May Day Pilgimage – Reflection

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The May Day Bank Holiday was the date of our annual Pilgrimage. For the second year running, we were invited to come to Willow Grange by Beverly Watson, our vicar. It was “open house” too, and just as well in view of the dull weather, with rain always not far away. However, the garden was available too, looking a treat, as ever.

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So a picnic, braving the elements, was always possible for the intrepid. But it was “Umpire’s weather”! If it was cricket, the umpires would have been in a quandary about whether play was possible, if you get my analogy!
But to go back to the beginning! 25 people of all ages assembled at church at about 9.30 a.m., with the Moulden’s dog also ready for the walk, to which a gallant small Moulden was attached!
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After a photo session and an opening prayer, we were off!! And only 15 minutes after the start time, too!! The route took us past Dray Court, and, by an intricate route over the railway bridge north of the station and down to the river. A shower of rain made us put on our waterproofs, but it did not last long, and people really got into the swing of walking at a good, steady pace. A frivolous thought came to me about the weather. Walkers would have prayed for a dry day. Gardeners badly needed rain after a very dry April. God provided showers, in His wisdom….a very just compromise!!
My thumbstick also came in for some enquiry. Last year, I had suggested that it was useful for more than just helping me walk with good balance, with at least 10 other uses coming to mind. Think on that, any readers here!! I also will for ever appreciate that this stick was given to me by All Saints’ some 15 years ago; I reckon it is giving me good service!
The wildlife, as we walked by the river, was also abundant. Marsh marigolds blooming in the water meadows, a profusion of blackcaps and chiffchaffs, and the reed warblers were chattering away vigorously as well. Later there was a willow warbler, common whitethroat and reed bunting, but, alas, this year, those magnificent birds, the swifts, had not yet arrived. Perhaps we were a week earlier than last year.
To resume…we were due to meet our guests from Friends International at Bower’s Lock at 11 a.m.. We hove to, at an acceptable time of 11.10, and were delighted to be joined by a number of overseas students and welcomers. Setting forth past the lock, our younger walkers were taught how to make a leaf from a lime tree make a bang (it’s amazing what you can learn on these walks!), while others soon engaged with new friends from the other’s group. We were soon skirting Sutton Place and enquiring who lived there now. Does anyone know?? I, for one, do not, not since Paul Getty moved away decades ago.
[Editor’s Note: According to Wikipedia, Sutton Place is currently owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov.]
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We again paused at the Church of St. Edward the Confessor in Sutton Park, and learned something of its history and the painting inside the church.  [See Here for more details about the church].
No one seemed to know why that King Edward was canonised. I can now tell you! It was all thanks to Henry II some 100 years after Edward’s death who lobbied the Pope with stories of miraculous healings which had happened to people who had visited Edward’s tomb. Also, when his body was exhumed for re-burial, it was found not to have decomposed. So the Pope made him a Saint, and as he had not been martyred for his faith, he was known as Edward, the Confessor (i.e a good chap who died of natural causes), to distinguish him from another Saint called St. Edward the Martyr! I understand that St. Edward the Confessor’s Saints Day is still marked in the Anglican church, as well as by Roman Catholics.
From there, we soon covered the remaining mile and a bit to Willow Grange, briefly halting the traffic on the busy Woking Road as we crossed. At the finish, Paddy’s wrist watch told us that the total distance of the walk was 8.1 miles. We reckoned that Bower’s Lock was slightly under half way. So well done, all the walkers!! You all walked at least 4 miles.
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At Willow Grange, walkers were welcomed by Beverly and we thanked her and those who provided soup, soft drinks, coffee/tea, cakes and sandwiches. Many more people were already there, when the walkers arrived, and a most enjoyable time was spent. Nearly 70 people again this year, a really good turn-out! Soon it was time to return to our homes. Some walked, others cycled, but most had transport…gold medals to the walkers and cyclists, just as it came on to rain quite hard!
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Thanks to all who helped with the organisation of the walk, particularly to Trish, who, sadly, was away this year.
Richard

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