Our annual reunion was held in Portslade Old Village, hosted by Patrick Reeve and Frances Dean at St Nicholas' Church Hall.
We had a slow start - the hall was occupied until 11 p.m. by the local Dog Club, so some chatted in a back room while others slipped round the corner for a drink. Gradually pilgrims from across the country congregated, catching up on news since we were together two months ago. In the back room, displays were erected showing next year's plan and seeking route planners, together with minutes of the recent meeting and other relevant information.
After the dogs were gone we moved into the hall and laid out beds. Some stayed up and talked, but most turned in in anticipation of Saturday's walk.
We awoke on the Saturday to a pleasant morning - little sign of the rain that had dogged this part of the country of recent days. With Patrick suffering from a bad back, and Julian called in to work, yours truly picked up the responsibility of leading the day's walk (and no chance to walk it through first!). We had a team of two - myself and Sarah - assisted by Rosie, Bridget and Jessica for the first few miles.
The start of the day was the trickiest - trying to weave through the built-up area to the footpath we wanted to escape on. Once on the path we climbed up towards the Downs, crossing over the A27 Southwick Hill Tunnel (which had been closed the previous night) before cutting off across the hills to the Devil's Dyke. Here we stopped for a brief refreshment, and looked back over the Adur valley. The evidence of recent rain was clear, though by no means as bad as in Lewes in the opposite direction.
From the Dyke we cut across the scarp face then descended by steps to the village of Poynings, where we lunched at the Royal Oak, and we were joined by a few pilgrims who hadn't been able to walk in the morning.
Out from the pub (at long last!) we found the rain had returned! We walked down to Holy Trinity Church, where a flower arranging lesson was in progress, and left the main party to pray, heading off back up to the Devil's Dyke. Here we were joined by Anthony, able to front mark now that Lauren was not walking. It was a stiff climb so soon after lunch, but the reward when we reached the top made it worthwhile! Rosie, Bridget and Jessica were not far behind either (the benefit of youth!).
We soon had Anthony doing the work, while I navigated and looked at the sea view!
It was relatively easy walk back down to Portslade, and the advice Patrick had given me before we left paid off as I found the back route into the Hall.
It took a while for all the pilgrims to get back - we'd obviously set a cracking pace on the way down. I caught a few as they returned from my "sniping position" in the boot of the car...
Patrick showed the slides sent over by Bill and Dorothy from the USA - a pleasant reminiscence of this summer's pilgrimage. Our founder Bill Haynes had joined us, with Kate, here talking to Sue.
It was all too much for some!
Then we all sat down to eat a feast prepared by Patrick, Frances and others to Patrick's recipe.
Then the tables were moved back and we let rip with a true pilgrim-style barn dance. It just HAD to include the Cumberland Square Eight so Patrick could make his back worse...
And there were cakes for birthday girls Bridget (10) and Siobhan (18)
And so, eventually, to bed.
Up in the morning, packed, and off to St Theresa's in Southwick for their 10.30 Mass. They had invited us to lead the music, which we did in style with 3 guitars, 3 flutes, 3 egg-shaped shakers, 1 set of bongos and a tambourine (plus enthusiastic voices!)
(The girls sat at the organ, their shakers seen here at rest!)
After Mass we chatted over coffee, then some retired across the road to lunch at the pub, while others headed home. An enjoyable reunion - now back to planning next year's St Chad's Pilgrimage.