Synod Pilgrimage: Faith Streams – Living Waters
Wednesday May 18
Any lessons learned from yesterday? Prayers were before breakfast this morning; and that and a slightly quicker getaway meant that we were driving over the Kirkstone Pass and looking down over Brothers Water before any pilgrims started thinking about coffee shops. And it just so happened that there aren’t any in Hartsop.
A solid morning’s walking lay ahead of us. We stopped to sing in sight of the waterfall that lies below Angle Tarn – rather to the amazement of the hard-hatted group of youngsters and their leaders who were about to scramble up the hillside in that direction. Our way was more sedate – though only just. The steady incline meant that we were climbing more than 200 metres in the space of an hour or so, looking back towards Kirkstone and over the valley floor – a view that Dave in one of his moments of reflection compared with Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley. Fewer grapes, but the same rugged scenery.
Perhaps the most moving reflection of the day came at the head of the track, as we gathered around the stones that are marked on the map as “Chapel in the Hause”. More of the stones seem to have been recycled in the ruined sheepfold a couple hundred yards away, but those that remain are tantalising. Just what was this building? Maybe a celtic chapel? (it seemed possible to trace a credible floor plan). And might the first worshippers who gathered here have had memories of their own of that elusive Patrick – the celtic saint whom we were trying to trace today?
Unanswered questions allowed us a fairly rapid descent to Side Farm, where joy at the coffee shop being open was matched only by our continuing happiness that the threatening rain was keeping a distance – and indeed there was every sign that more sunshine was on its way than forecast.
The afternoon walking was just a little gentler, as we followed a path above the southern extremity of Ulswater as far as Silver Bay, and then took the coastal path back to our starting point. On the way we passed disused quarries and mines providing moments for reflection, and descended a rocky path among the prolific juniper bushes in deliberate silence – both as a spiritual discipline and a precaution against any missed footing. Silence broken by the call of a cuckoo echoing across the water.
Back at the Farm, Peter was ready to drive us on to St Patrick’s Church in Patterdale. Yes, the dale bears his name, even though we had found few traces of him. The church looks a little sad at present, having suffered grievously in the past winter’s floods. We were reminded by the poster in the porch that this is Christian Aid Week, which features Morsheda’s story. What she and her family experience on their silt island in Bangladesh maybe of a different order – but they and the good folk of St Patrick’s both know plenty about the power of water.
But we had still to find the well – Patrick’s Well. What we passed on the main road looked like a piece of Victorian municipal grandeur. But just a few feet behind and above it, we discovered something that seemed more authentic – whether or not Patrick ever really was here. Put your ear to the head of the well, as Dave did, and you can hear the water flowing. A welcome sound for pilgrims – and promise of the water of life that springs up for eternity.