Pilgrimage route launched through dazzling Norfolk countryside
- Credit: Norwich Cathedral/Bill Smith
A new waymarked walking route between Norwich and Walsingham is being launched to celebrate the tradition of pilgrimage in Norfolk, encourage more people to enjoy the rural landscape of the Wensum Valley and provide a boost to sustainable tourism in the area.
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.
The project to waymark the Walsingham Way has been made possible thanks to a partnership of organisations enabled by Norwich Cathedral.
The modern-day Walsingham Way route – which will take about three days to complete on foot - can be started from either Norwich Cathedral or the city’s Roman Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist.
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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.
Known as "England’s Nazareth", the village is today home to both an Anglican and a Roman Catholic shrine, as well as the ruins of the original priory church.
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While the route is closely linked to Christian pilgrimage, the hope is that it will also be enjoyed by people of all faiths and none, and that it will also benefit tourism businesses in the area.
Volunteer groups along the route have 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.
The Bishop of Norwich, The Rt Rev Graham Usher, said: “I walked the Walsingham Way last year at the end of the first lockdown.
“As I walked the lanes and fields of Norfolk there was an inner unwinding from the tensions of the pandemic.
“As I approached Walsingham I was conscious that I was in step with countless others through history, singing with Mary that ‘my spirit rejoices in God’.
“I hope that many people will put on their walking shoes and set out. May this new pilgrim route help them find joy and hope.’”