17 October 2022

‘Nurture those seemingly impossible dreams!
Whatever the time … whatever the reason’

Autumn colours at the Lime Leaf Chair in Great Linford Manor Park (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022; click on images for full-screen viewing)

Patrick Comerford

Autumn has truly settled in, the trees are rich in colour, and each day the evenings are closing in earlier.

Before dusk turned to darkness on Sunday, Charlotte and I strolled from the Black Horse along the banks of the Grand Junction Canal, through Milton Keynes Art Centre, Linford Manor Park and Saint Andrew’s Churchyard, enjoying the sculptures and the new works in the meadows, parks and gardens.

Nestled in the park’s wildflower meadow, the Seed Pods were created last year by Ian Freemantle, a woodworker based in Stony Stratford, as part of his ‘One Tree Project’ in 2021.

The Seed Pods are the work of Ian Freemantle, a woodworker based in Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022; click on images for full-screen viewing)

The timber for his sculptures came from the Stockgrove Redwood, once the central tree on an avenue of 12 specimens planted 100 years ago at Stockgrove Park House between Milton Keynes and Leighton Buzzard. Sadly, the tree died close to its 100th birthday, having reached a height of over 100 ft.

Since then, its wood has been turned into a variety of sculptures whose wood changes colour from striking red to a soft silver-grey.

The extensive green spaces of Great Linford Manor Park have been much altered in appearance since the pleasure gardens were first designed and shaped in the 17th and 18th centuries.

When the Pritchard or Uthwatt family replaced the mediaeval mansion and built a new Great Linford Manor, they did not want to look out their front windows at a street of common homes and hovels. The houses on the High Street were demolished to make way for a new manor house and the new, formal manor gardens.

Only the mediaeval parish church and the Almshouses built ca 1700 were left standing.

Reflections of the Almshouse at Great Linford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022; click on images for full-screen viewing)

The garden at Great Linford was designed as an English country pleasure garden with ornamental ponds. Richard Woods (1715-1793), a contemporary of Capability Brown, made use of the Hine Spring to feed a series of cascading ponds, and a stream also flowed through the park to the rounded fish ponds.

Close by the canal bank, we came to the site and remains of Great Linford’s Doric Seat, once hidden away in the ‘Wilderness’, where it offered unhindered view over the Ouse valley.

Catherine Uthwatt (1724-1794) of Great Linford was the daughter of Thomas and Catherine Uthwatt. When she married Matthew Knapp in 1750, she left Great Linford to live with him on his estate in Little Linford. Her mother was bereft at the loss, and it is said she would sit in the Doric Seat, gazing across the Ouse valley towards Little Linford, imagining her daughter was sat on her twin Doric Seat.

And so, she thought, they silently and sadly communed across the valley that separated them.

The Doric Seat columns by Arcangel on the site of the Doric Seat is a reminder of its Greek-style Doric columns (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022; click on images for full-screen viewing)

Whether the tale is true or not, the Doric Seat with its ornate Greek-style Doric columns was, provided a tranquil place away from the formalities of life in the manor house until the charming setting was dealt a blow in 1800 when the Grand Junction Canal was built only a few yards away. The railway followed in 1864, with its raised embankment, and both canal and railway bisected the estate, blocking the views across the valley.

The Uthwatt family resisted the encroachments and became embroiled in a bitter argument over compensation. Blackhorse Wood now hides what remained of the vista.

In its dying days, the Doric Seat was reduced to a shadow of its former glory, enduring an ignoble end as a cow shed, with the tasteless addition of concrete feed troughs. Finally it became the victim of vandalism and was burnt down in the 1980s.

The site is marked by the recently-crafted Doric Seat columns, created by Arcangel, a reminder of a lost folly or treasure on the landscape.

The Walled Garden behind the Almshouse (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022; click on images for full-screen viewing)

The same creative team also designed the nearby Lime Leaf Chair, a sculpture that doubles as a seat with a view. The lime leaf is shown in a skeletal state, which is how the leaves appear as they start to decompose.

The Lime Leaf Chair was inspired by Great Linford’s ancient Lime tree, thought to be 300 to 500 years old, and one of the oldest trees in Milton Keynes. Lime trees are also known as Linden trees, and this has led to speculation that Great Linford takes its name from a ford over the River Ouse near a Linden tree.

Darkness was encroaching further as the two of us strolled through the churchyard, with its Quiet Garden, laid out in 2018, and the Walled Garden behind the Almshouses, maintained by the Friends of Great Linford Manor Park.

Autumn reflections in Great Linford Manor Park (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022; click on images for full-screen viewing)

Words from ‘Parkland Peace’ by Alan Reavill on the gate into the Walled Garden say:

Restful, quiet, peaceful, idyllic scenes:
Places, perhaps to pause, relax and contemplate –
Nurture those seemingly impossible dreams!
Whatever the time … whatever the reason,
The Park offers so much … whatever the season.

