Summer in Salisbury Songs of Praise


Summer in Salisbury

Pam Rhodes takes a break in Salisbury, attends a flower festival, visits the church in a village under military occupation and explores Salisbury Cathedral.


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Salisbury in the summer.

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I've come to explore this beautiful cathedral city

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and to enjoy some peace and quiet in the surrounding countryside.

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But all is not quite what it seems.

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Take cover!

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This week, I discover the amazing story

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of the church on the battlefield

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and I come across flower power on a spectacular scale.

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There's glorious music from Hayley Westenra

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and don't miss the latest news about our Songs Of Praise

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50th birthday celebration.

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Strolling through Salisbury on a summer's day,

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it's easy to see why it's often called the city in the countryside.

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Green spaces all around offer breathtaking views

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of that soaring spire

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and the vast plateau of Salisbury Plain

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stretches for 300 square miles from the edge of the city.

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Many thousands of visitors come here every year

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to see the mysterious megaliths of Stonehenge.

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But some residents of the Plain manage to keep a lower profile.

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Once hunted to extinction in Britain,

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the Great Bustard has been successfully reintroduced here

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and now even graces the Wiltshire county flag.

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And at the heart of Salisbury is the cathedral

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where there has been worship every day

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for more than seven-and-a-half centuries.

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And it's still a thriving community today and a place of prayer,

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so it's the perfect setting for our music this week

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as church and choir members from across the Salisbury area

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join the cathedral congregation for our Songs Of Praise.

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But what I love most about summer

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are the smells and the colours of the flowers,

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so when I heard that they were having a flower festival

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at Salisbury Cathedral, I had to come along.

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I've even made my own little floral contribution.

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More enthusiastic than skilful but, you know, every little helps.

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Something tells me they won't need my little posy.

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I've never seen anything on this scale.

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Whatever made you come up with the whole concept of such a huge event?

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Three years ago, we had a flower festival

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to celebrate the 750th anniversary of the completion of the cathedral,

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and the Dean and Chapter said they would like another one.

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How many blooms have you got, do you think?

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Well, over 39,000 stems,

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plus all the things that people have brought from their gardens,

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plus the foliage - it must be well over 100,000 stems.

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And an army of people to make it all happen.

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We've had 500 arrangers from all over the diocese

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who have arranged the displays you see.

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But the building itself lends so much, doesn't it?

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When you think what's gone on for seven-and-a-half centuries,

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does it add a certain something?

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You couldn't really wish for a better canvas.

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The beautiful stone here in the cathedral

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and the majestic pillars

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offset any flowers you put against them and any style of design.

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Now, how many visitors, then, are you hoping for?

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Just under 4,000 visitors every day for six days.

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-And it's just about opening time?

-It is. I think they're queuing outside, Pam, as we speak.

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One of the big things about the cathedral is the size

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and when you look at something,

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perhaps you've cut it thinking, "That's going to be huge."

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You walk in the door of the cathedral and suddenly it's shrunk.

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It is one of those places where you can,

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although it's very, very big, it can enwrap you

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and make you feel very, very close,

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feel the presence of God and very, very still.

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Well, we've come all the way from Philadelphia in the United States.

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So, what do you guys think? Do you like the flowers?

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They're really pretty and they smell good.

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Magnificent, I think.

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You've got to say, you know, a lot of hard work.

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I'm just getting lovely ideas and, um,

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some of those will appear in another church

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in the not too distant future.

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First thing that struck me was the subtleness of the colours.

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-We're talking about blue and the hues of the colours.

-Blues and purples.

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It wasn't, sort of, a mad extravaganza.

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And what would you say, then, to the army of flower arrangers

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in churches up and down the country?

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The value that flowers make into worship is considerable,

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and brings great enjoyment and a deeper sense to everyone.

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It's an act of worship and an act of prayer.

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They do say if you want to see the best of this area,

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there's only one mode of transport, so here goes.

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And I'm new to this so be kind to me.

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I've come to an outdoor therapy centre

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just a few miles from Salisbury called God Unlimited.

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So, I know how to start,

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does he know how to stop?

