September 18, 2006

Beautiful Sunday…

I’m typing as we drive northward to Derbyshire. It has been a wonderful day thus far, but I want to recap Sunday before I cover today’s delights!

We breakfasted at Leighton House Sunday morning, then drove to Bradford on Avon for church. The scenery there was beautiful, as you can see. Everything in this part of the country is particularly green and lush from the regular rainfall. The drive to church was so nice, and Matt’s GPS was working again (it started working once we got out of the area immediately surrounding London, oddly enough!). The only difficulty was that the GPS didn’t have a street number for the church, so we ended up driving right past it (and none of us saw it). We turned around and found the railway station, which has a car park. After parking, we walked up the hill into Bradford proper, and the church was directly in front of us! Here’s a picture I took afterwards when we left Bradford:

The Old Baptist Chapel started in the 1600s with a group of dissenters who broke from the Anglican church. They had to meet in the woods near the river Avon at first, since their activities were considered illegal. For a time, they did not even sing hymns fo fear of being caught and persecuted. The little church building itself was put up in the 1700s and remodeled in the 18th century. It is very simple–much like an American colonial church with elevated pulpit. The minister was out this week, as was his son (who is co-minister), so a guest preacher was in from another county. We thoroughly enjoyed his sermon, which exhorted us to remember the charge given to the Israelites in Joshua 22:5 (“But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul”). The minister encouraged us to keep five steps of the Christian walk in mind: love, walk, obey, hold fast, and serve. It was a wonderful sermon, and we felt at home in the congregation.

Immediately after the service, the minister’s daughter introduced herself to us and invited us to lunch. We were delighted to accept and walked up the hill from the church to a tiny alleyway next to St. Margaret’s Place. I wish I had photographed the beautiful enclosed garden opposite the house. It was a small paradise full of flowers, butterflies, and birds. The house itself was, as our hostess told us, “older than your Constitution!” Built in the 17th century, it featured foot-thick walls and exposed beams. The low ceilings gave everything such a cozy feel. Back in the 1600s, only the Royal Navy was allowed to use fresh-cut oak. All new timber was needed to outfit ships, so houses were built of lumber from dismantled ships! The beams in the house came from ships that had sailed all over (possibly even to America and back). It was fun to speculate about where the house had “traveled” before it was built!

Our lunch consisted of a savory cottage pie (what we Americans mistakenly call “shepherd’s pie”–but that is made from mutton rather than beef in England), vegetables, and a marvelous fruit and rice pudding made from raspberries, black currants, and apples all from the garden next to the house. Naomi apologized for serving us what they call “poor food,” but we thought it rich, indeed! I’ve requested the recipes and hope to reproduce these dishes at home. I know the children will love them! But better than the food was the warm fellowship we enjoyed with our lovely hostess. It never ceases to amaze me how you can find a kindred spirit all the way across the globe within the Body of Christ! We shared so many things in common, and our conversation flowed as naturally as if we’d known each other for years. What a precious gift! Two hours flew by as we relaxed and talked and laughed at the babies’ antics.

Matt thoroughly enjoyed Naomi’s father’s study, which contained many rare books and even several volumes we have in our library. Best of all were two rare Bibles–one a Geneva Bible from 1608 and one a Tyndale Bible from 1569. The first book is rare enough, but the second is like finding gold. The minister actually found it in a cow shed, bound between two boards! Matt was thrilled to be able to hold these in his hands–testaments to the faithfulness of Christians to keep God’s Word in spite of persecution and even death. We truly take so much for granted. It was sobering to hear that many ministers in Great Britain are now in jail for preaching the gospel. We saw two articles at the church that showed how far Britain has strayed from its Christian civilization. “Tolerance” is lauded all over the place, yet they jail men for preaching God’s word! Sobering. But we didn’t dwell entirely on such things. There is much going on that is exciting and encouraging in Britain, and being with Naomi was a great breath of fresh air.

