I wish you a wonderfully happy, uplifting and positive year ahead. Happy, happy New Year,
I wish you all the best.
Great work to reach your fondest goals
And when you have done, sweet rest.
I hope for you fulfilment
Contentment, peace and more
A brighter New Year than
You’ve ever had before.
With apologies to Joanna Fuchs
Now that we are starting a new year, I feel full of hope for the future. It is as though we have been given a clean sheet of paper to start afresh, with new opportunities to do with as we will - however our lives or present situations may be. The gift of friendship is a special gift which can make difficult situations more bearable for those whose lives are caught up in unavoidable problems.
As I walk round my garden, I see little green shoots poking their heads up through the soil, bringing with them the renewal of life. The wonder of nature as it comes out after its long sleep, gently at first as though it is testing the water and then, when the time is right, it will burst out with spring time magnificence. A feeling of exultation, magic and sheer excitement as it unfolds before my eyes. The birds, mainly robins, are starting to join in with their spring songs, as they too sense this magic. Winter, and its change to spring, is also the time when on some days the air feels so clean, and the skies are a strikingly bright blue as though untouched and new.?
I live in Hampshire on the borders of West Sussex and we are fortunate in having many small and very ancient churches. Many are called shepherd’s churches and are often found buried deep in the far reaches of the countryside. They are the Octagon Parish Churches and consist of eight churches to be found in villages and fields nestling in the hills of the South Downs National Park. These ancient churches have their homes in thriving villages and communities. I have visited most of them and they radiate a special peace and tranquillity. The walks around are wonderful, and views hidden from normal view open up before you to give a sense of antiquity as if you have gone back many hundreds of years. In mediaeval times, an octagon was considered to be halfway between a circle (God) and a square (earth). It was the place where heaven and earth came into contact. That is why pulpits and fonts are often octagonal in shape.
I am going to take you to three, each one has its own special energy - peace, hope, reassurance - and above all Love. Some are magnificent, others are bare and humble. All have their sense of tranquillity and closeness to the Divine.
One of my favourite churches is the Holy Trinity Church in West Sussex at Boxgrove - this church is not one of the Octagon Churches but in the same vicinity
Church of St Mary and St Blaise, Boxgrove with renovated ancient priory wall
As you enter the church, there is a sense of peace, calm and wonder at its magnificence. In order to walk down the aisle, one has to tread on a magnificent labyrinth. Walking round a labyrinth is a spiritual walk, each step a walk of prayer and meditation.
Labyrinth in the Church of St Mary and St Blaise, Boxgrove, West Sussex
One of its most striking assets is the wondrous ceiling with its magnificent Tudor painting
The ceiling of the Church of St Mary and St Blaise, Boxgrove, West Sussex. Foliage and heraldry painted in the mid-6C by Lambert Bernard
It lies on part of the old priory church about which we are told that ‘The Priory was founded in the reign of Henry I, about 1123 by Robert de Haia (or de la Haye), Lord of Halnacre by gift of the king. A Saxon church had existed on the site before the Conquest. The Priory was founded for three Benedictine monks, and was owned by the Lessay Abbey in Normandy.’ There is an even older church close by at Bosham about which we read `the Venerable ‘Bede wrote that Bishop Wilfrid, visiting Bosham in 681, found a small monastery with five or six brethren led by Dicul, an Irish monk.’
Boxgrove Priory Ruins
I live near an ancient village of South Harting, which lies snugly nesting under the South Downs hills. Listed in the Doomsday Book, it is a most charming village and is just over the border from Hampshire into West Sussex.
South Harting was listed under the ancient hundreds of Dumpford as the large Manor of Hertinges, which included 196 households encompassing South, West and East Harting. They were 134 villagers, 42 smallholders and 20 slaves. With resources including ploughing lands, meadows, woodland and nine mills, it had a value to the lords of the manor of £100. The joint lords were the church of St Nicholas, Arundel, and Earl Roger of Shrewsbury.
Apart from three generations of the Earls Montgomery the manor was in the possession of the Crown until 1610 when it was granted to the Caryll family. In 1746 the manor was purchased by the Featherstonhaugh family.
Last week, a friend kindly took me to lunch at the ancient 15c White Hart Pub in South Harting, West Sussex.
