The Wakefield Way Songs of Praise


The Wakefield Way

David Grant encounters people inspired by the Yorkshire landscape along The Wakefield Way and introduces hymns from Wakefield Cathedral.


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75 miles of tracks and towpaths

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make up West Yorkshire's Wakefield Way.

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Encircling the city of Wakefield, the trail winds through a landscape

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shaped and scarred by centuries of industry.

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But, as industry has retreated,

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the emphasis has been on regenerating the communities and reclaiming the land.

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Many of the locals call this "God's own country",

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but whatever your original allegiances, you can't deny

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this is certainly God's own countryside.

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In today's programme, a land

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once given entirely to farming and industry

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is now embracing leisure and artistry.

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A performance from members

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of this year's Yorkshire Championship brass band

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and hymns from a congregation gathered in Wakefield Cathedral.

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Under the tallest spire in Yorkshire,

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the cathedral is the focal point for the Wakefield area

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and it's sharing its own renewal for 21st-century worship

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with the whole community.

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And it's worship that's the subject of our first hymn,

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sung by a congregation that's drawn from across the Wakefield diocese.

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Before the last war, Woolley Hall was the seat

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of local land and colliery owners, the Wentworths.

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And everyone in Woolley village was their tenant.

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We paid an annual rent for the land to the Wentworths.

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We knew our place. But it was kindly.

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So it was a bit like living in Downton Abbey. When you say you knew your place, what was your place?

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How did the hierarchy work?

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At the top were the Wentworth family, right?

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There were the Wentworths. And then? The vicar,

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the schoolmaster and then the tenant farmers

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and then the, er...the cottagers.

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When we first came to Woolley village

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we lived in a tied cottage.

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You were always a little bit on edge.

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You've got to do everything right

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because, you know, you could be out if you didn't.

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For the Wentworths, the winds of change came after World War II

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when the family sold the village.

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Woolley Hall became a teacher training college,

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where Margaret worked as a flower arranger.

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But there's one aspect of Woolley village

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that has played an unchanging role in local lives.

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The church played a big part in my life.

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Because I was in the church choir

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and I used to make eyes at the village organist.

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Cos there was a mirror.

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And then I got confirmed there.

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And married there.

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Woolley church has been part of my life since being a little boy.

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Um, I think I learnt to tell the time by looking at the church clock

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as I went on my way to school.

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I've made various things for the church -

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the notice boards, the gates, the kissing gate, various other things.

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Always in English oak, always,

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whenever possible, using oak from Woolley estate.

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The church has helped me through grief twice.

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My husband died on the 19th of January this year.

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And he was a wonderful man.

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Woolley village has always been close to my heart.

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And, er...and Ken loved it.

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Absolutely loved it.

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During the 1980s, when pits were closing down

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and lots of factories were closing,

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people were losing their jobs, people were fighting,

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not only for employment, but for their own communities.

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And people struggled.

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During that time, I was a head teacher at the small village school

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and children were coming to school hungry.

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I personally took this very hard.

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Not only for my schoolchildren,

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but for my community at home in Castleford.

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And everything that was going on in the parish made me very depressed.

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And I had a breakdown.

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As I recovered, I was surrounded by people

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who wanted to love me and care for me.

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And it's that working together

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of everyone's efforts which I think is the love of God.

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It's not a sentimental soft thing,

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this love, it's a tough, hard-working thing.

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And it's in all of us who want to do good.

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As part of her recovery,

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Alison devoted her energies

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to rebuilding the community she cared so much about.

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She became involved in the Castleford Heritage Trust,

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a project to redevelop the area.

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They've built a new bridge across the river, added fishing platforms,

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but Alison's pride and joy is the flour mill,

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which the trust has bought for the town.

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Two years ago, when they closed the mill,

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it was a real blow.

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It was another part of our industrial heritage gone.

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And we weren't prepared for that.

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And our intention is to use this lovely building to continue milling

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and to tell the story of our industrial and social heritage

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in order to help young people especially

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to be proud of this community and who they are,

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to be proud of their roots and their story because some children,

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they were ashamed to say they came from this community.

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We are God's hands in the world

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and it's that love that motivates us,

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and certainly motivates me, to want to make this a better place

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for the people of our town today,

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for visitors that come here and for our children in the future.

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Proud of their history and heritage

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at the heart of the former mining village of South Elmsall,

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the Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band

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has championed local culture and community for well over a century.

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This was them in 1912.

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Today, they're one of the top ten bands in the world.

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But more important to them, they're this year's Yorkshire champions.

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So here's the Quintet from the Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band

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playing a tune called Gresford.

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It was inspired by a Welsh colliery disaster,

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but it's been adopted everywhere simply as The Miners' Hymn.

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The Wakefield Way passes through Newmillerdam Country Park,

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where Roger Parkinson works as a volunteer tree warden.

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These are trees from all over the world, and although

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the neighbouring woodlands are native British trees,

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this is a really varied collection that people can come and enjoy.

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The volunteers are all ages, really,

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and quite varied abilities.

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We like to get people out doing things

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and just enjoying working with trees and being in the countryside.

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People got to know what we were doing and how we were doing it

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and engaging different people from different groups and disabilities.

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And I got a phone call from a social worker a couple of years ago to say

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that she had a young man in her care

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and she wanted to get him involved in something outside.

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Yeah, that's great.

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Robert really hadn't spoken for quite some time

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and it was about getting his confidence back.

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That's good, yeah. Let's see what we've got.

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'So Robert came along, and for the first visit,

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'he was about 20 feet away'

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with his head down, didn't really want to engage with us.

