It is a true sign of summer when the peregrines at Salisbury Cathedral fledge. They are early this year, and the visitors are late, thanks to the January to May lockdown, but with restrictions gradually easing, the Cathedral has started the new season with a spring in its step.

Annual events like the outdoor cinema and organ prom are set to return this year and the popular afternoon of music with the Swing Unlimited Big Band is going ahead on  July 4 and August 1outside on the cathedral lawns. Picnics welcome!

On August 17/18 Salisbury Cathedral is also launching it first exhibition of the year. Visitors to the Cathedral will be able to view 12 huge embroidered panels, some as large as 8ft by 11ft, made by Devon based textile artist Jacqui Parkinson.

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Entitled Threads through Creation, the work takes as its subject the Christian story of the creation of the world, with each panel interpretating verses from book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible that tells the 7-day creation story. A fitting exhibition given that the Cathedral was recently awarded a Gold Eco-Church Award from A Rocha UK, a Christian nature conservation charity.

Threads Through Creation took three years to prepare – a vibrant combination of quilting, applique and specially dyed fabric, including silk, and eight million stitches.

“I’ve taken the first few pages of the Bible and tried to bring a little of their wonderful extravagance to life with a sparkle,” explains artist Jacqui.  “It’s a lovely story, full of love and promise, which we can all do with these days.”

The exhibition runs until September 26. No special tickets are required, just standard Cathedral entry.

There are changes inside the Cathedral too – a positive side effect of the recent lockdown, as Canon Edward Probert, Canon Chancellor of Salisbury Cathedral explains.

“Lockdown afforded us the opportunity to stop and review what we offer to visitors,” says Canon Probert. “In a normal year this sort of review would have taken place with the Cathedral in full flow. That means services, which attract congregations from 20 to around 1700, concerts, events, art exhibitions and of course, visitors. We see around 250,000 visitors here annually. So lockdown, whilst being financially challenging, did afford us some time to think and the financial support we received from the Cultural Recovery Fund for Heritage and Heritage Emergency Fund made this possible.”

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The results of that ‘thinking time’ are now evident to all and visitor numbers are already into the hundreds daily. As well sharing new elements and information on the Cathedral tour, such as the ancient cross and weathervane that stood above the Spire for generations, QR codes have been introduced that allow the visitor to explore Cathedral life in more detail through video.

It has also given the Cathedral the opportunity to share items or treasures that may have been missed out in the past. The medieval muniment chests, used to store precious items in bygone times; the ancient aumbry in the Morning Chapel where Holy Oils are stored; and the windspeed monitor, or anemometer, that records windspeeds at the top of the spire (which also has an accompanying video of the Clerk of Works scaling the spire to carry out essential maintenance). Plenty of amazing facts, stories and pictures to be shared and seen.

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“The Cathedral is a feat of medieval engineering,” says the Cathedral archivist, Emily Naish, who has been involved in the visitor experience update. “The whole building rests on just 4ft of man-made foundations that sit on a bed of sand, gravel and water – a natural foundation, if you like. This does mean that we have to monitor the water level below the floor constantly. The Cathedral actually flooded at the start of the last century and as part of the work we have done, we have shared an amazing picture of the Cathedral interior underwater. It’s quite spectacular.”

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