Showing posts from 2007

St. Agatha's Easby

Until the owner of the house in the foreground cuts down the non-native conifer hedge you wont see this picture again!None-the-less the ruins of St. Agatha’s Abbey, two miles down stream from Richmond, is as atmospheric as it was when Turner painted it in 1816.Parking at the Old Station at Richmond, we crossed onto the north side of the River Swale and followed the track that leaves the road beneath the churchyard. By keeping to the right it follows the river all the way to Easby.During summer months the church is open, when we called in the autumn it was closed. I think it is a good prospect to join the Small Pilgrim Places Network and will approach them as soon as SPPs new website is functioning. In spite of my disappointment in finding the church closed the Priory site, managed by English Heritage, was open and welcoming. I stood in the Priors Chapel, joining my prayers with theirs across the ages, then settled on a comfortable garden seat to have sandwiches and hot soup.Continuing…

Pilgrim Prayer at York Minister

In the south transept is the seat of custom. Here they take your money and issue tickets.
If you have come to the Minster for a service or for private prayer and they will wave you through.
Away from the buzz of tourists and guided tours there is peace behind the doors of the Zouch Chapel. It is set aside for private prayer. I think it counts as a small pilgrim place – a pool of silence, close to the still centre of the turning world!Beneath the east window, in the middle of a terrifyingly expensive restoration, is the Lady Chapel. Who should be presiding at the 12.30 p.m. Eucharist but The Very Rev’d Henry Stapleton one time Vicar of Wroxham et aland Dean of Rochester. Afterwards his eyes shine as he speaks St. Peter’s, Belaugh and asks to be remembered to God’s people on the River Bure

York Minster Pilgrimage

The statue is of Constantine lolling in a chair, just outside York Minster’s south door. On the other side of a pedistrianised roadway one of the great columns of the Roman Garrison’s Principia building has been re-errected. As I stood and surveyed the scene I was very close to the place where in 306 CE the IX Legion proclaimed Constantine Emperor, the successor to his father Constantius.

Before Constantine died in 337 CE he had converted to Christianity and the privileges and status that had once belonged to those who promoted the cult of the Divine Emperor fell to well placed churchmen. Some thought the privilege, power and status too much and retreated into the cleansing austerity of the desert. Other’s relished in it, climbing the dizzy heights of hierarchy and enthusiastically taking over Imperial Rome’s loveofmonumental buildings pouring endless resources into the building, beautifying and maintenance ofChristain basilicas.I am inclined to say, “This is where, or at least one of …

A Pillar of Cloud by Day

I parked by Buckenham Station in the depth of winter. You could come by train! The potholed road leads south across the marshes to the River Yare. Birds are everywhere ! On either side of the road thousand upon thousands of widgeon. Some grazing, others overhead, filled the air with their whistling cries. Like shoals of fish on a reef, they swooped, wheeled, parted and merged -an intricate, carefully choreographed dance.I‘d come on St. Nicholas’ day – 6th December – not just to see the Widgeon, nor the rare Bean Geese, nor yet the wildlife spectacular when tens of thousands of Rooks and Jackdaws gather at twilight before roosting in the trees. I’d come to pray. I find it easier to be mindful of the Creator in the midst of the Creation.

Perhaps it was a coincidence that the church I could glimpse through the trees belonged to St. Nicholas, Buckenham. St. Nicholas is patron saint of sailors, churches bearing his name often doubled as navigation marks. In days gone by, when the river was …

In Search of St. Withburga

I wanted to honour a founding mother of the faith but even before I started I feared I was on a fool’s errand. The old books tell how the monks of Ely Abbey came to Dereham and stole St. Withburga’s body! So what relics could I hope to find? She, a royal princess, is said to have founded a religious community in Dereham in 654AD. The town sign depicts her with deer - two does - whose milk, it is said, sustained her community in its early days. One can’t imagine many deer in Dere- ham today! So instead of going straight to her holy well, I turned left in front of the church, into St. Withburga’s Lane and headed for what looked as if it might be country. On the right I found Rolling Pin Lane. Crossing into an open space, I followed a path downhill and turned right along a little brook. At a T-junction I went right again and approached the church from the valley. For the first time I thought that I might catch the sight of a deer as the path passed through some Alder Carr.I was surprisin…

