May 24th and 25th dawned warm and sunny as thirteen women from across the District set off on a Pilgrimage in the Christchurch area. We set off from Highcliffe, walked the cliff path, then followed the coast path along to Mudeford. The sea sparkled in the bright sunlight, skimpy clad sun worshippers filled the beach and occupied many of the beach huts. Led by Chris Stuckey [Southampton District President] we paused periodically to share a meditation, a song, a blessing, and reflect on our experiences.
After resting on rocks for a picnic lunch we climbed over Hengistbury Head, walking for a while in silence, noticing bluebells still in flower, appreciating the gorgeous views. Our backpacks seemed to gain weight as we climbed, but on the other side a café, and ice cream, beckoned most of us – cool and delicious.
Chatting we continued towards Christchurch. The ferryman was waiting at the quay – how lucky was that? Clambering aboard, squeezing backpacks into the spaces between people, we enjoyed the breeze of movement across the water. Then on again, sand beneath our feet, then terra firma, around the harbour and up the hill to the priory where evensong was sung by their girls choir especially for us – a magical sound in those surroundings seeming to echo the voices of ages past.
Last lap for day one; to the Travel Lodge. Rest for weary feet, refreshing shower; dinner and conversations shared. We had covered 10 miles.
Day 2. Full English for most, then out of town away from the coast, into countryside, across meadow, water meadow [boggy in places], nearly lost the path, but found again, single file over the plank bridges, over a stile, then a silent spell through woodland. Birdsong filled the silence, although they seemed invisible somewhere in the trees. ‘Keep to the path’; stinging nettles filling the corridor. Then out of the trees onto a country road which climbed steadily to the village church. Welcome rest for lunch, cool, refreshing drinks served and tasty cakes. Communion followed, sharing bread, wine, and the peace, with each other and the church members, and a special message to encourage us, with the gift of a pilgrims shell for each one.
Then, some relieved of backpacks taken on by car, found energy for the final stretch, speedy road crossing between the whizzing cars, another wooded path with a bridge beside a pool, and back to where we began. Another 8 miles. WE DID IT!