Monday, 20 February 2017

Pilgrimage in Wales: Pennant Melangell

A visit to the church of Pennant Melangell in north Wales - inspired by the writer of Notes from A Common-place Book. 

The church is at the end of a remote valley: there is a path (marked discreetly with pilgrim's signs) halfway along the road from Llangygog leading up across the fields then down to the church. Such a different experience to walk - and arrive by foot.

Drifts of snowdrops everywhere.  The yew trees are 2,000 years old.  As old as the olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane.

This is a thin place - reminds me a bit of St Levan in Cornwall. So quite and still. Though people were there when we arrived which meant that was harder to appreciate. Perhaps better when visiting a small place to wait until you can enter the space alone.

The much reconstructed church is full of architectural wonder and details that fill the pages of The Buildings of Wales - pp232-34.
But most striking is the peace that surrounds it decide to read the guidebook later.

Our fellow visitors are very friendly.  'We've got a visitor from Tanzania...a  Bishop.' The splendid lady leading the way told me that the legend of St Monacella and the hare was probably apocryphal. There are no ancient carvings of hares in the church for example. But the Saint did for sure start a small religious community in the valley in the 7th century (the age of the Celtic Saints in Cornwall.) Made me think of St Crewenna and the very little that is known about her life. Her - we don't even know that Crewenna was a woman.

Equally friendly is the vicar who looks after the Pilgrimage Centre by a cottage nearby. Founded with the help of a donation from Prince Charles (that's really a way his money has made a difference).

She has cake and blue and white china mugs ready for her visitors and offers us glasses of water before we climb up the hill - or is this a small mountain? - behind.  It's a good thing to do. There's a mental challenge - as well as a physical challenge behind a climb.

At home spring has truly come to the kitchen. The plum blossom is at its peak. Branches like this have only one or two days of glory - it seems to me - forcing the blossom also has the effect of forcing the leaves. The first leaves on these branches are just starting to open.

Reading and watching

  • Foot by Foot to Santiago de Compostela/Judy Foot
  • The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw at the Barbican
  • The Testament of Mary/Colm Toibin
  • Schwanengesang/Schubert - Tony Spence
  • Journals/Robert Falcon Scott
  • Fugitive Pieces/Ann Michaels
  • Unless/Carol Shields
  • Faust/Royal Opera House
  • The Art of Travel/Alain de Botton
  • Mad Men Series 6
  • A Week at The Airport/Alain de Botton
  • The Railway Man/Eric Lomax
  • Bright Lights, Big City/Jay McInerney
  • Stones of Venice/John Ruskin
  • The Sea, the Sea/Iris Murdoch
  • Childe Harold/Lord Byron
  • All The Pretty Horses/Cormac McCarthy
  • Extreme Rambling/Mark Thomas
  • Story of my Life/Jay McInerney
  • Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy