Patchwork, bicycling and dolls

I’m not a baggage handler but if I was I’m sure there’d be times when I’d wonder what all the baggage was about.Where it’s going ,who is it for ? How necessary is it?
Wherever people travel they like to take a little bit of home with them.To bring and take back.Clothes, toothpaste ,a book ,shoes,
although in most countries its easy to buy shampoo and toothpaste.  Security is an important comfort of life.Look how well brands pander to people’s insecurity .They say ‘You know me.You can trust me .And you don’t need to take risk to discover the new and the local.You don’t need to support the strange or the stranger .I’m the only one of quality ” Quite a boring way to follow with loyal blindness into the uniformity of globalisation. The security of baggage and brands can be a trap of restricted experience and a lie that strange is inferior .
But not all baggage is predictable.
And those pioneering the work I have joined in with had great plans of delivering gifts from a variety of sources. If you have read the earlier blog you will remember the bicycle luggage ,but I’ve not yet mentioned the dolls or the clothes or the beautiful quilts.Not my gifts, but the generosity of people who know who their neighbour is and responded .
And so I share with you a little of the distribution of baggage. It emerged as generous gifts from the kindness of strangers ,reaching the surprised on floodwater of joy. We’ve taken some time to deliver assessing need and suitability not wanting to be provoking envy.


A very big thank you from this family whose life will be transformed by simple transport of a bicycle .Thank you to a colleague .A shock presentation of great happiness .Thank you for letting me experience this.


And eight little people being blessed by eight magnificent hand knitted dolls ..a few more to distribute amongst children who have recovered from malaria or other sickness. Massive smiles on tiny faces and mothers touched deeply by generosity Thank you.


What beautiful quilts! The skill in design and execution is tremendous and these have been for little people bringing comfort in poverty .Thank you.Thank you.
The generosity of others has had profound effects .It is a humbling privilege to be a luggage lady,fellow staff have seen professional care and dedication in the givers they may never meet .The transitory handover gave  all round intense pleasure running into lasting practicality and deep experiences of long term gratitude.
Cycling,sowing ,knitting or whatever your baggage, may it  rise out of the dull ,ripple past your security to create extraordinary generosity.

Rest and Reflection



It’s been over a week since my cycling tour of the Abbeys of Yorkshire came to an end . A beautiful tour , a tour about being and not about achieving .  How many miles and how high I climbed in total is not the issue. The space to think, to enjoy ,to find, to pray,to be was  the purpose .And that was fulfilled. 

Yes, I’d love to be an expert on each Abbey , so feel the highs and the lows of those who lived there. To see the learning ,hospitality ,charity and love of the great monasteries. To hear the tales of failure and fear and isolation  as a community diminished. It cannot be , that the Abbeys of Yorkshire , over four hundred  years , led a uniform existence of peace and holiness , happiness and contentment.  It cannot be, that as Henry VIII saw fit to dismantle monasteries , each monk or nun was in error . Some , maybe , had drifted away from biblical and apostolic truth , but many , may we dare to believe, were  believers and followers of truth.  So much remains in history and mystery. 

I loved the nature , the owl, the deer, the otter and the gulls. the shoreline and the wild moor, the city and the reclaimed coal field. I loved the ruin , held static by English Heritage and the living ex monastery or nunnery  in private care as a private dwelling .  We salute the private owners with so great a responsibility to protect , nourish , cherish and preserve our history. 

And the speed of my cycling brought a peace and thoughtfulness to the journey. A time for reflection and acknowledgement of the greatness of the institution of monasteries and nunneries and a thankfulness that the rhythm and heartbeat of prayer continues to flow out to God and into our world 

Home from home


The home from home cycle tour of the Abbeys of Yorkshire is finished
( except Nun Monkton…I haven’t forgotten you,and shall cycle over in the next few weeks).Thank you to all my wonderful supporters.You have been family and friends,financial emotional,physical and spiritual supporters.Thank you .
At Ripon,I felt an overwhelming sadness that the trip was nearly over and thought that Fountains or Bolton would make me very sad.Emotions are strange and unpredictable and having feared an over busy Fountains would be intrusive ,it was a delight to see crowds of people enjoying themselves ,treading the place of so many before them.It was good to be a happy and bustling monastery again. Different times and perhaps some differnt needs, but still with plenty of places of peace and people finding inspiration from those called by Christ to follow him.At Bolton Priory, I was not sad.I had my husband with me and it is here where we were married.I was also nearly home.

