Pilgrimpace's Blog

tracing the way
September 23, 2017, 6:40 pm
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“Always remember this: life is a journey. It is a path, a journey to meet Jesus.” Pope Francis

I am looking forward to walking these paths tomorrow.  #Cistercian Way Talk at Penrhys tomorrow at 5.30




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.


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.


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


cistercian way talk

On Being a Broken Pilgrim: Walking the Cistercian Way


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

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.


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 …



pilgrimage talk

Walking the Cistercian Way


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

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.

Cistercian Way – Pilgrimage from Penrhys
July 17, 2016, 5:41 pm
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After posting about the Cistercian Way Pilgrimage yesterday, I found that Maddy Gray – who pioneered the route – had posted this at the same time!

There is lots of information about the route on Maddy’s blog – and if you can get to Penrhys on September 3rd, why not join me for the first day

A bit different this year – set out from Penrhys at 10 am on Saturday 3 September, walk over the hills to Llangynwyd. It’s a hefty walk so there are drop-out points on the way and a back-up vehicle. This year’s pilgrimage is a bit more freeform that what we’ve done in previous years. Andy […]

via Penrhys Pilgrimage this year — Cistercian Way

pilgrimage to penrhys

I was privileged last Saturday to have a prelude to my Sabbatical Pilgrimage along the Cistercian Way in a year’s time.

I have been in touch with Maddy Gray from the University of South Wales who designed the route a few years ago.  It was important to connect up in more meaningful way than email, so I travelled to Pontypridd to walk the Annual Pilgrimage to Penrhys.


Andy and Maddy

This was an excellent day.  About 25 of us walked, including my friend Joy who gave me hospitality the night before.  It was a really varied day’s walking with good company as far as possible along the old pilgrim route.  I was glad I was not following medieval practice of carrying a candle as tall as myself while I climbed the hill on my knees.


You can read details of the route on Maddy’s blog here.


You can see Penrhys in the distance on the hill on the right in this photo (with the cloud above it!).  It is an important place.  It was the most popular Marian Shrine in Wales before the Reformation.  It is now an outer housing estate, which is home to some wonderful people and the Llanfair Uniting Church.  Several members of the Church walked with us on the day and I really enjoyed the chance to meet people and begin what I hope will be ongoing relationships.

the history of Penrhys told by the tapestry in the church

the history of Penrhys told by the tapestry in the church

Penrhys is one of the thin places – there is much rich reflection promised in these being located in an outer estate.  My plan for the pilgrimage next year is to start and finish at Penrhys (assuming I am not presuming too much on the hospitality of folk there – although there are rumours of a party).  I’ll start almost certainly on September 3rd and people are welcome to walk with me.  It will be important to have Penrhys as my destination, especially when things are tough on the way round.  When it is a bit nearer to my beginning the pilgrimage, I will ask for help with hospitality on the way round – I would be especially grateful for dry floors to sleep on!

the twentieth century statue on the site of the original chapel

the twentieth century statue on the site of the original chapel

St Mary's Well

St Mary’s Well

One of the best bits of a Sabbatical is anticipating it and preparing for it.  Saturday has made it much clearer in my mind.  I’ve got a bit of time now to read and think and dream (as well as get a bit fitter and a bit thinner).  And then some serious planning.

Let me know if you want to be involved

sabbatical dreaming

Bishop David has granted me a Sabbatical.  It’s a little way off – September, October and November 2016 – but it is wonderfully refreshing to know that it is there.

I am planning to spend that time doing two things.  I’ll have time and space to take the research and reflection that I am doing on St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross and how I see their teaching and life underpinning the sort of ministry I do deeper.  Maybe an article or two.  Maybe the outlines of something larger.

And a long walking pilgrimage.  This blog began in 2009 as a way of letting me share my experiences on the Camino de Levante in Spain with people at home.  This time I am hoping to walk the Cistercian Way, a route that circles round Wales for 650 miles or so, visiting the sites of the Cistercian Abbeys there.

Here’s a rough map of the route:


Details of the route can be found here.  It’s definitely going to be a different challenge to Spain.  There won’t be much that is flat.  In fact, I’ve found this elevation chart of the route:


but it won’t be as hot.  There won’t be all the pilgrim infrastructure.  I’ll be carrying a tent and am planning to camp or bivi quite a bit.  I would like to finish at Penrys.  As I have written here, Our Lady of Penrhys has a particular importance for those of us of catholic tradition who minister and live in outer estate places.  It seems absolutely right to end the pilgrimage here.  This means I will probably start at Margam or Neath.

I’ve got the luxury of plenty of time now to reflect and think and plan and dream all this.  One of the things I will be doing is researching the route.  If any Welsh friends, or people who live in Wales or know about it, have ideas of places to visit on the way round – especially pilgrim places – I would be grateful to know about them. Also any offers of places to sleep on the floor will be gratefully accepted! – or if anyone wants to walk a day or two with me (although I want to make sure that I walk alone for some of the time too).  I should be walking for six or seven weeks in September and October 2016.