We look forward to welcoming visitors to the Walsingham Way when it is safe to travel. For the time being:
Stay Home – Protect the NHS – Save Lives
In the meantime use these pages to travel in heart and mind, through the heart of Norfolk, to England’s Nazareth. A warm welcome awaits. For the time being stay local, keep safe and discover pilgrim paths where you live. Are there places you can walk in or to?
Of personal, local, or national historical importance.
To “Consider the birds of the air and the flowers of the field’;
Walk by the waterside
Somewhere above thehurlyburly.
Perhaps, with a view.
To watch the sunrise and set,
Or contemplate the night sky,
That give a perspective on life.
Where prayer has been valid’
Thin places that bring you close to the mystery some call God.
Fursey was an Irish saint and visionary, mentioned by Ven. Bede, who left hearth and home to become a perpetual pilgrim for the love of God. Fursey was one of the earliest Christian missionaries in East Anglia. The site of his monastery/mission station is disputed, but he associated with the Roman fort of Burgh Castle, on the banks of the River Waveney on the south side of the marshes that surround Breydon Water.
Leaving others to continue the mission in the Kingdom of East Anglia, Fursey travelled to France and established a monastery at Peronne where he was buried. Dr. Nick Groves’ translation of his life is available online – Fursey’sVita . You can discover more about St. Fursey at Fursey Pilgrims
The walls of the Roman fort at Burgh Castle, once a thriving 8th Century minster, can be seen from the Walsingham Way as pilgrims pass the Berney Arms.
Fellow pilgrims may find Fursey’s lorica a help as they journey on:
The arms of God be around my shoulders The touch of the Holy Spirit upon my head, The sign of Christ’s cross upon my forehead, The sound of the Holy Spirit in my ears, The fragrance of the Holy Spirit in my nostrils, The vision of heaven’s company in my eyes, The conversation of heaven’s company on my lips, The work of God’s church in my hands, The service of God and the neighbour in my feet, A home for God in my heart, And to God, the Father of all, my entire being. Amen
As I write, the finger posts and signs are in production. We fully expect our long held aspiration – to create a safe, walker friendly, waymarked, pilgrim’s route between the Medieval City of Norwich and the shrine at Walsingham, 37 miles through beautiful, unspoilt, Norfolk countryside – will be a reality on the ground for the Spring and Summer of 2021.
Before any formal launch in the Spring, this blog site will step down to allow space for a new Walsingham Way website. In the future, the new site will provide the central unchanging content and this site on-going copy. Including details of other Norfolk pilgrim routes.
Among them a leg between Great Yarmouth and Norwich extending the Walsingham Way to the East Coast. In 2019 the Walsinghasm Way project added a layer of interpretation to the already existing Wherryman’s Way and a small section of the Angles Way, to create a pilgrim route we named – The Norfolk Saints Way. *
There maybe other routes too. During the past summer, ideas about a St. Withburgh Trail, linking Dereham with Holkham via Walsingham created some interest. In an update in March 2020, Rev’d Canon Peter Doll our projects leader, wrote about others working with “the Cathedral and the Walsingham Shrines to develop routes from other directions”; among them ” a ecumenical group in King’s Lynn and another looking at a route from Canterbury to Walsingham via Tilbury.
* During the winter we will aim to migrate important information on the temporary Norfolk Saints Way to this site.
For many the must have element of a pilgrimage is walking through nature. For such people, it can be better to travel than to arrive. Church buildings and rituals get in their way, rather than helping their exploration of the holy.
Walsingham provides an alternative – the Abbey Grounds. The ruins of the abbey, suppressed in 1538, are set in gardens where a qietly flowing chalk stream divides the formal from the informal. Beyond the stream, there are woodland walks, bird song fills the air and in early spring it is Snow Drop heaven.
In the year 855 the Great Heathen Army defeated the forces of Edmund, King of East Anglia. Refusing to renounce his Christian faith, Edmund died a martyr’s death shot full of arrows.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle places these events at a place that sounds like Hellesdon, although it is historically unlikely that Edmund’s final battle was fought in Norfolk.
Later, when the conquering Danes accepted the Christian faith, joint veneration of the martyr king was a force for unity. King Cnut, himself, endowing and visiting the saint’s shrine at Bury St. Edmund’s.
Along the Walsingham Way there are churches dedicated to Edmund in Norwich, Costessey, Taverham; and at Lyng, where there are remains of a St. Edmund’s Chapel. A St. Edmund’s Fair was held in Lyng 20th February, his feast day which is the anniversary of his death. A further legend has it that Edmund’s defeat and martyrdom took place in Lyng!
“Assumption!” roared the man with a hammer, ” We’ll see about that!” In the west porch of the parish church you can see his handiwork.
Arguments about visual images and the place of the Mother of Our Lord continue in our own time. But this church that bears her name remains high and lifted up.
What do you think ? Iconoclasts zeal destroyed an earlier century’s devotion to the woman without whom Jesus could not have taken human flesh. Mary had carried Jesus in her womb, brought him into this world, touched and talked him into being. She had fed him, protected him and nurtured him. There at his birth. There at his death. Her hands had wrapped the new born in swaddling bands; and the newly dead for burial.
In Jerusalem, Mary was part of the infant Christian Church. It is not scriptural. It is not there in the Bible. Yet, might not Mary have been taken up to heaven to be with her risen, ascended, glorified son? This writer likes to think so.
Bedstraws do exactly what it says on the tin. Before modern mattresses, most people slept on a pallisasse filled with straw of one sort or another. Beyond wheat and barley there were the wild flowers we still call hedge, marsh, heath and Lady’s bedstraws.
The story goes that on the night that Jesus was born, Mary’s mattress was filled this dried , sweet smelling herb. It became the the custom to fill the mattresses of expectant mum’s with Lady’s Bedstraw – an act of solidarity that reveals another dimension to Jesus words, “In as much as you did it to any of these little ones you did it to me.” (Matthew 25)
Cue Chrstmas carols: ” See him lying on a bed of straw” followed by Sydney Carter’s “Every Star shall sing a carol”, stopping to reflect on the line ,” When the King of all Creation had a cradle on the earth, holy was the human body, holy was the human birth.”
St. Margaret’s was the go to saint for women in childbirth, the stories told how she had miraculously been brought forth from inside a dragon that had consumed her. Mortal danger for babe and mother in childbirth were once the norm in Europe and remains so in many places still.
Here in a country churchyard, Walsingham bound pilgrims find an opportunity to consider messy practicalities of incarnation – life and death.