In Wensleydale ,the usefulness of Marrick Priory ,accessible by zip wire and a place of holiday and adventure today ,is a positive and fulfilling use of old buildings.The nearby ruins of Ellerton Nunnery are located in a private garden.Small, beautiful and important they are maintained by private individuals as a remembrance of the nation’s heritage. Watton and Newborough Priories , near Bridlington and Byland , respectively are simply private houses bearing the cost of the heritage and privilige.We need to be grateful that families will maintain these places and use them.
As I finish this trip , I have much much more to share,everyday stuff and thoughtful stuff and spiritual stuff,the surprises,frights and the kindness of people.This story Home from Home is simple.If you want true cycling adventures ‘Cycling home from Siberia’ is the most wonderful book By a geography teacher that was.
Did I keep the rule of Benedict?..It is hard and sometimes harsh but as to rules and wisdom Psalm 19 has great advice.I like to know what is better than gold and better than honey. Psalm 19 as read in Selby Abbey on my second morning .
” The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer

May some resonance be found by all of you in this rule.

A roads to die for

A cycling helmet is not a ‘Kill me Quick ‘ hat . Ministry of Transport do you really expect cyclists to travel down the A19 dual carriageway? Yes you do ! Mount Grace disgrace . So rather sadly I was restricted to sitting high above Mount Grace Priory , but eating a Bettys quiche.
Friday started early with matins in York Minster . Held in a side chapel ,it was hard to locate . The nave empty ,I stood completely alone with the vast history of that place . The distant human sound was confused with the echo . The service was simple but a very special start to the day

St Mary’s Abbey at York is a peaceful city park with plenty of flowers and trees and the river which were all at their best .Too early for breakfast in York and with a train to catch it was worth joining the early gathering queue to enjoy Bettys Northallerton.
Mount Grace , Easby and dramatic Richmond were followed by Egglestone ,Barnard Castle and the A66 provided another conundrum of access by bicycle .Yes , briskly over the A66 between 40 ton trucks is what is expected .. Or cycle it . A lovely local lycra lad ( well my age) confirmed my route as the only option . At Moulton, too ,near Richmond small country roads are just left to go nowhere or lead to long detours via main roads around the A1 .A kind lady of Moulton said some folks climb the crash barrier to cross the A1 on foot . These are problems solved by a few bridges but woefully missing in planning .So kind was this lady , signposted an alternative way and she sponsored me. Please join her

As you see I have power again. Another day in a shining jacket , tolerated by good folks in Redmire who lavished tea and cake upon me , was followed by my Knight in shining armour with Charger treating me to dinner.Thank you ,Jens. Onward to Bolton Priory to meet there again . With a few more abbeys between for me ,nameley No 26 Coverham ,then Jervaulx,Ripon,Fountains and Bolton .Fountains Abbey I am on my way .

Show and Tell

Sometimes I want to tell people I’m a nun.Quite why a blank look compells me to misbehave I shall leave to the psychologists. But I thought such deception would be obvious from my luminous yellow appearance .Apparently not, as the desk lady at Rievaulx explained and told me about a new nunnery at Wass bank .This prayer thing really has meaning across the ages . Hilda of Whitby was a great pray-er and a highly respected lady of international repute . The rhythm of prayer of monastic life is becoming popular again today .
But I’m tired. Yes ,of couse I am a weeny bit physically tired ,but I’m really tired of my HV Jacket and helmet hair.Blending in is only possible in an almost flowering rape field and I’ve left those behind long ago with Hockneyd Tall Trees . The luminous yellow clashes with gorse and daffodils and is not an attractive evening out in Scarborough jacket. Needs must. It has become a ‘let’s do hand luggage only”type of coat and so how to carry it other than wearing becomes a bulky problem . So my dear coat which I have owned for less than a week Is a sort of friend .It certainly acted as counterpoint to the dark Goths of Whitby and the black robes of Ampleforth . But no wonder Ms Pendleton loves the attention from P&G , as even worse is hair longterm under a helmet.
Helmet hair is horrible .

