Thursday June 22
As well as each day’s journey being punctuated by moments of reflection, the day itself has begun and ended with prayers. Lis Mullen has led prayers each evening, with a focus on the Psalms, and Mary Taylor has concentrated on aspect of St Hilda’s life each morning, before we have set off on our pilgrim way.
This morning we found ourselves in a re-run of the Synod of Whitby – though while the presenting issues then were the date of Easter and the design of the monks’ tonsure, today we were encouraged to debate the merits of milk chocolate over against plain. Whatever the arguments, we can recognise from a distance the need to accept an element of diversity, and not to insist too stubbornly on uniformity. But are we as good at exercising a generosity of spirit in our own lives? Are we able to be like Hilda, or is there too much Wilfrid in us?
Back at Egton Bridge, we started off from St Hedda’s Catholic Church that we briefly visited yesterday. Hedda was a disciple of Hilda’s who eventually became Bishop of Winchester; and the first part of our journey led us on from St Hedda’s to St Hilda’s, though first via the mortuary chapel. It was a steep climb up from the valley, with rain threatening. At the top of the hill the road led straight to the chapel and churchyard, the site of the original St Hilda’s parish church. We stopped for a time of reflection in the churchyard, before making our way along the lane to the Victorian rebuild, noting the west window showing Hilda holding book and staff – a wise teacher and leader. And in the same part of the church children from the school next door had shared some of their own thoughts about Hilda and the heritage of this land.
By now we made sure we were well water-proofed, but disaster came in other ways. The slippery stone pavement outside led to a nasty fall, and before long Peter was driving Olive all the way to Scarborough hospital for the setting of a fractured wrist. This turned out to be another story of great gratitude for the NHS, and for the prompt and careful treatment she was given.
In the meantime, the rest of the group made our way back down to Egton Bridge, where we sheltered, we hope sufficiently reverently, in the back of St Hedda’s while we ate our lunch. Well, it was wet – and the minibus was not available.
But before long the rain stopped and the clouds began to lift. The five miles along the valley, still following the course of the Esk, proved to be excellent walking. We again encountered stone trods, though after Olive’s accident we treated these with respect – as we did some of the treacherously muddy downward sections of the route. Again there were moments of reflection: an empty field near the river presented no clue that this had once been the site of an influential Grandmontine priory (hence the neighbouring village of Grosmont). And there were wild flowers in abundance, and the surprise sight of barely day old grouse chicks clustering at a gateway.
The journey finished at Sleights station, where we saw the arrival and departure of one of the four trains a day while we waited for the minibus to arrive – carrying to our great joy and relief Olive, in good spirits, and bearing a plaster waiting for us all to sign.
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