The Pilgrimage on Foot 1935
reprinted from AVE Michaelmas 1935
|Accounts of this written years later by Fr Colin Stephenson are in his Merrily on High, pp 68-71 and Walsingham Way pp 237-8 (either edition). In the latter reference (p 237) Fr Stephenson wrongly recalled the date as 1936.|
We set out preceded by a banner of Our Lady as far as the boundary of the parish. Each pilgrim had made his confession (and his will) and received Holy Communion on the Sunday, and they carried the usual necessaries in rucksacks. In spite of being warned to wear old and easy shoes, three of us suffered from blistered feet, and Mr Shepherd developed badly swollen knees.
The first day was an easy one, from Edmonton to Chingford and through the pleasant glades of Epping Forest to Epping, 17 miles. Here we were welcomed and given hospitality (including generous gifts of fruit from two ladies in the parish) by the kindness of Canon and Mrs. Olivier, who placed the vicarage at our disposal. Father Smith, who was in charge in the absence of the Vicar, said Mass for us on Tuesday morning. The programme every day was : called at 5.30, Mass at 6, breakfast 7.30, start 8. Lunch was generally of bread and cheese in a public-house (once we had to walk 14 miles before we got this), tea when we could get it, supper, bed and breakfast at some inn.
The second day was the longest, through Bishop's Stortford to Saffron Walden, 26 miles. At 11 that morning, at Sawbridgeworth, we were met by Mr Sloman, who did this pilgrimage on foot by himself at the age of 74, six years ago. He took us to his house and regaled us with cooling drinks, very acceptable on such a hot day. Father Kenrick had to say Mass in the parish church of Saffron Walden in a surplice and stole. (We always had lights.) Wednesday took us, 20 miles, to Newmarket, where Father Prankerd, the Vicar of St Mary's, came to meet us on his bicycle, 5 miles out. Here Father Leonard said Mass in vestments, the Vicar being present. There was a fine display of about 50 race-horses being taken out for exercise as we started.
Thursday's walk was 18 miles to Brandon, where the Vicar said Mass for us in Sarum vestments, and kindly took one of our number into the Vicarage, the inn being full. He also fetched us in his car and brought us back to the Ram Inn, which is a mile from the church.
Friday was our shortest day, 15 miles to Swaffham. On the way, near Hilborough, we visited the ruined pilgrim's chapel of St Margaret, and said part of the Rosary in it, as we did in every church we visited on the route. Here at Swaffham we were given the use of a room in the Temperance Hotel which had 12 beds in it. Saturday, 21 miles. Our way led us through the green Weasenham Plantation and past the beautiful church of Weasenham All Saints to Fakenham, 16 miles. In 4 miles more we reached Houghton-in-the-Dale, where we took off our boots and carried them, bare-foot (a happy release to blistered feet), the last mile along the Pilgrims' Way.
This brought us to the Holy House, where the Pilgrimage Secretary, Father Lingwood, received us, and we paid our first visit to the shrine. Father Hope Patten had kindly made arrangements for us to sleep, some in the Vicarage and some in the village, and for meals in the Hospice. Next morning, Sunday, all the priests said Mass before the shrine; and at 11 there was a beautiful sung Mass with a large congregation in the fine old parish church of St Mary's, Little Walsingham.
Father Kenrick, as leader of the party, was asked to preach at this service. The other accustomed rites (and what reader of Ave does not know them?), the drinking from the well and the wonderful stations of the Cross in that charming garden, were followed in the evening by evensong, sermon by the Vicar, and solemn Benediction at St Giles', Houghton. Next morning, after Mass, the last visit to the shrine was paid, and the pilgrimage was over.
We returned by rail, because most of us simply could not walk any farther.