Once again, a chapter is centered on Winchester and its surroundings. For a city (more of a town, really) wherever you decide to walk or drive, North, South East, or West, countryside, rivers, and hills are close by.
When walking around scenes of beauty, strangers, neighbors, acquaintances, exchange friendly greetings. Often a simple ‘good morning’ can open up an expansive conversation, typically exchanging views on the landscape; green, pristine, ancient, unspoiled. Folk often talk about how lucky we are living within walking distance of an ancient and indeed famous city.
Strolling around the area does not involve walking along roads. Long pathways lead to distant locations, miles away from the center. The Pilgrims’ Way is beside the River Itchen for a number of miles.
A short drive or bus ride (incredible service; arriving dead on the minute listed and friendly drivers!) take you through traditional, quintessentially English villages, often surrounded by hills or a river running close to these old-style, half timbered buildings.
Let me expand upon the wider location. Even driving along main roads, on either side there are meadows, woodland, and often roads where trees literally cover the road as if a tunnel. In between various other towns, the countryside is spectacular. No mountains, but gentle hills and valleys and rivers running elegantly under bridges.
Returning to the city, walking alongside the River Itchen, regardless how many times you have strolled along the same riverside, should you be either sad, concerned about something or someone, tired, Monday blues, a tough week at the office the previous week, or just plain fed up, natural surroundings can provide a calmness and a gentle form of positivity. Afterward, you may wonder why or how you were elevated above the elements of negativity.
Allowing your mind to wander and assimilate the beauty of the surroundings, there is a chance that you will be enveloped by peace, serenity and tranquillity.
Although a walk along the same pathways offers similar views, looking left, right and above, I have a smile on my face, absorbing the comforts and joy of our precious natural environment. There is always something previously unseen. Also, the sky could be blue or adorned with fluffy clouds one day and overcast the text. A different perspective is afforded the onlooker.
On approaching St. Catherine’s Hill, witnessing its temping slopes; too tempting not to climb this hill, revealing so much ancient history. So, once more I just climbed St. Catherine’s Hill; never finding previously viewed scenes boring, including views from the copse of trees reaching for the sky; varied directions; a new view on life itself.
Then down a steep slope, arriving at the ever-popular ‘Handlebar Café’ where I enjoyed a double espresso (rocket fuel!) and lemon cake. So welcoming; sitting outside and table service.
Once again I did again walk around the ruins of Wolvesey Castle and stared in awe at this ancient masterpiece of human ingenuity, which includes Winchester’s city wall complete with battlements. Well, here I am; about to walk into town past King Alfred the Great’s Statue. But for a while, enjoying sitting on a bench facing the River Itchen; its ripples audible through many different types of trees.
There is a stillness and silence, only interrupted by a harmony of flowing water. Sunlight shining through leaves green; tee-trunks supporting a maze of color.
A pigeon sends out its signal to a friend or mate, obviously enjoying a similar sensation.
‘Winchester Cathedral’ ‘Temperance Seven’ and ‘The New Vaudeville Band’! Should anyone recall this band singing the rather negative words, may wonder why the song ‘Winchester Cathedral, you’re bringing me down’ was so popular. It seems to be based on a guy’s girlfriend leaving him, blaming Winchester Cathedral’s bells for not ringing! Mind you, when they do ring, they energize the area!
A while back, there was a display board addressing this popular song, with the idea of modifying the lyrics! However, this never happened.
Walking towards the Cathedral via the Inner Close on a warm and sunny day like today, the atmosphere is one of happiness. Students, visitors form abroad and local residents enjoying picnics on the pristine lawns maintained by enthusiastic gardeners who enjoy their task.
I have vivid memories of the Christmas Market (German-style). Stolen, mulled wine and much to my pleasure, a stall selling salt beef sandwiches…..and roast pork sandwiches! An interesting combination. The Christmas Market returns this year and with it, the ice skating rink is undercover so it can be enjoyed during any weather.
So many people are taking photos of this 1000-year-old masterpiece. Flying buttresses looking as though they are either pushing or pulling the structure maintaining integrity and strength.
From the outside, the Cathedral certainly has a majestic presence. On entering the Cathedral and standing back to view the longest nave in Britain, every visitor is astounded. ‘Nave’ is derived from the word naval. The reason is evident when looking at a mirror pointed upwards. What you witness is the wooden frame of a galleon ship’s structure.
There is a warm, friendly welcome on arriving at the Cathedral where volunteer Stewards provide initial information and suggesting they talk with one of the guides who possess extensive information on all aspects of the Cathedral; also next guided tour.
People of many faiths and countries visit this historical icon. Be it architectural curiosity or an interest in history, they are never disappointed.
The King’s and Scribes Exhibition is truly awesome, ‘walking people’ through history from the Roman era onwards. The 900-year-old Winchester Bible certainly attracts the attention of all who witness this masterpiece.
When children visit accompanied by their parents, they are really fascinated. The views from the top floor being amazing. One young lady said her favorite period in history was the Anglo-Saxon era. Some kids really do love history!
And so, in conclusion of this chapter, the message is the graphic combination of city and countryside, rivers and hills. Being at one with Nature takes you on a journey, elevation thoughts, senses, and heart-led emotions. Oneness is not an automatic phenomenon. You have to release the heart and let the spirit wander, attracting empathy as if a magnet were part of inner thoughts.
I could write pages on the feelings, tranquillity to excitement. Connection with the Universe; a parallel dimension of human awareness and if allowed the freedom to let the heart fly, absorbs all that Mother Nature has to offer.
Should reaching such a surreal level of rapport with natural surroundings, it is as if they condense, forming a vivid lining around body and soul. No limits, but serenity. No borders, but freedom, not constraints, but being lifted to another level of enhanced reality.
Sit with me upon a bench overlooking the River Itchen. Combining mutual senses and appreciation of our natural environment. Uplifting, tangible, and enlightening. The heart will attract these dreams. Just recognize the Divine signals and follow the heart.