Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A Ride Through History - St Kenelm's Church

One of the joys of cycling is the pace at which the world goes by.  Faster than walking and slower than driving, you are travelling fast enough to see the landscape change around you, but slow enough to appreciate the sights, sounds and smells...

But even at that pace, it's possible to miss the history under your wheels, so to speak.  So I thought I should take a little time to explore the history of the roads I travel along.  Even in my modest part of the West Midlands there must be plenty to see...

St. Kenelm's Church, Romsley


First off, is a spot along one of my regular routes, which takes me west from our home in Hall Green, Birmingham, out through King's Heath, Cotteridge and Northfield, over the hills at Frankley, Romsley and Clent, down to Belbroughton and Catshill, back over the Lickey Hills and home via Cofton Hackett and West Heath.

It's just over 30 miles in total and reasonably hilly.  But it's all too easy to see a ride like this as like going to the gym, rather than exploring the history around you.

So here's one spot along the route.  It's about 12 miles or so into the ride on a bumpy section after climbing over the hill at Romsley and before peaking and racing downhill to Clent.

I've noticed the name St Kenelm's Road and the church, or at least it's lychgate, but been too caught up in catching my breath and preparing for the last yards to the peak.

However on Sunday I decided to stop and take a picture.

And it was a very pretty sight.  I decided to look up St Kenelm's when I got home and found that the story behind the church appears in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales:

Now, take St Kenelm's life which I've been reading;
He was Kenulph's son, the nobel king
Of Mercia. Now St Kenelm dreamt a thing
Shortly before they murdered him one day.
He saw his murder in a dream, I say . . .

Chaucer The Nun's Priest's Tale

Apparently the church dates back to the 14th Century, but there was a religious site here much earlier - Kenelm, King of Mercia, lived around 800AD.  There's a fascinating story/myth inspiring the church told pretty well here.

It's certainly well worth the time to explore further and it has certainly made me realise the history we pass by every day and grateful to do so at the relatively leisurely pace afforded by my bike...

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