A Holiday at Home
A couple of days ago we were visiting close friends with near neighbours in Hackbridge, at the foot of whose small garden runs the River Wandle.
And so there we were – rowing up and down this river – in the late afternoon sunshine, with the shade and light reflecting on the leaves of the overhanging branches and the surface of the water.
On the opposite bank was Wilderness Island, a haven of informal tangles of plants – trees and wildflowers – which no doubt is the home to teeming wildlife.
And it struck me that these local riches are freely available to us all. As many readers will know, we have some lovely green spaces in this borough, an active Heritage Centre (at Carshalton Ponds), a nearby Ecology Centre, a recently established Community Farm at the smallholdings (just near to where we meet for church each Sunday) and the Wandle – whose history is described on the Thames Water website as follows:
“Its location and steep gradient, which results in fast-flowing water, led to it becoming one of the hardest-working rivers in the world, with more than 94 mills along its 11-mile length. In 1086, the Domesday Book noted 13 mills. By the year of Trafalgar in 1805, this number had quadrupled to 12 calico works, nine flour mills, five snuff mills, five oil mills, three bleaching grounds, two dye-works, and one each of paper mills, skinning mills, logwood mills, copper mills and breweries”.
I recall reading several years ago of a man who made the decision not to travel more than a few miles away from his home for around 6 months. And during this time he slowly began to appreciate the beauty of his surroundings – sometimes in the most unexpected places. He started to notice for the first time the lie of the land, the shape of roadways, the flow of a river, the wild places and so on.
I can very much empathise with this experience. Before we left to set up home in Yorkshire 7 years ago I had felt little connection with this physical place, considering it very much an anonymous outer London borough – convenient for commuting but lacking in beauty. It was only after returning that I began to look around me with clear eyes and see the places which I had previously passed by unnoticed.
Perhaps there is something in this for other folk too.
Rather than ‘escaping’ our towns for faraway places, it may be an interesting and surprising experience to ‘have a holiday at home’. To go deeper into the place – the land and – yes – many of the buildings which have been constructed so well and which may have a fascinating history.
And of course this is God’s place – just as much as some far-off, more glamorous holiday resort.
In Colossians Ch 1 verses 16 – 17, Paul writes: “By him all things were created” and “In him all things hold together”. God’s creation is everywhere – even in Wallington on a cold and rainy day!
So how about for your next holiday, try an adventure trip around your local landscape – remember your heritage, glory in your surroundings within a few miles radius of your home….and think of how much you save in terms of money, stress…and carbon emissions!”
George Dow November 2012
Next: Advent in today’s world