Sunday, 6 September 2015

A tapestry in stone

Friday found us venturing away from Beeston to meet up with close friends who live in Longton, one of the towns which make up Stoke-on-Trent, to celebrate a 65th birthday. We met in Rocester and had a long slow lunch in a farm shop, before heading in convoy to Croxden Abbey.

Over the years I have lost count of how many times I have seen the fingerpost sign saying 'Croxden Abbey' and never once diverted to see what there was to see. My focus always on getting to Longton to be with our friends Paul and Rosie (whose birthday it was).

I knew enough to know that we were going to see ruins and Rosie had blogged about Croxden Abbey. Click here to see a Croxden post she did in 2013 and an earlier Croxden post form 2008. Beyond that I had no idea of what to expect. In the event I was blown away by the experience.

I go to a place like Croxden and, selfishly, think that to take pictures will detract from the experience. It is as if those monks laboured all those centuries ago for us now and it had to be robbed of stone so we could be left with something greater than a religious house. Rosie's posts are full of great photographs and the few I am sharing with you now were taken by Rosie and Paul on Friday.

As wonderful as the larger remains are, I get the greatest pleasure from the detail. Little corners like this. I didn't want to leave.

I asked Rosie to take this photograph for me as it encapsulates the day and my feelings about Croxden Abbey. I see it as a tapestry in stone, woven, not built, knitted together and in places the walls were warm to the touch and I believe such walls can capture the human spirit as well as the Sun's rays. The marks on the dressed stone carry messages if we touch and let the vibration of time soaked into our bones and minds.

I am not religious or a mystic, but Paul caught me unawares with this photograph. Looking towards one corner of the Abbey remains. I was surrounded by stillness, oblivious to everything but the beauty of the moment. This is as near as I get to having a faith in anything beyond socialist humanism. I really connected with the monks and brethren who made this moment possible.

During the course of my seventy-one years I have visited countless places and a few register and stay with you, ever present, to be conjured up as inner releases — places which make you instantly happy. On Friday Croxden Abbey joined Sempringham, a Southwold beach-hut, Belgrave Road in Leicester, the Fosse Way, Bakewell Meadow, Haddon Hall and Oldmoor Wood. Wembley High Road from a 83 RT bus or 662 trolleybus, a 35 bus going to Bulwell. 

And you may wonder about people. I could fill a book with happy thoughts about friends and family, but they will all pass with me. Croxden will remain and I like to think that some of what spirit I have was left there on Friday to become part of what makes such places greater than just stones standing on stones.


  1. It is a wonderful place - I was going to say if only stones could speak - but then they do don't they? We all take away something individual from a visit. It was great to see you both and share to such a special day with such dear friends:)xxx

  2. Thank you Rosie. Just us. Is was like our place, in the middle of England, yet it felt so other worldly. Like Sempringham, as near to eternity as a physical place can be.

  3. A splendid, evocative piece of writing, Robert. I don't have a faith, but I, too, like to think that physical locations and structures can somehow retain something of the past. This is why it upsets me that buildings are razed to the ground on a such a regular basis. Even a disused factory or office building is, in some strange way, a repository for everything that once took place there.