Welcome to Martin Knight's Website!
Belated Seasonal Greetings!
[NB: There has been a problem this year with the formatting on this Index page of my website, which I am still trying to resolve: there are fewer 2020 pictures, for example, and they are incorrectly sized! The other pages listed seem not to have been affected.]
In the Table of Contents listed on the sidebar you'll see that the first two web pages are devoted to the year's family news as usual, and the next to our local community connections. These are followed by reflections on our travels, as viewed through the eyes of a geographer. Finally, there are samples of ongoing research interests of mine in South London, North Kent, and South Wales. As well as being a keen geographer and teacher all my working life, I am a committed Anglican, and a family man who enjoys gardening, travelling, and walking. In my retirement I continue to have a keen practical interest in landscape, history, and ecology; I still occasionally research and lead guided walks, write short articles on local topics, and am quoted as 'Dulwich's Effra man'. Margaret takes bookings for St Stephen's Church Hall, manages our family properties and her shares and investment portfolio, and also researches our holidays on the Web. We both enjoy singing with St Stephen's Church Choir (coronavirus lockdown permitting!), and all the above interests are reflected in these pages.
What a way to have to self-isolate!
Our family is still growing - in every sense of the word! We have an enlarging family, the grandchildren are growing fast (four girls and three boys ranging from one to 18 years); horizons (and waistlines?) are expanding, and Margaret and I are growing ... er, beginning to feel our age!
After more than forty years Margaret and I still enjoy hill walking, especially in the Brecon Beacons. and latterly in Madeira, and the Mediterranean coastlands.
Annabel has now matriculated at Exeter College, Oxford, reading Chemistry, whilst trying to cope with the ever-changing Covid restrictions. She has passed her driving test and acquired her first car.
Katie and her sister Abi are making very good progress at Eliot Bank Primary School, and enjoy playing with little brother Jack, and 6-year old sister Holly, who has joined them at Eliot Bank along with their cousin Edward (Sarah's son). Ben's electrical business keeps him busy; he has put a lot of effort into refurbishing the town house in Forest Hill, and he plays his full part in helping Lizzy juggle her Home Office career with being home-maker and mum - they all live very active lives, and are fully committed in their Forest Hill c0mmunity, and to supporting Ben's family as well as ours.
Andy is working his way up the Civil Service career ladder via OfQual in Coventry, while retaining close contact with family and friends in London. He and Sarah R are kept busy bringing up Max, their very active toddler, while working mainly from home near Solihull, along with Huey the cat and their young spaniel Roscoe.
Mary (-Ann)'s school in Crofton Park is closing, so she will be starting in September as Head of Early Learning at another Catholic nursery, this time in Southwark. Our eldest daughter Sarah continues to combine a top-level career at Ernst and Young in the City with being mum to Eddy (dutifully supported by his dad Gerald. Katy,Abi, Holly and Eddy all live close and are part of the same Covid bubble, and now that Eddy's step-sister Grace is part of our family too, Gerald and Grace spend increasing time with Sarah, Eddy and all of us at Lapsewood Walk, Talybont and Herne Bay.
Trips and activities in 2019 and 2020:
2019 had started quietly, partly because I had to settle into a complicated pattern of medical treatment at Guy's Hospital, and also because of increased commitments at St Stephen's Church: apart from our weekly choir singing, I edited two editions of the Parish 'Spire' Magazine, and Margaret took on the booking arrangements for the Church Hall. There was also variable weather and winter aches and pains to contend with.
However, we did have two spring holidays arranged for 2019: one week's bed and breakfast on the Greek island of Santorini in late April, and one week in a self-catering apartment at Nerja on Spain's Costa del Sol in mid-May. Later in the year there were visits to West Sussex, Herne Bay, and the ;Brecon Beacons. Finally for 2019, in October there was a stimulating week near Ephesus in Turkey (see next page of this website for 2019 photos)
Wea have continued our usual successful July weeks at Talybont-on-Usk in the Brecon Beacons, which included new walks up the Taf fechan Gorge to Pontsarn in 2019, and the Gunpowder Trail near Pontneddfechan in 2020. However, there was a very unfortunate aftermath to our 2019 Talybont trip - our Dulwich home had been burgled and partly trashed while we were away: thank goodness for the help of the family in clearing up!
In October 2019 Margaret and I had a very interesting and enjoyable holiday in Turkey that set us up for a busy autumn at home and at Church,during which I completed another 'Spire' magazine article ('Our Little Effra'), and learned some very encouraging news on the medical front: my two year melanoma treatment has been so successful that I have been declared completely clear of cancerous cells, and I can now drive again!
