England - From Yorkshire to Birmingham to London
November 10, 2022
Harrogate is an old spa town with the best tap water I’ve ever tasted! It’s full of historic buildings, including a Turkish bath which, having experienced the real deal in Turkey, didn’t tempt me. My purpose in being there was to spend time with Martin and Sam Ainsworth, who are my colleagues in the field team with YFCI. After being picked up by Martin from Leeds/Bradford airport and settling into my BnB, we gathered with their Monday night church small group for dinner. They wanted to know about my work and spent time praying for me, which was lovely. The following day I was able to have some down time and catch up on some work at a local cafe where I had a delicious, nordic inspired brunch. Martin picked me up mid afternoon and we went back to their house for a work zoom meeting and dinner before going to hear Mark Greene from the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity speak on why our work matters to God.
I managed to squeeze in a massage on the Wednesday morning before being picked up by Martin and Sam to go visit an older couple from their church, Tina and Ian, who also happen to be the in-laws of the YFC Britain director. We had a good ole’ cuppa and chat, which included them showing me a giant map of the world that Tina had sewn, with material from many nations sewn into it. She had also sewn small ‘prayer patches’ for many nations, which included a nations’ flag and different distinguishing icons. She had even sewn verses on in native languages! They are used at different events for prayer or just for personal use when praying for a nation. They were very inspirational.
After our visit, the Ainsworth’s and I set off for a drive around some of the pretty Yorkshire countryside on a cold and overcast day. Our first stop was Ripley Castle a ‘grade 1 listed 14th century house 3 miles from Harrogate’ (Wikipedia). Unfortunately the house was closed for the winter but we were able to buy a hot drink and wander around the vast grounds, including a walled garden. It was so fun being at an old English estate imagining ‘Mr Darcy’ riding up on a a horse. Next stop was Knaresborough, a market and spa town. The market was packing down as we arrived, but it wasn’t too late to hear a ‘noooo no nooo no no no’ from an elderly stall holder. I said, “did you guys hear that?”. They said, “no”. I remarked, “it sounded like the guy from the Vicar of Dibley”! Apparently it’s a very common thing to hear in Yorkshire. We lunched at the Honey Bee tearoom and strolled by the ruins of the Knaresborough castle, which is also from the 14th century. It stands on a cliff by the Nidd River and it has a lovely view of the river and an old arched train bridge.
We made a quick trip to York to buy a portable microphone set-up that I could use for work filming on my phone, but as the weather was wet and cold, we didn’t stay to look around the old city. We headed back for a pub dinner with their daughter where I was able to compare an ‘English meat pie’ with the ‘Irish’ one I had. I must say, the Irish won out.
I was off to an early start on Thursday morning to pick up a hire car for the 3 hour drive south to Birmingham and the YFC Britain office. I arrived to be greeted by the wonderful Thea and jumped straight into a prayer day that they were having. When I arrived Josh Green, from 24-7 International, was speaking. I’d just heard him speak the weekend before at the gathering in Belfast. It was great to meet some of the team and join them in prayer for the rest of the day. They are really pushing into prayer in Britain, having recently come off a time where they ‘downed tools’ to pray for 40 days.
Thea and I then had dinner at a local Indian restaurant, a real feast! We also met up the next morning for a late breakfast. I was able to get some work done at the office and then rested before the National Director, Neil, picked me up from the hotel to go to the centre of Birmingham where a combined youth prayer event was being held at ‘Gas St’ church. My sister had messaged a few weeks earlier to tell me I should go there after seeing it on an episode of ‘Songs of Praise’. I told her that I was actually going to go to it! So that was fun. It is also known for being the church of Tim Hughes, the well known worship leader and songwriter. Before we got there we had a brief look at the centre area which was beautifully set up with a German Christmas market and a giant Christmas tree. We had a Bratwurst, as you do when at a German market.
The prayer event was the second held in partnership with 24-7 Prayer. It’s wonderful to see organisations with common vision working together. And to see young people eager to pray for the issues they are facing as well as the nation.
I was able to have a little sleep in on Saturday then set off at about 10am for another 3 hour drive south to London. I was blessed to be able to stay with Ken and Jan Wright. Ken has been the chair of YFC Britain for 18 years. They have a lovely home in the area known as ‘Little Venice’. They were actually hosting a young couple from their church when I arrived, an Australian teacher married to a Brit, so we had a nice lunch together before I crashed for the rest of the day. It also happened to be Guy Fawkes day so we were treated to a fireworks show through the dining room window! And to the random ‘bang’ throughout the night.
It was so nice to have a day to rest on the Sunday and to ‘repack’ for the last full week of my trip. I was able to take carry on to Frankfurt due to the fact I was to return to London on the following Monday before flying back to Australia. Ken and I managed to take a stroll around the canal and Paddington Central before it started raining too much and arrived back to a beautiful roast lamb lunch.
It was another early start on the Monday with a 5am departure to drop the car off at Heathrow before flying to Frankfurt at 8.30am. I’m just finishing up my time here in Frankfurt before flying to Florence tomorrow for my final weekend of this trip and my final ‘work’ meetings. Stay tuned for the last travel diary, coming soon!