Author Archives: Monica's Books

Group Walk – Westcott

Fishing ponds and Glamping in the Surrey Hills – February 18th

Although this is only 4 miles long it has a lot in it. We start from the beautiful village of Westcott and head past some picturesque fishing ponds and a field full of Yurts. From here the path gently rises until we are on a broad path at the top of a ridge. We head down into the valley past some beautiful cottages next to the Tillingbourne river.

Walk Details

Date and Time: February the 18th, 10am

Walk start: There is a small car Park at Holy Trinity Church, Logmore Ln, Westcott, Dorking RH4 3NN. This is just off the main road. If you cannot park there then there is parking in the village.

Walk Distance: 4 miles

Notes: Mostly easy walking. There is one short, steep climb up to the ridge.

Headley Heath and the Grand Ride

Rare Heathland, woodland and a grassy ride.

Headley Heath has always been a bit of challenge for us. With so many paths we have struggled to find a reliable walk to take people on. So, when we practiced this walk, we had a book, a map and a compass to make sure we were going the right way. The result is a walk with a lot of interest. We start at the main Headley Heath Car Park and head over the rare landscape of the Heath. After climbing past the ‘High Ashurst’ activity centre we walk through a forest of Box Trees with strange green/yellow trunks.

One of the highlights of the walk was a beautiful, wide, grassy ride. Altogether, a walk worth doing.

Walk Details

Date and Time: 18th of March, 2pm

Starting point: Headley Heath, Headley Common Rd, Headley, Epsom KT18 6NN

Distance: 5 miles

Notes: Make sure you are at the main car park. This is a large car park opposite the small cricket ground. This is a National Trust Car Park. If you are not a member then you will have to pay Parking charges. Mostly an easy walk but there are some short steep slopes up and down and narrow stony paths. There are cattle on Headley Heath and horses towards the end of the walk.

Reigate Heath, Buckland and the Pilgrim’s Way

Lovely, local, 6 mile walk on the 15th of April

We have so much to enjoy right on our doorstep. This walk starts from Reigate Heath Car Park. We follow the Greensand way for a short while then head up through the village of Buckland. This is one of my favourite walks with wide views across the valley at the base of the Downs. We continue on the Pilgrim’s way before heading back to Reigate Heath.

Walk Details

Date and Time: 15th of April, 2pm

Starting point: Reigate Heath Car Park, Flanchford Rd, Reigate RH2 8AB

Distance: 6 miles

Notes: A gentle walk with very little gradient. If it has been wet then the Pilgrim’s way can be a bit slippery and muddy.

Group Walk – Leith Hill in Autumn – 29 October

A perfect time to walk around Leith Hill with the Autumn colours on the trees. We start from the Landslip car park and climb steeply to the top of Leith Hill. Watch out for the ‘Hurts’ – the local name for delicious little blueberries. We then swing through the woods and bracken to the lovely village of Coldharbour. Please note, this walk starts in the morning as the clocks have changed.

Walk Details

Date and Time – 29th of October 9:30am

Length of walk – 5 miles

Starting from: Landslip car park, Abinger Road, near Coldharbour. Dorking Surrey. Nearest postcode RH5 6HG

There is a steep climb at the start of the walk and quite a lot of tree roots and uneven ground. The tea and cake kiosk is open at Leith Hill Tower. A good walk for dogs as there are few roads and fields.

Group Walk – Outwood – Fields, woods and views – 19 November

One of our favourite walks, with a real mixture of woods, fields and amazing views. There are some interesting buildings on the route including a working chapel. As the clocks have changed this will be a morning walk, starting at 9:30am. At the end of the walk there is a opportunity to have some refreshment at the, very welcoming, Bell pub.

Walk details

Time and Date: 19th of November, 9:30am

Walk length: 6 miles

Starting point: Outwood Lane, Outwood, Redhill, RH1 5PW – This is a National Trust Car park.

Generally an easy walk with some gentle slopes. Some parts will have mud if there has been wet weather.

Group Walk – Ranmore Common to Polesden Lacey – 24 September

Starting at the main Ranmore Common Car Park we head south to Polesden Lacey. We walk through autumnal woods and swing past Polesden Lacey, admiring the views of South East London. On this 4.5 mile walk we have time to stop and have a cup of tea at the cafe before heading back through the woods.

Walk Details

Date and Time – 24th September, 2pm

Starting from: Denbies Hillside car park, Ranmore Common Road, near Dorking, Surrey, RH5 6SR

Walk Length – 4.5 miles

There may be some mud in wet weather. Some steep slopes near Polesden Lacey.

Winter Light

Painting in winter is tricky. The days are short and the weather uncertain. I did this sketch in January. By the time I had finished at 3pm the light was fading.  Yet there is light and colour. The shadows are deeper but the green grass and orange sky are still bright.

It is summer now but our country feels like winter. We are waking up to another terrorist attack. It feels closer to home as it is in an area of London we know well, a lively jumble of shops, offices and cafes surrounding Borough Market and Southwark cathedral. There will be thousands of words written on this, as there was on the recent Manchester attack and I don’t have any solutions. But all I want to say is:

In winter the world is not dead. There is still life. And summer will come. 