Pilgrim Path

Fursey Pilgrimage?Saturday 6th October 2007·

We join the Fursey Pilgrims for their annual pilgrimageto Burgh Castle.We meet outside Great Yarmouth Station at 10.07 a.m. and will leave on foot from there to Burgh Castle as soon as the Norwich train arrives. The train departs Norwich at 9.36 a.m..Those arriving by car might like to know that on past occasions we have parked in the, adjacent, Asda Car Park!It is 4.5 miles to Burgh Castle along the southern shore ofBreydon WaterWe arrive at Burgh Castle at about 12 noon.Lunch is available at the Church Farm pub. They do a great carvery! Please let Maureen from The Fursey Pilgrims know if you are coming so she can reserve places. Contact her on :01493-781747Church Service, preacher Bishop Graham, at 2.30 p.m.Followed by a walk to and prayers at the site of St. Fursey’s monastery within the walls of Burgh Castle. Then refreshments at the village hallWe will either beg lifts or catch theNo.7 busback to Yarmouth. It departs the Cherry Tree pu…

Hethel Old Thorn and Church

Roll up! See England’s oldest hawthorn tree, the smallest nature reserve and a church with a history spanning a thousand years and more!
Hethel Thorn and church are away from the Lotus works and wartime airfield, on the far side of the wood. It is said the thorn was a meeting place for rebels in the reign of King John! A legend links it to Joseph of Arimathia’s staff. Whatever the truth, the tree is certainly very old! A figure of 700 years is often given! Today it is in the care of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and stands in its own micro nature reserve.
The name Hethel comes from the Old English meaning heather hill but visiting the parish I failed to find anything that resembled a heather hill. I couldn’t even find a hill! But the thorn grows at one end of what looks to be an ancient earthwork. Was this the heather hill? I wondered. Perhaps there had been a meeting place there long before a church was built!
Whatever the case, the church is certainly old! Its tower, with long and sh…

Martham Part 2

Return to your car the same way you came but if you want a longer walk continue westward on the same path. At Martham Staithe turn left towards the town and head towards the church. It’s a GatewayChurch of the Open Churches Project.You will find an open door and welcome for pilgrims and tourists alike. St. Blide, the mother of St. Walstan , princess of the royal house of East Anglia is buried here! Walstan chose to live a life of prayer as a humble farm labourer. One imagines it was his mother who introduced him to the faith!
St. Blide’s Chapel in the south aisle is a sensitively re-ordered modern prayer space overlooked by some high quality 15th century Norwich glass. Time and eternity interweave as you pray before resuming your pilgrimage, Here the Communion of Saints can feel very real. Princess, holy working man, glassmakers, the church at Martham (past and present) and you all following the Carpenter King!Leave town on the West Somerton road, just before the Martham town sign turn…


There is a secret place, a clearing in the woods, where clear water laps upon a sandy shore. Tread softly and let the green music of the place slow you into the rhythm of its stillness…….To get there, park at West Somerton by the Green, head south and turn right into Staithe Road, then right on the footpath that goes along the dyke side. Soon the path goes away from the water and runs along the south side of the Martham Broad Nature Reserve. In summer hidden warblers twitter and churrr and Marsh Harriers swoop and glide low over a sea of reeds. If you are in luck you may catch sight of Cranes circling high in the sky. After about 15 minutes walk you come to a place where tall trees separate the path from the reeds. Find a path off to the right. It leads you to the water’s edge - Boathouse Broad!On a hot day its almost impossible to resist a paddle! On a very hot day a swim might be in order. Remember your baptism!© Richard Woodham 2007

