Monday June 19
This year we are walking the St Hilda’s Way. Nearly twenty of us gathered at midday at Sneaton Castle, which is to be our home for the next four nights, and were ferried by minibus – driven once again by Peter Rand – to the starting point of the walk at Hinderwell.
St Hilda is of course one of the Northumbrian saints who are particularly revered in our region of the country. Called by Aidan to Northumbria she first founded a small monastery on the River Wear, and then moved down to Hartlepool to become second Abbess there. Then in 657 she founded a double monastery for women and men at Whitby, where she became renowned for her learning and for her good advice given to several kings.
She is most closely associated with the Synod of Whitby, which saw the ending of the Celtic traditions which Hilda and many others had supported in favour of the Roman rites. The Venerable Bede has several stories about Hilda, including an account of the encouragement which she gave to the untutored cowherd Caedmon, who came to be recognised as the first English poet.
Hinderwell was a fitting place for the walk to begin. We gathered in the churchyard of St Hilda’s Church, and quickly found our way to the well which gives the village its name – traditionally believed to have been discovered by Hilda herself. Mary Taylor led us in prayers for the start of the journey, and Dave Herbert our synod moderator reminded us of the significance of water – in this case not really a well but a living spring – at the beginning of the Christian way. Following his example, we refreshed ourselves for the journey ahead.
Very much an up and down journey of nearly six miles through woodland and open country, with splendid views back to the sea behind the village. It must have been one of the hottest days of the year, and we took plenty of rests and shared moments of reflection. On the bridge we thought about our calling to be bridge-builders. At gateways we remembered the one who said that he was the door to the fold, and wondered how we shape up today as gatekeepers. And the long open views prompted thoughts, thanks to Dave’s promptings, on how we as pilgrims may come to see a new dimension in our own lives.
As we walked the final stretch along the Scaling Reservoir embankment we were greeted by the sight of spotted orchids and stretches of ragged robin – and then the welcome appearance of Peter and the bus to bring us back to Sneaton.
There was time to shower – yes, we needed it! – before moving into Whitby for fish and chips (what else?). Then it was prayer time before bedtime, and our wondering how we will fare with double the distance to walk tomorrow.