London by Boat Songs of Praise


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London by Boat

Aled Jones takes a trip on the River Thames for an alternative view of London and there's a wealth of great hymns from some of the capital's finest churches.


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I've got the wind in my hair, the waves are gently lapping.

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Join me on this special journey

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as I uncover the stories, the people and the places

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that have made London one of the greatest cities in the world.

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Yes, it's time to mess around on the river.

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I'm doing London by boat.

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Coming up - along with the hymns this week,

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we'll have stories from the UK's biggest city

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and our music comes from some of London's finest churches,

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and can you guess which bridge across the Thames

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inspired the poet William Wordsworth?

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At 215 miles long and flowing through nine counties of England,

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the Thames is one of the most famous waterways in the world.

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And for the millions of tourists who visit London every year,

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no trip is complete without a sightseeing cruise

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through the heart of the city.

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You know, in all the years I've lived in London,

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I've actually never been on a river cruise - I'm very excited.

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Over the next half an hour, we'll be passing

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some of London's most famous religious buildings.

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It's rather apt that we start with the capital's oldest cathedral -

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that's Southwark.

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Every stretch of this river is a reminder of our history.

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Its palaces, theatres

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and churches have been places of inspiration for centuries.

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I'm setting sail with Christopher Winn -

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London resident and Thames enthusiast.

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-Are you a big fan of the river?

-I love the river.

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There's a most wonderful sense of openness

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and peace and quiet on the river,

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and you get a different perspective of all the landmarks.

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Because the river was so important to the growth of London,

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all the iconic sights, you can actually see from the river.

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-I've never done this before.

-It's very exciting.

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-Also, I've never been this close to Tower Bridge.

-There it is.

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Possibly the most recognisable bridge in the whole world.

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It's the only bridge over the Thames that opens, and of course,

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it opens because when it was built,

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the Pool Of London, which we're going through to now,

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was still a very important working port,

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and they had to get a lot of tall ships under here.

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It used to open about 20 times a day and in fact, in 1952,

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a number 78 bus was going across the bridge

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when it began to open and he had no choice but to accelerate

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and leap over the gap which he just made.

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Fantastic.

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One of the most celebrated sights from the river

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is the Tower Of London.

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Building was started by William the Conqueror in 1078

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and it's perhaps one of the most famous prisons in the world.

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-If you see there, that is Traitors' Gate.

-Oh, I see.

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That's where people to be executed used to go into the tower and never come out again -

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Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Sir Thomas More.

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Of course, Sir Thomas More, once he'd been executed,

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his head was put on a spike and put on London Bridge

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and that's where we're heading now.

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There have been lots of London Bridges since.

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In 1014, when the city was owned by the Danes

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or they occupied the city,

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King Aethelred the Unready sailed his fleet up

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and tied his boats to the wooden supports of London Bridge

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and sailed away, bringing the bridge down behind him.

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-That's where you get the nursery rhyme London Bridge Is Falling Down.

-Ah, right. I never knew that.

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-I'll be singing that all day, now.

-I hope so.

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And our next hymn comes from the Queen Elizabeth Hall,

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a little bit further up.

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Yes, that's further down in the Southbank Centre,

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much of which was built for the Festival of Britain in 1951,

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and the Queen Elizabeth Hall was added in 1967, I think.

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-It's a great venue.

-The Southbank Arts Centre is the biggest arts centre in Britain.

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-Is it really?

-Yes.

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APPLAUSE

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# Just one voice

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# Singing in the darkness

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# All it takes is one voice

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# Singing so they hear what's on your mind

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# And when you look around

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# You'll find there's more than one voice

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# Singing in this darkness One voice

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# Joining with your one voice One voice

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# Each and every note another octave

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# Hands are joined and fears unlocked

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# If only one voice

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# Started on its own

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# We need just one voice

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# Facing the unknown

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# And then that one voice

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# Would never be alone

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# It takes just one voice

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# Da, da, da, da, da, da, da

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# Da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da

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# Da, da, da, da, da

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# Da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da

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# One voice

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# One voice

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# Singing in the darkness

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# All it takes is one voice

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# Shout it out and let it ring

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# Just one voice

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# It takes that one voice

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# And everyone

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# Will sing... #

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# One voice

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# Singing in the darkness

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# All it takes is one voice

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# Shout it out and let it ring

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# Just one voice

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# It takes that one voice

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# And everyone

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# Will sing

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# We will

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# sing. #

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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So, we've been under Tower Bridge, London Bridge

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and now we're approaching what was Wobbly Bridge.

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It will always be known as the Wobbly Bridge.

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It's created a lovely space because it's connected the City

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to the South Bank in a way that it wasn't before.

