WALKING THE PILGRIMS’ WAY
Well – we are here! The Pilgrims’ Way begins in this ancient city. I didn’t want to write a potted history of the city because so much information is readily available in guidebooks and on the internet so I have put a few interesting links below. In the meantime I just thought I would recount my experiences of the day.
Spending the day in Winchester
After arriving we went straight to Winchester Cathedral in search of a special tombstone. My friend and I were both close to tears as we stood together beside it and I think both silently expressed words of gratitude for our lives. I had read about the tombstone in a true story but to see that it actually did exist on a green just in front of the Cathedral really bought home to me the miracle that is recovery. For some reason we both felt it was inappropriate to be photographed by the stone at that time and so humbly stood in our own worlds for a while before slowly moving away. The Cathedral itself was as magnificent as expected. We visited the crypt with its Anthony Gormley statue and Jane Austen’s grave. As always in cathedrals I was drawn to the stained glass and the choir area.
I wanted to make a visit to the Hospital of the Holy Cross and partake of the traditional wayfarer’s dole. This is a symbolic jug of ale (water in my case) and bread which was given to sustain pilgrims at the start of their journey. I met with a lovely lady called Catherine who had recently walked The Clarenden Way and we chatted about that and walking in general before I took the traditional sustenance. I was genuinely moved to think of how many pilgrims must have taken this dole before me. The hospital itself has a fascinating history and has been in continuous use for many centuries surviving both the dissolution of the monasteries and the Civil War.
I also visited the very different, beautiful and simple church of St Swithun (the Pilgrims’ Way begins with the St Swithun’s Trail) and left a message in the visitor’s book.
Once we had arrived at our accommodation, The King Alfred Pub, I met with my package agent to run through the maps and paperwork and he very kindly lent me (some more!) literature to read about the Old Road. I was also presented with a scallop shell (the traditional symbol of pilgrims).
My thoughts on the eve of walking the Pilgrims’ Way
Humbled yet special, nervous yet excited, tremendously privileged to be both alive and in a position that I have the time, funds and health to be able to undertake this trek.
At the time of writing this (in Word) I have no connection to wi fi in the pub. The IT aspect of posting a blog is also a big learning curve for me and T has patiently tutored me over the last few days in connection with downloading photos both from my phone and camera, re-charging them both, connecting them both to wi fi etc. I think I have done everything right and that the problem is just the pub’s connection but I will post this update when I am able!
Gratitude whilst walking the Pilgrims’ Way
More than I can put into words. From the St Christopher a friend gave me which I started wearing after taking the Wayfarer’s Dole, to my special postcard of Winchester Cathedral and copy of the Serenity Prayer given to me by another special friend. To the chap half way up a ladder in the back streets of Winchester who climbed down and walked a while with T and myself when we could not find the Holy Cross Hospital; to the busker playing “don’t worry be happy, every little thing is gonna be alright”; to my package agent’s professionalism and generosity in connection with changes over travel arrangements. Interestingly the first sign I saw upon leaving the Cathedral was outside a stall selling second hand books.
Wow! Just sorted the wi fi out…… James and Trevor, you would be proud of me!
My book “The Woman Who Walked Through Fear” about my journey along the Pilgrims’ Way and through life has now been published by Sitting Duck Press. Please subscribe to my blog by clicking here and adding your e mail address on the box at the foot of the page to receive further details. Alternatively please visit my Facebook Page: Jackie McAll – “About the Journey”