Wednesday, August 1, 2007

St. Deiniol's in Hawarden

From July 18th to 25th, Kathy and I were part of a group staying in Hawarden Wales and doing a course on Celtic Christianity offered by St. Deiniol’s Library. For me, once I write a paper on some aspect of Celtic Christianity later this month, this will also become part of my D.Min. transcript. There were 19 people in our group, about 1/3 from Great Britain (England and southern Wales), 1/3 from Canada, and 1/3 from the United States (Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, Texas, and Virginia). Most of the folks were Anglican and were really into the lives of individual Anglican Welsh saints.

St. Deiniol’s is a residential library, with about 30 bedrooms (though they’re currently doing construction to add a few more that will be handicap accessible) and shared hall bathrooms. It’s got a library of about 250,000 books (including about 30,000 that once belonged to England’s former prime minister William Gladstone, who used to live about a mile away from St. Deiniol’s. While our group was staying there to hear “Celtic Christianity” lectures on a wide variety of (unrelated) topics—the Welsh language, St. Non, Iron Age Wales, R.S. Thomas—there were also folks staying at the library who were there purely to do research.

The village of Hawarden is a pretty small one with a population of less than 2000. It’s got a post office/convenience store, a bank, a golf course, a train station, a few churches (including St. Deiniol’s Church which is right next to the library, a Catholic church and a Presbyterian church), a pharmacy, a few pubs and a cafĂ©, a village hall/library, and some homes. There are no supermarkets, bookstores, or clothing stores.
(This is what you see when you leave Church Street, where St. Deiniol's is located, and look to the left down the main street in town.)

Hawarden also has a large “garden”, part of which is accessible to the public and part of which requires a letter of permission, which folks staying at St. Deiniol’s are automatically given. The garden continues to be owned and controlled by the Gladstone family (and we were told that most of the village zoning and rules are still under Gladstone control). There are a few benches along the garden trails. When we were there, lots of folks were walking their dogs, though because of the heavy rains only the public part of the trail didn't involve wading through mud. Toward the end of the public part of the garden are the ruins of Hawarden Castle, which was one of four 13th century castles in Northern Wales.

Because there was no TV or easy internet access at St. Deiniol’s --you put your name on an “internet list” at the local public library to use it for a few minutes during the library’s brief hours open--, no shopping to do, and no real restaurants to eat at –all meals were provided for us by St. Deiniol’s—the setting provides a very quiet life of talking with others over meals or at a pub, walking, and reading.

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