Tales from the Finchbottom Vale – (42) A Kind Heart Reawakened (Part 01)
It was the time of the biannual St Johns Church getaway when a kind heart was reawakened.
St John’s Church in Purplemere was an evangelical church and the getaway was organized for the members of the congregation to examine and develop their faith and each such event normally had a theme, and the one in 2017 was no exception and was named "Footsteps" as in walking in the footsteps of Christ and it was all about the individual and collective spiritual journey or journeys.
It was a week-long residential event which provided seminars, workshops, meditation, prayer and worship.
In addition to the spiritual itinerary there was also a host of fun activities, with something for everyone.
The 2017 event was held in Clayton in the Finchbottom Vale which nestles comfortably between the Ancient Dancingdean Forest to the south and the rolling Pepperstock Hills in the north, those who are lucky enough to live there think of it as the rose between two thorns.
The Vale was once a great wetland that centuries earlier stretched from Mornington in the East to Childean in the west and from Shallowfield in the south to Purplemere in the north.
But over the many centuries the vast majority had been drained for agriculture, a feat achieved largely by the efforts of famous Mornington Mills, of which only three had survived to the present day and even those were no longer functional and were in various states of repair.
There were only three small bodies of water left in the Vale now one in Mornington, one in Childean and third of course was Purplemere.
Throughout its history the Finchbottom Vale was largely dependent on agriculture and so it remained into the 21st century and the village of Clayton was no different.
It was a small village in the North East corner of the Finchbottom Vale, with a large nucleus of substantial dwellings and a greater number of more humble homes and of the those inhabitants who needed to work for a living the largest employer in the area was the Clayton Manor Hotel.
And it was at Clayton Manor, with its conference facilities, and old country manor, which housed meeting rooms and the more select accommodations, fine dining and bars, which played host to “Footsteps”.
To the north of the Vale, in the lee of Pepperstock Hills, lay the modest town of Purplemere and on the western side of the town was the residential area known as Hill Side, and in one of its many quiet roads, called Oakham Crescent was Appleyard House the home of Keith Hartley.
Keith was also attending the week away after having reluctantly caved in to pressure from members of the congregation.
And the reason for his reluctance was the fact that he had lost his wife Glenda since the last getaway and as a result he hadn’t participated much in church life over the previous year, but although he wouldn’t admit it to those pressurising him, he knew in his heart of hearts that it was time.