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And again, that idea of ancient and modern.

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You've got the Tate one side and St Paul's Cathedral the other.

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Yes, Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece.

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38 years it took to build

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and he was 78 by the time it was finished in 1710.

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Love the idea that it's right in the heart of London, as well.

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It is. Very much so. It's been there since 604.

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That's when the first cathedral was put there

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and it's on Ludgate Hill which is the highest point in the city,

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so it rises above the city

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and you have this magnificent dome which is 365 feet high to the top.

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I've been up it.

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-It's a wonderful view.

-I could definitely feel my calves.

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Indeed, it's quite a scary climb up there.

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But also, it's a huge statement of faith, as well, isn't it?

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God's here in this busy hustle and bustle.

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Despite the fact that these modern buildings are around us,

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it still rises above.

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It's the first thing your eye is drawn to.

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It reminds me of the difference between spiritual

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and material wealth - that they work together.

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St Pauls Cathedral is one of London's most iconic images,

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dedicated to the saint without whom many believe

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Christianity would never have become known to the Western world.

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But who was St Paul?

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2,000 years on, why is he still such an inspiration today?

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St Paul came from an area we now know as eastern Turkey.

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So, it's to Turkey that pilgrims travel to discover more

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about the life of this man.

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Last year, Pam joined a pilgrimage

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to explore what remains of two cities Paul knew well -

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Ephesus and Miletus.

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Ephesus was really important for Paul.

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He really wanted to get there. It was the largest metropolis around the Aegean - some 250,000 people.

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Major trading port

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and many people would be coming in to that city,

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so he wanted to get there.

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It was a strategic place and it was a really important part of his strategy.

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He describes his ministry there

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and it's clearly been really, really tough.

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It is almost a near-death experience.

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He also talks about having to face wild beasts in Ephesus.

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Almost certainly that's a metaphor -

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he's not literally facing wild beasts,

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but it describes the opposition which he's under.

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South of Ephesus along the coastal route is Miletus.

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It was here that Paul bid an emotional farewell

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to the leaders of the church in Ephesus.

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It's been eye-opening for me to come to Turkey with a group of pilgrims

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to follow in Paul's footsteps

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and visit these ancient sights.

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Paul travelled thousands of miles, but we've seen just a tiny fraction of the distances he covered.

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I think he must have been a marvellous man.

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We've been sitting in a coach

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for four or five days already on this pilgrimage

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and we've done such distances.

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I don't know how he could have possibly done it by foot or on a donkey or whatever.

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It certainly makes things come vividly alive

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to stand where he stood and where the early Christians stood.

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That's the Ionic Stoa there, where all the processions started.

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The spate of all these trails and shipwrecks and beatings

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and all that, he still pressed on towards the goal,

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towards the prize, and the prize would be eternal life with Jesus.

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It must have been an incredible journey

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fraught with all kinds of dangers,

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difficulties, problems, hardships along the way,

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which Paul alludes to in some of his letters.

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So, my admiration for him has increased

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as we have traced some of his steps.

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The account of Paul meeting the Ephesian elders in Miletus

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is a very moving account in the New Testament.

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It's described in Acts, chapter 20. Paul's speech is there.

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It's moving because he knows that it's going to be his last time with them.

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He's convinced that he's going up to Jerusalem

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and then on to pastures new.

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It's goodbye to all his seven years of working around the Aegean,

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and he knows that hardship is awaiting him.

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He's often going into places where the name of Christ has never been heard of before,

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he's going into cities which are full of pagan culture,

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and he's going almost single-handedly,

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determined to bring a new message into that location,

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convinced that God has done something in Jesus which is for all people.

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I love this part of the Thames cos you've got the grandeur of St Pauls.

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But, if I'm right, isn't that St Brides?

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-That is indeed St Brides on Fleet Street.

-The tiny spire.

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As you see, it's got a very distinctive shape.

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In the 17th century,

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a pastry cook who was working on Ludgate Hill opposite the church,

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looked up at the spire

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and got inspired to make a cake for his daughter's wedding,

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and he made it in the shape of the spire

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and that's why we have wedding cakes tiered like that,

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in the same shape as that spire.

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Of course, a very important wedding took place not far from here.

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Indeed it did. Wasn't it a most marvellous day?

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-That was showing London at its best.

-Absolutely.

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We're so good at pomp and pageantry in London.

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All the buildings lend themselves to this wonderful pageantry.

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Does the Thames have a royal connection?

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It has an incredible royal connection because

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there are lots of palaces on the river,

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going from Windsor to Whitehall

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to Westminster Palace down to Greenwich, Richmond Palace,

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and the kings and queens used to progress between their homes

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in great state, in their state barges along the river

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which was the safest and the quickest way to go.

