It has taken a while, but the Catholic dioceses of England and Wales are finally catching up with what we started in Arundel and Brighton back in 1975! . The Hearts in Search of God pilgrim ways project has been set up to promote walking pilgrimages in all the dioceses. The person in charge of this project is Phil McCarthy who walked with us on the first 2 days of our pilgrimage from Bristol to Arundel this year. He is developing a pilgrimage route in every diocese.
His route in Arundel and Brighton goes from Arundel Cathedral to the shrine of Our Lady of Consolation at West Grinstead (very similar to the “Mercy Pilgrimage” route we did in May 2016). The route is called the “Way of Our Lady of Consolation” and is ready for anybody to walk it as a self-guided 2 day pilgrimage. There is a gpx file to download. Its web page is here: https://www.pilgrimways.org.uk/arundel-and-brighton. Do look at that page and browse the rest of that website to find out more, for example did you know that 2025 is Holy Year with the theme, chosen by Pope Francis, of “Pilgrims of Hope”?
As usual, conversations on where to go in 2024 began while the A&B pilgrims were walking the 2023 route from Bristol to Arundel. A wide variety of starting points and destinations were proposed, and the final decision was made at the AGM in September. First we voted on which area of the country to go to and then we voted on the suggested routes within that area, and as you may have already spotted on the “Our 2024 Pilgrimage” section on the front page of our website, the route that was chosen was Worcester to Peterborough.
This route takes in 3 cathedrals that our pilgrimage has not visited before: Worcester, Coventry and Peterborough. Committee member Bruce had proposed this route in the first place and had provided an outline list of places which chief route planner Aidan has tweaked slightly. The first rest day will be either Warwick after 3 walking days or Coventry after 4 walking days; the hall research that we do in Warwick and Coventry will influence this decision. The second rest day will be in Market Harborough. After Market Harborough we plan to loop round the top of Rutland Water on the way to Peterborough. More details to follow in later posts.
The dates of the 2024 pilgrimage are Saturday 10th to Sunday 25th August 2024, and we look forward to welcoming both first-time and returning pilgrims. Bookings will open early in the new year.
I always thought pilgrimage coordinators are like the actors who play the Doctor in Doctor Who. Every couple of years, the face changes, but there is continuity from all that has gone before. The phrase “On the shoulders of giants” comes to mind. The same face has never come back for a second stint … until this year. David Tennant is to return as the Doctor later this month (for 3 episodes only), and I find myself back as pilgrimage coordinator, having previously held the role for the 2013 and 2014 pilgrimages. How did this come about? Students of pilgrimage history will know that ever since the “Pasta Pot Declaration” of 1991, we have had a 4-year coordinator cycle in place. In this cycle, each coordinator spends one year as deputy coordinator followed by two years as coordinator then a further year as deputy coordinator. If the cycle had continued as normal then a new deputy coordinator would have been elected at the AGM in September 2022, and would have been learning the ropes for the last 12 months which were David Fletcher’s second and final year as coordinator. However no such person was found, and so as we walked the 2023 pilgrimage we knew we had no coordinator lined up to take over for 2024. Reasoning that no previous coordinator would want to make a second four year commitment, I had the idea that previous coordinators might take the role again for one year only; for instance, myself. So we came up with a two-year plan: I would return as Coordinator for 2024 only and then Aidan Simons will return for 2025 only, which will be our big 50th anniversary year.
For 2024, Aidan replaces me as Chief Route Planner. We also have a new treasurer. Nick Lamb has stepped down, having served in this role since 2013 when he replaced Patrick. The new treasurer is our outgoing coordinator David Fletcher. Nick remains as a valued committee member and we are of course extremely thankful for his service over this time. We are cooperating more closely with the A&B diocese these day on finances, publicity and other matters. Indeed, the diocesan Chief Operating Officer, Sarah Kilmartin, has walked with us in recent years and is now on our committee.
For 2024, we have 4 hall booking teams or individuals working in parallel on different parts of the route. Some halls have already been booked. As a legacy of Covid, we now estimate the space required for all the pilgrims more rigorously, with guidelines for the number of square metres required per pilgrim. Previously it was a case of “look at the space and imagine all the pilgrim beds laid out”, although that is still necessary too, since a mathematical formula can’t cope with every possible hall layout. e.g. the main space of one of the halls already identified for 2024 is circular which is blowing our minds.
David has written some words to summarise the pilgrimage on our past pilgrimages web page (click on “The Bristol to Arundel Pilgrimage, 2023” at the bottom of the page).
I thank David profusely for his two years as coordinator, in which he steered us successfully through uncharted waters as the world emerged from the pandemic, while modernising some of our procedures e.g. introducing electronic payments.
