Pilgrimpace's Blog

back on the way – 2
October 17, 2018, 7:38 pm
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Waking around sunrise, warmed by coffee and porridge cooked on our stoves, we began.  Water bottles refilled from the taps behind chapels, climbing up and down as we made our way through valleys.  As always, the second day was hard; the initial energy spent; fitness building up.  A day of stops, tucking out of sight, brewing tea.  Pubs closed down.

We headed for Llanllyr, the site of a community in Cistercian sisters, arriving mid afternoon.  Searching for the site, we wandered first into the water bottling factory, where we were able to quench thirst.

We were very generously shown around the fine gardens.  There is little or nothing left of the abbey.  This fine carved stone commemorates the gift of a plot of land to an Irish follower of St David.


The fact that the women left so little in terms of material traces interests me.  One of the benefits of this ongoing pilgrimage is a friendship with the sisters at Holy Cross, Whitland, which has become one of the places I go for retreat.  There is something important for me about the simplicity and humility of the life, that – in the words of RS Thomas,

they wrote
On men’s hearts and in the minds
Of young children sublime words
Too soon forgotten. God in his time
Or out of time will correct this.

written on the hearts of people rather than in huge stone works.



We were given kind permission to camp in a field nearby.  It was very moving to spend time quietly on this site.

I needed rest.  We cooked a meal of luminous tinned curry (it was filling; we were hungry; I would recommend something else if you have a choice).  I sat or lay, watching red kites glide.


Camping with permission meant a slightly later start in the morning, but heavy rain was forecast, so we set off.  We made our way climbing through the villages along the Aeron Valley.  Our diet improved with hard boiled eggs and cucumbers bought from stalls outside small holdings, glimpsing ancient church towers, passing historic ruined chapels.  Llangeitho has a handy village shop and café, from where we turned east, crossing the Roman Road of Sarn Helen.  Tregaron was first town of any size since Carmarthen – with the first open pub.  We drank an expensive pint, listening to confident and classed English voices, before resupplying with food.

And a climb.  Away from the rolling hills and pastures we had been walking through onto the beginnings of the Cambrians – proper hills.  The plan had been to make Strata Florida before the end of the day, but the rain closed in and was heavy, and we had booked into the pub at Pontrhydfendigaid for the night.  The weather and the prospect of a hot shower, dry clothes and a decent meal, called us off the hill in late afternoon.


autumn path
October 17, 2018, 11:08 am
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after the fire

After the Fire by Alan Everett is a profound meditation on the role of the Church in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster by the parish priest of St Clement’s, Notting Dale.  I would recommend this book as essential reading for all engaged in estates ministry.

Laurie Green has asked that NECN share the review by Hugh Beaven below:


BOOK REVIEW:       AFTER THE FIRE : finding words for Grenfell   by Alan Everett
In this very readable and moving book, Father Alan Everett,  the vicar of St. Clement’s  Notting Dale, the parish  in which Grenfell Tower was situated,
writes about the Grenfell Tower fire and it aftermath.   In the words of the Bishop of Kensington, Graham Tomlin,   ‘the story of that terrible night and its aftermath is combined with profound reflections on the abiding value of faith and the parish system as part of the often  undervalued  bedrock of our social fabric. ‘
The book comprises 31 quite short chapters in 3 sections:  response, reflection, finding words, and concludes with a moving poem written by Fr. Alan.
The first section is in the nature of a diary of the unfolding story,  from the outbreak of the fire in the early hours of 14th June 2017 through the next few days  weeks and months.
Fr. Alan’s involvement began at 3.00am that morning when a neighbouring priest rang his doorbell and alerted him to the fire.  When he reached St. Clement’s, he opened the church,
‘ turned on the lights and lit the altar  candles as a sign of God’s presence and an invitation to prayer ‘. It was not long before other church members turned up and the church became
a place  of sanctuary, refuge and  comfort.
There was a tremendous spontaneous outpouring of donations of clothing, toiletries, water etc. which turned the church into what someone described as ‘the world’s biggest jumble sale’.
Eventually, a sign had to be put up outside the church to say that no more donations could be accepted.  Amongst items donated were  5 second hand fridges, of no use whatever for survivors living in temporary
accommodation, and as a gesture of support, massively inappropriate given it was thought that a fridge had started the fire. Equally insensitive was the callous comment made to him that at least those in the tower and the bereaved were from countries where suffering is endemic : ‘at least they’re used to it ‘.
In the 2nd section, reflection, Fr. Alan reflects theologically on the role of the parish church and the parish system as an expression of the Incarnation of God in Christ. He makes the point that many local people
had a great affection for St. Clement’s through  ‘key moments’ in their lives: at baptisms, weddings and funerals and through having attended the church primary school.
I knew St. Clement’s church over 50 years ago when, as  a newly qualified solicitor working in London, I was a member of the vicarage ‘family ‘ for some 15 months and became very involved in the life of the church and the parish.
St. Clement’s, which celebrated its 150th anniversary last October, was a product of the Oxford movement, that amazing renewal of the Holy Spirit which helped to transform the life and worship of the Church of England in the 2nd half of the 19th century
and inspired dedicated  (and often heroic ) priests to go and work in some of the poorest parts of our big cities.   I rejoice that St.  Clement’s   maintains an outgoing, inclusive anglo – catholic  tradition in worship and mission and is truly a parish church.
Hugh Beavan

