Part of the Ilkeston Cam "Days Out" Series

Charnwood - Faith In The Forest
w/e 31 August 2008
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490

A cloud-filled sky was just one of the reasons why we abandoned a planned day out in the Peak District to the north of Ilkeston and instead took an afternoon jaunt twenty or so miles down the motorway in the opposite direction to the Charnwood Forest area of North West Leicestershire.

Ulverscroft Priory

We went in search of in search of three religious houses, "search" being the operative word in the case of this first one, Ulverscroft Priory. Despite driving back and forth along Priory Lane it was not until we stopped at a nearby farmhouse to ask directions that we actually located it. Even then it involved a walk of about half a mile along the amusingly marked "feetpath" before it became visible, surrounded as it is by trees.
Ancient and Modern

This is hardly surprising as Charnwood Forest was once a densely wooded area although it has suffered centuries of felling. The Priory at Ulverscroft is one of many in the area that were built in secluded clearings in the forest but like many others fell victim to Henry VIII's Dissolution of Monasteries in 1539. Some of the buildings date from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries but the plastic sheeting that now covers part of the site is of a much later vintage. The Priory is now a Grade I listed Scheduled Ancient Monument but stands on private property and not open to the general public.
Mount St Bernard Abbey

Our second visit of the afternoon was just a few miles from Ulverscroft and even though the sat-nav took us the long way round, we were soon pulling up on the car park at Mount St Bernard Abbey. Henry VIII was no bother at all here as the Abbey was not established until 1835 being the first Roman Catholic Abbey to be founded in England since the 1530s.
Floral Approach

The monastery is occupied by an community of Cistercian Monks whose life is lived in "a spirit of simplicity, silence and solitude" and whose day is made up of "a careful balance between prayer and work". Some of that work time is surely spent tending the attractive flower beds and lawns at the approach to the church.
Silent Prayers

Silent prayers for the monks begin at 3:30 am and continue at various times during the day concluding with Compline at 7:30 pm before they retire at 8:00 pm. As we paused for a few minutes in the church, we were party to that silence that the monks hold so dearly as it "opens the mind to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit". The peace and quiet in here was interrupted only by the click of my camera!
Work Projects

But although prayer is first and foremost in the lives of the monks, they also have work to do within the community each day. With a gift and book shop to run (extreme left above) they are also involved in the running of a two hundred acre dairy farm with ninety cows (top right). I don't think there will be many farm yards though where the buildings are so attractively decorated with more of those colourful flowers (bottom right). Beekeeping, bookbinding and the production of pottery are just a few of their other projects along with the everyday tasks of cooking, cleaning and laundry necessary to ensure the running of the monastery.
Grace Dieu Priory

Leaving Mount St Bernard Abbey, we headed towards Ashby-de-la-Zouche to pick up the A42 road which would lead us back home and in doing so, we passed the Grace Dieu Priory near Thringstone and seen here from the road. Access to the Priory is via the Grace Dieu Trail and a footpath through the wood in the background.

The Priory, another victim of the Dissolution of Monasteries in 1538, was founded between 1235 and 1241 as a religious house for Augustinian canonesses but the site has historical connections dating back to Roman times. The Priory has obviously stood in ruins for many years but in 1996 a group of people got together to save the ruins from further deterioration and two years later the Grace Dieu Priory Trust was formed. Fund raising and conservation work have enabled the ruins to be opened to the public.

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