England trip: Beyond London, September 24-27 (part 2)

Thursday morning my mom and I were off to the Essex coast to visit The Othona Community, where last fall’s QIVC Short Term Intentional Residents Adrian and Mark have lived and worked this year.  We were hosted by Adrian, who is finishing up his last month or so there.  We took the train from London to the depths of Essex—the small town of Southminster, 10 minutes from the smaller town of Bradwell-on-Sea, 10 minutes from the remote peninsula upon which Othona sits, behind a working farm, a few minutes’ walk from the actual coastline.  It is tucked into a few groves of trees.

Look at the ironwork in that old part of the Liverpool Street train station! I really like traveling by train.




Othona is an ecumenical Christian conference center & retreat from the bustle of the world.  Here is the courtyard from the wonderful covered porch outside the main building.  At left is Adrian!

We walked along the sea wall in the afternoon.  It was low tide so the actual sea (North Sea) is not really visible in the picture to the right–just mudflats!

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The path through the enticing woods to the 11th-century chapel.  We discomfited many wood pigeons every time we walked along here and they flapped away very largely and loudly.  We visited the chapel at night for a brief service the Othona staff holds.  It was pretty neat in there, lit only by candlelight.


Friday morning we took another walk around, then were off with Adrian back to London on the train and onward to Birmingham and Bournville (outside Birmingham).

We just missed teatime in Bourneville so we got comfortable in our hotel, which was really nice—the Old Farm Hotel.  I took a rest. Then later we walked to the commercial center of Bournville to an Indian restaurant where we met up with Adrian and Mark, who had finished work for the day at Woodbrooke (another Quaker conference center, this one bigger, older, and with a long-standing educational mission and a lot of interesting history).  

In the picture below note the color of the lightpost…the Cadbury factory and amusement center, “Cadbury World,” is right near the hotel and all around it, all the fences and lightposts are Cadbury purple.  

IMG_0931 Bournville and Cadbury are tightly linked.  You can find out a little about the history here. We learned a lot more while we were there–Spee is a Cadbury on her mother’s side so it was all of great interest!

British ordinances…gotta love ‘em.


Smiley people who were not as worn out as me by the walking we were doing!


The meeting house.  Above the middle window is a sundial and above that is an inscription that says “My Times Are in Thy Hand.”  We puzzled over this…an inscription on a meeting house?


But this surprised us even more:  a bust of George Cadbury built into the meeting house wall!  It is overlooking the village green.  Right now he is overlooking his great-great-great niece Spee!  The ashes of George and his wife Elizabeth are interred below the plaque at Spee’s feet.


At Woodbrooke, we had some tea, then lunch, explored a bit–Spee spent some time in the library finding evidence of her grandfather Henry Cadbury’s presence there–then admired the beautiful gardens before walking home.

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 That evening Mark and Adrian had us over to their flat for dinner, which was lovely.  It was really nice to connect with them again, find out how the rest of their intentional-adventure year has gone, and get to know them a bit better than before.

The next morning we took off in the rental car Spee had procured and toodled around on our way to Heathrow.  We had lunch in Chipping Norton and stopped in Windsor, which I wouldn’t suggest unless you like to shop.  And then it was airport, airplane, airport, customs, another rental car, and finally home very very late on Sunday night, actually Monday 2 AM.