The Seventh Annual Diocesan St Wilfrid’s Way Pilgrimage took place on Friday and Saturday 14 and 15 October 2022 – and for the first time visited the Chapel at Markenfield Hall: the Recusant house which was a gathering-place for the C16th Catholic rebellion, ‘The Rising of the North’.
Pilgrims are encouraged to walk as much or as little of the route as they feel able to, or may simply join the Masses and Devotions at churches along the route which passes through parishes in central and North Leeds, Wetherby, Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon – and in the true spirit of pilgrimage, some pilgrims are able to provide welcome, hospitality and transport in support of other walkers.
The first day of the Pilgrimage began as usual with a Pilgrims’ Mass at Leeds Cathedral and a Blessing from the Dean, Canon Matthew Habron, and a Cathedral visitor kindly offered to take a photograph of the first group, before they set off to pick up more pilgrims at Roundhay Park and Shadwell. ‘Camino Supremo’ Stephen Habron led the Angelus and other prayers and devotions en route, and at Catholic churches visited along the way, such as the Immaculate Conception at Sicklinghall which is open daily for private prayer.
By lunchtime, the Carmelite Monastery at Wood Hall was a welcome sight, and the ever-cheerful Sister Melanie and Sister Carmel had laid out tea, coffee and biscuits to accompany the pilgrims’ packed lunches. Thus re-fuelled, and having picked up some and waved goodbye to others at Spofforth, the riverside walk to Knaresborough ended with a decade of the Rosary at the Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag. The Trustees of the Crag Chapel put on very welcome refreshments and gave a short and amusing talk about the history of this mediaeval Marian Shrine for those pilgrims from outside the Diocese of Leeds (from Lancaster and Clifton Dioceses) who were joining the pilgrimage for the first time this year. As a ‘green’ pilgrimage, St Wilfrid’s Way naturally has a strong Laudato Si’ emphasis, and of particular interest at the Crag Chapel is the rockery garden of Marian plants and shrubs which has been planted in recent years. As pilgrims left via the newly-restored boundary walls of the site, a stone bearing a Cross pattee (often used during the Crusades and similar to the Cross of St Cuthbert) was pointed out, which had been discovered during the recent renovations.
Day Two of the Pilgrimage began at Knaresborough’s ‘Finisterre’ (the World’s End Pub!) and then had to divert at Bilton as the route across the Nidd Valley was closed by a police and emergency services cordon. Upon learning that someone had lost their life there that day, pilgrims privately prayed ‘Eternal Rest’ during some of the walk’s silent periods of prayer and reflection, through woodland paths and fields on the way to Bishop Thornton via Ripley.
St Joseph’s Parish in the village of Bishop Thornton and their new Parish Priest, Fr Chris Willis, are currently hosting a family from Ukraine. That good news, plus a formal welcome from robed parish Altar Servers, an opportunity to enjoy a Ripley pie and to meet pilgrims from former years lifted the spirits for the new route onward – to Markenfield Hall.
Reaching the C14th moated hall, pilgrims were received warmly by Lady Deirdre who attends Mass at St Wilfrid’s in Ripon. The Chapel of St Michael the Archangel is where the leaders of the Rising of the North heard Mass on 20 November 1569, before their fateful attempt to restore a Catholic monarch to the throne of England. After a decade of the Rosary and a group photograph, the pilgrims agreed the time spent in Markenfield’s chapel was a true highlight of the pilgrimage, and striding out, they embarked on the last leg of their journey to Ripon just in time for the final highlights: the 5.30pm Vigil Mass celebrated by Canon Ian Smith, followed by the now traditional supper in St Wilfrid’s Parish Centre of fish, chips and fizz.
Thanks to all who walked, all who provided welcome, hospitality and transport, all who opened their homes, churches and shrines – and to the priests who celebrated Mass!
St Wilfrid’s Feast Day is celebrated on 12 October, so the next St Wilfrid’s Way Pilgrimage will take place on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 October 2023.
…some images from the 2021 St Wilfrid’s Way …