Journal

Welcome to my online journal, which I started in December 2002 after several very persuasive hints from friends. Although I obviously don't write about everything that happens in my life here, I hope it'll provide an insight into who I am and what's happening in my life - whether good, bad, happy or sad.

Retreating from the world is harder work than you expect

Posted by Anna at 21:35 on Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Hilfield Friary.

Every organisation needs to take stock and regroup every so often, and believe me churches are no exception. Although I've been a Trustee of MCC Bournemouth for something like a year now, we've not had a chance to do that since I joined the Board.

Until this weekend, that is. On Friday we gathered at the Church to leave for a weekend retreat at Hilfield Friary near Cerne Abbas.

The frozen lake just outside our cottage on Saturday morning.

Hilfield is a Franciscan Friary, so it emphasises simplicity and being at one with its surroundings. To quote from the Hilfield Project website:
"At Hilfield Friary in Dorset, UK, the brothers of the Society of St Francis have established a project which brings together both a commitment to peace and justice between people and also a care for our natural environment. Rooted in the life and spirituality of St Francis of Assisi we are working to share the Gospel greeting of peace with those whom we meet and to find that harmony between ourselves and the world around us which we believe is God's desire for all. Hilfield is a place where others can come to join us in seeking peace, reconciliation and the integrity of creation."
It most certainly is that. I've not been anywhere so peaceful for quite some time, and it formed a perfect backdrop to our musings and prayers this weekend.

The view from our kitchen window.

On the Saturday evening we participated in a very moving night service in the Friary Chapel. Coming from an Evangelical background it was a very different style of service from that I'm used to, but it was absolutely beautiful and so, so tranquil. it's also the first time I've sung in Latin! *

* Salve Regina, if you're curious

Although we've been referring to it as "a weekend retreat", in practice we only had one evening and a full day as the aim was to be back in time for the 11am service on Sunday morning. As a result, our "weekend" was a very, very busy one, and by Sunday I was thoroughly exhausted.

The good news is that the brainstorming paid off and we now have a very good idea which areas we need to work on and where to take the Church next. Well worth the thumping headache and yawning which was the inevitable result of far too little sleep this weekend!

A new and slightly different challenge

Posted by Anna at 20:49 on Tuesday, February 02, 2010
The Dorset Trailway, which follows the route of the S&D

I've never been one for too much routine. Fortunately, neither is Beth - since we met in 2004 she has constantly challenged my assumptions about our life and how we live it - everything from what we eat to exercise and interactions with those around us. I've got rather used to it by now.

Our latest challenge - that of challenging the automatic assumption that we drive everywhere we need to - was born the last time petrol prices started to climb (prior to the current series of hikes). As we (fortunately) don't need to commute that challenge is one which hasn't been too onerous for us to maintain. Where practical we make use of public transport (or indeed walk, which both of us rather enjoy), and as a result our cars spend most of the time parked up at the moment.

It was against this background that last summer I became aware of a group campaigning to reopen the rail line from Bournemouth to Bath (one of the more objectionable closures of the 1960s, and one which even now makes it harder than it should be to reach the west of the country from the south coast). Although most of the rail closures of the time were branch lines (some of which have since reopened as heritage lines) this one was an 80 mile long main line. A loss indeed.

As the quote on the New Somerset & Dorset Railway blog says quite eloquantly:
"The original Somerset and Dorset Railway closed very controversially in 1966. It is time that decision, made in a very different world, was reversed. The New S&D was formed in 2009 with the aim of rebuilding as much of the route as possible, at the very least the main line from Bath (Britain's only World Heritage City) to Bournemouth (our premier seaside resort); as well as the branches to Wells, Glastonbury and Wimborne. We will achieve this through a mix of lobbying, trackbed purchase and restoration of sections of the route as they become economically viable. With Climate Change and now Peak Oil firmly on the agenda we are pushing against an open door.

"Our aim is to use a mix of lobbying, strategic track-bed purchase, fundraising and encouragement and support of groups already preserving sections of the route, as well as working with local and national government, local people, countryside groups and railway enthusiasts (of all types!) to restore sections of the route as they become viable."
A worthy aim indeed - and quite obviously a rather long term one (realistically this is a project which could take 20 years to really get going). It shouldn't come as a surprise that the New S&D is just one of several groups involved along the route (for example the stations at Shillingstone and Midsomer Norton have already been restored by heritage groups) but it is by far the most ambitious. it goes without saying that the aims of the New S&D are deliberately complementary to the other groups working to preserve and restore sections of the line and that the more involvement from them in the project the better.

Beth and I attended one of the early meetings of the group last September, and another late last month. At that second meeting I was invited to join the committee of the group, which in practice will probably mean I'll end up doing publicity and a bit of writing (in fact the former has already started - see Living in Electric Dreams on the group blog. Since then the group has already secured one of the stations on the route (Midford, near Bath) and is starting clearance work at Spetisbury.

If the feedback we've been getting from others who've learnt about the scheme are anything to go by, there is a great deal of interest in the group's aims from local people in the area. This is certainly a different type of cause for me (and certainly a world away from Gender or Faith issues!) but I'm always game for a new challenge.