Pilgrimpace's Blog

Tintern Talk
September 24, 2016, 9:17 am
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A talk by the Revd Andy Delmege

 Tuesday 18 October 2016, 10.30am

St Michael’s Church, Tintern

followed by prayers at the Abbey
at 12 noon

Usual entrance fees to the Abbey apply


thank you
September 23, 2016, 4:25 pm
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Can I thank you all for your good wishes, thoughts and prayers.

I have some good news – the X Ray of my knee has come back clear.  The knee is improving each day. I plan to follow my doctor’s advice and rest it for another week. If it allows me then, I will slowly begin to get back into some walking.


I think back over the time of walking that I had.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I received so much love and hospitality and welcome.  Tucked into valleys like this to shelter and recover


finding myself stitched into the warp and weft of place by praying in churches like this


and now a pilgrimage without maps, burrowing down and within, stillness, silence, reading, rest.

September 22, 2016, 4:17 pm
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“That day in my October on Bardsey, as I lay on my back straining to see migrant birds flying south overhead, I wondered whether I was being cradled by a grave.  Could this local curve of the earth be a human valley?  Rain clouds were building out in the Irish Sea.  A peregrine bolted fast overhead, a bird with a wandering name on an island of pilgrims, though this one was a resident.  Behind it, tumbling blackly and brilliantly off the high ridge of the eastern side of Bardsey, was a gang of choughs, rarest and most bouyant of all the crows, mopping at the sky.  I sat up to watch them and saw a nun walking through the bottom of the field.  She lived alone on the island, tending to the however many thousand souls.  She wore chough-black clothes but had armed herself against the coming squall with a plastic cape made from a cut-open fertilizer sack of translucent blue, the colour of a Tiepolo sky or a dunnock’s egg”

– Time Dee A Year on the Wing


There are worse fates than being alone for the day with a pile of books and space to think.  A Year on the Wing is excellent – another of those nature books that expands your heart and soul, as well as knowing a bit more about the world, about birds, about people.

The knee shows some signs of easing.

Prayers for you all.

delayed by rough seas
September 21, 2016, 5:03 pm
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One advantage of leaving Whitland Abbey on the train rather than foot was that I was able to buy a copy of Delayed by Rough Seas by David Hodges, one of the brothers from Caldey.  I am really enjoying this poetry collection and discovering Father David’s voice.  There are some fine poems in it which I will go back to – well worth reading, his collections are available here.


I am, of course, reflecting on what it means to be sitting here, to be delayed by the rough seas of my knee.  I am pulling together questions and insights, which I’ll have a go at sharing in due course.

I have the luxury of space to write and think


The title poem of David Hodges collection speaks to me a lot at the moment.  I hope it is OK to share it here:

Delayed by Rough Seas

The Celtic, pilgrim, sailor saints

set out to find the promised land

in open boats

of skins stretched out on wood:

the Cross and just themselves

was all they carried.

Carrying within their hearts

the God they sought;

exiles for the love of Christ,

they hoped to reach their true home.

Mystics, no longer longing for

an earthly homeland but for

that unattainable other world,

mythical island, Land of Promise, hidden

beyond the vastness of the sea.

Speaking the universal language

of Christ’s love,

birds, all nature, joining

in their psalms and chanting,

singing praise to their creator God.

Hunger and thirst they knew,

knowing heaven’s fullness.

Their sails full set and flying

through the sacramental sea,

or becalmed and drifting,

shipping oars and trusting

to the providence of God.

Sailing by the stars,

encountering demons,

storms without, within;

what was important was the journey,

delayed by God to teach them secrets

of the ocean, their inner lives.

Fearless they braved the angry sea

but still they feared the final journey

we all must travel to God’s presence,

into the dark unknown, alone.


the promise of a rainbow from Caldey looking at Tenby



September 20, 2016, 4:18 pm
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One of the problems with missing – for now – a big chunk of the Cistercian Way is that it has deprived me of a chance to do substantial direct fieldwork for Volume V of The Complete Guide to Stiles of the British Isles.  It was though a great consolation to use, for the first time, a 1954 Browne-Jones Ladder Stile on the wall around Margam Deer Park.


cistercian way photos 2
September 19, 2016, 5:27 pm
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Things you overhear as you begin a long pilgrimage:

“Autumn’s got it’s claws in.”

Two older women at a bus stop complaining how cold it was, that they had the central heating on (I was sweating in a base layer at the time).  I did notice that the trees were beginning to change, the first leaves beginning to fall. Checking that I had packed enough layers, I looked forward to walking into autumn.


I was glad to be beginning around the Nativity of Our Lady.  Here she is at Margam Abbey.  I am glad of her protection and prayers.  I shall get round to Our Lady of Penrhys in the end.  Here, also from Margam, is St Bernard


There were things that made me laugh.  Walking up a track named Mountain Side, I got a walking pole from my pack; it was so steep that I did not need to extend it.  On the outskirts of Swansea, we passed a discrete sign for ‘Whipping Services’; we decided that the pilgrimage was punishing enough.  Sitting next to Laurel and Hardy.

On the train home, the Severn Estuary did it’s best impression of a Turner painting


I am still resting my knee on this pilgrimage that becomes more inward.

cistercian way photos 1
September 18, 2016, 11:56 am
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I’ll post some photos and reflections on the beginning of the Pilgrimage (which I need to come up with a new name for as I sit here and nurse my knee) over the next few days.


A group of us set off from Llanfair Uniting Church on the first day into the weather.  As we climbed into the rain and cloud, I was glad I had company for this first Stage, rather than being waved off.  My camera was safely tucked away inside a dry bag, but Joy took these photos:




Most people sensibly dropped out after a few miles at Ton Pentre.  The weather got worse as Maddy and I climbed the next ridge.  Visibility was down to a few yards, water often over the top of my boots.  We were sensible and glad to get into ‘John’s Taxi’ and go home for the night to get dry and warm and eat a hot meal.

I set off for Margam Abbey the next morning and could look back at where I had been.  This time, I could see it


I climbed the hill in front, following the ancient trackways and was greeted by this view


The sea, the ancient hills, the Port Talbot Steelworks.

This is important and I shall reflect on this more.  One of the vital things for me about good pilgrimage routes is that they take us through the urban as well as the rural; they are not an escape from life but a journey more deeply into it.  I spent quite a chunk of that day walking within sight of Port Talbot and it was important to pray for the people there, with their livings so much under threat and uncertainty, to pray for economic justice in our country.  At Margam Abbey, I heard to from farming families about how worried they were about the harvest in a pattern of weather that threatened it.