Heavy traffic expected around Fakenham and Wells as more than 15,000 pilgrims converge on Catholic shrine at Walsingham

The Slipper Chapel, which houses the Catholic shrine. Picture: Ian Burt

The Slipper Chapel, which houses the Catholic shrine. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Tamils will travel from across the UK and further afield to the Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady on Sunday.

Delays and tailbacks are expected on the A148, B1108 and narrow lanes around the village with worshippers travelling to and from the shrine.

Pilgrimage coordinator Julian Foord said it was the third largest event held in Norfolk each year.

'The interesting thing about the Tamil pilgrimages is they draw people from all over England,' he said.

'The first coach leaves South Shields at midnight, we'll have up to 40 coaches, the rest will come by car.'

Pilgrims will queue in a field opposite the chapel for 90 minutes, before spending just a couple of minutes at the shrine.

'For Tamils it's a really happy, family occasion,' said Mr Foord. 'What's amazing about the Tamil pilgrimage is you'll see teenagers, completely unembarrassed, praying.'

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Catholic Tamils will be joined by Hindus, who also worship the Virgin Mary.

Mgr John Armitage, rector of the Catholic Shrine, said: 'It's a remarkable place, so many people come and it's such a cross section of people who come.

'The nature of the shrine is it does attract anyone and everyone. We're going to have Tamils, you're going to have travellers, the aristocracy, you have the Knights of Malta coming for a weekend.

'There's an amazing diversity coming to rural Norfolk. We're God's gift to the Shell garage and Morrison's.'

Supt Stuart Gunn, policing commander for north Norfolk and Broadland, said there would be traffic and crowd control around the site.

'We will work with the shrine staff, event organisers and stewards who will facilitate the large numbers passing through the shrine area to support a peaceful and respectful celebration at Walsingham and Wells.

'The style of policing is geared towards providing support and assistance to law abiding pilgrims in their aim of having a peaceful and pleasurable religious celebration. We will be vigilant and intervene early should there be any disorder.' Supt Gunn said pilgrims needed to be aware of the risks of dehydration if standing in the sun queueing for the shrine. He said those attending should bring plenty of water and prepare for a long day.

'If you go to Wells Beach after visiting the shrine, be very careful of tide dangers in the sea and don't let children go unsupervised,' he added. 'Later in the day, Wells Beach will become busy with pilgrims moving there for an afternoon picnic before travelling home. There is room for all there but it will be very busy.'

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