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Further upstream, Windsor is now home to the oldest

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and largest inhabited castle in the world.

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But, for visitors to the castle,

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the real surprise is the magnificent St George's Chapel,

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and it's the setting for our next piece of music.

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# Oh, grant it, Heaven

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# That our long woes may cease

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# And Judah's daughters

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# Taste the calm of peace

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# Sons, brothers, husbands

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# To bewail no more

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# Tortured at home

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# Or havocked in the war... #

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# So shall the lute and harp awake

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# And sprightly voice sweet descant run

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# So shall the lute awake

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# So shall the harp awake

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# So shall the lute and harp awake

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# And sprightly voice sweet descant run

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# And sprightly voice

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# Sweet descant run

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# And spri-ah-ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah-ah, ah-ah

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# Ah, ah-ah, ah-ah-ah Ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah

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# Ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah Ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ightly voice

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# Sweet descant run

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# Seraphic melody to make

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# In the pure strains of Jesse's son

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# Sera-ha-ah, ha-ah, ha-ah Ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah

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# Ah-ah-phic melody to make

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# In the pure strah-eh-eh-eh-eh

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# Eh-eh, eh-eh, eh-eh, eh-eh Eh-eh, eh-eh, eh-eh, eh-eh

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# Eh-eh, eh-eh, eh-eh, eh-eh Eh-eh, eh-eh, eh-eh, eh-eh

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# Eh-eh, eh-eh, eh-eh, eh-eh strains

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# In the pure strains of Jesse's son

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# Sera-ha-ah, ha-ah, ha-ah Ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah

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# Ah-ah-phic melody to make

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# In the pure strains

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# Of Je-eh, eh-eh, eh-eh Eh-eh-eh, eh-eh

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# Eh-eh-eh, eh-eh

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# Eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, eh

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# Eh-eh, eh, eh-eh-eh

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# Jesse's son. #

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-And the view every tourist comes to London to see.

-Indeed.

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There it is, Big Ben.

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Probably the most famous clock in the world.

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In fact, Big Ben refers only to the great bell of the great clock.

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-OK.

-That is the actual bell is called Ben,

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and it was named after Sir Benjamin Hall

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who was the commissioner of works.

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Or possibly, a story I prefer, it was named after Benjamin Caunt

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-who was a heavyweight champion of the time whose nickname was Big Ben.

-Oh, really?

-Indeed.

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What about the House Of Commons? Magnificent.

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Magnificent Houses Of Parliament.

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Of course, this is new, this was opened in 1852.

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It's on the site of Edward the Confessor's

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Palace Of Westminster, so it's known as the Palace Of Westminster -

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the oldest royal palace in London.

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And the big square tower, the other side, the Victoria Tower,

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-was the tallest building in the world when it was first built.

-Really?

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It was. Extraordinary.

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It's got a copy of every single law and record that's been made

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since the 11th century, inside it, now.

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It's a sort of modern Tower Of Babel, you could call it.

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-Do you know what? I'm glad I turned up today.

-So am I.

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-I always enjoy telling these stories.

-It's a great story.

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The building we see today was designed by Charles Barry,

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after a fire broke out in 1834,

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destroying almost all of the original Palace Of Westminster.

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One of the few structures to survive was a glorious underground chapel.

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St Mary Undercroft isn't normally open to the public

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but it still holds regular services for MPs,

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members of the House Of Lords and their families.

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Last year, I met Lady Patricia Scotland,

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who's a worshipper there.

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-What a jewel this place is.

-It's absolutely beautiful.

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It's a church right in the heart of Parliament

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and it's just a pool of calm and an opportunity to come in prayer.

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I think it's a very special space.

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And it's really wonderful

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because you see people that you never imagined would come

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and go, "Oh, hello."

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How do you feel when you're praying here?

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Erm, really touched, actually,

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because you have a clear understanding

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that God is in the centre of all we're doing.

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Every time Parliament starts the day, it starts with prayer.

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Yeah, many people would imagine that, you know,

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Parliament and God really wouldn't go hand in hand.

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I think in this space,

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there is no party, there's just one body

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and that's the body of Christ and being able to acknowledge

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that we're all part of it and we are all part of the solution

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and there's a great deal we can do by working together.

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Patricia Scotland's career reads as a series of firsts.

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The first black woman to become a QC,

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the first to become a government minister,

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and the first female attorney general.

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Born in Dominica and brought up in East London,

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she didn't always feel quite so part of the establishment.

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I was one of ten children,

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and my mother was a very devout Catholic

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and my father was an equally ardent Methodist.

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And I think my parents found it quite hard

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when they first came to England

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cos at that stage, it wasn't necessarily as welcoming

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as they thought it would be.