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On my trusty steed, I caught up with Stephanie,

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one of the team, to find out more.

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It's terribly therapeutic for people just to be around nature

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and we find that quite a lot of our activities call for the outdoors anyway,

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but the therapy seems to be augmented by the nature

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and the being in nature.

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So, what is the range of activities that you do here?

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We have a huge variety.

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We do all sorts of outdoor activities such as climbing

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and walking and cycling, kayaking.

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We obviously do quite a lot with the horses

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simply because we've got that resource to tap into

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and that includes things like parties and riding lessons

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as well as equine assisted therapy and lower back pain therapy.

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What we provide is tailored towards therapy,

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so we actually have to build up the relationship

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and mend some of the underlying problems, not just the physical ones.

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-How did this all start?

-Three families out of the four

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that have actually started up God Unlimited

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were going to an Anglican church.

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The parents were praying and they all heard

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the same part of the Bible, or the same verse

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about Elijah moving to the plain.

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We all managed to end up in the same village

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because God obviously wanted us to be together

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in the same place at the same time, with the same purpose.

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As well as having the outdoor therapy centre,

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we're a Celtic community which is what we officially call ourselves.

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We walk outside, we pray outside, we worship outside, we sing outside.

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# We come to take our stand Hear our cry

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# Hear our cry... #

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We felt that it was easier to connect with God, potentially,

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in God's creation than in a building made by man,

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so that's why we do it outside.

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Our personal walks with Jesus have just rocketed and we always pray.

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We're finding so many small miracles

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and God has been massively gracious to us.

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Hidden in the countryside just a few miles from Salisbury,

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life in the village of Imber had carried on quietly

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for over 1,000 years.

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But that all changed one day in 1943.

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As the Second World War raged on, the allies needed somewhere

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for troops to practise street fighting.

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The people of Imber were evicted and dutifully left their homes

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expecting to return as soon as the war was won.

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They never came back.

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For Ken Mitchell, Imber had been home.

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It was the beginning of November, 1943,

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when they were told that they would have to leave their homes.

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They'd have to move away by the 17th of December,

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just before Christmas, which...

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..when you think about it,

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it was a bit of a shock.

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The onset of winter and you've got to get out and leave your home.

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We didn't have a furniture van, we had a cattle wagon

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and my mother wasn't going to allow her belongings, her furniture,

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to go into a cattle lorry.

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It was awful.

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She made a statement then, and she said,

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"Do you know, we get no respect,

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"we're treated the same as the animals, aren't we?"

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Leaving Imber was even harder for the older generation,

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for people like Ken's grandad Albert,

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who was the village blacksmith.

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I think, first off, his reaction was that he just wouldn't go.

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I think he did say,

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"They'll have to shoot me if they want me," or something like that.

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He took it really badly and he was really desperate.

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It meant everything to him. It was his life and that was it.

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His wife Martha, my gran, she said to me,

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"I don't know what I'm going to do. He won't eat."

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He lost the will to live

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and I think he had his wish when he died

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on the 21st of January, 1944.

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-So, just weeks after he'd left, he died?

-He died, yes.

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-Where was he buried?

-Here.

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His grave is only 50 yards from where we are now.

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-So, in the churchyard?

-Here, in the churchyard.

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Yeah.

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People hear the story, they say, "Well, you know, what did they have to worry about?

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"There was lots of people that were suffering far more."

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"The Imber people, at least they survived."

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But that was the action of our own government

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that their hardship came from.

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What happened to Ken's grandad

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and all the people here was a real tragedy.

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But St Giles Church is still standing

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and looking very good today

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so was it the end of the story of Imber in the 1940s?

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We'll find our after we've heard this lovely piece

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from the choristers back at Salisbury Cathedral.

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# Hail, true body

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# Born of Mary

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# Spotless Virgin's

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# Virgin birth

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# Thou who truly

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# Hangest weary

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# On the cross

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# For sons of earth

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# Thou whose sacred side

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# Was riven

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# Whence the water flowed

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# And blood

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# O may'st thou

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# Dear Lord, be given

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# At death's hour

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# To be our food

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# Amen

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# Amen. #

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After all the residents were evacuated in 1943,

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Imber village was used for important military exercises.