It was another exceptionally fabulous day today .No honey,but no baked beans (hoorah) and a great coffee breakfast .Prayer in the crypt at Lastingham was an early highlight A really special place to set the wheels of the day in motion .On to always amazing Rievaulx ,the living community at Ampleforth(they practice the Bendedictine Rule of hospitality…great cakes) Byland the beautiful and Newburgh Priory . With such a great cluster of abbeys and a nunnery I was already late .No matter .The people were great today
A Workman for English Heritage took a great interest in my trip checking my itinerary . I needed to confess to him about Nun Monkton. No way are you forgotten, nor will you be ignored NM , but you will be my warm down as Sawley was honoured to be my warm up . You’ll see me coming a mile off Luminously yellow from Ilkley.

And then the ‘that’s embarrassing’ and ‘that’s really interesting’ meeting. Adorned as ever ,Mrs super luminous entered the driveway of Newburgh Priory. With an artistic flourish of the i phone I captured the private house for Facebook. ‘May I help you ?’ said a voice ‘We are closed ‘. Disappointed , I nerdishly told him my mission . Alas , it remained closed but I challenged him , in a manner reminiscent of A.AMilne’s tumbling bear “Are you perchance Mr Wombwell?” and he was . Not such a strange question when Byland boasts the Wombwell Arms and the family bought Byland and Newburgh at the dissolution of the monasteries . I was happy he had not read my rhubarb blog where I clearly dislike the name WW.Once upon a time the family owned the coal mines in Wwell ( must I write that again) and had enough money to buy monasteries. I’ve promised to come back on an open day. As Mr W said , it is far older and more important historically than Castle Howard
On to Malton priory If all my acting mothers had been with me I could have reverted to child and queried our ETA in ‘are we there yet ?’ whine. 20 miles seems further in the afternoon than morning .It was an ever changing altitude ride but such amazing sights to see.Violets,primroses,woodpeckers, deer ,owl rabbits , woodruff , celendine at my feet .Sadly , two dead badgers .
Show and tell could go on and on and on…
Thank you for your support .A helpful direction giving taxi driver gave me sponsorship money. The kindness of strangers Thank God

Family ,friends ,food and flowers

Family and friends You are wonderful . Jens ,’Thank you’ for a new lightweight bike and dates for blue sky cycling .Like my lovely biking friend yesterday ,I have carried a lot of precious stuff ,two sons,on my oldtimer . Sentimental bike bonds are not appropriate climbing a 1in4 away from the coast . But those sons made me believe I could long distance cycle by inviting me on half of David’s JoG to LE trip in 2007 .And the abbeys? I wouldn’t be doing this if Jens had not found a great big book on the abbeys of Yorkshire . That is the basis of this trip . So of course I miss them , but Yorkshire has become an introvert’s heaven for a week . Oh and our dogs? I caught up with a wonderful pack of intelligent fox hounds .30 of them to stroke. So yes, when I saw a couple with two black labradors we had a dog and abbey conversation.

But to the people whom I did meet, the abbey interest is awakening . Teachers, shopkeepers and a fellow cyclist who slowed down to chat a while as we rode .He wasn’t a lycra guy , who mostly seem too earnest to give a nod . Beware Andrew Marr .
I loved the primary school teacher at Whitby today. She enthused her class with great tales of history ,Hilda and Protestants. I told her about my 8th birthday on a school trip to Kirkstall with Mrs Brown. Never forgotten.
I loved the waitress at breakfast .She really did ask ‘Tea or coffee’ . Coffee’ I confidently grinned and was not disappointed
And those great texting ,FB photo liking and retweeting friends .You do make my pedals turn a little faster. Thank you

Today was a real milk and honey day but maybe not for my friends living below the poverty line for five days.Diet and energy filled my thoughts . Honey and milk are keeping me pedalling and my lovely waitress gave me mini jars to fuel me to Rosedale tonight. Could you live on that with an apple carrot and banana for under five pounds? It would need to be cheap honey but it has perfect sweetness and milk perfect balance . It sounds monastic .Rule 39 of Benedict ‘ there is nothing so inappropriate for a Christian as overindulgence ‘ Well done , friends for highlighting this .
Rievaulx to York tomorrow. Goodnight

Tea or Coffee ?

