Thursday, 25 February 2010

From An Ocean To A Sea.

Day 21: Fenwick to Lindisfarne.

Distance: 11.3 miles (351.7 total).

Duration: 5 hrs 31 mins.

Lowest Temp: 5ºc.

Weather: Dry grey.

Highest Alt: I really don’t know, couple of hundred feet maybe?

Archdeacon Watch: Growing anxious about the pub situation on Lindisfarne – none found open thus far.

Its been a funny old day, as the saying goes. The Archdeacon and I started out, to his great disgust, headed in the wrong direction, all because I was keen to add a little detour to our journey. I’d like to tell you that those extra miles were to kill the time we had to wait until the tide went out, allowing us to cross the causeway to Lindisfarne, at around two o’clock. I’d really like to tell you that. Unfortunately there was nothing that sensible about my desire to add a few miles. Like the overgrown adolescent that every man basically is, when I realised that with the addition of an extra mile or two today I could reach 350 miles... well, I couldn’t resist. I know. It’s sad.

Although he was huffing and puffing with resentment every step of the way, I got The Archdeacon to the pub around midday, and then made him sit in the beer garden for midday prayer before he was allowed his pint of Black Sheep. Susie and my Dad joined us around half an hour later, and then a little after one we made our way down to the coast and then out to Lindisfarne. From leaving the mainland until we reached the Parish Church of St Mary’s we walked in silence, and then after saying afternoon prayer in the church we looked for a pub to enjoy a celebratory pint in. All shut. Not to be. Thankfully Susie had brought a hip flask with some Laphroaig, so we enjoyed a nip of that instead.

Three weeks ago and over three hundred miles away, I stood on the Mahair on the west coast of Iona and looked out across the Atlantic Ocean. Today I completed this pilgrimage, walking out onto Lindisfarne, a slender strip of land lying low in the North Sea.

As we made our way along the causeway to this holy island, with the sea drawn back on either side of us, I had a strong sense of the way in which the sea had surrounded my journey, as it surrounds the islands which the Celtic Saints so often made their pilgrimages to. For three weeks I have been walking from the ocean, walking to the sea – and although we give them different names, they are of course part of just one great body of water.

This journey is over. My pilgrimage continues, as does yours. And wherever we are walking, whatever direction we are headed, around us on every side there is always that great ocean, that great sea, which we can give a hundred different names to, but which I would call the love of God.

Thank you to those who have walked with me on this pilgrimage, the Pilgrim Driver, my Elderly Uncle, The Long Suffering One, The Archdeacon, and Young Tom; thank you to all those of you who have accompanied me through this blog; thank you to those of you who have prayed for me; and thank you to Mum for snowdrops.

Where shall we go next?


  1. Well done Nephew, I have got a tear in my eye reading your blog for to-day. All that walking,and when you get to your destination,the pub is shut.
    Can you tell me what I can read every night now that your blog is finished?
    Once again,well done,
    Your elderly uncle and aunt

  2. Well done!! Hooray!! Yippeeee!!
    Love, Luke
    p.s. Not sure where to go next... but hope I can join you

  3. Stu,

    So Proud.

    So glad you are both safe.

    I feel a bit bad that if you had taken a spare stone you could have started a Pilgrims Cairn.

    Sponsorship money has gone to Cancer Research.

    Relax & Reflect.

    See you soon.

    Al, Lucy & Lawrence (who is nearly walking as well)

  4. In 1974 Sybil and I found the priory very peaceful and reflective. Standing quietly together, contemplating the centuries gone by when it was a thriving place of worship.
    So the pub was shut. It is lent. Time to give up something? Even for a few minutes?
    Will you be walking home along the A1?

  5. Congratulations Stuart!!

    We are celebrating with you here in snowy NYC.

    Your recent posts - especially about borders and continuing pilgrimage in Edmonton reminded me of a poem in book edited by Enda McDonagh called Faith and the Hungry Grass: A Mayo Book of Theology. A chapter about "the old Celtic vision" surviving and living its silent life concludes with this poem about Paddy, who died one night during lambing season in the fields:

    Real not notional
    wise and simple
    a man did exist
    a man not just a dream
    no centre
    no margin
    instead communion
    lived for friends
    was friend
    lived for fields
    grew there

    Saw the immaculate conception
    of the leaves;
    Christ in the stable;
    seeds and slits of spuds;
    each April
    in his fist;
    spread and stretched
    on a turf bank
    near Tuam;
    Larks were angels.

    Meals were holy;
    cap off for respect,
    face blessed
    for gratitude,
    Every table
    The Communion Table

    Died as you lived
    in the field
    helping a sheep
    'one of the lambs was dead
    the other was saved'
    'God be with you Paddy'
    as I pass the field
    'Behold the lamb of God'
    his spirit sings in the ditch

    Paddy I hope the way
    you were
    Is coming tomorrow
    for more.

    I hope the gifts of this pilgrimage are coming for more.


  6. Take a moment, Stu, to compare the photo of you at the start and the photo of you at the end. The facial fuzz is alright, gives you something of a grizzledly distinguished air, but what's with the sour-puss? From our once-happy man has appeared a weather beaten grumpy-draws. Take another farewell photo please, and smile darn it!

    Well done though, a marvellous achievement, I look forward to more pics when you get back. (I'm inviting myself around for dinner, basically.)

    P.S. And remove the hat.

  7. What next? Well, after 350-odd (some of them, no doubt, very odd) miles across Scotland, I guess the Pigrims' Way from Winchester to Canterbury is little more than a turn round the park....


  8. Congratulations on completing your journey and thank you for letting us share in your experience. What do I do now when I come into the office in the morning??
    I'm off walking in the Yorkshire Dales next week and hope the weather is as good as you have had.
    If you ever decide to go walking in Anglesey you and Susie will always be welcome. Plenty of coastal views here.

  9. Thank you for writing this blog, which each day has provided a little refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of London life and a chance to reflect on the bigger picture. Looking forward to what I'm hoping will be a public beard-shaving ceremony?

    Thanks Ali & Lucy for reminding me of the sponsorship idea - a donation has gone to the Charlie Waller Memorial trust.