakeney Point with Beans Boats. If you feel you need longer away from
it all the walk back to Cley Beach Car Park is 3 miles a further 3 miles gets one back to