As the clock chimed out 2:30, we gathered our things and walked back down the hill to our car and headed back to Bath. It looked like it would rain, but the weather really does shift moment by moment, so we weren’t concerned about it. Late in the afternoon, we headed to the Pump Room for a Pride and Prejudice Tea, put on in honor of the Jane Austen Festival. We walked up the street to the Pump Room in full Regency Dress–even Matt in his tailcoat! Crowds of people filled the street, and we got a lot of laughs and funny comments from passersby. One pointed to our modern stroller and said, “Mixing up the eras a bit, aren’t we?” Matt replied, “It’s the latest thing in Bath!” The Pump Room is every bit as thrilling as you’d imagine (well, if you’re a Janeite like some of us!). It looks much as it did in Jane’s day with the exception of the tables and chairs, which are cleared away on some occasions. There is a gent who mans the fountain and hands out the “healthful waters” of Bath to those brave enough to try them. He lives in period dress five days a week and really acts his part. You can tell he loves his job! He gave me a glass of the warm water, which tastes like sulphur mixed with metal and a dash of salt! Not at all pleasant, but certainly worth a try if you want the full experience! Here he is in his glory, manning his station:

And here is the pump itself:

You can look down from the Pump Room windows directly into the Roman baths. The water level has been changed in recent years when the floor o
f the baths began to give way. You can see the original water line, which is a rusty red all the way around the baths.

We thoroughly enjoyed the tea and found another table of ladies in Regency dress in attendance as well. They were in Bath for the festival and planned to dress up every day for various events. One lady told me they sew all year for this festival and create new gowns for every occasion! I also had the privilege of meeting one of my long-time customers from Germany, who was in Bath with her mother. She hadn’t dressed up for the tea but said she planned to make more outfits next year and dress for everything. It’s so much more fun to go when you are dressed for the era! Speaking of which, here we are at our tea table, enjoying delicious scones with clotted cream and jam:

When we first arrived, Patrick promptly fell asleep, but Tucker was a bit fussy–so Matt gave him his first taste of sugar!

As you can see, Tucker really enjoyed his sweet treat!

Here I am with Tucker just after finishing tea:

And here is Patrick, finally awake and happy, with Miss Melissa:

At the end of our tea, we strolled out into the side street, which is home to the great Bath Abbey. The carvings on the exterior are amazing and include Jacob’s Ladder with angels ascending and descending–each one unique. We didn’t get to go inside the Abbey, which was closed to visitors in the afternoon. This cathedral is fairly new–only 500 years old. ;-) The square in front of the Abbey is beautiful and includes the side entrance to the pump room and lots of hanging flowers:

And here I am with Melissa in front of the main Pump Room entrance:

We strolled around the sunlit streets of Bath for a time, enjoying all the lovely sights of a tranquil Sunday afternoon. I have to say, when you first arrive in Bath, you feel quite a bit like Catherine Moreland from Northanger Abbey. Everything is big and bright and wondrous. The whole town sets you agog with its golden glow. Each new street or alleyway holds an adventure, with quaint shops like this one in abundance:

What is even more amazing is that I discovered our inn is on the very hill mentioned by Jane Austen in the book as the one Henry Tilney walks upon with Catherine to show her the view of Bath! So our view is the exact one Jane meant when she described Bath in the book. Now the hill is filled with houses built in the late 1800s, but back then, it was all wide open. Here are some pictures of Leighton House and its wonderful garden:

We enjoyed our stay at the inn very much with its close proximity to the city center and its marvelous view. If you’re ever in Bath, I’d highly recommend a stay there! Breakfast is top-notch, too! Tomorrow (if I have time!), I’ll fill you in on the rest of our time in Bath. We left around 2pm after visiting the Jane Austen Centre (fantastic!), the Assembly Rooms (exquisite!), and the Museum of Costume (WOW!). We took so many pictures we filled the camera’s memory card and had to download to continue! I think the only way to share all the costume photos will be to upload them to PhotoBucket and share the link. Lots and lots of yummy gowns! Same with the JA Centre, which has its own collection of original and reproduction outfits. First rate!

But for now, I must turn in. We are in Bakewell, Derbyshire, right in the heart of the Peak National Park. Tomorrow we see the peaks and Chatsworth!