Wed July 4th 2007
To Ufton Court, a fine Elizabethan manor house in the Thames Valley. It boasts three priest-holes, and a rich recusant history. The current owners are a lovely family with a deep appreciation of the house's heritage of faith and it is used by schools as a centre for studying history: children come and stay, explore the house and are taught about its message and significance, wear Tudor costumes and make pomanders, and think about what it might have been like to be a hunted priest, etc. There is a tiny oratory, and also an attic chapel. Well worth a visit - check the website for details.
Today's gathering was in the Tithe Barn, and was a hard-working but satisfying day: an ecumenical charity which I help to run, Christian Projects, has an annual Schools Bible Project encouraging young people to study the New Testament, and a team of judges met to read all the essays. The Tithe Barn has magnificent old beams and is used for all sorts of banquets and celebratory events - our day had a quality of drama about it as a thunderstorm broke over our heads as we sat reading essays, sustained by trays of delicious sandwiches and fruitcake.
The country lanes are so gloriously green and lush this year, the meadows so enchantingly rain-washed, the lavender so generous and scented, the apples so abundant. Houses and churches and village pubs look so welcoming when windows glow with light as evening falls. I know that the rain has caused havoc too and the floods are horrible, but after a rain-soaked June, parts of our English countryside are just so lovely that the heart sings...