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Walking to Narnia (A Pilgrimage to the Home and Resting Place of C. S. Lewis)

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For those of you who have been following my blog since the beginning of this year, you would have noticed that I haven’t been posting as regularly as I once did. The truth is I’ve just stepped into the adult world and I’m finding myself overwhelmed by the distinct lack of time that I now have. Growing up I witnessed my mum juggle her life between working, looking after us kids, house work and finding moments to just relax take a pause and escape the mayhem. I’m sure most of you have heard a parent or carer utter ‘There’s not enough hours in the day’, or perhaps you’ve said these words yourself, well, I finally understand! I went straight from studying into full-time work at the bookshop, which is an absolute privilege, but more than ever I’m finding myself too tired or just not having the time to do all the things I want to be doing with my life right at this moment. Over the last few weeks the stress has been building and the pressure to keep posting on this blog, read, write and just the small stuff like catch up with a TV show has got on top of me. On Sunday I felt like I needed to escape, to set all this aside, to stop worrying about the future and go on an adventure.

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I decided to go on a sort of pilgrimage to see the resting place of C. S. Lewis, The Kilns where he lived and the nature reserve named in his honor where he would often walk. This is something I’ve been meaning to do since I moved to Oxford on a sunny day, and I didn’t want to think or do anything, but simply enjoy the here and now. It was a forty minute walk to get to the Holy Trinity Church where Lewis is buried along side his brother Warren. I stood by the church not really sure where to go, so I went and sat on a nearby bench and took in my surroundings. Something brushed the back of my leg and mewed, it was a little ginger and white cat.

‘You’re looking for the Lewis grave?’ (The cat didn’t say this) I stood up and turned around to see possibly the oldest looking man I have ever seen coming along the path. I cannot overstate how old this man looked, I’m certain the year 2000 wasn’t the first turn of the century he witnessed. Anyway, I told him I was indeed looking for the grave. ‘Come on then, Alfie.’ It took me a moment to realise he was talking to the cat and not me. ‘Follow me.’ I followed the man around the graveyard and he showed me the Lewis grave and then to where Janie King Moore is buried. Mrs Moore was the mother of Paddy Moore, a very dear friend of Lewis who sadly died fighting in WWI. The two had a mutual pact to look after the Moore family if either one of them died, when Lewis returned to England he fulfilled his promise and took care of Paddy’s mother and sister. The old man then took me inside the church and showed me where Lewis used to sit during service as well as the Narnia window which depicts several children as well as various characters and scenes from the books. He told me that Lewis always used to leave the church services before the blessings, but he didn’t know why. I thanked the old man and bid him farewell and set off to find The Kilns.

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(I didn’t take a picture of the grave because I find that kind of thing incredibly distasteful, but here’s the beautiful Holy Trinity Church)

The Kilns is the house where C. S. and his brother Warren lived for the majority of their life in Oxford, it is now owned and protected by the C. S. Lewis foundation.When I got there I couldn’t go inside, but I had a little snoop through the hedge into the garden. It was a moment for forsaking the eyes and to see through the imagination, Lewis smoking a cigarette by the back door, sitting by the window looking out at the sun pondering what to write next. I took a quick picture and scurried down a nearby alleyway which would take me to the nature reserve.

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After no more than twenty seconds down the alleyway I walked out into the  C. S. Lewis Nature Reserve, an actual stone’s throw from The Kilns and where I spent an hour or so in Lewis’ footsteps. The reserve consists of a very small wooded area which surrounds a decent size pond in its centre. The pond greeted me in magical fashion, the low afternoon sun beaming onto its surface, reflecting the trees and flora as if there were two worlds in that place. The water was like a window to another land, somewhere not too dissimilar to our own, but one where the toils and troubles we all face do no exist and all you have to do is step into it.

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“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!”

Today was a special day for me. C. S. Lewis has been my favourite author since I was a child. He’s not my favourite because he writes particularly better than other authors, or because his imagination is any richer than other writers. He’s my favourite because his books remind me of my own childhood, how my mum would take us to the library and week after week I would just read and read again ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’. I’m almost sure that my local library didn’t once have a full set of Narnia books for a good few years back in the late 90’s because of my habit.

I’m not sure if I will go back and visit again, I feel like I should savor that afternoon and remember it in perfect clarity when the times and time become too heavy. Besides, as Caspian says ‘Things never happen the same way twice.’ and I know if I went back I’d want it to be exactly as it was that afternoon. If you ever get chance to visit these places then I urge you to do so, because on that day I was a king and “Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia.”

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Follow me on Twitter: @ByfordsBooks

 

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8 Comments

  1. What a lovely post! I loved what you said about why C.S. Lewis is your favourite author 🙂 Is there also a pub in Oxford, where it is said he used to sit and write….I’ve been there, but am now suddenly confused…or was that Tolkien?

    Liked by 1 person

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