In the Spring of 2020 we were very much looking forward to our second Parish Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in north Norfolk, but as the March weekend visit approached we began to have some concerns: the frequent news of floods and stormy weather, Margaret's very persistent head cold, and the growing coronavirus threat, particularly as it seemed we might have to drive the three and a half hours with two or three extra passengers and their luggage. However, we need not have worried: Margaret's cold cleared up, the weather forecast for the weekend was mainly dry with sunny intervals, and it was decided to hire a minibus with driver for the main journeys up and back, paid for by St Stephen's PCC. Lesser concerns about the availability and quality of our accommodation and of the activity programme in what was by then the first week of lockdown were quickly dispelled when we were warmly greeted by the friendly staff, and given an introduction and tour of the site by an excellent local historian. We then went for a short walk, had a very welcome dinner, and prepared for the first of the weekend's Devotions: Evensong, followed by a special Pilgrimage Eucharist.
The 'Lady Richeldis' Window in the 'Holy House' at Walsingham
There are two Shrines of Our Lady at Walsingham. We were staying at the Anglican Shrine in the heart of the village, near where Lady Richeldis, devout wife of a wealthy 11th century landowner, claimed to receive a visitation from the Virgin Mary, and was inspired to build the 'Holy House', a replica of Mary's home in Nazareth. Pilgrims soon started to visit the site, and two centuries later the village had grown to serve them, and a large Priory was built (it was hoped that it would eventually become a full-scale Abbey). It soon become the second most important Pilgrimage site in England, after the Thomas a'Becket Shrine at Canterbury.
The Priory/Abbey was enlarged several times, but was closed and stripped of its wealth in 1536 during the Reformation and Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries. The site was then abandoned and parts sold off, although pilgrims continued to visit, especially those who still followed the 'Old Religion'. But of course England was increasingly a Protestant country, and veneration of effigies of the old Saints, and of the Virgin Mary as the 'Mother of God', incurred suspicion, imprisonment, or even exile. It was mainly the 19th century Catholic Revival and the 'Oxford Movement' (led by John Henry Newman) that brought about an upturn in Walsingham's fortunes, and this is where the modern Anglican Pilgrimages and the 'Shrine of Our Lady' come in: the last Chapel of Rest one mile south of Walsingham on the old Pilgrim's Route had been abandoned for many years and used as a barn, but was reconsecrated as a Catholic Shrine in 1881, with a railway halt nearby. Recently, it has received Vatican dispensation to become the 'National Catholic Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham', while the old Priory site continues to house its Anglican counterpart. More recently a Russian Orthodox Shrine has been established in the former railway station.
There is no easy access from London and other main regions of the UK, sited as it is an hour's drive from railways, trunk roads and motorways, in one of the more sparsely populated parts of East Anglia. However, its relative remoteness has undoubtedly contributed to its unspoilt attractiveness, and its success as a place of pilgrimage, quiet reflection and re-creation. The village has interesting and attractive 17th and 18th century buildings, medieval and 19th century history and heritage (especially the Priory and Franciscan ruins), and is set in beautiful Norfolk countryside. The Anglican Shrine itself has a welcoming and devotional ambience, and there are pleasant walks along the River Stiffkey and the former Wells-to-Walsingham railway to the Catholic Shrine. Margaret and I particularly enjoyed the icon display and the 'Quiet Garden' at the old railway station. We would like to have spent another day in Walsingham in order to revisit the village, its museum, and the Abbey Gardens, but we had to rejoin the St Stephens Group for the minibus journey home.
In view of its history it is perhaps not surprising that the worship and liturgy at Walsingham's Anglican Shrine is focused very much on the 'High', Anglo-Catholic end of the Church of England spectrum (rather unkindly referred to as ' smells and bells' by some sceptics). We were aware of this before we went, but even so, as a low-to-middle of the road Anglican (albeit with an ecumenical background), I did find that parts of the traditional offices, language and rituals we experienced made me feel a little uncomfortable. However, the devotion and involvement of the faithful around us was unmistakable, infectious, and at times very moving.
One week after Walsingham we had booked to visit the Saatchi Gallery in Sloane Square to see the much lauded International Tutenkhamun Exhibition before it continued its planned three year journey round the world. We have fond memories of our two Nile Valley cruises ten years ago, and we were delighted to be able to visit the Exhibition, literally the day before the Coronavirus restictions came into force and closed everything down!
King Tut hunting hippos on the River Nile
Only one foreign holiday had been booked for 2020: one week's full board with flights in April to Madeira. Inevitably, that trip had to be cancelled due to the growing Coronavirus threat. However, when we contacted our travel company they offered us the same deal in early November which we eagerly accepted, naively assuming the pandemic crisis would be resolved by then! However, in spite of the Covid uncertainties we were fortunate that Madeira still welcomed visitors (under strict regulation), and the FO kept the island on its 'safe' list, provided we tested negatively for the virus and isolated for just a few hours on our arrival.
This was no real hardship as we had been upgraded to a superior hotel overlooking the town and seafront from our balcony, with a delivered gourmet meal into the bargain!
The view from our upgraded balcony overlooking Funchal Bay
The rest of the week we were also able to enjoy the views on our energetic walking holiday, along with spectacular bus journeys to sites old and new.