Why I am a (straight) pro-gay Christian 

So, let’s start with some definitions:

  • Straight. In this context this means heterosexual. Which I definitely am. And married. But straight could also mean normal, conforming to society. I’m not sure I’m that.
  • Pro-gay. I struggle with generalising about groups of people. But I am definitely pro the gay people I’ve known. And the ones I know about from the media and those I will get to know.
  • And Christian. In some ways the hardest thing to define. It’s a word with a great deal of baggage. Maybe it’s easier to say I’m a follower of Jesus and a member of a church. The two go together and one feeds into the other but they are not exactly the same.

In some ways I wish I didn’t need to write this blog. It will upset some people I know and I’m sorry for that. But the stakes are very high. There is a battle going on for the very soul of the church in the UK. At the moment it could be lost because we are simply too polite to have an argument.

Before I answer the question I would like to clarify what seems to be the orthodox Christian position on homosexuality. Recently I had a long conversation with a well known Pastor and this was his position. It certainly won’t be every Christian’s opinion and I think it is at the extreme end of Christian thought but here it is:

  • Sex between two men or two women is always wrong under all circumstances. 
  • Gay marriage is not marriage at all. Marriage must always be between a man and a woman.
  • Homosexual sex is such a serious sin that any gay man wanting to become a Christian must either be ‘cured’ of the condition or agree first to to complete celibacy.

Our conversation went on for a long time and involved a lot of complicated theology. But as it went on I became more and more convinced that all the anti-gay arguments didn’t add up to anything. A quick google search will find them for you if you’re interested. So, why am I a pro-gay Christian?

Firstly, because God made us and He made us sexual beings. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful, considerate and faithful sexual beings. I’m a great believer in marriage. But he made us gay and straight and all shades in between. As Christians we should be helping people be the best they can be, whatever that is, not turning them away.

Secondly, because I know what it is to grow up feeling very different and out of place. I used to look at the popular pretty girls and think ‘How do they do that?’  Because I wasn’t popular and pretty. I was awkward, clever, plain and argumentative. It’s really hard not to fit in, especially when you are young and for that reason those who grow up gay, who often find themselves in a hostile world that they don’t fit into get my compassion not my condemnation. Jesus didn’t give many commands. He taught more using stories and also by example. But, less than 24 hours before he hung on a cross, He gave this command: Love one another as I have loved you. He loved without barriers, even thieves and prostitutes. There is no record of Jesus meeting a gay person or talking about homosexuality but I don’t know of any reason why he wouldn’t have loved them too.

And thirdly because it is simply not our place to judge. This Jesus talking again, from the Message version which is very vivid but all translations have the same sense.

““Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:1-5‬ ‭MSG‬‬

This isn’t easy ‘liberal’ theology. This is hard Jesus theology because we love to judge. Gay people are easy to identify, easy to see but that doesn’t mean we should judge them either.

I want to end with a little thought experiment. Imagine one Sunday all the people coming to church had all their sins for the week written in brightly coloured letters hovering over their heads. Here is a selection:

  • I shouted at my kids because I’d had a stressful day at work.
  • I had a minor accident with a parked car and drove away without leaving a note.
  • I had sex with my long term boyfriend even though we are not married.
  • I spent £300 on a treat for myself and didn’t give anything to the church.

Just for this week it’s the job of the stewards to decide who gets in and who is too sinful even to enter the church. Of course it would be horrible both for the judges and the judged. When I think of our lovely stewards I think they would just let everyone in and, after reading the first few lists, would refuse to even look. And that would be the right Christian response.  It is simply not up to us to refuse entry to God’s kingdom on the basis of any sin.

I know there are a lot of Christians who share my views. I’m sure to get a lot criticism for writing this but if you agree with me please let me know.

Creating a better image?

By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see.

Hebrews ch. 11 v3 (Message translation)

From time to time I spend a weekend in Oxford learning theology from some of the best teachers on the planet. The last time I did this we had a session on creation. This was good and helpful but during the Q&A my mind wandered and I noticed a huge tree in the window behind the teacher. In early spring there were no leaves yet and I began to look at the way it was put together, the patterns of twigs and branches, the light behind it.

“How” I asked, “Did God make that tree? Had he created it like a sculptor, twig by twig. Or is there some sort of beech tree template? Or is it just the result of blind evolution?”

To give them their due they took the question seriously. But it soon became clear that there was no theology that explains how the natural world is put together, no theology of beauty. Maybe we’ve just never needed one before. Until recently, it was just incredibly hard to reproduce an image. To reach more than a few people took huge amounts of time and money. But now we are bombarded with images and almost all of these are photos. Photos seem to accurately reflect what we see but they hardly ever do. Mostly, they present us with a flat, frozen version of reality.

Recently, me and my son visited an exhibition of modern portraits. One of the things that really struck me was how little colour was in most of them. Although they were painted with incredible skill they had the same look as most photos, a bit flat and colourless. A few of them looked like real paintings and it was one of these that won the competition.

And it seems to me we do need a theology of beauty, of what it means to see the world. But I’m not sure this needs to be written down. Maybe it just needs to be painted. As the writer of Hebrews says – what we see created by what we don’t see.

We need to create better image.

More quiet time at the pond…

It’s been a hard week, with plenty of pressure at work so today I went back to the pond to find some peace. I wasn’t the only one. There were plenty of people around enjoying the afternoon sunshine. 

Painting on the iPad is very different from real painting and it could take a while to find a style, but I’m enjoying the experimentation.