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Public access has always been strictly limited,

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but Neil Skelton still remembers the first day

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he came here as a teenager.

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It was on Whit Monday, 1964,

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when I cycled all the way from Salisbury

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and one, as now, was not supposed to leave the metalled road

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but I did come up to the church track and I peered through the fence

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and got inside the churchyard to get some photographs.

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And I cycled back home and I suppose the memory of Imber lingered on.

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Little did Neil know that decades later,

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he would be instrumental in saving and restoring St Giles

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through his work with the Churches Conservation Trust.

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And now, as voluntary custodian of the church,

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he opens to the public whenever he can.

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We have a very good relationship with the Ministry Of Defence,

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and we do get up to 50 days public access a year.

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So, what happens on those days? How many people come?

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Well, at Easter, we had it open on the four days

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and we averaged about 1,000 people each day.

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We served refreshments and we had bell-ringers coming here.

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I think people find a certain peace and tranquillity here.

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I know it's in the middle of a battle training area,

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but not when we have the church open so I think people do enjoy that.

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I think it's important that the church remains.

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After all, it is the only building in the village remaining intact

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and it does stand for 1,000 years of worship on this one site

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and also, it is a monument to the community

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and the villagers of Imber who made that sacrifice in 1943

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by giving up their homes for the defence of the country.

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Now, the name of Imber will endure.

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Here, at this church, is a symbol.

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Not as a... I was going to say a monument,

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but a monument is a dead object.

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This is not dead. This church is living.

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Lord of all creation,

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we thank you for the beauty of your world.

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Open our eyes that we may always see your glory

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in the splendour of flower and field,

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in the love of a community and in the creativity of every person.

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And though the world around us may change,

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help us always to hold our hope in you.

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Amen.

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# Whispers in a dream

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# The world is quiet and waiting

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# And all around the air is still

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# And sings the angel

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# When all has come to pass

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# The storm has breathed its last

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# And the rain

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# Has washed their fears away

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# The people

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# Whispers in the wind

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# The clouds part to let the light in

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# And all around the air is still

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# And sings the angel

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# When all has come to pass

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# The storm has breathed its last

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# And the rain

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# Has washed their fears away

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# The people

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# Would not sigh

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# And we can smile again. #

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Isn't that the image of Salisbury

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that people will remember after their visit?

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But for me, what I'll recall most of all,

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are the people I've met.

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The way they want to live out their faiths in the service of others,

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the beauty they create,

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their sense of history and belonging.

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And in many ways, that hasn't changed all that much

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in this community throughout all the years that this great cathedral

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has stood here as a symbol of God's enduring love.

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So, from Salisbury and me, goodbye.

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Next week, Sally is in the beautiful Kingdom of Fife.

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We'll visit the home town of the real Robinson Crusoe,

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and hear a new translation of the Bible into Scots.

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And our hymns are from Dunfermline Abbey

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and St Andrews University.

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And now, here's Aled with news of a very special event.

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Thank you very much, Pam.

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Later this year, Songs Of Praise will turn 50,

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and we're planning a celebration which could include you.

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We're marking this milestone with a spectacular concert

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and sing-along with superstar guests including Katherine Jenkins,

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and Andrea Bocelli.

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Plus, one or two exciting birthday surprises.

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Now, the recording takes place on Sunday the 25th of September

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at one of the most iconic venues in television history,

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Alexandra Palace in London.

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If you'd like to be in the audience,

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you can buy tickets at £12 each by calling this number...

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Standard geographic charges apply. Calls from mobiles may be higher.

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You can also apply online...

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Hope you can come and join the party,

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because we're going all out to celebrate our big 5-0.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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E-mail [email protected]

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Pam Rhodes takes a summer break in Salisbury, attends an amazing flower festival, visits the remarkable church in a village under military occupation and explores Salisbury Cathedral, the setting for music from Hayley Westenra and seasonal hymns including Summer Suns Are Glowing.


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