Hills of the north…

We have plenty of hills down here in Somerset, where we live is on the last but one of the Mendip chain before they rise out as islands in the Bristol Channel. We live at Uphill, then there is Brean Down on the other side of the River Axe, and then out in the channel is the island of Steep Holm. So yes, we do have hills, as well as the Mendips we have the Blackdown Hills, the Brendon Hills, the Poldens, the Quantocks and the Cotswolds. However…

However, they are nowhere near as high as the Pennine Hills and as we visited the southern end of this chain, the backbone of England, I realised again how very massive they are, nearly 3,000 feet in places! Like many people of my age, when i was at school we sang hymns every day in assembly, and many of the lyrics are ingrained in me, and as we were driving along and i saw the hills rise up before me, the words of a nineteenth century hymn just jumped into my mind:

Hills of the North, rejoice;
River and mountain spring,
Hark to the advent voice;
Valley and lowland, sing;

So many of these old hymns are full of wonderful imagery and stories, apart from their religious message. They were stirring to sing, and I’m sure influenced our creativity, through their words and music. ‘Hills of the North’ was written by Charles Edward Oakley and published in 1870, five years after his death. Oakley was born in Rhyll in North Wales, but he went to Oxford University and then became a vicar at Wickwar which is in Somerset – so he must have known of our Somerset hills, and then became rector at St Paul’s church in London. He married a wife with an incredible name, Lady Georgina Mary Louise Reynolds-Moreton who was the daughter of an earl. He died young and I haven’t been able to find any other hymns by him… However ‘Hills of the North’, set to a melody by Martin Shaw is a wonderful memorial to him.



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