Pilgrimpace's Blog


looking back : looking forward

A year ago I was on Caldey Island, staying in the monastery for a couple of days as part of a pilgrimage walking the Cistercian Way around Wales.  That deep, strange pilgrimage where I began in torrential rain and almost no visibility in Penrhys above the Valleys, and walked west.  Where, when I turned north, I strained my knee and was sent home for a dark and inward journey.

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Caldey Island, September 2016

Where, after four weeks rest, I tentatively started again and, with a light pack, managed to walk for Abergavenny round to Penrhys.

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Our Lady of Penrhys

A time for looking back, asking what lessons – at this stage – have been learned, what gifts given, what the next steps on the journey might be.

I’m returning, briefly, to Penrhys on Sunday 24th September to give a talk about the pilgrimage.  I’d love to see you there if you are able.

Here is a video of the wonderful Llanfair Uniting Church

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cistercian way talk

On Being a Broken Pilgrim: Walking the Cistercian Way

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Thoughts on a Pilgrimage

Talk by the Revd Andy Delmege

Sunday 24th September 5.30pm

Llanfair Uniting Church

Penrhys, CF43 3RH

All Welcome!

Collection for the work of Llanfair Uniting Church



coast

We arrived in Aberdaron on the morning bus.  Time to dip into the Church to pray a blessing on the pilgrimage and to pay respects to RS Thomas.  Kneeling before an altar of wood in a stone church.  Waiting for the meaning to unfold itself.

And then time to walk along the coast, those first steps, to the landing for the Bardsey boat.  Go to Bardsey if you can. We were lucky with the weather, a flat sailing and no rain.  You need to contact Colin, who is wonderfully knowledgeable, and book the boat in advance.

20170710_134215Plenty of time to drink tea, wander slowly, look, climb the hill.

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A special place, island of saints, where people went to die.  Praying quietly in the Nun’s Chapel (does anyone have a photo of the inside of this and the icon?  The photo I took vanished).

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Sitting on the water’s edge listening to the chat of the seals.  Watching the puffins on the boat back.

After Bardsey we crossed the Lleyn and made for the northern coast.  We found a beautiful and isolated place to camp above the cliffs.

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A night of being too excited to sleep – the pilgrimage underway, the sound and smell of the sea, a worry about whether my knee would hold up, but most of all the promise of the week – except I did sleep, only to wake with a cry of shock when I found a slug crawling across my forehead.

Early breakfast and then beautiful but frustrating walking as we joined a new part of the coastpath (along from Whistling Sands) that keeps you right on the cliff edge with no possibility of cutting inland for a couple of hours of slow going.

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north wales pilgrim way – report

A few weeks ago, R, M and I walked the North Wales Pilgrim Way from west to east (Aberdaron to Holywell).  This is the ‘wrong’ direction (in that it is signposted east to west).  We did this as I am filling in the sections of the Cistercian Way which I missed when I hurt my knee last autumn.

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Maddy asked me to see how viable walking the route in this direction is, as a possible alternative route for people walking the Cistercian Way.  If you were walking the whole of the CW, you would pick up this route south of Conwy and follow it to Holywell and Basingwerk before turning south down the borders.

The route is advertised as being 134 miles.  We possibly walked a little less than this.  We missed a section from Penygroes to Waunfawr as we were staying with a friend in Waunfawr and arrived in Penygroes too late and with too little energy to get to Waunfawr (I’ll walk this section when I stay with my friends next).  We also bypassed Bangor in order to finish the route before I had to get back to work.

However, some re-routing of the Coastal Path near the beginning (you can’t get off of it for ages) and our working out our own route between villages (as the route is unmarked in this direction) meant some miles added on.

The route is no more difficult to follow than the rest of the Cistercian Way in this direction (ie you need to have a good map and to use it).

The North Wales Pilgrim Way website is helpful:

http://www.pilgrims-way-north-wales.org/

The Guidebook was not useful walking west -east.

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For me, it was a great route.  There is not much infrastructure so we carried camping equipment.  As there were three of us, wildcamping was more difficult (we did it once), but we mainly used campsites or got permission to camp in fields.  We stayed with friends, in the Youth Hostel at Rowan, and in a pub in St Asaph.

The route is varied and testing.  I think we averaged around 16 miles per day with full packs (my knee held up well).  There are some real pilgrimage highlights along the way:

The weather was good on our first day so we were able to get the boat across to Bardsey (you need to book this in advance).  We paid our respects to RS Thomas at Aberdaron.  There are ancient churches closely associated with St Bueno at Pistyll (the floor covered in rushes) and Clynnog Fawr – which also has a large, but very mucky, holy well.  High up, before Rowen and the steep descent to the river, you follow the Roman road.  In the Churchyard at Llangernyw is a 4000 year old yew; and nearby at Gwytherin is the mound where Winefrede had her monastery and was buried before she was moved to Shrewsbury, putting aside all the romantic legends about what actually happened, I found this a very special place; I want to go back.  And we finished on a very hot day with a plunge into the very cold waters at Holywell.

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Some reflections and stories to follow (this is, for example, the first time I have been on pilgrimage and helped someone turf a grave …)



north wales pilgrim path
July 21, 2017, 4:16 pm
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I had a great few days with Mike and Roland walking the North Wales Pilgrim Way from Bardsey / Aberdaron to Holywell.  My knee held up, and it feels good to begin filling in the sections of the Cistercian Way I missed last year through injury.

I’ll post a report, reflections and some photos as I get time.

To begin with, it was interesting to find a Pilgrim Passport and some places to stamp it:

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some great scenery to walk through:

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and some great fun:

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walking the cistercian way 6 – arriving
January 15, 2017, 8:26 pm
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Maddy and I caught the bus to Pontypridd, accompanied by Pilgrim Nell the springer spaniel.  At least I walked all the way from the edge of Abergavenny round to Penrhys.  I had walked this final leg just over a year before as part of a large group pilgrimage; it was good to do it more quietly.

Climbing up on old roads, woods and fields, hills.  Finding our way past windfarms (I am now always led to reflect on the similarities and differences between these and those of La Mancha).  Good fencing and stiles meaning passing a slippery, muddy dog across. Ynysybwl, Buarth Capel, Nant Ffrwd, Mynachdy.  Arriving in good time for lunch at Llanwynno.  We climbed down to St Gwynno’s Well, very overgrown, but worth finding (much easier if you have a spaniel with you).  Another of those saints no one knows anything about.  I love this – a very definite reason for devotion.  I have an icon in my Study of two adult and one child saints.  I have no idea who they are; this seems of utter importance.

And then to the pub (Llanwynno has not much more than a well, a Church and a pub in a clearing in the forest.  Perfect.

Over the course of an hour, cheese sandwiches and a pint or two, a wonderful thing happened.  Almost everyone who had been involved in supporting me on the pilgrimage arrived.

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Together we climbed up over the tops, down to Tylorstown and then up the steep climb to Penrhys.  A visit to the well and then the Church for prayers, tea and cake.  And for me, hospitality for the night.  More on Penrhys tomorrow …

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pilgrimage talk

Walking the Cistercian Way

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Thoughts on a Pilgrimage

Talk by the Revd Andy Delmege

Saturday 28th January, 2017, 7.30pm

St Bede’s Church

Doversley Road

Birmingham B14 6NN

All Welcome!

Collection for the work of Llanfair Uniting Church