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By the second visit, got a bit closer.

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By the third, he was tugging my shirt and pointing at things.

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How much of an area do you cover? Is it just this bit?

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Well, you came from down there, didn't you? Yeah.

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The steps. That's right, all the way down the steps.

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It goes along down that way.

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Do you have to do this every day? No, just once a week.

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And when you come, do you notice the change in the seasons? Yeah.

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Which is your favourite season here? Oh...

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it's all...it's all good.

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It's all nice. Yeah.

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All the time.

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I know I've had many conversations with people who walk onto this site

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and have given me various stories

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as to why they like to be in this particular location.

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A lot of the trees are in memory of someone.

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So it's a nice place if you have planted a memorial tree,

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it's to come and just reflect and enjoy that peace and tranquillity

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and think and perhaps say a prayer.

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It's about getting people out into the woodlands

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and enjoying those environments, so they can find those peaceful places

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and enjoy the tranquillity of the woodlands.

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And I know it's brought the local community together.

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Artist Carrie Scott-Huby lives and works near the Wakefield Way.

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Her art and faith are influenced by the rhythms of life and landscape

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to be found along its varied route.

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My creative process is, I absorb what's around me,

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whether it's the landscape or little details

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of, say, flowers and the ebb and flow of life.

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Or things that have been discarded on the floor

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or things that nobody wants.

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I always look for the element of beauty

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that people don't necessarily see themselves.

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They walk past and go, "Ugh, that doesn't look nice."

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You can just take it on face value,

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but there's a wealth of things underneath if you're willing

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to just take that time and pause.

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When I walk every morning out over the fields, I think

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that that's my meditation time, really.

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And this is one of my favourite spots

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where I've come along the path and it opens up

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and as you walk through, you can see all the different horizons emerging.

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The horizon line is one of my favourite things to draw.

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Autumn...I do love autumn.

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And people start getting miserable and I start getting more excited,

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And I think it's that time when you can start reflecting

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and not as busy as summer

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and try and reflect more about being patient in life.

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Things just change. Nothing ever ends, it just changes.

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So through walking, looking at the dying flowers,

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and seed heads kind of depicts

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# Each little flower that opens

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# Each little bird that sings

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# He made their glowing colours

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# He made their tiny wings

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# All things bright and beautiful

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# All creatures great and small

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# All things wise and wonderful

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# The Lord God made them all

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# The purple-headed mountains

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# The river running by

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# The sunset and the morning

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# That brightens up the sky

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# The cold wind in the winter

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# The pleasant summer sun

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# The ripe fruit in the garden

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# He made them every one

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# All things bright and beautiful

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# All creatures great and small

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# All things wise and wonderful

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# The Lord God made them all

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# He gave us eyes to see them

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# And lips that we might tell

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# How great is God almighty

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# Who has made all things well

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# All things bright and beautiful

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# All creatures great and small

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# All things wise and wonderful

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# The Lord God made them all. #

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Margaret Pawson and her dog Rio

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walk the Wakefield Way near their home every single day.

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Even when Margaret was diagnosed with life-threatening cancer,

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she didn't break their daily routine.

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I love this spot. I call it my seat, it's not my seat really.

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I share it with other people.

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What does this place mean to you?

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It gives you a sense of well-being,

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freedom, fresh air.

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Especially when little white feathers come

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and fall on you as you walk along.

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That gives you such a feeling of... you're not alone.

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You lose yourself, you lose yourself in God.

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December 2012, I was going through an uncertain time, where, er...

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they were contemplating operating on my spine

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to remove the tumour. Yeah.

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This was a beautiful December afternoon,

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the sun was shining.

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I walked up and as I approached the seat,

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I could see there was a lady sat at the side.

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So if little Rio doesn't sit on his seat, he doesn't think he's been for his walk, so I just said

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could I join her and sit down, which we did.

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And she just looked up at the clouds and said,

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"You could talk to those clouds, couldn't you?"

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And I just said, "Yeah, I talk to God in those clouds."

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And quite easily we had a conversation and ended up telling her

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about this uncertainty and my cancer and things.

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So we stood up and I said, "I'm walking back this way."

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She said, "I'm going that way."

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So we stood up, and as we stood up,

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she said, "It'll be all right, you know, Margaret. It'll be all right."

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You hadn't told her your name? No, I'd not told her my name.

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And I started to walk away and this, like...

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So I turned round - and I was only there, just beyond the seat -

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and there was nobody here.

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Nobody. And I've not seen her since.

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Not seen her before, not seen her since.

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So you went and had things checked after that, and how's it been?

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I had a complete response to the chemotherapy

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so they actually said I'm in remission.

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Who do you think she was?

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God's messenger?

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An angel?

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She had to be.

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She just disappeared, she couldn't have gone anywhere else.

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And she told me it'd be all right, and it is all right.

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May almighty God, who has filled the Earth with all that is needful,

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for our sustenance and delight,

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grant us grace to rejoice daily at the wonder of creation

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and to be faithful stewards of the world entrusted to our care.

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And the blessing of God almighty,

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the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,

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be among you and remain with you always.

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ALL: Amen.

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Walking part of the Wakefield Way hasn't just been about

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seeing communities and countryside transformed.

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This area and its people have an indomitable spirit.

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And at the end of the day,

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it's people that bring about heaven on earth.

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So perhaps this really is God's own country, after all.

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And the hymns include a special performance

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by our senior school choir of the year.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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Hymns from Wakefield cathedral and world-class brass band music introduced by David Grant who encounters people inspired by the Yorkshire landscape along the long distance walking route, The Wakefield Way.


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