Little Terns

© Chris Gomersall (, Ref: 1614076_00093_002) used with permissionOn a sunny day at the end of June I had come to North Denes. It is at the other end of Great Yarmouth from the PleasureBeach and about as far removed from the rides and the candy floss as anything could be! A large part of Jesus’ ministry was exercised around the Sea of Galilee and whenever I am beside the seaside I keep hearing echoes! On that particular day two sayings of Jesus held sway: “Come apart and rest a while!”; and “Consider the birds!”I like consider and its’ Latin roots: con = together and sider = sit down! Better than walking by, or just sitting down , I had come to swim close to where the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds guard an important breeding colony of (rare) Little Terns!In 2002 vandals trashed the site, now the R.S.P.B keep watch throughout the breeding season. The eggs and chicks are at constant risk from raiding hedgehogs, foxes. cats, gulls and birds o…

Botolph and Black Shuck

On a warm summer’s daythere’s nowhere more beautiful, nor peaceful, than IkenChurch!It stands the end of a wooded promontory jutting out into the tidal mudflats of the Rive Alde!You can get there by foot following the SuffolkCoast and Heaths Path that begins in Lowestoft! The day visitor might find it easier to walk, cycle, or motor from Snape Maltings only three miles away.
However lovely on a summer’s day, in winter with the wind straight from Siberia via the North Sea it would be quite different! Summer and winter you will find an open door during the hours of daylight.
Within an 11th Century Norman nave, is a 9th century Saxon cross, first erected to mark the place of a monastery burnt by Viking raiders.
The monastery was founded in 654 AD, the year Anna, king of East Anglia, was killed in battle against the pagan Mercians.

Its first abbot? Botolph! St. Botolph brought the Rule of St. Benedict to England. He was sought out by the Ven. Bede’s abbot, Coelfrith, who called him "a m…

St. Piran, Trethevy, Cornwall (not back home yet!)

From the Reformation until 1941 the chapel was used as agricultural buildings. It was returned to the Church by Sidney Harris - may he rest in peace and rise in glory!

© Richard Woodham 2007

St. Piran and the Conversion of Cornwall

Walking on from the Rocky Valley Labyrniths we turned left at the main road and walked up-hill to Trethevy.

St. Piran's Well and Chapel are just off the main road on the right.

I found the still centre I had been looking for here. In the cool darkness of the chapel.

Coming out into the light, I blessed God for St. Piran and the light he brought to the people of Cornwall. I prayed for the success of the continuing Christian mission here and throughout the world. And reminded myself of my own baptism, as I blessed myself with water from the well.

I set off with a new spring in my step refreshed on my earthly pilgrimage, thankful for those who keep the church open and welcoming

© Richard Woodham 2007

Still Abroad ! The Rocky Valley Labyrinth

We parked by Trevalga Church famous now through Rev'd Christine Musser and the TV programme "A Seaside Parish". Trevalga is on the sea side of the road from Tintagel to Bostcastle. From the church we went through the farm-yard and down the lane towards the coastal footpath. Turning left towards Tintagel, we enjoyed the sun, wind, flowers, birds and scenery as we looked out for puffins, razorbills and guillemots nesting on Short and Long islands - but had no luck.

There's no mistaking Rocky Valley. The path zigzagged down to a stream, which we crossed and turned left. Shortly at a ruined mill we came to the famous carvings. A week before I had run my finger around a copy made by the arts and spirituality project Breathing Space Arts ( ) The effect was to make the hairs at the back of my kneck stand on end! The originals were carved sometime between 1400 and 1800 BC! Kneeling before them and running my finger around the lines again I found…

Norfolk Pilgrim Goes Foreign

St. Winwaloe appears in Norfolk weather law - First comes David, Then comes Chad, Then comes Winnold roaring like mad (i.e. March 1st, 2nd and 3rd) . He also gave his name to the horsefair at Downham Market. How does a 5th century Cornish saint get to be remembered in Norfolk?

