Pilgrimpace's Blog

pilgrimage to walsingham

Once again, a wonderful pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham last weekend.  Sadly my last one with St Gabriel’s but wonderful to spend time again with folk along with pilgrims from St Bede’s.

There always seems to be some sort of controversy going on in the various pilgrim forums that you need to walk to be a pilgrim.  I love walking pilgrimages, but there is something special and deep about these weekend voyages by car or coach to a shrine.


We did walk to the Slipper Chapel


Which meant a cup of tea to warm up


even for the shy.

We worshipped hard and deeply, we ate well, we had space for praying and reflecting, we talked, we spent the evenings in what Chrissy has wisely termed ‘The Holy Pub’


and there was more walking at the very end, following Jesus.

The goodness, humaness and healing of pilgrimage.

the holy way is essex
April 10, 2014, 4:36 pm
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A long time ago, before circumstances meant I spend Holy Week with my parishes, I spent the week walking with Student Cross on pilgrimage from London to Walsingham.  There’s a very good article about it by Ben Ryan in Movement Magazine here.  Good memories!


back from a wonderful parish pilgrimage at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham with folk from St Gabriel’s and St Bede’s

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walking the Holy Mile (and those who asked for prayer were prayed for both here and in the Holy House)


and back again

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some barefoot

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and you never know who your fellow pilgrims might be …



parish pilgrimage
September 19, 2012, 4:14 pm
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I spent the weekend at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham with folk from St Gabriel’s, Weoley Castle.

I’ve been going there on parish pilgrimages since I was small and it has a very special place in my heart.  The pattern of the weekend pilgrimage, beginning with services like Stations of the Cross in your own parish leading to the big corporate Masses, processions, healing and reconciliation, and sprinkling at the well give space for real encounter and growth.

walking the Holy Mile

only one of us was brave enough to walk barefoot

In the context of walking pilgrimages to places like Santiago, it is salutary to be reminded that going to a place of pilgrimage by car does not preclude a real experience of pilgrimage (although, as you can see, we did walk on Saturday afternoon).

time to relax

I am intrigued by a possible connection with the Knight’s Gate and Weoley Castle.  The legend tells that

in 1314 Sir Raaf Boutetout was fleeing from his enemies and prayed to Our Lady for rescue. Miraculously he and his horse passed through the wicket gate originally in this position to reach sanctuary in the Priory grounds beyond. A pilgrim badge showing knight, horse and gate was subsequently made to mark the event.

Joan de Botetourt owned Weoley Castle at the end of the century.  Is there any connection or am I being terribly unscholarly?  In any case there has been a devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham at St Gabriel’s for most of its history.

I was interested to see that The Bull welcomed Woeley Castle among the other parishes (which did not stop as seeking refreshment there).

These beautiful photos taken by Meenakshi give a flavour of the deeply refreshing time we had.

coincidence of memory

I’ve just been putting clothes in a bag in preparation for a weekend pilgrimage to Walsingham with St Gabriel’s, Weoley Castle and suddenly remembered that three years ago I was finishing the much more careful preparation to leave for Valencia and begin walking to Santiago!  Different pilgrimages but hopefully a continuing journey into the heart of Love with still so much more to learn along the Way.

pilgrims and pilgrim badges
October 5, 2011, 7:13 pm
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journey through september

September has been a busy but very fruitful month.  It has included a Parish Pilgrimage to Walsingham with St Gabriel’s; the beginning of Together with Elderly People in Weoley Castle and Bartley Green, where St Gabriel’s invited all those involved in work with vulnerable elderly people in the area to come together to seek to strengthen work in a very difficult time; and last weekend, a Parish Retreat at Offa House with St Bede’s.  More reflections on all this pilgrimage will follow as there is time, but here are three photos to whet the appetite:

                                                                   walking back from the Slipper Chapel

St Bede's Retreat


in the blood

Thinking about The Extra Mile and also a discussion on the Camino Forum about why British people don’t do pilgrimages (I’m sure this is not true) has led me to remember my pilgrimages and to reflect that they and pilgrimage are deeply in the blood.  (A young Spanish man who took pity on me staggering around on an extremely hot afternoon in Xativa, brought me into his house, gave me water from his well, and contacted the albergue, concluded, “You must have many sins!”).  I think, though, that it is much more complicated than this – there is a strong and deep pull, I like pilgrim praying, I enjoy it.

Here’s a list of some significant pilgrimages.  Buen Camino to you all.

Parish pilgrimages to Walsingham travelling by coach for the weekend, from 1970’s boyhood, more recently with Birmingham Deaf Church and looking forward to going with St Gabriel’s next year.

The Student Cross pilgrimage to Walsingham, walking from London in 1980’s and 90’s Holy Weeks carrying a big cross, drinking Abbot Ale, eating cake, singing badly.

Iona by public transport, a student summer as Abbey Guide, parish weeks.

Student visits to Taize , including six weeks leading work teams.  This is not a pilgrimage destination in a traditional way, but I’m not sure how else to describe it.

And the chance to walk the Camino de Levante from Valencia to Santiago de Compostela last autumn, with a firm plan to walk the Camino Ingles with Meenakshi next autumn and deepening dreams for another Camino next Sabbatical.

And of course so many visits to the old centres of pilgrimage in this country – to the bare ruined altars of Holy Island, Hailes, Shrewsbury and so many more.  And many more to visit.

the extra mile

I’ve been reading Peter Stanford’s book on pilgrimage in modern Britain The Extra Mile.  I’ll post some thoughts about it soon (I think it is worth reading, although I have some questions about it).

Today is the Feast of St John of the Cross, the Spanish Carmelite reformer and mystic, whose traces I enjoyed following and encountering so much on the Camino de Levante last year.

This quote from The Extra Mile, about the Chapel of the Spirit in Walsingham, reminds me of pilgrimage, of John, of so many pastoral encounters, and of the current struggles in this country:

One of the hardest aspects of grief is that feeling of being so powerless in the face of death.  Raised in a world that celebrates, even lionizes humanity’s ability to make things happen, to change, correct or cure what we don’t like or want, even within ourselves, we are brought up short by the death of loved ones and reminded quite how impotent we are.  It may be a tiny, futile gesture, but lighting a candle for them, and placing it alongside the candles of so many others, is a comforting act of solidarity.  I am not alone in mourning or in struggling to find an explanation, and they are not alone in death.  As a ritual, it offers none of the answers so readily available [in some religious circles], but it effortlessly gets to the core of the questions that underpin religion – questions of life, suffering and death that have no straightforward answers.  In this Chapel of the Spirit, that word – Spirit – so often heard at Walsingham but so seldom defined – finally acquires a weight.