Friday, 9 November 2012

Some favourite autumn walks and strolls around Lichfield

A stroll in the countryside near Lichfield yesterday morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

Strolling from the Hedgehog along Stafford Road and Beacon Street into Lichfield Cathedral for mid-day Eucharist and Evensong has been a real pleasure this week.

This has been a retreat and time for prayer, reflection and contemplation, and that walk has been a real joy a regular part of my spiritual exercises.

But there are a few other walk around Lichfield that I think are worth sharing.

1, The Cathedral Close

The Cathedral Close in Lichfield is a quieter place at night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

The old buildings clustered around the cathedral in the Cathedral Close are full of ecclesiastical history, including the hidden, timber-framed mediaeval houses in the two courtyards at Vicar’s Close, the former Bishops’ Palace, the old stables, the former theological college, and the houses of the residentiary canons.

It is always worth dropping into the Cathedral Shop facing the west door of the cathedra. At the back of the shop is whole section of second-hand books, and as I browsed through the shelves I was reminded of the Staffs Book Shop on the corner of Dam Street and Market Square and thought what I loss to Lichfield it is.

At night, when the tourists and school groups are long gone, the Cathedral Close takes on a new atmosphere. There is little light pollution here, and virtually no traffic here so that one evening this week I stood still watching the stars twinkle above the three spires.

2, The Minster Pool

Late autumn colours at the Minster Pool early yesterday afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

On the south side of the cathedral, between Dam Street and Bird Street, the Minster Pool and Walk have been restored over the past year or two by Lichfield District Council as part of the Lichfield Historic Parks restoration project.

The project saw the transformation of Beacon Park, Minster Pool and Walk and the Garden of Remembrance, and has recently received a BALI National Landscape Award in the Restoration and Regeneration category.

Minster Pool played an important role in the defence of the Cathedral Close in the past. The pool was formed in the 11th century when a boggy stream was dammed at its eastern end to drive a mill on the appropriately-named Dam Street. The pool was used as a mill pond and fishery until 1856 when the mill was demolished.

One evening this week, we sat at a table in Ego Restaurant, looking out on the pool, and enjoying the reflections of the cathedral spires on the water.

3, Cross in Hand Lane

Autumnal arches at Cross in Hand Lane (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

At the back of the Hedgehog, the quaintly-named Cross in Hand Lane provides a tranquil walk through fields and farmland that eventually leads out to the villages of Farewell and Chorley.

The autumn leaves on the branches were still providing arches across the lane yesterday morning as we began a walk in the Staffordshire countryside.

Autumn and winter bring their own seasonal work to the farms at Cross in Hand Lane (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

A large field at the junction of Cross in Hand Lane and Stafford Road was being prepared for next year’s work – each season brings its own work and times for farmers.

4, Abnalls Lane

Wooden posts and styles mark out the paths for walkers and ramblers near Abnalls Lane (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

From the junction at the Hedgehog with Cross in Hand Lane we walked back down the grassy path on the western side if the Western By-Pass to Abnalls Lane. Along the way, wooden posts and styles mark out the paths for walkers and ramblers.

On this dry, sunny winter’s morning, the fields were bright and there were many people taking advantage of the well mapped-out Heart of England Way.

Autumn turns to winter along Abnalls Lane on the edges of Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

We strolled a little along Abnalls Lane and I took a note of another walk worth planning on a future visit, with woods and coppices around delighting in names such as Fitzherbert Firs, The Dell, Lady Muriel’s Belt and Sloppy Wood.

5, Beacon Park
Trying to see the spires from the trees ... a glimpse of Lichfield Cathedral through the tress of Beacon Park (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

As we continued south along the grassy path beside the Western By-Pass, we could glimpse the spires of the cathedral through the trees of Beacon Park, and I found myself asking whether I could see the spires for the trees.

Grey squirrels were playing through the leaves that fallen from the trees. It was as though autumn was struggling to linger a little longer.

There is a rural charm about the houses in Townfields in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

But instead of crossing through the park to Bird Street at the Cathedral Close, wee ambled down to Townfields, another hidden corner of Lichfield, where some of the houses could be in remote rural England.

Eventually, we strolled along Queen Street and Sandford Street, and after our morning’s walk we were in Lichfield Cathedral for the mid-day Eucharist.

Some appropriate advice from Dr Johnson ... in the Hedgehog in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Later we strolled back up Beacon Street, and from the Pinfold made our way along the southern end of Cross in Hand Lane to Hedgehog, for a late lunch. We would return along Beacon Street to the city centre at the close of the day.

Molehills and autumn leaves on a grassy spot on Stafford Road near the Hedgehog before strolling down Beacon Street to the Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

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