After our peaceful walk through these idyllic scenes in mid-autumn, we headed back along the canal bank in the evening darkness and enjoyed dinner in the Black Horse.

As we left, night had fallen on Great Linford and we could feel the autumn rain on our shoulders.

In the evening darkness at the Black Horse in Great Linford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022; click on images for full-screen viewing)

Praying for World Peace and with USPG:
Monday 17 October 2022

Street art in Rethymnon in Crete … today, the Week of Prayer for World Peace invites prayers on the theme of the Environmental Crisis caused by wars (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today (17 October) remembers Saint Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch and Martyr, (ca) 107, with a Lesser Festival.

Before today gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

This year, the Week of Prayer for World Peace is from 16 to 23 October. In my prayer diary from this Sunday until next Sunday, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, A reflection from the programme for the Week of Prayer for World Peace (16 to 23 October);

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

The view of the Coliseum from the Basilica of San Clemente … Saint Ignatius of Antioch was martyred in the Coliseum and his relics were moved to San Clemente in the year 637 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Ignatius was born probably in Syria in about the year 35 CE and was either the second or third Bishop of Antioch, the third largest city in the Roman Empire. Nothing is known of his life except his final journey under armed escort to Rome, where he was martyred around the year 107. In the course of this journey, he met Polycarp in Smyrna, and wrote a number of letters to various Christian congregations that are among the greatest treasures of the primitive Church. In the face of persecution, he appealed to his fellow Christians to maintain unity with their bishop at all costs. His letters reveal his passionate commitment to Christ, and how he longed ‘to imitate the passion of my God.’

John 6: 52-58 (NRSVA):

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ 53 So Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’

The Week of Prayer for World Peace takes place this year from Sunday 16 October 2022 to Sunday 23 October 2022

Week of Prayer for World Peace 2022, Day 2:

The week of Prayer for World Peace takes place from the second to third Sunday in October each year, which this year is from yesterday (Sunday 16 October 2022) to next Sunday (23 October 2022).

The Week of Prayer for World Peace is supported by a wide range of organisations, many of which I have engaged with over the years, including the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, Christian CND, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi, and Quaker Peace and Social Witness.

Day 2: Environmental Crisis Caused by Wars:

We pray for the restoration of lands damaged by chemicals and other products of war.

‘May the heavens be at peace, may the sky be at peace, may the Earth be at peace, peace to the water, peace to the trees and nature, may the gods be at peace, that peace unto Brahma (the creator) and may we humans realise that peace.

‘Om Peace Peace Peace Om.’ – Shanti Path/Peace Mantra (Hindu)

‘Let us pray for an end to the waste and desecration of God’s creation, for access to the fruits of creation to be shared equally among all people.’ – part of Jesuit resource (time.com).

‘O loving God, from ravaged lands,
‘destroyed by war,
‘Your people lift their hands to you.
‘We pray for stillness, for justice and for peace to come and to last.’ – From Ignatian Solidarity Network prayer for an end to violence, war and death

‘May all I say and all I think
be in harmony with thee,
God within me,
God beyond me,
maker of the trees.’ – Chinook prayer, Pacific Northwest Coast

‘Fear, separation, hate and anger come from the wrong view that you and the earth are two separate entities, the Earth is only the environment. You are in the centre and you want to do something for the Earth in order for you to survive. That is a dualistic way of seeing.’ – Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh

A colonnade of 14 Corinthian columns on the west side of the Stoa of Smyrna, the only surviving classical site in Izmir … Saint Ignatius of Antioch wrote four of his letters, including one to the Church in Smyrna, while he was a prisoner in Smyrna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer (Monday 17 October 2022, Saint Ignatius of Antioch):

The Collect:

Feed us, O Lord, with the living bread
and make us drink deep of the cup of salvation
that, following the teaching of your bishop Ignatius
and rejoicing in the faith
with which he embraced a martyr’s death,
we may be nourished for that eternal life
for which he longed;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

God our redeemer,
whose Church was strengthened by the blood of your martyr Ignatius:
so bind us, in life and death, to Christ’s sacrifice
that our lives, broken and offered with his,
may carry his death and proclaim his resurrection in the world;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is ‘World Food Day.’ This theme was introduced yesterday.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

We pray for the Anglican Council of Malawi and their service to communities across Malawi.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Street art in Rethymnon in Crete … today, the Week of Prayer for World Peace invites prayers on the theme of the Environmental Crisis caused by wars (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The 42-hectare Kültürpark was laid out on the ruins of the Greek quarter of Smyrna … while Saint Ignatius was in Smyrna as a prisoner, representatives of Churches throughout Asia Minor came to meet him and to comfort him (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)