back on the way – 1
October 12, 2018, 3:13 pm
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Readers who have bourne this blog for a while will know that I have – slowly and gradually – been walking a pilgrimage along the Cistercian Way in Wales.


I had planned to walk it in an autumn a couple of years ago, but a damaged knee meant I had to miss a month.  I am slowly filling the gaps (click here to read previous posts).  It is interesting to remember different parts walked in different seasons and years, and good to have a chunk of this pilgrimage still to walk.

At the end of August, I set out again, in the good company of Roland, to walk from Carmarthen to Machynlleth.  I’d originally planned to start slightly further west in Whitland (it was here that the Cistercian Sisters examined my knee and said very firmly “Fr Andy, you cannot walk further.  We will put you on the train home tomorrow.”)  But it is good to listen to local suggestions, and Roland said, if we head north from Carmarthen, we can visit Skanda Vale.  This seemed right.

So, we got the bus to Carmarthen and, after a visit to the Roman amphitheatre, began climbing the narrow roads.  Through Llanpumsaint, where in a slightly surreal conversation, we were told about the local holy wells (on private land, and no chance of visiting them unless we went with the annual parish pilgrimage) and that there are no footpaths in Carmarthenshire (I have walked on some).

As we neared the ashram, we were passed by cars full of Tamil faces and we passed roadsigns.


We had walked fast that first morning, to try to arrive in time for Puja.  We dumped our packs, took off our boots, and sat on the floor of the temple, listening to the chants and bhajans, receiving the sacred fire, welcomed as pilgrims.  It was a festival; the ashram was full of people who had driven for hours.

Thoroughly blessed, we slipped away, climbing through the complex and exploring the temples.  At the top was the enclosure for Valli, the elephant presented to the ashram by the Sri Lankan Government.  We were lucky enough to see her, and to have a long chat with one of her keepers, a man who had left the urban West Midlands firmly in the past.


All in a normal day’s walk in rural Carmarthenshire.

We walked on through a muggy, warm, unfolding landscape.  Tracing our way to Pencader (useful shop) and Llanfihangel-ar-arth, talking with people on the way – who were clearly unused to walkers or pilgrims.

My knees were fine, but I use two walking poles now.  Roland was concerned that my technique was not right.  I tried hard to do it properly but was losing the ability to walk.  He cheered me up by playing me Matt McGinn’s The Wee Kircudbright CentipedeI went back to walking badly but semi-effectively.


In order to make the pilgrimage affordable (and to enjoy the freedom) we were carrying bivvy bags and tents.  The forecast was good for the night.  The map showed promising small areas of woodland in the rough vicinity of Capel Dewi.  Heading for one of them, just before dusk, we struck one of those wonderful small slices of wood between road and field boundaries which we could tuck into well out of sight, put out our bivvies and, leaving no trace, sleep the night with no one knowing we had been there.

It had been a long day.  I slept until dawn, waking occasionally as light rain fell on my face.



October 11, 2018, 8:36 am
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October 10, 2018, 11:25 am
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Rather stunned after spending time with Banu Cennetoglu’s piece at the Liverpool Biennial.

The names of 13,824 asylum seekers, refugees and migrants who have died trying to reach Fortress Europe.

As Pope Francis says, migration is the significant unacknowledged crisis facing humanity.

Let us not turn our backs or our gaze.

October 9, 2018, 11:32 am
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