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And their faith was a very strong part

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of how they got through all of those things.

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Some public figures find it difficult to own up to being a Christian, if you like.

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Why do you think that is?

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I think it's because it makes lots of people feel vulnerable,

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and that you could be subject to attack.

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There's a feeling that more might be expected of you

0:23:500:23:54

or that if you make decisions, people will challenge them

0:23:540:23:58

and look at them through the prism of the faith that you purport to have.

0:23:580:24:01

It's never really been an issue for you, though, has it?

0:24:010:24:04

No, no, it hasn't.

0:24:040:24:06

I think I've never hesitated from giving the credit where credit's due

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and the credit always goes to God.

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The things that I've done which are good,

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I know have been through his grace.

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The things that I've done that aren't so good,

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I know they're usually down to me,

0:24:190:24:21

so faith has been very much part of the living, breathing fabric

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of my life and who I am.

0:24:260:24:28

If I'd known we were coming this far up the Thames,

0:26:170:26:19

-we could have popped in to see my fellow Welshman at Lambeth Palace.

-Indeed.

0:26:190:26:23

There it is, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

0:26:230:26:26

Since the year 1200, I think, was when they first moved there.

0:26:260:26:30

And in fact, I grew up there. I had spent some of my formative years there

0:26:300:26:34

-in the Cranmer Tower where Cranmer compiled the prayer book.

-Wow.

0:26:340:26:39

-I like to think that's where I get my writing skills from.

-Not a bad place to grow up, eh?

0:26:390:26:43

No, and it was next to the river, which is where my love for the river comes from.

0:26:430:26:47

-It's obvious that you really do love the Thames.

-I do.

0:26:470:26:50

I love the space, I love the open air,

0:26:500:26:52

there are so many fascinating characters and stories

0:26:520:26:56

and so many things I never knew about the River Thames,

0:26:560:26:59

that I love to learn. You can never learn enough about it.

0:26:590:27:02

I've learnt so much. I can't wait to bring my children.

0:27:020:27:04

-I'm going to be the font of all knowledge next to you.

-Indeed.

0:27:040:27:07

-It's been brilliant.

-Thank you. I've enjoyed it, too.

0:27:070:27:10

I always love it on the Thames.

0:27:100:27:12

I know that you've chosen a hymn for us, as well. What is it?

0:27:120:27:15

On a stormy day like this, it's quite relevant.

0:27:150:27:17

It's For Those In Peril On The Sea.

0:27:170:27:20

I come from a naval family, and of course,

0:27:200:27:22

an awful lot of people sailed down the Thames

0:27:220:27:25

to go across the world on perilous sea voyages

0:27:250:27:29

to discover America and Australia, so I think it's quite relevant

0:27:290:27:32

to be thinking for those in peril on the sea.

0:27:320:27:35

'Dear Father,

0:29:450:29:46

'give us the wisdom to ask for your mercy

0:29:460:29:49

'not just when the storm is raging, but also when the waters are calm.'

0:29:490:29:54

Help us to understand that peace and happiness come

0:29:540:29:58

not from having worldly riches,

0:29:580:30:00

but from having your love in our hearts.

0:30:000:30:03

And in days of doubt,

0:30:030:30:05

give us the courage to acknowledge your presence

0:30:050:30:07

and sing forth your praise.

0:30:070:30:10

Amen.

0:30:100:30:11

So, here we are at our journey's end.

0:30:150:30:17

Before we go our opposite ways, there is one question I want to ask.

0:30:170:30:20

-By all accounts, Wordsworth was inspired by one of the bridges we've been under.

-Indeed he was.

0:30:200:30:25

The view that inspired William Wordsworth to write the lines,

0:30:250:30:28

"Earth has not anything to show more fair,"

0:30:280:30:31

was the view of Westminster Bridge.

0:30:310:30:33

-I didn't win that bet. Thank you very much.

-My pleasure.

0:30:330:30:36

I don't know about you, but I've had a fantastic time

0:30:360:30:39

exploring some of these wonderful sights that London has to offer

0:30:390:30:42

from the mighty Thames.

0:30:420:30:44

We're going to end where we began at Southwark Cathedral

0:30:440:30:47

with an inspirational hymn of praise,

0:30:470:30:50

Angel-Voices Ever Singing.

0:30:500:30:51

Until next time, goodbye.

0:30:510:30:53

In next week's Songs Of Praise,

0:33:190:33:21

Irish singer Dana goes back to her home city

0:33:210:33:24

to explore her past.

0:33:240:33:25

And she uncovers some stars of the future.

0:33:250:33:29

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:33:490:33:52

E-mail [email protected]

0:33:520:33:55