Friday June 23
It was a day for goodbyes. Well, they started yesterday, when Linda and Henry left us. This morning Gillian, who is from the deep south, somewhere beyond Croydon, had a train to catch, and so was unable to walk with us. But only a few hours later we were all making our separate ways home.
In the meantime there were nearly five miles to cover between Sleights (which we’re reliably informed rhymes with heights) and Whitby – and it was splendid walking, with the added bonus that the anticipated rain never arrived. But it was demanding walking too: much of the way we were following trods, notably Monk’s Walk which leads down into Whitby, and the stones were invariably slippery, and the paths trodden to avoid the stones were muddy in the extreme. And folllowing yesterday’s accident we have all become very cautious on the downhill sections. Olive, by the way, was bright and cheerful this morning, keeping Peter company in the minibus.
Climbing up from the village, we eventually reached the ridge where we had our first sight of the Abbey in the distance. How incredible it must have been for simple peasants living in huts to see a building like that going up on the horizon! Our route left the valley for a while, and at Sneaton led us to our last St Hilda’s Church. It boasted a fine window honouring Caedmon, the herdsman encouraged by Hilda to develop his talents and blossom as the first English poet. And we also met another kind and encouraging woman in the church, who just happened to have the keys to the village hall opposite – a fine new building with excellent loos.
And then on via the trod through the woods, and via the cinder way, a disused rail track across the river, before our descent into Whitby. Peter was waiting for us in the station car park, close to where we ate at the Thai restaurant last night. When we left then we could scarcely see down the platform because of the sea fret. This morning instead of the fret we were enveloped in clouds of steam from a fired-up locomotive. What a fine and exciting town Whitby is, no doubt welcoming all sorts of pilgrims on all sorts of journeys.
But our journey was now at its end. The minibus took us up the hill to the Abbey. Yes, it would have been good to walk, but there were practical considerations of timing like the need to get the minibus dropped off on time. But first, a short time together within the abbey ruins, where we were graciously allowed to gather and mark the end of our pilgrimage with a simple communion service.
A good way of saying goodbye to one another – and also of hoping that we may be blessed with pilgrim journeys still to come.
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