At Carlisle - Retyrement on 2 Wheels 2 - CycleBlaze

July 20, 2018

At Carlisle

A Rare treat at Wreay and Carlisle Exploring.

July 20 Friday. 

At Carlisle.

A Rare treat at Wreay and Carlisle Exploring.

In 1978 our VW Kombi broke down in Carlisle, resulting in an enforced lost weekend in that city. We somehow failed to discover the many delights of this city of the north west. Then, the North felt like another country, where people talked funny and pushed babies about in big prams.

In deciding to cycle Hadrian’s Wall we realised that Carlisle, a starting point,  was also a mere 10kms north of the village of Wreay, (said ‘Ria’) the site of a church of unique design which was built at the behest of an enterprising and enlightened young woman called Sarah Losh who lived and worked in the early 19th century.  We had both read historian Jenny Uglow’s biography and were amazed at the talents she possessed and her accomplishments in writing, science, art and design. The design and building of the church at Wreay is said to be culmination of her many talents.

Sarah Losh
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Starting out on our mission to find Wreay, we leave Carlisle on a quiet road, on a wet and cold morning, so misty it necessitated our using lights. After half an hour’s cycling the small but sturdy looking stone building, with its carved archway around the door and its curved wall at the rear, appears from the gloom. 

Sarah foreshadowed Ruskin and Morris in her use of local materials and appreciation of local craftsmen.
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The church is also decorated with many symbols, including monsters and plant life, both inside and out. It’s appearance is so much like the photographs and descriptions in the book, but exceeds  our expectations in the exceptional condition in which it has been retained today.

The pinecone, an ancient symbol of regeneration represented the ‘sacred geometry’ of nature for Sarah.
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The only visitors, we take in some of the external features of the building, the monsters, designed to look like gargoyles and the carved stone entrance way, before tentatively pushing open the door. 

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Inside we are  immediately enveloped in the atmosphere and surroundings of a church that retains the usual conventional outlay, created using materials sourced from a range of places, most local, as well as presenting a number of distinctly individual features. 

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Made from recycled glass from older windows. Sarah organised for her young craftsmen to go and take training from professionals before returning to work on these windows.
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Sarah Losh took great pains to create this exceptional building as she wanted it, to the extent of sending a local lad on training in order for him to be able to make the stained glass windows, which, in the spirit of early recycling, are formed from reused stained glass. In addition, she herself sculpted some of the  pieces - the font and the candle sticks.

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The interior is surprisingly light despite the dull day and the comparatively few windows. The altar, backed by a curved rear wall is overhung by a wooden domed ceiling of warm caramel hue, lined with long curved slats. Small recessed glass lighting panels, inscribed with the images of plants and flowers run around the wall. The lectern has been carved from a large piece of ‘bog oak’ and still holds the resemblance of the tree from which it has  been formed. 

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The impression created is one which simply leaves us in awe of a talent that could organise the building - its design, architecture, interior, and craft such an evocative building.

Sarah and sister Katherine’s tombstone in the family cemetery, is a simple rock with plants sculptured onto it.

There is no certainty that this is a portrait of Sarah - it is suggested she may be a cousin.
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Sarah and Katherine’s gravestone.
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From the sublime to the almost mundane - we repair to the local, the Fox and Hounds to warm up with the chef’s leek and potato soup, then finding a shorter route head back to town.

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We spend the afternoon exploring Carlisle’s old town, cathedral and museum which houses, among other things some attractive pre raphaelite works by William Morris and Burne-Jones. Ann strikes up a conversation with the young curator describing our morning trip. He has never heard of the church or Sarah Losh.

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William Morris design.
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Burne Jones
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How wonderful that our second Carlisle  visit reveals more about a city that might just have remained in our memories as a Kombi pit stop.

Today's ride: 31 km (19 miles)
Total: 2,259 km (1,403 miles)

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