At the day’s unveiling
The Pilgrims’ Way starts at Winchester Cathedral and at 7 o’clock this morning I attended Morning Prayers and after a quiet and simple service I was taken by The Reverend Canon Dr Roland Riem through the Cathedral to the Shrine to St Swithun. There he gave me a very personal blessing for safety on my journey on this pilgrimage and through life; for thanks for my many blessings and for strength that I express gratitude and touch people’s lives along the way of my trek. This was a very profound and peaceful experience and after this honour I quietly turned and walked from the Cathedral past the tombstone referred to in yesterday’s post and began my walk. I took those first steps in a spirit of deep comfort and courage.
Day 1 of the Pilgrims’ Way route
I joined the friend who is with me for the first two days, breakfasted and walked along the banks of the River Itchen towards “The Worthy’s” . “Worthy” means a place or hamlet . The sun occasionally peeped through the trees with the promise of a fruitful day.
Whilst meeting Canon Clare from Canterbury Cathedral when recording the Radio 4 “Ramblings” programme she presented me with a “Pilgrims’ Passport”. The tradition is to get it stamped at various churches and places of hospitality along the way as proof of pilgrimage. St Mary’s Church at King’s Worthy was the first church I visited to offer this stamp. You can just see this stamp in the corner of this photo.
The riverside section of the walk was so very peaceful and beautiful. The water so clear. We made good time and stopped at a pub in Itchen Abbas for a coffee and then departed a little from the marked St Swithuns’ Way (the first part of the Pilgrims’ Way) to take a traditional drovers’ route. This enabled us to enter our destination of Alresford along a very quiet and beautiful backwater of the river which is fed by springs through faults in the clay, past watercress beds and an old eel fishery.
We are staying tonight at the Swan Inn in Aylesford and the accommodation is superb. . My arrival at Winchester and taking of the traditional wayfarer’s dole yesterday is featured here. I have a long 14 mile day ahead tomorrow. I hope that the weather is not quite as hot as predicted.
My first challenge appears to be a not unexpected one! The accommodation I am staying in tonight is very smart and Alresford itself appears to be quite posh. I only have a couple of pairs of trousers with me (which I will wash along the way) and a pair of yoga pants, several tops and walking shoes and boots. I can just about go around the town in those without too much embarrassment. My one luxury item is a lipstick. I decided to forgo other cosmetics. It sounds a very weak challenge but the first chance I get I will be buying a tube of mascara. (or else wearing sunglasses all day!). I guessed vanity may be a problem! It is purely about what other people think of me, which is obviously something I still need to work on.
My thoughts and gratitude
Today has been so very perfect. I was truly humbled by and also inspired to set forth after my blessing. The Cathedral at 7 am in the morning when I arrived was empty so far as I could see. I was alone but for the presence of God. The power and majesty of the place which Bill W must have felt on his visit all those years ago very apparent. I know that I use this analogy a lot, but when I looked at the thousands of pieces of stained glass in this window in the Cathedral I am again reminded how broken lives can be put back together to make something beautiful.
It has been wonderful to have a friend’s company on this first day. Without some very special friends I am more than aware that I would not be alive. We have laughed and joked, pondered and mused throughout the day and found our way together. Although I love walking alone it is also great to walk in the company of others. I know, however, that I am never entirely alone Nature is always around me – the sun or rain, clouds, sounds, scents, trees and flowers. I find that solitude helps me to appreciate company and company also to appreciate times of aloneness. When walking for a long period of time I can feel that rather than being “in nature”, I am “of nature”.
I was also particularly aware today that we were walking during the last days of this summer of 2016 and what a glorious summer it has been. I can’t remember one with such wonderful weather since the 1970s. I am sure that over the next two weeks I will become very aware of the changing of the seasons. The blackberries are just beginning to ripen – not many to eat yet……… but soon. (Will I be back home in time to make T his annual blackberry crumble?)
With the extra mileage of the detour we walked around nine or ten miles and I am grateful to have no aches or pains; the walking was gentle and easy. At times on the drovers’ route when the narrow footpaths widened slightly and old stones were apparent beneath our feet I was very aware of those who must have travelled along this way all those years before us. Pagans, Christians, Traders, Neolithic people, 21st century backpackers, all have gone before me. I wonder what their journeys were like through life; who did they love; how did they grieve; who did they worship? Bunyan says in “Pilgrims’ Progress” – “There also you shall meet with thousands and ten thousands that have gone before us to that place”.
Here is a full index of my post of my Gratitude Walk along the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury
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My book about my experiences along The Pilgrims’ Way, “The Woman Who Walked Through Fear” has now been published by Sitting Duck Press. I am also available to give talks about my experiences along The Pilgrims’ Way.