Marking Our Tracks - Further Afield - Songs For Quiet Steps - Empty Church Walks

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“Marking Our Tracks - Wellbeing Walks Further Afield” was a Back To Books walking and wellbeing project exploring changing landscapes through walks, re-cycling / up-cycling, poetry and song. The landscapes explored linked with disused railways like the Brampton Valley Way, canals, sites of industrial or historical significance, rural and urban locations and aimed to  encourage people to explore both familiar and unfamiliar landscapes in unique ways, whilst increasing fitness and encouraging healthier lifestyle. 

The 6 buildings and churchyards highlighted on the map once stood at the heart of their community and were a centre of community life, in some cases the communities moved or villages disappeared. Each Church is a patchwork of stone, wood, glass and time; each still retains the ability to stir us in some way. 

There is something contemplative and creative about spending time in one of these buildings, trying to imagine the communities that gathered inside them, the meetings and greetings, the births, deaths and marriages. No doubt there were intrigues, scandals, wild times, old superstitions discussed or debated in and around these churches' walls. 

The old stones have been touched and worked by many hands, they speak of the blacksmiths, the stained glass artists, carpenters, potters, masons, sculptors. Some nestle in fields surrounded by grazing sheep and the fields retain the humps and hollows, the footprint of other communities that are both like and unlike us. These churches are built, decay have been remade or added to over time and within their sheltered spaces there is still much to explore, imagine and reflect upon.

We were inspired by a series of church walks after the Brampton Valley Book Walk in May 2012 where we discussed Country Churches by Simon Jenkins from the Penguin series we were reading. Kate Dyer, who lead the discussion had been to Wellingborough to visit St Mary the Virgin, Knox Road "Comper's masterpiece interior".  

Then a later Derbyshire walk revealed another of the churches, St Oswald Church in Ashbourne which was also mentioned in the same book. Both buildings were working churches with fine interiors and imposing structures. Back To Books became interested in the small villages and tiny churches often stumbled upon whilst out walking or cycling. 

In most descriptions of the churches in this list you can read about the man made features of interest, the descriptions are often dry, technical and say little of the lives of the people who used them. Back To Books were also interested in the empty churches, conserved and left for all to enter and enjoy. Back To Books are intrigued by the way a space can resonate with the visitor and can engender a sense of wellbeing, curiosity or peace.

The walks / destinations in this local exploration resource were scoped and designed by photographer Andrew Rushton and are based around six churches that are cared for by the Church Conservation Trust. 

Poet Lucy Anderson has written a sequence of poems inspired by the churches and her research into their history. 

Artist Carole Miles has responded to each church by creating and documenting a temporary  intervention. 

There will be a sharing of photographs, poems and artefacts generated by this part of the project at Cranford Village Hall on the evening of September 12, 2014.

We hope you will find this resource an encouragement to make your own walks and explorations.

St Andrews Church, Cranford

St Andrews Church, Cranford, Grafton Road, Cranford, Kettering, Northamptonshire, NN14 4AD - 

Explore the village and ways to discover the Church in your own way. You can make the walk as long or as short as you like.

The are also numerous ways of getting to Cranford by bicycle and your efforts can be rewarded by stopping at The Old Forge

You can discover more about the rich history of the village by following Craneford Historie

Please feel free to add or share you photographs in this Flickr set 

All Saints Church, Holdenby

All Saints Church,  Holdenby Road, Holdenby, 
Northampton, Northamptonshire, NN6 8DJ 

The walk is gentle, muddy if wet, the views are peaceful. 
The Church itself is a gem with much to explore
The surrounding area is also worth exploring

and very close to Holdenby House 

Please feel free to share / add your photographs 

St Michaels Church, Farndish

St Michaels Church, Farndish, Wellingborough, 
Bedfordshire, NN29 7HJ

Local author H. E. Bates often would come through the village on his nocturnal walks in the 1920s and 1930s. It was on one of the night walks that he got the inspiration for his first novel, The Two Sisters, when he saw a light burning in one of the cottage windows.

St Peters, Wolfhampcote

Your destination is St Peters, Wolfhampcote

For a good stretch of the legs! Take plenty of water as the unmade private road has little shade. Parking on the grass carpark, at the end of Brindley Quays - go past the flats and the marina on your left and turn right at the end. 

The main map link will give you the directions for a shorter walk or for driving to the Church.

Walk will last approx 2 hours, outward bound along the canal returning along an unmade private road

This walk takes to to where industrial history intersects as road, canal and railway have all played their part in this area's history.

The key for the Church can be obtained from the farmhouse

St Margaret of Antioch, Knotting

St Margaret of Antioch, Melchbourne Road, 
Knotting, Bedfordshire, MK44 1AF

Saint Michael's Church Upton

The Church of St peter and St Paul, Preston Deanery, 
Northampton, Northamptonshire, NN7 2DX 

There is no set route here, follow your feet, 
see where they take you.

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