Monday, 16 August 2010
Each time I reach one church the distance to the next is a little bit further, so the circle of those I reach is gradually expanding. It happens that this tranche of churches on my list is now starting to reach into London.
So yesterdays ride was a bit different to my normal trundle around rural lanes. It was relatively flat, but route finding needed a bit more attention than it normally gets, and the level of traffic, even on a Sunday, meant that I needed to stay alert. Not that I would admit to daydreaming on a country ride, so lets say that the metropolis offers a higher level of visual stimulation.
Obviously churches in London tend to be clustered more closely than they are in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire Hampshire and Surrey. That means means that it's relatively easy to reach more than one in a single outing. Normally an outing involves reaching one, or at most two churches on my list. Yesterday I reached four: Saint Cuthbert in Philbeach Gardens, Brompton Oratory, Holy Trinity in Prince Consort Road, and Saint Augustine in Queens Gate.
Brompton Oratory is the most impressive from outside, but I wasn't comfortable leaving the bike outside for long, so I didn't spend much time inside. Holy Trinity in Prince Consort Road was locked, so I managed to get the best look inside Saint Augustine in Queens Gate, and St Cuthbert in Philbeach Gardens.
Apparently John Betjeman was particularly keen on the former. It's nice enough, with some interesting wall panels, but the more remarkable interior to my eye is St Cuthbert in Philbeach Gardens (pictured). The web site describes it as "a spectacular example of late Victorian architecture", which pretty much captures it.
There are many reasons why I am enjoying this project to visit famous churches. One of them is that walking into many churches is like stepping back in time. Parish churches have often been around for hundreds of years, and history has left a series of memories in the building and the monuments that traces changes in the way that the community has lived.
St Cuthbert's was different though. Stepping into this church was also like stepping back in time, but into a frozen state that has passed everywhere else. It wasn't like watching a recreation of Victorian life in a film or television programme, or even visiting a preserved railway or country house. However carefully these are handled you know in your heart that they are now artificial creations. This was more like opening a Victorian book, and making contact directly with a different age. Quite an uncomfortable experience. I couldn't help wondering how much of this past world is still preserved along with the building itself, and why?
I used www.bikeroutetoaster.com to plan my route there and back through Colnbrook, Brentford, and Hammersmith, which all worked fine. Apart from the ride into London and back, the rest of the day was spent tootling between Hyde Park, South Kensington and Earls Court. For London cyclists it was probably all relatively quiet. For me it was quite different to normal. I bottled out on a couple of occasions, and walked the bike through Hammersmith Broadway and busy bits near South Kensington tube, but otherwise didn't find the traffic as much of a challenge as I expected.
Total distance for the day was just over 60 miles, which helps the numbers along. By the time I got home I was more tired than I should have been. That could be all the excitement, but I suspect it really means that I'm out of practice and need to get more riding done.
The expanding circle of the churches that I have visited is mapped here