On Hallowe’en I posted about some Oxford graveyard visitations I attempted on a sunny Friday in October. I also spent part of that day knocking about Headington Hill, the community where C.S. Lewis and his brother lived (and where Hermione is from). I won’t go inside the Kilns on our pictorial tour today, but I thought I would share my autumnal wanderings in Headington. I am no photographer, and yet this old cell phone seems to catch some nice light from time to time.
My tour begins in an alley. While on my North American continent, alleys can be terrifying zones, shrouded in violence. In the UK, however, I have found that alleys are quite lovely places, verdant and welcoming. This is one of the many alleys I have chanced in my UK travels, as it cuts through Headington away from the traffic.
This alley led through various winding ways to an area I had never visited before, the euphonic “Quarry Hollow” I talked about on Hallowe’en.
Around the corner from this harbinger of creepiness is a little sign for C.S. Lewis’ church.
This little opening led to a nice lovely walk down to the church that Jack and Warnie Lewis attended from the early 30s until their life’s end.
The Holy Trinity Headington Hill cemetery has the famous Lewis memorial.
Since I have already haunted this graveyard, and though my camera clearly prefers natural light, I thought I would take you inside the church. I just happened to catch someone leaving, so Holy Trinity Headington Quarry was open to me. There are little hints that this is C.S. Lewis’ church, including a number of Narnia copies in the free library, and this little alcove, where they keep a picture of Lewis, some colouring pencils, and the holy grail:
There is also, of course, the quietly famous Narnia window. It is such a soft light, and such a nice touch, that I’m pleased that it will never interrupt the church’s worship. Unfortunately, my pictures at late afternoon are terrible–though perhaps google can accentuate what I have left in outline here:
Holy Trinity also has a lovely crucifixion window that was really hard to capture (but you can see better pictures here).
Here is a picture of Lewis’ pew at the back of the church. What was interesting for me was to sit in that pew and imagine what Lewis could see.
In one way, it is the perfect seat for C.S. Lewis. Looking from that seat, you can the crucifixion window above. He could also see, generally, this angle toward the front of the church:
Basically, Lewis could see the pulpit. He can attend church and see the sermon but not be seen by most of the congregation. Intriguingly, he cannot see the gorgeous altar window and communion table beneath.
But it also means that C.S. Lewis would not have to see the organ–perhaps his least favourite part of church life (other than squeaky boots).
Ah well, apart from sitting in church with Lewis, I will have to content myself with reading Letters to Malcolm and Screwtape Letters.
Walking across what is now a highway with a pedestrian crossing under repair, I found my way to Lewis’ street in Headington.
I won’t go inside the Kilns this time, where I have had tea with researchers and heard people like Will Vaus and Walter Hooper speak to visitors. But there are some nice sneaky shots from the street.
Intriguingly, a neighbour has claimed that Narnia is on their property.
(yes, that’s me trespassing–I also ate an apple from their tree in case, you know, it was the tree)
And, walking beside the Kilns, I found my way once again into the woods behind the old Lewis residence. This was a wildness that the Lewis brothers and their household slowly tamed and replanted beginning in the early 1930s. The 6 or 7 acres behind the Kilns makes up the C.S. Lewis Nature Reserve, a fitting living memory of Lewis’ love of living things.
I am also told that it is home to Enchanter’s Nightshade, Pendulous Sedge, the Whirligig Beetle, and Kingfishers. I took the time to walk the entire reserve, which moves up into farmland at a height far above Kiln Lane. These are the pictures I took, mostly struck by natural beauty more than any particular thing I wanted to capture.