White Hart Pub
After enjoying an excellent meal, we walked along the street to the famous church of St Mary and St Gabriel. Situated on a slight rise, its green copper spire acts as a landmark for miles around. A whipping post and stocks placed by the church gate gives one a reminder of days gone by.
On entering the church, I was struck by such a feeling of calm and tranquillity but above all a sense of welcome - an invitation to proceed further. Most striking on entering was a suspended and inspirational statue of St Gabriel, glistening in the sunlight. Sculptured in resin by the worldwide notable sculptor Philip Jackson (who has more works, including the wonderful and moving stature of Bomber Command Memorial standing in Green Park) than any other sculptor.
I took several photographs of St Gabriel and could not believe my eyes when in one photograph St Gabriel’s feet were together as in crucifixion form and in the other photograph, were wide apart - was it a miracle caught by my camera. I stared and stared - could this be true - yes, a miracle. My heart pounded with excitement and wonder.
But no - the answer lay in the angle from which I had taken the images. I will always remember the moment of electrifying and breathless amazement.
Adjacent to St Gabriel is a most striking spiral staircase. There is a clock that needs to be wound daily and before the staircase was installed the only access was a ladder in order to gain access to reach and wind the clock. This was becoming a problem. However Uppark Estate kindly stepped in and this most beautiful stairway was carved from a single piece of oak.
The Oak Stairway
This is a church full of treasures, one of which is the Queen Post ceiling and the effigies of John Cooper and his wife Margaret plus his father John, dating back to 1580/90. The fact they are in colour depicts their standing and wealth.
I have only scratched the surface of this remarkable church and you may be sure that I will visit it again as it has made a deep impression by its energy and wonderful sense of embrace.
There was a fire in part of the church in 1576, destroying part of the church including a section of the ceiling which had been destroyed and rebuilt. there is so much more important information to be had, I recommend this website
Most of these villages are hundreds of years old, tucked away deep inside the countryside and sometimes under the folds of hills surrounded by verdant pasture land. And as you enter and stand or sit (depending on the weather) an image enters one’s mind of shepherds in their Sunday best smocks wending their way to these special places to speak to God. Or maybe at other times just for a moment of peace away from the hardships of daily life.
As you approach Up Marden’s St Michael’s, you can immediately ‘feel’ exactly when you have entered its energy field. An energy field of such love, peace and calm that one is loath to leave and return to the mundane problems of the outside world.
Up Marden in summer
Up Marden in summer
Simon Jenkins wrote:
“You can go to Iona or Jarrow, to Cornwall or the Welsh Marches, and you will not find a more moving witness to early Christianity than here in the uplands of West Sussex.
These churches are little more than hermitages, cells of piety amid poverty. Centuries of patronage passed them by without alteration or embellishment. Most are described as Saxon-Norman. I would call them English Early Christian. They are first cousins to the pagan wood shrines whose sites they probably occupy.”
“The Spirits of Downsmen past and present may haunt Up Marden. They may gasp up the hill, tramp through the wicket gate and kneel exhausted before their God. But more than the spirits seem to fill this clearing. More than dryads flit from tree to tree. The Downland churches have a stronger magic. The unbeliever departs them all ill at ease.”
As you may have gathered, I have a passion for small and ancient churches, for their energy and for their modesty - for their stark appearance and lack of ornamentation. Their starkness belies their strength, as they stand strong and proud, welcoming the stranger with open arms within their protective walls; a welcome abundantly rich in contrast to their humble appearance.
Crop Circle Tour Dates 2022
As we eagerly await the start of the crop circles, usually in April in oil seed rape, but more frequently in May, I am now able to give you my tour dates. I have had so many enquiries and I look forward to welcoming you.
The first crop circle tour on Wednesday 27th July 2022 will include an optional extra of a much sought after private entry visit right up to the stones. Only a few people are allowed in at any one time. It is a mystically wonderful experience to see the sun set over the stones and feel the magic of this ancient place. You will feel their powerful energy surround and embrace you.
The second crop circle tour on Tuesday 2nd August 2022, has an optional extra of an evening flight. This is an incredible way of seeing circles in all their majesty from the air, together with the surrounding countryside, which depending on where the circles are, might include flying over the famous stone complex at Avebury and the sacred Silbury Hill, the largest man-made hill in Europe.
I also take a few private tours by appointment
I know many of you are interested in astrology and this video is overall encouraging
May you tread safely and joyfully.
I send you my love and best wishes,