St David's Pilgrimage 2010

Theale Reunion

We gathered on Friday night from far and wide, and shared a convivial supper, a glass or two, and much conversation before retiring.

Saturday morning, after little sleep for many unaccustomed to sleeping on the floor, we were rewarded by a hearty breakfast, before front markers Nick and Jonny set out, on a damp misty morning.

Additional pilgrims joined us, and lots of mini reunions took place as we waited for the off.

Theale Village Hall - au revoir until this evening.

The view across the playing fields to Holy Trinity Church.

And so, off up Englefield Road, leaving Theale behind us.

Then across the playing fields, skirting round the village...

...across the A4 then the railway, where the mandatory "train for Julian" was shot.

The pilgrims cross with care - the frequency of trains was quite high.

Then alongside the River Kennet...

...which we crossed by this bridge above a weir, before looping back and crossing the adjacent canal by a swing bridge.

It's quite autumnal - which doesn't just mean damp and decay!

We then followed the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath for several miles (an old friend, last walked near Devizes in 2008).

The canal boats were colourful and looked cosy..

At Aldermaston Wharf, the swing bridge was having its main bearings replaced, so the towpath was diverted (is DIVERVSION a local Berkshire spelling?).

And so to St Mary's at Beenham.

We paused to pray inside.

One of the wall decorations.

The autumn colours are still hanging on.

Bridget stops as usual to talk to horses.

A red kite flies overhead (one of four seen during the morning).

And so to Douai Abbey...

...passing the chapel... the abbey church, where we looked inside briefly (they were just starting to celebrate their Pontifical Mass). The church combines an early 20th Century choir with a late 20th Century nave, to dramatic effect from the inside.

A window dedicated to those who supported the building of the church.

From the outside the blending of old and new looks, well, a little odd.

John assures me he was not taking a picture of his feet.

We passed several pretty cottages...

...and pretty horses...

...and another red kite.

Who's this walking the other way? Bill has come to meet us!

Passing a dramatic tree.

And so to the Old Boot Inn, where food and drink awaited us, and Fran amazed Nick by her attempts to eat a burger in one go.

Other non-walking pilgrims, including Julian and Betsy, met us.

Gil and Bill with Mike.

Bernard joined us for his first reunion in over 25 years; Margaret is a regular; and Robert's wife Janet is a first timer.

A pub called the Old Boot had to have an "Old Boot" picture.

After lunch - the light was already fading, and it was muddy underfoot.

A tree apparently growing in the water.

And a cygnet, quite happy in the water.

We passed St Andrew's Church at Bradfield, but it was locked.

More pretty cottages in Bradfield, though the Neighbourhood Watch sign spoils the effect.

Heading back towards Theale we passed a number of mobile toilets parked up: more than one pilgrim thought that the Drinks Car should tow one of these in the summer as a convenience to pilgrims.

Across the M4

Nick leads us back into Theale.

Many attended mass at St Luke's down the road, where we were made very welcome, then after a slideshow and a fine supper, we relaxed and chatted, and recovered from the unexpectedly long walk!

Robert had brought his wife Janet along - her first experience of pilgrimage.

The Young Pilgrims named this bear "Doran the Pooh", despite the absence of any salmon pink attire.

And so, eventually, to bed

Sunday morning: rise, clear up, breakfast, Eucharist at All Saints, then home...

Thanks to Nick and his helpers for a great weekend