Walsingham Way provides new route for pilgrims
A new waymarked walking route between Norwich and Walsingham is being launched to celebrate the tradition of pilgrimage.
Called the Walsingham Way, the new 37-mile path is inspired by a network of pilgrimage routes that once crossed the county as pilgrims from across Europe travelled to north Norfolk’s Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. Founded in 1061, it is thought to be the oldest shrine in the world dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Bishop of Norwich, The Rt Revd Graham Usher, said: “I walked the Walsingham Way last year at the end of the first lockdown. As I walked the lanes and fields of Norfolk there was an inner unwinding from the tensions of the pandemic. As I approached Walsingham, I was conscious that I was in step with countless others through history, singing with Mary that ‘my spirit rejoices in God’. I hope that many people will put on their walking shoes and set out. May this new pilgrim route help them find joy and hope.’”
The project to waymark the Walsingham Way has been made possible thanks to a partnership enabled by Norwich Cathedral and involving many different organisations and individuals.
The modern-day Walsingham Way route – which will take about three days to complete on foot - can be started from either Norwich Cathedral or the city’s Roman Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist.
Walkers will be guided by signs featuring the new Walsingham Way logo of two linked Ws that together form the letter M. The M, which is adorned with a crown, is a tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary to whom the Walsingham Shrine is dedicated.
Along the way, walkers will enjoy beautiful views of the Norfolk countryside, including the river valleys of the Wensum and Stiffkey, and pass by many of the county’s villages and historic churches, before reaching Little Walsingham. Known as England’s Nazareth, the village is today home to both an Anglican and a Roman Catholic shrine as well as the ruins of the original priory church.
The project has been supported by funding from the European Union LEADER funding for rural economic development, the Diocese of Norwich, the John Jarrold Foundation, and Norfolk County Council, and by the considerable goodwill of volunteers, landowners and parish councils.
Volunteer groups along the route have also already started projects to welcome new pilgrimage visitors. At Great Ryburgh, for example, the church has established an area for campers and will offer hospitality to walkers.
More information about the Walsingham Way can be found at www.walsinghamway.blog
Pictured top is the launch of the Walsingham Way at Walsingham Abbey. Elizabeth Meath Baker, centre, with from left: Father Kevin Smith, Gail Mayhew, Revd Dr Peter Doll and Mgr Philip Moger. - Credit: Norwich Cathedral/Bill Smith.