When we drew back the curtains this morning everything was bathed in a remarkable golden light. I was off to Chitterne for the early morning service. Chitterne is across Salisbury Plain. The deserted village of Imber lies in the centre of the downs. Its population was asked to leave in the middle of the second world war and never went back – only the church remains.
Chitterne is a village of a couple of hundred people 9 miles from where we live – or 8.82 miles according to the Garmin. I took the Pashley 5 speed as I had time. I realise that too much of the time I am cycling as if out with my old friends from the Canterbury Velo Club, a friendly rivalry keeping us near to the edge of our physical capacity. Too much hurrying after a receding future.
So it was a pleasure to travel slowly. I strap my Bishop’s staff to the top tube of the bike with insulation tape – or technically the bottom of the two top tubes. The cassock goes in the Ortlieb pannier along with the mitre. The Garmin said it was 17.64 miles there and back but who cares?
There were twenty or in church using the old familiar words of the Book of Common Prayer. The parish church was built in 1862 to replace an older building. If you really want to find a holy place go to Chitterne and look for the chancel of the old church which stands on its own in a field, plain and simple.
And tomorrow into Salisbury with the Dawes on the train. In the evening over the hills to Combe Bassett for a lent talk in the parish church there, I think I’ll come back by train too as I have to be in London early on Tuesday.