Saturday, 6 June 2015

Sacred Land: inspiring communities

Exploring the sacred in the city
Tuesday July 7th, 2015
old walls hold older stories
I have an old friendship with Martin Palmer and the team at the Alliance for Religion and Conservation. Their work is inspiring and provoking (in the best of ways) all at the same time. We have slightly over-excited meetings full of inspiration and ideas that don't always get anywhere but were good to have had anyway.

 (*I haven't got any Bristol photos to light up this post, so I'm going to add some favourite ones from other places!)
from holy buildings...
Here, however, we've dug a chest of treasures out of the storied sands of Bristol. We have two events in July that set out to introduce visitors to the sacred landscape of Bristol. And it is there (so forget that cynical sneer!), lying in the street patterns of the medieval city, in the precise placing of its churches, in the stories behind street names. It is even there in the overlap with Feng Shui traditions of a culture that at the time must have seemed fabulously remote holy wells
St Anne's Well, Buxton
As well as exploring the city (the afternoon event), we want to work with participants (evening event) to think about ways of engaging people with that sense of the place: historical, spiritual, natural, built: an ecology of communities that should make somewhere special of a city. We'll talk, share ideas, consider themes that intrigue, activities that involve, traditions to cherish or to wake…join us for a rich and rewarding pair of sessions….You could book into either or both events.

For more on these events, take a look at the Sacred Land Project.

To book, please contact Pippa Moss on 01225 758004 or

singing the wells, Buxton
July 7, 4pm to 6pm Walking Sacred Bristol, a guided tour through the ancient landscape of Bristol from a Chinese, Christian and pagan perspective. Limited places available. The walk will be led by Gordon MacLellan and Martin Palmer. Cost £12 per person. Meet at St Stephen’s Church, Old City, Bristol.

July 7, 7.30 p.m. Sacred Land: inspiring communities workshop £5 per person. St Stephen’s Church Bristol. PLEASE NOTE THIS IS A ONE OFF AND WILL NOT BE REPEATED. From medieval churches to modern chapels, Chinese dragons and the flow of qi, ancient stones to local woods, this workshop will explore ways of involving communities in their landscapes. Using case studies and sheer imagination, Sacred Land: inspiring communities will offer themes, activities and events to inspire people to look at the world around them in new ways. Mixing Christian, Chinese, pre-Christian and secular perspectives, this workshop will give participants a chance to think, plan and hopefully find new and exciting ways of drawing people into those local special places. And also simply be inspired themselves.The workshop will be led by Gordon MacLellan and Martin Palmer.
sometimes there are boggarts
  • Gordon MacLellan is a storyteller (“Creeping Toad”), artist and creator of celebrations. With an international reputation, his work finds ways of helping communities explore the relationships between people, places and wildlife. His most recent book is Old Stones and Ancient Bones: Poems from the Hollow Hills. Gordon is an animist shaman following a path that draws him into relationships with landscapes – urban, wild and countryside alike – alive with the presence of spirit.
  • Martin Palmer, is a theologian, author, broadcaster and environmentalist.  He is Secretary General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation ( and author of more than 20 books on religious and environmental topics such as Faith and Conservation and The Atlas of Religions. His work on sacred sites worldwide has won. He has advised UNESCO on World Heritage sites and has helped the World Monuments Fund with protecting endangered sacred sites. His book, Sacred Land (which decodes Britain’s extraordinary past through its towns, villages and countryside), is published by Piatkus/LittleBrown.

In Lathkill Dale

In Lathkill Dale

Maybe it's the time of day - I hope it's the time of day - but here in bright sunshine,  under a bright sky, on the bright flowering edge of summer, butterflies are in woeful supply. Whites, brimstones, orange tips have all fluttered by but so occasionally that two tortoiseshells count as a triumph, and I cheer and wave and dance a quick "returning butterfly" dance. After two miles of walking and wandering, and failing to photograph trout in the cold clear limestone waters of Lathkill Dale, I've still only got a handful of bees, even with a bee-fly to boost the numbers a bit. From stream bank to wide sweeps of rough flower meadows to field edge and dappled woodland with the hawthorn out and the wayfaring trees, I hover in anticipation and am left feeling forlorn.

Eventually, on the way back to the car, a stand of pale blue comfrey almost saves the day and moves me from fingers to toes but even then, that's it. No more.

Maybe it's the season and I am still a bit early, but here. Here? Here! In the depths of a NNR, surrounded by flowers, warming into a rich day in the early afternoon. O, I hope it is the moment and not the whole a pattern because this should be a haven

A Spell For The Dale
By burdock and butterbur and the weir that holds the stream,
By flood-coppiced elder and fugitive elm,
By the red-bark of the wayfaring tree
And the rose who climbs the hawthorn,
By bladder campion and red, and forget-me-nots
Reflecting the sky without clouds.

By rabbit and hare and the returning otters,
By lime-cave and lime kiln and
the troll-home well of Bateman's House,
By fossils in the walls and moss on the ruined mill.

With rooks in the rafters and chipping titmice in the bushes,
With coots in the rushes and a kohl-lined teal looking for her drake,
With trout in the shadows and crayfish under rocks.

We call the dipper to the stone,
And the vole to the pool,
And the traveller to peace

Useful link for moments of bees: