notes from a small curate
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK
Heart of Cheltenham pilgrimage
Greenbelt Festival, Cheltenham, 27/8/2007
In collaboration with Scripture Union's Wise Traveller project
Illustrated map of the route here: [web] [pdf].
Information on Cheltenham gleaned from various sources in tourist publications, Wikipedia etc
These prepared notes formed the basis of the walk but were inevitably improvised on the day
Need packs including:
pooh sticks (Ice lolly sticks)
fibre tip pens
Intro (before getting on bus)
A walk around town can be an imaginative way of seeing a place;
Can help us develop eyes to see Heaven in Ordinary... even be a way of praying ...
This walk: Heart of Cheltenham pilgrimage - because the racecourse is heart shaped; it is possible to identify a heart shape in the major roads surrounding Cheltenham town centre; walk traces route through the centre of that heart....
1 - Waitrose car park (site of former workhouse)
at shop entrance by cafe water feature: Shopping Trolley prayer
Give out map packs - introduce walk:
riverside arm of walk following River Chelt... roadside arm following flows of traffic and people an ending in an area of the town connected with other rivers...
'elemental' theme: will stop to consider Cheltenham in relation to air, earth, fire:
and first, WATER:
2 - on stone seats by river path entrance
like many human settlements Cheltenham owes its existence to the presence of water - for sustenance / traffic / trade
Cheltenham even more so after discovery of natural springs in early 18th century... development of town as a spa...
Water scripture: Revelation 22.1-2
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
Water prayer (acknowledging precarious relationship with water, recent weeks...)
Royal Well Lane crossing directly over St George's Place onto Clarence Parade
3 - Corner of Clarence Parade opp. Cheltenham Ladies college
Stop by phoneboxes by traffic lights
Cheltenham town motto: Salubritas et Eruditio - Health and Learning. This site brings two together - where first minearl spring was discovered in 1716 (pigeons pecking @ salty deposits); since site of celebrated seat of learning...
Second element = AIR - provided by education - the other hallmark of Cheltenham.
Every place has an air about it... of power... poverty ... learning...
Cheltenham has numerous colleges notably Cheltenham College, Cheltenham Ladies' College, University of Gloucester / the air of a place of learning / draws many young people from surrounding areas.
Church connections with Cheltenham colleges (influence of Francis Close, who saw a need for trained teachers and established the still-influential Church Foundation Trust in Cheltenham in 1847)
Air scripture: Revelation 10.1, 2, 9-11
And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. He held a little scroll open in his hand. ... So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, 'Take it, and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.' So I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. Then they said to me, 'You must prophesy again about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.'
Air prayer - action: sticker prayer I GIVE THANKS THAT I HAVE LEARNED... (leave on fence or telecom box next to phones)
Forward to fountain @ corner of Promenade / Imperial Square - Neptune Fountain modelled on the Trevi Fountain in Rome - Edward Wilson explorer: camp statue.
Brief stop to introduce Promenade: central avenue of 'the most complete Regency town in England - a town specifically designed for leisure and pleasure'. Once a 'subscriber-only' street... 'No servant of any description is allowed to come on the walk during the hours of the promenade, or into the gardens at any time ... dogs are likewise prohibited.'
Mention places we aren't seeing today - Montpellier Gardens, Lansdown Terrace...
(As in any town centre - LOOK UP above shopfronts to appreciate the character of the buildings)
4 - Corner of Promenade / Regent Street
Third element = Fire - this is the 'hot' part of town, shopping, eating, entertainment etc
Plus festivals - Cheltenham is well known for being the home of the flagship race of British steeplechase horseracing, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, cricket festival, several festivals of culture, principally the annual Cheltenham Festival of Literature... and (proudly) Greenbelt.
All attract visitors - generate income - busy at all times....
Decadent? Local Make Poverty History march met with disinterest or open opposition in their walk through this shopping area... on Regent Street is The Blush Club (blush suggesting an invitation to push oneself into a place where you dare to go further than you'd normally go emotionally or behaviourally....?)
Christian unease with 'a town specifically designed for leisure and pleasure' ? - Or ought we be able to give thanks for leisure and pleasure and a bit of 'heat'...
Fire scripture: Revelation 3.14-19
'And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God's creation: 'I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, "I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing." You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent.
For the shopaholics
For the alcoholics
For the fun-addicted
For the festival fans
We fondly pray
For those red-faced through overindulgence
For those red-faced with embarrassed excitement
For those in the first blush of new love
For those in the red
We fondly pray
For the store card debtors
For the waitresses and glass collectors
For the bargain hunters
For the coffee shop conversationalists
We fondly pray
Regent Street - to the right past Blush Club
At Rodney Road cross opposite to car park entrance (nb river)
Walk to right around corner to Oriel Road, keeping Left around Playhouse Theatre onto Bath Road... cross to entrance of Sandford Park
5 - Sandford Park (in the Friendship Circle)
Fourth element = Earth - a place of familiarity and solidity (as well as beauty) where people come to earth themselves; re-energise.
