...of wheat, and green fields of sugar-beet, and mellow sunshine pouring down on it all...Norfolk in August, with the harvest being brought in as our feet in boots and sneakers and sandals pounded the ancient route to Walsingham. And I do mean the ancient route - we were following old lanes and paths, going along one of the old, old Walsingham Ways, which can still be traced along the fields and meadows. We prayed the Rosary, all twenty mysteries, led by Sister with a microphone, recalling Christ's Incarnation and the great events of his life, death and resurrection...it is a memorable experience to be pondering the Eucharist (5th Luminous Mystery) as you walk together alongside a golden, almost glowing, field of wheat, young voices saying "give us this day our daily bread..."
Our overnight destination was Swaffham, and the first day's walk was just over 20 miles. As we walked, we also had some superb talks, on the Scriptures, following the drama of salvation history through Abraham and Moses and on to Christ, pondering the Covenant, seeing the Church foreshadowed in the Old Testament and shown in the New...
The Pilgrimage was well organised, our bedding-rolls and other luggage being ferried ahead to our overnight stop, a van bringing water and food - all done by volunteers. At lunchtime we tackled a generous supply of bread and cheese and salad and fruit, and on our arrival at the Sacred Heart school at Swaffham Sister Julie had cooked a wonderful pasta supper. The glorious , glorious sound of traditional bells pealing out wafted over us as we sat eating and talking, friendships now well forged. We sang Night Prayer in the Church of Our Lady of Pity - aptly named, as more than one pilgrim quietly noted, as blisters and tiredness were now rather evident. At the start of the Pilgrimage, all qualified First Aiders were asked to identify themselves - there was a very well-equipped First Aid box and I was able to treat blisters and other problems so that everyone could keep on walking. One of the best-ever inventions is spray-disinfectant which can be used directly on to skin, and can also disinfect needles, hands, etc.
Overnight accomodation was in the school's large halls - big sports-mats used for gym were stacked in the corner of one hall and proved blissful as sleeping-mats. Using the showers and washrooms we pattered down the school corridors, where the children's work was on display: "Use of Nouns" "Shakespeare and Drama: the story of the Globe Theatre" "Colour, Art, and Design". A statue of Our Lady gazed down benevolently. There was absolute silence within moments of the lights being turned out: sleep came instantly.