Rivers near and far are under threat from pollution and over extraction. True of the River Jordan and true of Norfolk’s rivers.
As Christ was baptised in the Jordan, it is imagined that the first Christians in East Anglia were baptised in rivers, as Paulinus baptised Northumbrian converts in the River Glen.
Walking the Walsingham Way, from Norwich to Great Ryburgh in the Wensum Valley to the healing waters of the Walsingham Shrine beside the River Stiffkey; a pilgrims own baptism and the promise of “living water, welling up to eternal life” is often a recurring theme.
In a post COP26 world caring for the creation has to be the concern of all people of good will
Lockdown kept many pilgrims close to home. Back gardens, parks and local churches in the landscape took on new significance. In the nick of time, an unexpected, last of E.U. money grant, enabled us to waymark the Norwich to Walsingham leg. It was exciting to see the new finger posts appearing appeared along the route.
Enabled by the WW team, Norfolk climate crisis pilgrimage followed our already established routes from Great Yarmouth to Norwich and on to Dereham; then used Norfolk Trail’s Cross Norfolk Route to Lynn.
Along the way church communities stepped up to welcome pilgrims as they crossed the heart of Norfolk and prayed for COP 26 Conference.
In spite of the the can we/ can’t we COVID dance, some little progress has been made towards:
Norfolk Trails are a brilliant network and dovetail well with the Walsingham Way. The Great Yarmouth to Norwich leg follows the Wherryman’s Way. The Norwich to Walsingham leaves Norwich on the Marriott’s Way before turning off to cross the River Wensum at Ringland. Walsingham Pilgrims can arrive and leave Walsingham via the Coast Path and this route between Walsingham and Wells.
Day 8 leaves All Saints Church, Narborough on Saturday 28th August, gathering at 9.30 a.m. for a 9.45 a.m. briefing and a 10 a.m. prompt start. You could join them there or send prayers and letters to your MP and the Prime Minister with them.
This is the shortest leg of the whole 9 day relay, just 7.5 miles. Pilgrims track back upstream along the River Nar, before turning north at West Acre and climbing over the hill (we’re talking a serious 230 feet here!) to overnight at Gayton.
The pilgrims will be up early on Sunday, Day 9 of the Norfolk Tributary. They are expected for Sunday lunch at St. John the Evangelist Church, Kings Lynn! Then they are off to see the exhibition and tea at the Friends Meeting House; before the final multi-faith gathering on Purfleet Quay at 3 p.m..
Then we hand over to the crew from Diocese of Ely and again,
Day 7 leaves All the Saints at Litcham on Friday 27th August, gathering at 9.30 a.m. for a 9.45 a.m. briefing and a 10 a.m. prompt start. You could join them there or send prayers and letters to your MP and the Prime Minister with them.
From Litcham to Narborough the route tracks the course of the River Nar all the way to Narborough. It is a “green and pleasant land”! The arid regions of the Sahel already turning into desert because of climate change; the low-laying land of coral islands that will be lost as sea levels rise and the productive paddy growing rice fields of river deltas in Bangladesh and the Far East.
Half way on this, 11.5 mile long, day 7 of our relay is Castle Acre. In days past it was an important cross-road where the Roman Fen Causeway, running through Litcham and Lexham to Venta Icanorum (by Norwich), in one direction; and Peterborough, in the other; intersects with the Peddar’s Way, an ancient route to the south that the Roman’s re-engineered. Walsingham bound pilgrims came this way. The dedication Castle Acre church is to the patron saint of pilgrimage – St. James
The patron saint of pilgrimage is St. James. So its appropriate that our pilgrims will be stopping off at St. James Church, Castle Acre for refreshments before continuing on to Narborough for the night.
The destination for the final leg of the 9 day Norfolk COP26 Relay is Kings Square, Purfleet in Kings’ Lynn at 3 p.m. on Sunday 29th August. There will be a short multi-faith gathering focussed on the challenges of climate change. And the relay baton will be passed to activists from Ely Diocese who will take our baton on to join the main stream of the COP26 Relay, heading for the COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference, meeting in Glasgow from October 31st – 12th November.
It will take the message that the people of the U.K., including us North Folk from Norfolk and Waveney don’t want any messing about. we need climate change action now!
We have been passing water! Our baton is a bottle of seawater – parts of Norfolk will be flooded as sea levels rise – from the beach at Great Yarmouth, carried in a discarded plastic bottle that had floated in on the tide. We send it with the instruction to pour it over the boat as it travels to Glasgow; and discard the bottle into a re-cycling bin!
The Norfolk COP26 Relay – Day 6 leaves St. Nicholas, Dereham on Thursday 26th August gathering at 9.30 a.m. for a 9.45 a.m. briefing and a 10 a.m. prompt start. You could join them there or send prayers and letters to your MP and the Prime Minister with them.
The climate change pilgrims will leave the catchment area of the rivers Wensum and Yare and cross the watershed, reaching the dizzy heights of 269 ft., to arrive in the catchment of the River Nar. Both Wensum and Nar are chalk fed streams and whole river SSSIs, cared for by the Norfolk Rivers Trust.
The flowers are springing up, the season of singing birds has come, and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air.
Song of Songs 2.12
Well maybe not! Turtle Doves are the fastest declining species in the U.K. and threatened with extinction world wide. It is a blessing that local farmers are working with Operation Turtle Dove to reverse the trend. Pilgrims may choose to pause for awhile every now and then, to listen for turtle doves telltale purring and maybe catch a glimpse of one sitting on their chosen perch a dead leafless branch.
The care offered to migratory visitors will be very much appreciated as the pilgrims pass through Gressenhall , where refreshments are being served from the Reading Rooms. More care is being offered at Litcham where the overnighters will spend a quiet night with All the Saints at Litcham
The Norfolk COP26 Relay – Day 5 leaves Weston Longville Church gathering on Wednesday 25th at 9.30 a.m. for a 9.45 a.m. briefing and a 10 a.m. prompt start. You could join for the day or longer, or send prayers and letters to your MP and the Prime Minister with them.
Today’s leg takes pilgrims from Weston Longville to Swanton Morley where it parts company with the Walsingham Way and travels south to Dereham where St. Withburga founded a monastery in the 8th Century.
Now, the writer does not wish to stir up a storm in a tea cup. We have enough extreme weather conditions as a result of our current climate crisis! That’s why we’re walking. But, when we hand over our water from Great Yarmouth beach in a plastic bottle washed up on the beach and hand it on to Ely Young Christian Climate Activists , for them to pass it on to the core group heading north to COP26 Conference, can you ask them to let Dereham have their saint back please!
Monks from Ely came and dug up Withburga’s body in 794. In order to enshrine her body next to her saintly sister who had founded what is now Ely Cathedral as a monastery. No sooner had the theft been done that a miraculous spring welled up in the churchyard and can still be seen today.