I’m staying in a coffee hotel tonight. Not expensive, breakfast included quality shampoo and a hairdryer. That’s what makes a coffee hotel .I haven’t tried the coffee yet ,so I don’t know for sure but I am. confident to try tomorrow . Isn’t it sad that ‘beware the coffee ‘hotels still charge full rates? So I am very happy here with the fluffy towels and the attention to detail

Beautiful roofed Abbeys today. Selby Abbey ,Howden Minster,Beverley Minster, Watton Priory and Bridlington Priory .A special time of morning prayer in Selby set the day off to a good start (after the baked bean drenched fried egg. … Last night was a tea hotel) . Three delays today .A wrong turning , a six mile diversion and a Fiona moment of leaving bike keys at the bakery . It was good to get to Beverley Minster ,site of an Anglo Saxon monastery but the present building an amazing parish church . So the welcomer there told me , school masterly ,when I said what I was up to . They serve tea and coffee in flasks for any to self serve so they still get my vote and the Minster can speak for itself
To make up time and avoid an A road I rested myself by train to Watton Abbey. This one has a roof ,as it is now a private house ,a few ruined walls in the gardens .And so to Bridlington Priory. Rushed but admired .I trained again to Scarborough to keep on schedule
Whom did I meet today? A lovely gentleman at Howden with a splendid 60 year old bike .He told me about basket loads of vegetables from his allotment .I said I have an old timer too , but only 40 years old and I’ve left it at home . We bonded . And the fantastic baker in Howden who bakes well and found my keys and the welcoming carer in Howden Minster A friendly place indeed .
Whitby tomorrow .Goodnight

Navigating the Rhubarb Triangle

Drip drip drip on the glass after an alarm gone too early . Really?do this ride around the abbeys?
The thing about fundraising for such a great cause as Mercy ministries is that it focuses the mind to get the job done . So a really big thank you for all who have given so generously This is life changing stuff for eternity .And I have so many prayers and pray-ers that yesterday’s blog could have been called ‘Be preprayed’ For those who think they miss out on pray-ers or those who think its a load of rubbish , ask me sometime It’s life saving stuff .

What a start with Jens to accompany me to Hawksworth Thank you x And a lovely lesson in humility as the bike chain fell off at first gear change and helping hands were great. Then the first hill which I am not fit enough to cycle .
Dithering to the last, I took the A65 and with a left glance at my birthplace ,before a right look to family graves in Horsfoth, Kirkstall was quickly in view .I have never loved you A65 , packed, queues , speed cameras . How many hours have you wasted for Leeds commuters ? But by your faults,I was pleased to go faster than the ugly menacing SUVs and overtake bus and truck . Go cyclists go ! We need that Olympic legacy .State of the Art tracks. Not white lines on main roads.

Kirkstall is wonderful, so large and one of the best preserved Cistercian monasteries .I sat overlooking the river . A time of private thoughts … And then it was far too cold and time to pedal on. The Rule of Benedict was breaking because of a sleepy complaining rise from bed and indulgence of self, feeling the cold.
I was so happy to cycle the canal tow path from Kirkstall to Woodlesford and pick up the Trans Pennine route This has improved so much since tarmaced So much smoother than any neglected road.On the roads , the ruts are so deep and dangerous that accidents will happen . Corporate negligence of allowing the status quo and deterioration of road surfaces lies at the feet of all of us who have an MP to write to .And today’s social problem Litter litter litter. Leeds Litterpool Canal

