Not far away from Swanvale Halt, sequestered in the Surrey hills, is Summerstock, a medium-sized estate based around a big house set in woody grounds. Here the owners have established a sort of mini religious theme park. You visit and find the woodland and ponds scattered with grottoes and statues. There's a charitable trust supporting religious education, including a variety of open-air dramatic presentations about the life of Jesus which take place not just locally but in London. Every Friday Summerstock hosts the Stations of the Cross, following a route around the grounds; the Stations were designed by a group of art students from Italy. Local clergy are asked to come and lead the devotion, and last Friday that meant me.
We started at 7am: gosh, it was cold. I should have brought my gloves although I was glad I thought of taking wellies. There were about ten old hands including a retired Anglican parish priest and his wife and a smattering of local Roman Catholics some of whom I knew, and they led me around rather than me them as I had no idea where to go next. It took about half an hour (I gather I was more reticent than some clergy as I kept being thanked for giving everyone 'time to reflect', which could be interpreted as a double-edged comment) and then we went back to the house for tea and hot-cross buns. I decided not to use my somewhat lacerating version of the Stations I usually employ at church, as this was Easter Week, but to have something slightly more upbeat and resurrection-focused.
The little Chapel of St Francis where we started reminded me of the similar one dedicated to St Joseph at Errwood I saw on holiday in Derbyshire some years ago: there's the same sense that you're stepping back into a style of devotion which is somewhat in the past now. 'Whenever a Catholic church closes,' the Anglican priest told me, 'Ann and Paul [the owners] buy up all the kit and move it here,' and you can tell.