THE PILGRIMAGE EQUIPMENT
The pilgrimage equipment (pots, pans, urn, toaster, utensils, boxes etc) will be on the move in January! For many years our legendary cook Frances Dean kept it in her garage, then after a brief spell in Patrick’s parents’ shed, the equipment moved to Sue and Fred’s shed in Surrey and has remained there ever since. We are grateful to Sue and Fred for looking after it all this time. This has not just been a passive exercise of leaving it in the shed but has involved a big investment in their time, keeping all the equipment clean, and indeed keeping the shed as weatherproof as possible. As another sign of our increased cooperation with the diocese, the new home for the pilgrimage equipment will be the coach house of the bishop’s residence in Pease Pottage near Crawley.
Meanwhile we have identified that some of the equipment never gets used. Here is a picture of these items:
If you can provide a new home for any of these items yourself, or you can suggest organisations who might want to take them off our hands, for free, please let us know. Or could you sell them for us on eBay? Otherwise they will be off to, for example, metal recycling which seems a shame.
John Chenery, Coordinator for the 2024 pilgrimage.
A total of 19 pilgrims took part in some or all of of the reunion, and I think all had an enjoyable time despite the weather!
Four years had passed since our last traditional Autumn reunion involving overnight stays in a hall. I had doubted whether there would still be sufficient demand for the reunion to be viable in our post-covid world, but I was delighted to see my doubts were misplaced.
John Carmody and Gary O’Brien were the organisers of the reunion and the venue was the hall of Christ the King RC Church in the district of Langney in the eastern outskirts of Eastbourne. We were welcomed with the traditional soup and rolls at 7pm on the Friday evening. There was no pub close by, and so we were content to remain in the hall and chat. Some pilgrimage business took place, as hall bookers were assigned to halls and chief route planner Aidan began to seek day planners.
The Saturday walk was based on one that Maurice has led for the St Francis Ramblers on more than one occasion; one that starts and finishes at Eastbourne Station, which is 2.5 miles away from Langney. Accordingly after breakfast the pilgrims caught a bus from the hall to the station for a 9.30. start and were joined by 3 further pilgrims. The start was much earlier than on Maurice’s previous walks, so to avoid getting to lunch much too soon, we did his walk in reverse. John had recce’d the walk in this direction and led us, helped by Gary. Our walk was over Beachy Head and the weather forecast was for frequent showers and strong gusts, so it was with some trepidation that we set off into the wind and rain. Some of our regular pilgrimage support team took the opportunity to walk with us for once.
Walking as one group without arrows, we headed through the streets of Eastbourne to the point where the South Downs Way begins, heading steeply up into the downs. As we were aware, on this day, this was the location of the start/finish point of the Beachy Head marathon (and shorter distance races too), so this was a busy spot with runners coming and spectators cheering. To avoid the runners’ route, we headed along the road inland and took the next path on the left that climbed steeply on a parallel route. Up and up we went. It rained about half the time and in the dry interludes there was a very effective drying wind, so we didn’t get really soaked. The visibility remained good despite the rain, so we took in the spectacular coastal views and our morale remained high. Meanwhile runners passed heading in the opposite direction. Perhaps having the wind behind them helped their times.
We paused at the various memorials on the top of Beachy Head, and John led us in prayer. In the section from Beachy Head along the cliffs we encountered the strongest gusts of wind of the day which stopped us in our tracks, or even blew us backwards or sideways. Pilgrims helped each other to stay on their feet. The gusts were never towards the cliffs so it was exhilarating without being too scary. After passing the Belle Tout lighthouse, we descended to the Birling Gap, where some found refreshment and my ice cream found a puddle; see the web diary.
From the Birling Gap, we headed up again and along the cliffs for a short distance, but turned inland before reaching the Seven Sisters, to reach East Dean for lunch. Some pilgrims with long memories will recall sitting on the green outside the delightful Tiger Inn basking in the August sunshine, but on this occasion it was a damp day and standing room only in the pub. After rapid pints for some, we regathered in the adjacent Hikers Rest cafe to sit down and eat some lunch.
The 3 non-walkers and 7 of the morning walkers returned to the hall by bus, leaving 9 of us to continue the walk, returning to Eastbourne Station via an inland, more sheltered, route. Again there were showers but the dry interludes were longer. Some pilgrims went to the 5pm Vigil Mass at Christ the King. Aidan went for a run.
For our dinner we had fish and chips from a local shop, followed by Clare’s home made apple pie, and again we stayed in the hall and chatted over beer or wine. On the Sunday morning we went our separate ways after breakfast.
It was by no means a given that the reunion would take place at all this year. Just like the pilgrimage, it needs volunteers to organise it, so we are most grateful to John and Gary who provided the necessary initiative, drive and enthusiasm. A good time was had by all. The fun and fellowship of the pilgrimage lives on.
The start of the 2023 Pilgrimage, from Bristol to Arundel, is almost upon us! This Saturday, 12th August, we gather in Bristol before setting out for Arundel, to mark the 150th Anniversary of Arundel Cathedral and its links with Bristol and Bath.
As ever, you can follow our “Live” diary at https://www.thepilgrims.org.uk/2023.
The diary also contains details of where we’ll be when (also found in CAJUFAD) should you wish to come and meet us or join us as a day pilgrim.