Enjoying Britain – from Woodbrooke to Corbets Tey

So where’s Corbets Tey you might wonder. For those of us who have lived anywhere near the South Essex Crematorium it has always been Corbets Tey Crem. Our travels in England got off to rather an unexpected start in January when we not only stayed at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Selly Oak, Birmingham, but also visited Gloucester Docks and then travelled to South Essex for my Mum’s funeral at Corbets Tey.

David had booked to attend a Quaker Eldership course at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Selly Oak, Birmingham and I decided to go with him. I had stayed at Woodbrooke before when studying Quaker history so I knew it was a great place with good food and very friendly staff. Not only is there a very good library at Woodbrooke but the Orchard Learning Resource Centre (OLRC) is just across the road.


We were due to return home on Sunday, January 26 – but then the funeral for my mother was organised for January 29 in Essex. So why travel all the way back to North Yorkshire especially as David had a beautiful pastel portrait of a horse called Pip to deliver to a good friend who lives near Cheltenham?



So on Friday, January 24, we set off for Birmingham. Woodbrooke yet again lived up to all my expectations. As we were shown into a lovely en suite bedroom we were informed that it was the same room where, in 1931, Mahatma Gandhi had slept. But he didn’t bother with the bed – the floor was good enough for him. So at least I can say I have done my exercises on the same floor!

While David attended an evening course session I made good use of the free wi-fi to do some research. I spent the following morning in the OLRC reading Saguna by Krupabai Satthianadhan (link) and also learning more about early mission work in South Africa in preparation for another of my Pioneering Girls’ Schools stories. I got back to Woodbrooke just before a huge thunderstorm hit the Birmingham area.

It was still raining on Sunday morning so I didn’t walk through the gardens and grounds at Woodbrooke and into Bournville Village. Instead I enjoyed the luxury of relaxing in the garden lounge when it was quiet – which it certainly wasn’t when all those attending courses converged on it for morning drinks! Pictured: The fascinating O Range furniture by David Colwell inside the Garden Lounge and an exterior view of the lounge; and the fascinating shape of branches in a garden where some old specimen trees have been retained.






All the food was very good at Woodbrooke but the highlight for us was Joy’s almond, chickpea, spinach and cream of coconut nut loaf. The choice of food that Sunday included roast beef and parsnips as well as salads. I can certainly recommend a B&B stay or organising a conference at Woodbrooke especially as it is easy to access the centre of Birmingham by public transport from there.

It wasn’t raining (what a surprise!) when we drove from Birmingham to Edna’s home on the Sunday afternoon – but we were very aware of how hard hit that area of England had been by the constant storms.

After an enjoyable meal at the Gardeners Arms, Alderton, Edna’s granddaughter, Holly, and her parents visited to collect Pip’s portrait that David had created.


The following day Edna accompanied us on a visit to Gloucester Docks. My first impression was how small the Mariner’s church was beside the huge old warehouses. The second was how the steeple of that so resonated with The Candle sculpture by Wolfgang Buttress.

Both are dedicated to bringing light into this world – whether it be the light revealed through the Bible or in the words of Ivor Gurney’s poem Requiem which are inscribed at the bottom of The Candle.(Pictured: the Mariners church dwarfed by warehouses, and The Candle ‘’”embraced” by Gloucester Cathedral.)



Sadly we were not so impressed by the Waterways museum. But then we had been enthralled by the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port. Nor did we like the “up market” Antiques Centre. This seemed to be full of collectables and bric a brac rather than any interesting antiques.



But we did enjoy some gorgeous coffee at the CafeTucci and were so glad we had lunch at the Pizza Express. David and Edna shared one of the thin crispy Roman style pizzas while I had a magnificent salad tailor-made to suit my odd requirements that I couldn’t eat any cow’s milk products or tomatoes.


On the Tuesday the B4077 to Stow-on-the-Wold provided a superb route through the Cotswolds. Once we had joined the A40, however, we became all too aware yet again of how badly many people have been affected by the heavy storms this winter. On occasions there was so much water on either side of the road that it reminded me of Bangladesh in the rainy season.


Another reminder of driving in India in the 1970s and in Southern Sudan in the 1980s was seeing so many birds of prey encircling us as we drove across the Chiltern Hills. But this time they were Red Kites – not vultures.

As it started to rain heavily again we were glad when we reached the Premier Inn at Springfield in Chelmsford. We always get a warm welcome there and the staff were yet again were very friendly and professional. My son, Eddie, joined us later that evening.

It was pouring with rain yet again when we left the Inn the following morning – and our little Smart car almost sank in a deep puddle just before the A12. It was such a relief to find there was a tearoom at the South Essex Crematorium at Corbets Tey. And in there began the best part of my Mum’s funeral – meeting relatives that I hadn’t seen for decades.

Cousin Geoffrey brought along copies of old photos and since then there’s been quite a lot of sharing of photos and memories. Several have said how much they enjoyed the photo of my Mum (below) as a young woman which we had printed on the back of the service sheet.


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