Chilterns Churches

Churches have come a long way.

No longer just places to spend a cold Sunday morning, you can now camp in them, tuck into a homemade cream tea, read poetry or listen to a music recital. I love churches.

Too often the un-sung heroes of English rural life, they have survived hundreds of years (including the Victorians and their own special brand of ‘church make-overs’), and is where you’ll find many wonderful stories, memorials, stained glass, lopsided headstones and links to the nations story, from a local perspective.

These are some of the churches in the Chilterns, but have more in my sights;

A reason to love the rain!

A crude but effective part of the eclesastical warning system to illiterate congregations, to toe the line or face judgement on the day. This ‘doom painting‘ not only survived the English Reformation, it survived being tossed into the skip!

The doom painting saved from the rain
Looking as bright as the day it was painted over 500 years ago
Ashridge: A Flourishing Trade

Holy relics were once big business and I am astonished at how many found their way into the Chilterns that resulted in prestigious buildings, churches, woodland and more humble structures being built. Ashridge is the most prestigious amongst them.

The chapel o’er the hedge
The Grande Dame of Ewelme

How many parishes can boast a “grande dame” who has the finest alabaster tomb in the village? The village of Ewelme fits the bill.

The finest tomb in the village
A journey into a Chilterns desert

Social media are the new jungle drums; informing and directing with seasonal excursions, news and sightings of what is in bloom and where. So it was that I headed off seeking the pleasure of carpets of snowdrops in the grounds of the tiny parish church of Saint Botolph at Swyncombe.

Quiet and secluded
The Tring Tiles

Tucked away on a side wall in the Medieval Galleries in the behemoth that is the British Museum, hang the enchanting Tring Tiles. Remarkable then, that despite such an immense archive spanning thousands of years, these eight tiles have been on a world tour and are now on permanent display.

Tring Tiles
Tring Tiles
Misbourne Valley

I was drawn to the Misbourne Valley when I read a piece about rare medieval wall paintings uncovered by accident (aren’t all the best things?), in 1931 that had been hidden behind lime wash and plaster and are now restored inside this wonderful 1,000 year-old church of St John the Baptist. Still a valuable community hub inside a building designed, built and tinkered with by the Romans, Saxons, Normans and Tudors. I expect the Victorians had a hand in there too.

Medieval wall paintings
St John the Baptist
St John the Baptist Mongewell Park

A place of contrasts with a dollop of atmosphere, offset by the creepy landscape. The little church amidst the weeds and decay made this an unexpected delight.

St John the Baptist Mongewell Park
Monument to John Saunders (d1731)
The Hampdens

Classic Chilterns countryside awaits; dappled beechwoods and open, undulating fields in an historic, beautiful landscape and the lovely Little Hampden church.