England Home and Beauty

England Home and Beauty

After the corrupting delights of Umbria it was good to get back to the clearer water pleasures of West Sussex. Arundel-North Stoke-Burpham-Amberley is a walk I have done many times and I hope to do many times more. Its probably my favourite, having space, great views of downs, river,  valley and sea, three churches and a good pub not to mention a station at each end. I have mentioned the walk before.

Reaching the top of Arundel park with the  shore line getting longer and longer to the South I saw that immortal sight. A crow mobbing a buzzard.  Down it  buzzed, the bigger bird flapped in annoyance, they both flew up on the thermal and down it buzzed again. I had seen this so ,many times I googled.

Crows, jackdaws and seagulls are the most common mobsters. Usually attacking birds of prey but sometimes they see the poor  ill prepared heron as a possible enemy. They are being territorial and especially at times like now ,protecting their very vulnerable young who are barely out their nests. Part of the function of mobbing is to warn others and to warn the predator off.

Some mobsters actually spit and shit on their enemy to the extent that the bird has to land to shake off all the gunge

Just before crossing the  reed lined Arun , the hamlet  of North Stoke. They are getting the farm barn ready for a grand wedding. The small church St Leonards is obviously not invited. I learn that St Leonard is the patron saint of servants and prisoners.

But it was in St Marys Burpham that I had the most pleasure. A church most famous as the resting place for author and illustrator Mervyn Peak, It has a lepers’ window  which allowed  those 12 th century unfortunates to look at mass if not take part.

A Jacobean altar rail was explained . Archbishop Laud impressed King James that  altar rails were necessary. He quoted a case when as the communion was taking place a dog ran in and snatched the communion bread out of the vicar’s hand. Now in Umbria this anecdote would have been declared a miracle But in this case they chased after the dog gave it a good hiding and got on with the ceremony. Ever since altar rails have been in place to keep our best friends at bay.

But of course the establishment of the altar rail was all part of reinstating  communion as central to the observance of the faith rather than the less symbolic plainer Calvinstic practices.

In the 19th century St Marys had a new vicar. He decided to walk round his lovely parish, just up river from Arundel. He wanted to meet the farmer at Lee Farm. He got lost. He asked a shepherd’s boy if he knew the way. Certainly sir, but who are you. I am the new vicar. And what does that mean. I am here to show  the village the way to heaven. But sire that’s a pretty thing ,you don’t even know the way to Lee Farm.


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