April 2024 Digest - Mucknell Abbey
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April 2024 Digest

Welcome back to Mucknell Abbey, where Spring has very much sprung. We’ve been enjoying watching a whole variety of wildlife this month – of which more later! As I write the day is rather gloomy and wet, but we’ve also been blessed with some lovely sunny days that hold the promise of summer to come. Along with much of the country, we’ve had a lot of rainfall over the summer, which has left large areas of our grounds rather waterlogged. Fortunately, a run of dry dates this last ten days or so have enabled Br. Adrian and Br. Ian to get out on the tractor and start mowing the paths around the Estate. Sr. Alison has also been busy in the kitchen garden, where the potato plants are just starting to appear. I’m also glad that the oregano and tarragon I planted last year have both survived the winter. Read on to find out a bit more about what we’ve been up to this month.

Various Visitors part 1: the humans

We’ve been blessed with a wide variety of visitors this month, for a whole range of purposes! Our most recent was our Bishop Visitor, +Anne Hollinghurst, bishop of Aston. All Anglican Religious Communities have a Bishop Visitor, who provides support and a gentle oversight to the Community. One of their most prominent responsibilities is to carry out a Visitation of the community every 5 years, and we welcomed +Anne, along with Fr. Oswin CR and Karen Preece, to carry out our Visitation over 4 days from the 22nd to the 25th. The aim of this is to celebrate all that is going well in a community, and, through conversations and written input, to offer guidance and suggestions to areas that might need more attention. It’s a supportive process, and we all came to the end of the 4 days feeling hugely positive about all the many good things that have happened here at Mucknell over the last 5 years, as well as feeling ready to look ahead to our future. As is usual, +Anne will give us a written version of her feedback soon.

On a somewhat different note, we also welcomed our local MP, Nigel Huddleston, for questions, conversations and tea (and cake!). It was interesting to meet him, and to hear about some of the policy areas that he regularly engages on across a very varied constituency. We take seriously our engagement with democracy, and vote in local and national elections. As you might expect, there are a variety of political views in the Community; we were however all entertained to hear that some of Nigel’s most challenging questions can come from the schools he visits. He noted that even the youngest children in Primary schools are aware of the importance of tackling climate change, and can also provide some rather ‘left field’ questions, including one child who asked him what his favourite dragon was!

It’s also been a delight to have with us Shena and Erin from the Community of St. Anselm; they were both here at Mucknell in January for a week. This time they are spending 3 and 4 weeks with us respectively. We’ll be sharing some reflections from them on their time here next month; suffice it to say for now that we’ve loved having them here again.

Various Visitors part 2: the animals

We’ve also been enjoying our local wildlife once again, including the hares and deer that wander through our landscape. New this year is a pair of Canada geese who appear to be nesting on a small island in the pond next to our Hermitage. They’ve been around for a few weeks, perhaps prospecting for a possible nest site. We regularly have a pair of ducks who breed here and raise their ducklings on our swales; we’ll let you know if we have goslings this year too.

Still keeping with the birds, we’ve spotted a couple of more unusual visitors this past week. The first was what appeared to be an albino/leucistic pheasant; it wasn’t possible to get a decent photo but was fascinating to see. Then just a few days ago, Br. Anthony noticed a leucistic greenfinch outside the sitting room windows. It fortunately flew round to where a couple of our guests had phones to hand and were able to get a photo:

A little bit of research came up with this interesting page: Leucism and Albinism, which explains that leucism is caused by a genetic abnormality, and as such is quite rare. We feel very privileged to have seen these two examples!

Project Week

In a new venture, we decided this year to close our guest wing for a week to give us a bit more time to get on with a whole variety of ‘projects’. These included making epic quantities of jam, continuing to re-organise the kitchen garden, tidying, organising and labelling one of our workshops, catching up with archiving recent material, spreading woodchip around the bases of apple trees, cataloguing library books….it was good to have time to make progress on all of this and more. Our guesthouse remains very much in demand, and we’re mindful of trying to balance this with the needs of the community.

Rocky’s Roamings

One of the most heard questions in Community at the moment is, “when was the last time anyone saw the cat?”. Rocky has been enjoying the great outdoors, only venturing in around Compline time for some supper. He very occasionally appears in the morning for breakfast, but seems to be fairly adept at finding his own snacks around the kitchen garden and estate! Erin from the Community of St. Anselm was finally able to meet him last week; he was initially a bit wary of this stranger in a white alb, but once he worked out that she had treats, they were best of friends.

At the end of our Visitation, +Anne left us with this glorious prayer from Ephesians; it seems like a good way to finish this month’s news as a reminder of the ground of our being and the goal of our desiring.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.”