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How I plan a pilgrimage walk

Posted on 31 July, 2018 at 5:12 Comments comments (224)
How I work out the route taken medieval pilgrims.

Firstly, my initial research has confirmed that pilgrims walked from A to B; be it a holy place or shrine in medieval times. I often visit the site to see what I can find on the ground. Often I cycle between the two points to get a general feel of the area and see what lies between. Then I do more research into the places along the route - the churches, historical buildings, religious ruins and names on the map.

Wherever possible I use public rights of way and use roads/lanes as a link to the footpaths. I then highlight the route on the map, whilst generally a roughly basic straight line, I do bear in mind the places close to the route, which are more than worthy of including in the route. The majority, I believe, the early pilgrims made a slight detour to include that church, well or significant religious site on their way. A St. Mary church is always a good indicator of being on a pilgrim route. Early maps help to highlight the route and some have “Pilgrim Way” marked on them.

But it is the actual walking that crystallises the route.  For as you walk you observe the places passing through and beside the path that enrich and confirm the route. A wayside cross, pilgrim marks on a church or a medieval painting of St. Christopher - Patron Saint of Travellers - again confirm the route.

Over the centuries the medieval routes and roads are now major tarmaced highways. For instance, many pilgrim routes lay following a Roman Road. These are now major roads and one has to use the nearest  rights of way. For instance the popular medieval London to Chichester Pilgrim route was simply to follow the Roman Road - Stane Street, from London Bridge to Chichester. Today most of it is a major road, and not conducive to pilgrim walking.

Having walked it all on foot, visited all the churches along the route, I then do more research into the places I have seen along the route. This enhances the route, making it more meaningful and correct. I often learn of new information, so I return and see for myself another aspect of the route’s history. For instance on my St. Thomas of Canterbury pilgrimage walk from Bramfield, near Hertford, where he had his first living, via Pilgrim’s Hatch and Brentwood to Tilbury. I kept to paths gently aiming for the pilgrim ferry at Tilbury, from Brentwood. But is doing so I later discovered I had missed the house the pilgrim’s stayed at in Great Warley, before Tilbury. It is still there and known as “Wallets’, as it is believed the pilgrim’s left their wallets there before crossing the Thames. I found no reference to this and it was a local who wrote and informed me.

So it is all a learning curve and I returned and walked to “Wallets” and discovered much more; two St. Mary’s church’s, one had been dismantled and taken to Yorkshire, but the gravestones were stacked up along a wood’s edge! Then you walk into a church and see the village plaque and see scalloped shells and know you are on the right route.


Revd. John N. Merrill - 31/7/2018

I am notme when I walk

Posted on 30 August, 2016 at 7:01 Comments comments (114)

I am not me when I walk by Revd.John N. Merrill



This may, at first glance, seem strange and almost nonsensical, but it is real. I have realised for a long time that a great change occurs when I put my boots and rucksack on and go for a long walk. I don't just look for it or wonder what will happen, it just does; I am transformed. The immediate everyday life disappears and a new wondrous life comes into being. For a long while I ignored the signs and what was happening, now I take note and simply am in awe of the magic that occurs. For none of this happens in my “normal” life, although more recently there has started to be a major overlap.



As I stride out the door I leave “normal” life behind and enter a world where everything is possible and full of miracles. I don't expect or ask anything, it just happens. I walk with an open mind, do not preplan anything and encounter a never ending sequence of events, occurrences and much synchronicity. I just reach a crossroads or a point in the walk and a new door opens with amazing gifts. I have been aware of this crucially for the last five years but I know it has been happening all my life, but never really understood or acknowledged it.



It was while walking to Mont St. Michel, in June 2016, that everything slotted into place in my mind; and I said to myself for the first time, “I am not me when I walk.” I had had bad weather, no accommodation, no guidebook for awhile, the paths were overgrown and the waymarking was awful, yet I strode out each day, never thinking of quitting. Just quietly confident to keep walking and everything would be fine. I planned nothing or had any kind of schedule and had not booked any campsite or accommodation, Battered but delighted and full of joy I reached Mont St. Michel and the deepest feelings of gratitude and humbleness overcame me. More profound feelings than I had ever experienced before.



I believe the true story of this pilgrimage walk demonstrates this ”remarkable me.” So many unforgettable moments occurred. I even surprised myself by speaking fluently in French, something I have never had the courage to do before; I quite simply felt at home, although I had never been in the area before. The helpfulness of the people I met all along the route really surprised me. Even seeking accommodation in the early stages I wasn't just told there was no rooms were available but they rang around trying to locate a bed.



Even the first night on the park bench by the river in Winchester, I felt totally safe, at home, and slept well and undisturbed. Then in the early morning entering the cathedral I was most warmly welcomed by the Canon and sat in “choir stall” pew for the service. Partway through we all shook hands and said “Peace be with you”, a heart wrenching moment. Then to crown it all the Canon came to me and gave me a prayer and blessing for my walk to Mont St. Michel; a moment I shall never forget.



