07 May 2023

‘If you go down to the woods today
You’re sure of a big surprise’

The carpets of bluebells are an indication that Linford Wood is an ancient woodland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

If you go down to the woods today
You’re sure of a big surprise
If you go down to the woods today
You’d better go in disguise.
For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain,
Because today’s the day
The Teddy Bears have their picnic.

Picnic time for Teddy Bears
The little Teddy Bears
Are having a lovely time today
Watch them, catch them unawares
And see them picnic on their holiday.
See them gaily gad about
They love to play and shout;
They never have any cares;
At six o’clock their Mummies and Daddies,
Will take them home to bed,
Because they’re tired little Teddy Bears.

If you go down to the woods today
You’d better not go alone
It’s lovely down in the woods today
But safer to stay at home.
For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain,
Because today’s the day
The Teddy Bears have their picnic.

This is bluebell time, and one recent afternoon we went to Linford Wood to see the carpet of bluebells … and we were also in for a surprise along the Arts Trail when we came across sculptures, including the Teddy Bear.

Linford Wood is Milton Keynes’ very own 100 acre wood, criss-crossed with paths and trails that offer a window on its rich wildlife. There the carpets of bluebells are an indication that this is an ancient woodland, and the wood is a surviving fragment of the wildwood that covered most of Britain after the last Ice Age.

As villages grew up in the area, the wood became a vital source of raw materials for building and heating homes and feeding livestock. By the Middle Ages, the wood was part of the estate owned by the Lords of Linford Manor.

World War I brought more change as most of Linford’s ancient trees were felled for the war effort. The woodland fell into disrepair until modern times, when active management has returned it to life. A vigorous planting and woodland management programme has seen native species such as oak, ash, field maple, hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel and dogwood thrive again, providing habitats for a wide range of small mammals, birds and insect life.

Modern woodland management owes much to the use of coppicing in the past. Some trees are cut back hard to encourage new shoots, which in their time were used as poles and for the wattle and daub houses. Today, coppicing keeps growth healthy and allows light into the forest floor where plants can thrive.

A Teddy Bear among the wood carvings and tree stumps along the Art Trail in Linford Wood (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Waymarker posts at the entrances and path junctions guide visitors around Linford Wood. The North Wood walk is marked in blue, is around 1.5 km long and takes about 25 minutes at a leisurely pace. The South Wood walk is marked in yellow, is about 1.2 km long and takes about 20 minutes. Both routes are on hard and mainly level surfaces, with short diversions along the Orchid and Art trails.

As we explored Linford Wood in the late afternoon, we looked out for the series of intriguing wood carvings along the Art Trail, nestling beneath the trees and the shrubs. As well as woodland creatures and spirits, some well-known storybook characters emerge from tree stumps alongside the paths.

Along the Orchid Trail, early-purple orchid, greater butterfly orchid, herb paris and broad leaved helleborine are some of the flowers to look out for in spring and early summer.

Linford Wood is owned and managed by the Parks Trust, a self-financing charity dedicated to caring for over 4,500 acres of parks and landscapes in Milton Keynes. It provides a network of green spaces across the city, works with schools and volunteers and organises over 200 events each year that make Milton Keynes a vibrant and colourful place to live, work and visit.

After our walk in Linford Wood, instead of looking for the Teddy Bears’ picnic, we walked into Milton Keynes and had dinner in Cosy Club in Silbury Arcade, promising to return again to explore the trees, the walks and trails, the flowers and the sculptures.

Download a copy of the trails at the website: www.theparkstrust.com

This is bluebell time in Linford Wood (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Morning prayers in Easter
with USPG: (29) 7 May 2023

Saint Chad and King Wulphere depicted in a window in the Chapter House in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

We are more half-way through the season of Easter, and today is the Fifth Sunday of Easter (7 May 2023). As the booklet for the midday Eucharist in Lichfield Cathedral reminds me: ‘The Great Fifty Days of Eastertide form a single festival period in which the tone of joy created at the Easter Vigil is sustained through the following seven weeks, and the Church celebrates the gloriously risen Christ’.

Later this morning I hope to be at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford. But, before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for prayer and reflection. Following my recent visit to Lichfield Cathedral, I am reflecting each morning this week in these ways:

1, Short reflections on the windows in the Chapter House in Lichfield Cathedral;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The window in the Chapter House depicting Saint Chad and King Wulphere is in memory of Canon Edwards of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The Saint Chad and King Wulphere window:

The Chapter House in Lichfield Cathedral is currently the venue for the exhibition ‘Library and Legacy,’ showcasing the collections in the cathedral library.

The chapter house was decorated with frescoes and stained glass in the late 15th century by Thomas Heywood, Dean of Lichfield in 1457-1492. The frescoes have disappeared except for fragments over the doorway, where faint signs of the representation of the Ascension still remain, with a depiction of the Trinity.

