The weather could not have been more ideal for the nine walkers, including two children, Henry and Louis Kerswell, who had gathered in the Parish car park at 7.00am for prayers and a blessing from Fr. Jean-Patrice before setting out.  After all the hot weather we’ve been having in recent days, we all welcomed the refreshing breeze and were relieved that the sun came out only in bursts during our 18-mile walk to Glastonbury. 

Fortunately, we were being accompanied by two car drivers, Pat Russell, with Fran, also Simon, husband of Ros Kerswell, so if feet became too sore or legs too weary we could always hop in for a ride. However, mind over body, we resisted the temptation, apart from one short stretch just out of Ilchester, when traffic was flying by thick and fast!

We didn’t have too much excuse for flagging along the way, as the Russells stopped at frequent intervals to offer water or fruit squash, plus Fran’s mouth- watering cakes and chocolate tiffin to help us to maximise our energy. They had also taken orders for ice creams, so when we came to our second official stop at Charlton Mackrell , having had breakfast at Ilchester, they returned with a bag-full, insisting that this was their treat. Sitting on a wall, swinging our legs, we knew that we were being thoroughly spoilt! It was also good to know that we were roughly half way to Glastonbury.

There was just one more stop ahead of us at Butleigh before we pressed on to Glastonbury, strung out along the road, mainly walking in pairs. Whilst it’s always encouraging for walkers to glimpse the ruined tower of the church that once stood on Glastonbury Tor, I reminded Ros, who was walking with me and determined to finish the course, that we did have about another four miles to go.

Arriving at the Abbey grounds, we spotted the group of 16 other parishioners who had come on a minibus, kindly driven by Sean Lewis.  We were pleased to see that they had made for our traditional ‘pitch’ under a clump of trees on rising ground not far from where the visiting priests, including our own Fr. Jean-Patrice, were seated, and went over to join them, just in time to see the Rosary procession leaving the grounds of the Abbey to parade through the streets of Glastonbury.  Before the Mass began at 3.30pm, a couple of us carried our Parish banner up to the back of the podium where the priests would take their seats, and propped it up against one of the pillars alongside the others. 

As I mentioned, there was quite a strong breeze blowing and, unfortunately, as  Bishop Declan Lang was walking away from the altar and about to give his homily on the grassy mound, his crimson cap was blown off before he could catch it, but a man sitting nearby quickly picked it up and handed it to him. Later, before the Blessing, it happened again.  ‘I’d better put my hat on firmly now,’ remarked our unflappable Bishop.   

The theme of the Mass, ‘Mary, Queen of Evangelisation,’ was based on the great faith and love of Mary, mother of Jesus, in supporting her son and in urging the people of Jersualem to ‘listen to him,’ and this was the focus of the Bishop’s sermon. 

The strong association of ‘St. Mary’ with Glastonbury apparently began in early mediaeval times when, on the same site as the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, a wooden church once stood that had been dedicated to Our Lady. 

 Although the ruined tower is all that remains of the church built on top of the Tor, having been largely demolished during the Reformation, pilgrims and visitors alike usually take the opportunity to walk or run up the hill, either to reflect, or simply to admire the view from the top. Sadly, as far as our walking group was concerned, whilst the spirit may have been willing, the flesh was a trifle weak after our l8-mile walk. 

Perhaps next time …

Finally, a big THANK YOU to Clare Allen who organized and led the Pilgrimage, for making it such a memorable day for all of us. 

Photos kindly supplied by John Marsden