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.
Mgr Philip Moger, Rector of the Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, said: “Walsingham is much more than a pleasant Norfolk village, but, for centuries, has been a place of pilgrimage, where people from all sorts of backgrounds have journeyed to Our Lady’s shrine to find peace, restoration, new hope, a fresh start. I warmly welcome the Walsingham Way, on which pilgrims, enquirers, the curious, may journey on foot following ancient routes from Norwich, to reach the place, known for many centuries, as ‘England’s Nazareth’.”
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 Anglican Cathedral or St John the Baptist Catholic Cathedral.
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 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 above 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. Photograph: Norwich Cathedral/Bill Smith