One of the many places I hoped to revisit when undertaking my gratitude walk along the Pilgrims’ Way in 2016 was the Watts Gallery and Artists Village. I had stopped there on day 4 of my pilgrimage for a cup of tea in the café and took the time then to go slightly off-route to wander up to the Watts Memorial Chapel but I longed to return to take a closer look around the area, gardens, gallery, chapel and have another slice of cake!
In September 2016 I had walked on what was probably the hottest day of the year. Today was a cold but bright February morn with signs of the promise of Spring.
This little fella was fluting a warble no doubt as joyous as I was at the return of sunshine.
I drew myself away from the brilliance of the light outside and into the Contemporary Gallery to enjoy a super exhibition of works “Inspired by Nature” by the Surrey artist, Celia Lewis. The main gallery houses a wide selection of Frederick Watts’ own portraits and his works inspired by nature, the classics and the social environment. I finally got to see “The All Pervading” which had been temporarily removed (and still is now) from the Chapel when I visited.
I don’t have a great knowledge of works of art but love learning and the volunteer stewards shared their incredible knowledge. Useful notes were also available explaining the symbolism of the paintings. Just before entering the sculpture area I was again reminded that this gallery is situated right on the old road of the Pilgrims’ Way with a print exploring the connectivity of both “The Way” and the world of “Art”.
The size of Watts’ sculptures “Physical Energy” and his work on Tennyson and his dog were almost overwhelming.
At the time of visiting there was also a separate exhibition concentrating on Christina Rossetti. This included portraits of her, some by her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti, illustrations from her books by Arthur Hughes and some of her own drawings and words.
The café did not fail to disappoint with a very wide-ranging menu and after refreshment I wandered again along the lane which I had taken that hot September afternoon up to the Chapel.
Out of the sunshine through the elaborately carved doors but also somehow into the light. Mary Watts had taught local villagers the skills to decorate this chapel. It is covered head to foot in hand-painted art. I found it amazing last time I visited and yet again I find the building inspiring on both a spiritual and artistic level.
The cemetery outside the chapel has a sombre but light beauty all of its own. Snowdrops were flowering on many of the graves. I enjoyed the far-ranging views over the Surrey Hills and remembered the joy I had felt traipsing across those very heights not that long ago.
How wonderful to return to a place with fresh eyes. I am two and a half years older, maybe a little wiser but still full of gratitude for the new life I have been given. I have had a book published; my husband has come through a serious illness; tomorrow our grandson will be two years old – the oak tree I planted for him is beginning to bud. The phrase “A Second Chance at a First Class Way of Life” resides in my head.
A full index of posts of my pilgrimage along the old road of the Pilgrims’ Way is available here.
My book “The Woman Who Walked Through Fear” is available by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.