This fresco may have formed part of Dean Heywood’s decoration, but it is more likely of an earlier date. It has been suggested that it was placed there in the early 15th century by Thomas Burghill, Bishop of Lichfield in 1398-1414. Burghill was a Dominican, and a Dominican friar is included in the group in adoration.

The glass in the Chapter House once contained figures of the apostles, with other depictions above. These all predated the Cromwellian era, and were destroyed by the Puritans during the Civil War in the mid-17th century.

In the 19th century, the glazing of the chapter house displayed armorial bearings, more or less correct, in imitation of glass known to have ornamented the cathedral in the past. This armorial glass gradually gave way to glass representing scenes in the history of the cathedral. Six of the windows were glazed with these images in the late 19th and early 20th century, and the original but unfilled plan was to fill all the windows in the Chapter House.

The first window on the left-hand side on entering the Chapter House is in memory of Canon Edwards, a prebendary of Lichfield Cathedral. This window is by Burlison & Grylls, ca 1890. The firm was founded in 1868 at the instigation of the architects George Frederick Bodley and Thomas Garner. Both John Burlison (1843–1891) and Thomas John Grylls (1845–1913) had trained in the studios of Clayton and Bell.

The main figures in this window are Saint Chad and King Wulphere.

Saint Chad of Mercia is regarded as the patron saint and founder of Lichfield Cathedral and Diocese. Chad and his brother Cedd were studenst of Saint Aidan at Lindisfarne and are credited with introducing Christianity to the Mercian kingdom in the English Midlands in the seventh century.

King Wulfhere of Mercia requested a bishop for his people in the year 669. The area around Tamworth, Lichfield and Repton formed the core of the wider Mercian kingdom. Wulfhere and the other sons of Penda had converted to Christianity, although Penda himself had remained a pagan until his death in 655.

Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury refused to consecrate a new bishop. Instead, he called Chad out of his retirement at Lastingham. According to the Venerable Bede, Theodore was greatly impressed by Chad’s humility and holiness. This was displayed particularly in his refusal to use a horse: he insisted on walking everywhere. Despite his regard for Chad, Theodore ordered him to ride on long journeys and went so far as to lift him into the saddle on one occasion.

Saint Chad was consecrated bishop of the Mercians, and moved the see from Repton to Lichfield. Bede says us that Chad was actually the third bishop sent to Wulfhere, making him the fifth bishop of the Mercians.

Saint Chad died on 2 March 672, and was buried at the Church of Saint Mary which later became part of Lichfield Cathedral at Lichfield.

The scenes in the lower part of this window show the consecration of Saint Chad as Bishop of Mercia by Bishop Wini of Winchester assisted by two bishops and the Baptism by Saint Chad of the two sons of King Wulphere, Wulfhad and Rufin. This depiction is at variance with the legend of Wulphere immediately decapitating Wulfhad and later pursuing and slaying Rufin during a temporary renunciation of his own professed Christianity.

The scenes in the lower part of this window show the episcopal consecration of Saint Chad and his of baptism of King Wulphere’s sons (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

John 14: 1-14 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 1 ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ 5 Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ 6 Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

8 Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ 9 Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.’

The surviving fragments of a mediaeval fresco in the Chapter House in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘The Work and Mission of the Laity.’ USPG’s Regional Manager for Africa, Fran Mate, reflects on the work and mission of the laity this morning:

‘The laity are those who, through faith and baptism, have said ‘yes’ to God’s inviting call and have entered the House of the Lord as members of Christ’s mystical body. Each member of the Church Jesus has personally called by name, inviting them through the Holy Spirit to live intentionally as his disciple, and live out their baptismal covenant.

‘The apostolate of the laity derives from their Christian vocation and the Church can never be without it. The sacred scriptures clearly show spontaneous and fruitful lay ministry and focuses on the celebration of the ministry of all Christians.

Lay ministry offers a chance for church members of all ages to pause and consider their own unique calling to ministry within the community and the Church. The ministry of the laity is ‘to represent Christ and his Church, to bear witness to him wherever they may be and according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.’ (The Book of Common Prayer)

‘The laity workers play a very important role in the ministry of the Church. They serve in various capacities and enable the Church to celebrate different skills for the body of Christ.’

The USPG Prayer invites us to pray this morning (Sunday 7 May 2023, the Fifth Sunday of Easter):

Gracious Lord,
open our ears to hear your call
and our hearts to discover your way
that we may learn to live in you
and be bearers of life and truth.


Almighty God,
who through your only–begotten Son Jesus Christ
have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life:
grant that, as by your grace going before us
you put into our minds good desires,
so by your continual help
we may bring them to good effect;
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Eternal God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life:
grant us to walk in his way,
to rejoice in his truth,
and to share his risen life;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.

Last year marked the 1,350th anniversary of the death of Saint Chad (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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 shrine of Saint Chad in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)