Then right at the end after more than 200 miles of walking I walked along the sandy peninsula to the start of the crossing to Mont St. Michel. You need a guide for this dangerous crossing and I hadn't got a clue who to ask and had seen no-one. Yet just at the very moment I reached the sandbar a guide and party suddenly appeared out of a sand-dune and they allowed me to join them across the 7 km of sand, mud and rivers; truly remarkable.





(Copyright – Revd. John N. Merrill – August 2016)

I AM NOT ME WHEN I WALK

Posted on 30 August, 2016 at 6:57 Comments comments (186)

I am not me when I walk by Revd.John N. Merrill



This may, at first glance, seem strange and almost nonsensical, but it is real. I have realised for a long time that a great change occurs when I put my boots and rucksack on and go for a long walk. I don't just look for it or wonder what will happen, it just does; I am transformed. The immediate everyday life disappears and a new wondrous life comes into being. For a long while I ignored the signs and what was happening, now I take note and simply am in awe of the magic that occurs. For none of this happens in my “normal” life, although more recently there has started to be a major overlap.



As I stride out the door I leave “normal” life behind and enter a world where everything is possible and full of miracles. I don't expect or ask anything, it just happens. I walk with an open mind, do not preplan anything and encounter a never ending sequence of events, occurrences and much synchronicity. I just reach a crossroads or a point in the walk and a new door opens with amazing gifts. I have been aware of this crucially for the last five years but I know it has been happening all my life, but never really understood or acknowledged it.



It was while walking to Mont St. Michel, in June 2016, that everything slotted into place in my mind; and I said to myself for the first time, “I am not me when I walk.” I had had bad weather, no accommodation, no guidebook for awhile, the paths were overgrown and the waymarking was awful, yet I strode out each day, never thinking of quitting. Just quietly confident to keep walking and everything would be fine. I planned nothing or had any kind of schedule and had not booked any campsite or accommodation, Battered but delighted and full of joy I reached Mont St. Michel and the deepest feelings of gratitude and humbleness overcame me. More profound feelings than I had ever experienced before.



I believe the true story of this pilgrimage walk demonstrates this ”remarkable me.” So many unforgettable moments occurred. I even surprised myself by speaking fluently in French, something I have never had the courage to do before; I quite simply felt at home, although I had never been in the area before. The helpfulness of the people I met all along the route really surprised me. Even seeking accommodation in the early stages I wasn't just told there was no rooms were available but they rang around trying to locate a bed.



Even the first night on the park bench by the river in Winchester, I felt totally safe, at home, and slept well and undisturbed. Then in the early morning entering the cathedral I was most warmly welcomed by the Canon and sat in “choir stall” pew for the service. Partway through we all shook hands and said “Peace be with you”, a heart wrenching moment. Then to crown it all the Canon came to me and gave me a prayer and blessing for my walk to Mont St. Michel; a moment I shall never forget.



Then right at the end after more than 200 miles of walking I walked along the sandy peninsula to the start of the crossing to Mont St. Michel. You need a guide for this dangerous crossing and I hadn't got a clue who to ask and had seen no-one. Yet just at the very moment I reached the sandbar a guide and party suddenly appeared out of a sand-dune and they allowed me to join them across the 7 km of sand, mud and rivers; truly remarkable.





(Copyright – Revd. John N. Merrill – August 2016)

Margaret Thatchers Funeral

Posted on 18 April, 2013 at 4:43 Comments comments (105)
Yesterday joined the crowds to watch the funeral cortege of Baroness Margaret Thatcher. A very moving occasion, watching history in the making. A fitting tribute to a Great Britain, who despite the division did much for our country. Later joined the TV and photographers , protestors and John Snow of Channel 4 News at Ludgate Circus. A massive police operation but the cost was nothing incomparison to the goodwill and publicity that shows the world what a great country we live in....we did it right!
John
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My Easter Weekend

Posted on 3 April, 2013 at 6:34 Comments comments (73)
Been a very enjoyable Easter.
First I went on Good Friday to Trafalgar Square to watch the Christs Passion performed by the Wintershall players. Quite amazing and worth standing in the cold for 2 1/2 hours!
Then on Saturday went to Guildford and visited the catherdal - the first to be built in England since the reformation. Then did a 18 mile waly along the Wey Navigation to Wintersall where they do outside plays of Christ in the summer, and then back to Guildford - a lovely sunny but cold day.
On Easter Monday went to Longfield, near Dartford, to do an 8 mile walk to several Norman churches and in the final stages came to my ultimate goal, Our Lady of Hartley church. This has to be the most amazing place in south-east England. A 15 th century thatched barn, - a Roman Catholic shrine and church. Quite beautiful with open beams and thatch. Walked the Rosary and lit a candle to Our Lady, then walked back to the rail station and sat in the sun in a local Nature Reserve and had a late lunch! A truly amazing day.
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