Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I have been reading Book #5 in the "Brother Cadfael" series written some time ago by a woman in England. These are little mystery books, set in 12th Century England and in an area between Shrewsbury and Wales. It seems like everyone I know has read these books, but somehow I missed out on them, even after they were turned into a TV series. The one I'm presently dealing with is called "The Leper of St. Giles" and Shrewsbury keeps popping up in the story...and that lead to me opening my scrapbook and perusing the pictures I took of that charming town when we were there in 1985.

I am sure there are such lovely places in the U.S., but as a native Californian and one who has not traveled a great deal in her own country, I have failed to ever see such beauty as I saw in the English countryside. What I so distinctly remember about Shrewsbury is that their gardens were colorful beyond description. I do have to comment, though, that you get such beauty only when you live in a place where rain falls!

Another interesting thing I recall about Shrewsbury is that it was here, affixed the bottom of one of those tall church spires, that we read of the demise of a young man who had high hopes for flying, but instead came to a sad end.

And then - one thing leading to another as I mentioned above - I took a further glance through my album and came upon a couple of photos from the place I thought the most gorgeous and, well, romantic in all of the England that we saw.

Fountains Abbey is probably the finest monastic ruin in Europe, and of course this little corner is just a minute part of it. The abbey was started in 1132 because 13 Benedictine monks at York were dissatisfied with the laxity there and acquired property to begin building Fountains Abbey. (This was about the time that the ficticious Brother Cadfael was doing his stuff in Ellis Peters' books!) And the adjacent Studley Royal Estate is one of the few great 18th century "green gardens" to survive substantially in its original form. The inclusion of Fountains Abbey into the Studley Royal property happened in 1768. Ownership was transferred to the The National Trust in 1983.

History itself can't take your breath away but setting foot on that propery can do it. When we drove onto the property (which incidentally has over 27 individual buildings, rivers, lakes, ponds, gardens, and other creations to swoon over), we entered through the deer park area, which alone encompasses over 400 acres of land. And when I laid my eyes on "the Moon Pond," I remember thinking that if I never saw any more beauty in my life, I would have seen enough this day to last me forever!

I probably will never get back to England, even though we have second cousins who live in Southgate, a town on the north fringe of London. Jerry and I both have ancestors who lived in England. Jerry's grandparents were married in the Great Synagogue in Manchester, England in 1898, and I have a many-times-great grandfather who was a vicar in a little church in Goosnargh, a village north of Preston, as I recall.

So all this is why I am so enjoying these clever little Brother Cadfael mystery books. I have a sense of the location they are set in, and have a tiny feeling that in the past my relatives may have been nearby.

So one thing surely does lead to another, doesn't it?

1 comment:

Olga said...

I never heard of these mystery books until you had mentioned them a while back. I have not come across any of them as yet, but I have put them on my list.
I have had the opportunity to travel extensively through the continental U.S., for which I am grateful, but I would love to visit Europe and Africa.