A place of refreshmnent where people are closer trhan usual to the earth - sitting out in the elements, or on the grass, near flowing water etc.
All urban places have places of refreshment at their heart if we seek them out.
Think of various uses people have for this park:
pleasant route to/from town
place to jog / walk dog
people seeking refuge (early morning drinkers)
lunchtime place to read / eat...
council sees it as a place to celebrate & renew links with other places across the world
Earth scripture: Revelation 22.3-5
Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in [the city], and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever.
Earth prayer - action: pooh sticks with our own prayer for the people who walk this way / live on the river's route etc (from bridge by main path above Friendship Circle)
By Park exit:
Explain that we now move into the roadside arm of the walk - leaving the River Chelt to connect at the end of the walk with some other rivers.
At park exit (College Road) cross High Street to Hewlett Road. At start of Hewlett Road:
As we walk we'll be aware of the flows of traffic and of people in the town and will think especially of these flows - the way people use the urban space, the lives they live, the forces which influence their lives & movement ... and try to link them to our own lives and experiences.
An uphill walk in three stages - more 'ordinary' than first leg of the walk - good opportunity for us to practice observing close details of the ordinary, everyday place and thinking about their meanings and significances - different types of houses, shades of pastel...
6 - Hewlett Road 'Fiveways'
Many urban areas have fiveways - complex juctions where different strands of the place meet. Here, routes from suburban areas meet 'student' routes, in a working-class district.
Place of culture clashes - or equalisation - or creative collaboration?
(Tell story of Cardiff Fiveways madman)
The road is a reminder of the fiveways in our own lives - the different strands which meet sometimes awkwardly, sometimes creatively, the different directions we take at different times, choices we have to make.
Fiveways scripture: I have told you which way to go... choose life
Fiveways prayer - action (personal reflection on a presently needed / wanted / or unwanted change in direction: walk up to next stop in silent reflection...)
7 - Teme Road (private) & Berkhampstead School (private)
All urban areas present the tensions between private space and public space, represented here in a road (and school)...
Why are some spaces ours to use freely and others not? Who has decided these things and on what terms?
Scripture: Psalm 24.1-6
The earth is the Lord's and all that is in╩it,
the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers.
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
and do not swear deceitfully.
They will receive blessing from the Lord,
and vindication from the God of their salvation.
Such is the company of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
Which spaces and places in our lives do we cherish as private and which do we celebrate as public? And why?
Discuss ... as we walk on ...
8 - Butchers and greengrocers (top of Hewlett Road)
Opposite end of walk to Waitrose - the anti-Waitrose, ie the local specialist shop - survives here.
What might that tell us about the local community? (Timelocked in a good way... what was good enough in the past continues to be good enough in the present)
Shops scripture / prayer: Psalm 33.11-15
The counsel of the Lord stands for ever,
the thoughts of his heart to all generations.
Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.
The Lord looks down from heaven;
he sees all humankind.
From where he sits enthroned he watches
all the inhabitants of the earth -
he who fashions the hearts of them all,
and observes all their deeds.
Turn left into Mersey Road. Stop at far end (junction with Whaddon Rd by small roundabout)
Draw attention to road names - Mersey, Humber, Avon, Tamar, Clyde: each representing rivers which have hosted the development of vast cities / internationally influential communities, whose people have contributed to the development of great industries / commerce / trade
This working-class area reflects that proud history (quote from Wikipedia)
In the shadow of GCHQ, major local employer
Continue up Windrush Road onto Clyde Crescent, walk clockwise to main Park entrance nearby. Clyde Crescent Doorstep Green. Look at sign on park entrance.
Enlightened 1930s - and 1990s - town planning - connect to stories of Norris Green / childrens churches etc... note building of new Community Resource Centre and Youth Shelter
Children always leave their mark on a place - if not part of design process then graffitti...
Here they have helped to create a place of safety, a precious enclosed space of green for all to cherish and enjoy... as impressive in its own way as any of the great Regency park crescents in the town centre.
Clyde Crescent Doorstep Green scripture / prayer: Psalm 121
Exit park same way and continue slightly clockwise to exit Clyde Crescent into Tamar Road. Left into Severn Road
Stop at United Church of St Michael's / Cornerstone Centre...
Meet Revd Robert Pestell for perspectives on the area and the church's role in it
Closing remarks - try this at home! Point towards resources on sheet.