The rhubarb triangle was made easier to travel through with the track but my artistic attempt to photograph strong red stalks and green leaves was thwarted by an old lady forbidding me to use my camera .I thought she was strange but she thought me stranger . Her husband had an overwhelming flush of Polite Englishness and asked if I liked Rhubarb. A strange encounter but no rude barb and no swallowing up into an abyss.
So to Monk Bretton. Found not easily but warm and empty. I had the whole abbey to myself .Oh Barnsley , so much grimness by association ,you are beautiful. Stand up ,erect , love yourself,tidy yourself and be attractive again. Would anyone believe the best cycle track I have been on in the Uk is between Barnsley and Wombwell? You have an uphill struggle Wwell to promote yourself even to an obstetrician but cycling is a great assett. You could start there.
Back to topic .Roche Abbey so amazing and Sister Minny ( not a nun…my big sis ) supplied cups of coffee and water and moral support Thank you! It sustained me to Doncaster train station and onto tonight’s resting place of Selby . After some cross winds , rain and more rain it was special to arrive with a clear blue sky allowing the sun to reflect on the great Norman Abbey and make it shine. Good night and thanks for reading

Be prepared..

So the start of the full week of Cycling around the Abbeys of  Yorkshire is unsettlingly close. Monday 29th April  0630 BST. That’s the plan..the finish time can wait until a more predictable forecast can be given .No surprise then , that a last minuter like me has a lot of preparation to do .The maps , the route, were done months ago , but with not much thought of revision  or minute detail . So is it really going to be a peaceful enough route? Is that quick stretch on an A road an invitation  to be under Eddie Stobart’s wheel? and where is man with a van at his most aggressive ?  My closest encounter with an auto mobile was with a quad bike on a narrow Dales road, so safety is an unpredictable beast, as an individual event. Trends and trending affect populations but bypass many  .No risk assessment will tell me if a quadbiking shephard misjudges.However, to all who know my Boris bike ways, Yes I shall wear a helmet , have lights, have reflective clothing strips, have waterproof panniers, have spare tubes, a repair kit, some food, some drink , some first aidsomethingorother.  And a blogging smart phone .That most of the cycling stuff was bought only yesterday will confirm I am someone who owns a bike and not a cyclist. Am I excited? Of course! Yorkshire Abbeys on a bike, you can out do Chateau de Loire a thousand fold. (Remind me of that on the days I’m tired and wet please)”>Fountains Abbey

Faintly Remembered

Pomfret, Pomfret! O thou bloody prison,
Fatal and ominous to noble peers!
Within the guilty closure of thy walls
Richard the second here was hack’d to death;

Pontefract Castle lies in ruins,apparently the locals welcoming its destruction by Parliamentarians in the civil war .And yet it still belongs to the Queen . High up on a rock surrounded by traffic and suburbia it lies at peace .The residents are now rid of the fighting it attracted for centuries. A place of conflict,royal murder, intrigue and politics it was destroyed 100 years after the sacking of the havens of peace that were the monasteries.

Pontefract Castle is reported to be the place of Catherine Howard’s adultery which led to her beheading Perhaps it does have something to do with the sacking of the monasteries .A king with six wives was not going to please the church in Rome . But the monasteries enraged him by paying their tithes to Rome and not to the home coffers . Here in Pontefract there is no sign of the Cluniac Priory surrendered to King Henry VIII on 23 November 1540 . It had stood for 450 years , small but a place for up to 40 monks and a Christian presence next to the bustling castle .Stop to think awhile and hear the history in the station name Pontefract Monkhill .If this monastery had been founded the day it surrendered and lasted as long ,it would have closed just three years ago .It was here for a long long time .

I work near here and had wanted to see the site and remember. And in betwen the driving around also remember Nostell Priory. A name in National Trust ownership and a Robert Adam house paid for by coal deposits beneath .The priory gone but held in the sub conscience.

Both priories too ruined to be on my bike trip, I have mixed sentiments of amazement that the history is so close , but an anger that suburbia squeezes around and the priories are obliterated .Such influence and importance reduced to an A road and a Shell garage with Costa .Peace is now offered by the low walls of a once bloody and very important castle.The wall of Pontefract’s Saxon Church a nod to a much longer Christian heritage on the site (photo) />