In France, St. Winwaloes is known as Saint Guénolé or Guennolé. His relics were transferred from a moanastery he founded at Landévennec, Brittany to Montreuil-sur-Merand away from the Viking raids in 914 AD. Following the Norman Conquest the monks of Montreuil-sur-Mer were granted land at Wereham. And so his fame and cult came to Norfolk.

Winwaloe is patron of the Lizard Peninsular and where he established a Cornish monastery. Last week I parked at Poldhu Cove and walked over the hill to Church Cove. The path was surrounded by wild flowers - bluebells, wild garlic, thrift, sea campion and the golden flowers of the gorse. High above a raven and buzzard disputed territory and newly arrived swallows swooped after…

Castle Acre

We parked by the West Acre church and walked east. It was too early to stop for refreshments at the Stag public house, instead we turned right and crossed the river on a footbridge. At the way mark, we went left through woods to arrive by another ford and footbridge, ignoring these we took the way-marked path just down stream. It is part of the Nar Valley Way, a long distance path that connects Kings Lyn with East Dereham.On a summer’s day one can imagine families and children playing in the river at the fords. The river is one of the finest lowland chalk streams in the country supporting a wide range of wild life. We saw trout going against the current and a grass-snake swimming from one side to the other. The trees and meadows were full of birds and the path was not too soggy underfoot.

Our destination was Castle Acre where the Peddar’s Way crosses the river Nar. The crossing was fortified by the Earl of Surrey soon after the Norman Conquest. Its earthworks and ruined buildings are i…

Oxnead, St. Michaels and All Angels

From Buxton Station, on the Bure Valley Path and Railway, I crossed the tracks and walked into open fields.A gentle gradient led over the crest of a hill, where my spirit rose as a skylark provided the appropriate sound track! The path fell away to a wooded valley. Here a bridge over River Bure provided the opportunity to play Pooh Sticks. It’s a good occupation if there are things you need to let go of, believe me! I reflected about some of those things, forgiveness and baptism. There were no doves to be seen, but a chorus of birdsong gave me much to consider! Pensively I took the path that led up-stream, through green pastures and beside still(ish) waters! Two mares, each with a foal, lifted their heads as I passed by. At the main road I turned right, crossed the bridge, avoided going to the Haflinger Stud and took the next road on the right. After about a quarter of a mile, I turned right again, just before the out-buildings of Oxnead Hall. No sign announced it but, at the end of a…

The people who walked in darkness........

Before central heating, electric lighting, sodium street lights and supermarkets, the harshness of late winter and Lent scarcity was experienced first hand. It was cold and dark. The waxing of the moon and lengthening of days, the growing warmth, Good Friday’s hot-cross buns and Easter’s eggs, were looked for and longed for. In the 21st century none of us experience these things with the same intensity but they need not be lost to us entirely, especially if we get outdoors a lot.
The when of Easter is really important. It was settled for us long ago, in the 7th century, at the Synod of Whitby. The principle for fixing Easter is simple. It should fall on the first Sunday, after the first full moon that follows the first day of Spring. Its about new beginnings and darkness and light! We do things with candles in church but outside the full moon shines and, for the first time in the year, night’s darkness is shorter than the length of the day’s sun!
Reflecting on these things in the 8th …

Dominus Flevit

The path that leads down the Mount of Olives gave Jesus and his fellow pilgrims a panoramic view of the Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Overshadowing all, mid-stage,was the great bulk of the Temple. Similar views of Norwich are visible as one walks down from Mousehold Heath. In the midst of the cityscape, the Anglican Cathedral.Above Gethsamane is another olive grove. In spring the green of the grass is punctuated with the brilliant red of anemones, reminders that Jesus sweated blood on this hill! In the corner of the grove is a tear shaped church - Dominus Flevit! The Latin translates as The Lord Wept. It marks the traditional place where pilgrims to the Holy Land stopped to remember that Jesus had wept over the city and prophesied its destruction.Destroyed and re-built it is a different Jerusalem the modern pilgrim sees today when she stops to pray. In place of the Temple are the Al Asqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. There is tension in the air, and to Jerusalem, the City of Peace, p…