‘This is England’: Beverley Minster to Bridlington Priory

With thanks to Anthony Halford.

An account of the Priory Walking Group’s pilgrimage from Beverley Minster to Bridlington Priory to mark the 900 years since the foundation of the Priory Church by Augustinian canons in 1113, 26th August to 28th August 2013.

Day 1
We met outside the Minster in Beverley around 9a.m.. It was a Bank Holiday but the town was quiet. All participants were ticked off as present as they arrived by train, bus and car. It was a good humoured group. Some of us had special tee shirts: ‘Celebrating the Journey’. There were 19 walkers.

We went first into the Minster. It looked beautiful in the early morning. In St. Katherine’s Chapel behind the high altar we met for Morning Prayer. It was on the theme of pilgrimage in honour of the 900 years, with special reference to St Augustine the founder of the order that established our church and St John of Bridilington, the last English saint before the Reformation. We then practised our pilgrim song : ‘Orientis Partibus’ before moving to the south door of Beverley Minster for a photograph.

esidents of Hengate must have been awed as we sang our song lustily, again and again, as we moved away from the Minster. Beverley looked great in the morning sunlight. We moved through the Town centre and out of the Bar before walking down ginnels to the Old railway track – the Hudson Way. The walking was pleasant and easy as a fresh breeze kept us cool.

We walked along the embankment of the old railway, the flowers bright , wild life keeping its distance until a young grass snake was found. Its enamelled skin was exquisite. Near Arram you could look back to Beverley and see the Minster silhouetted against the blue sky. Further forward there was the splendid spire of Scorborough Church. We kept it in view as we walked towards it. The weather was now hot, 29 degrees, but there was still a breeze. There were lots of stories, banter and good humour and it seemed that the day was blessed.

Pat Whitehead and John Ford did a great job providing us with refreshments. A number of people left at Scorborough conserving their energies for the next two days. After Scorborough the terrain changed. There were cornfields with sharp stubble, green tunnels and wide open spaces. Lockington was an oasis. The church was my favourite with its mix of Norman and Perpendicular architecture. We saw sundials pierced in the warm honey coloured wall that must have been there for 500 years.

It was quite a trek to Kilnwick on a quiet country road. The church was surrounded by the beautiful gardens of Glebe cottage. They were tended by an elderly lady who gave us apples and £6 for the Priory’s anniversary. At each church we signed the visitors’ book thanking them for keeping it open for us and leaving behind a copy of Pat’s book of the pilgrimage. We never got lost thanks to Pat Norton.

It was not far now to Watton and a chance to rest our aching feet after 13 miles of wonderful English countryside and good company. The pilgrimage was on its way.

Day 2

It was a glorious August morning when we all reassembled at Watton Church. There had been a Priory here and in the middle ages it would have been an obvious stopping place for pilgrims, The churchwarden, Tony Pexton, met us and showed what they were doing to restore the dignified church to its true beauty. Like many places we visited it is hidden in the trees, shy of modern noise and bustle and it was moving to say our service and sing our song in the dusty church.

We walked through the trees on a lovely path through woods and fields. We were near Hutton Cranswick and met Peter and Glen who had stayed at the pub on the Green. It was not far to the church and because Roger and Trish had known them through bell ringing we had our best welcome of a drink and biscuits. It was a very warm friendly church.

We walked across fields to Driffield skirting round Skerne and seeing Bell Mills in the distance. This was through fields. The sun was hot now. We saw the fish in the cool waters by the Garden Centre and walked into Driffield for lunch. For the only time we were in the bustle of the town but we made for the church and had our lunch by the mellowed stone of the magnificent perpendicular tower. I remember lying on the grass in the churchyard and looking up at the clouds as I often had done as a boy in other places.

Back through Driffield and on to Nafferton through pleasant byways through meadows and old tracks. We went into the church. It is set on a small hill and can be seen for miles. It is not far to St Mary’s Lowthorpe which like many places is very evocative of an earlier time and no doubt a stopping place for pilgrims. It was a collegiate church and had a tomb with the effigies of 13 children. It has a wonderful avenue of splendid yews.

We coud soon see Harpham church through the trees. It was our destination for the night. Six of us were staying, two in the pub and four with people in the village who had, in the spirit of Augustinian hospitality, offered us accommodation. We ate in the St Quintin Arms and were a lively group of pilgrims enjoying the beer and the food. We were generously treated. Richard and I stayed in a large farm house and felt like travellers grateful for the shelter. Roger and Trish stayed at Mrs Anslow’s where we all had breakfast in her cosy home.

The support had again been great and Roger had kept us on track.

Day 3
Another beautiful English summer day dawned as we all met in Harpham Church for our morning service. Mrs Anslow our main host and contact joined us and we filled the choir . Our song rang out more confidently as we got used to the mediaeval words and rhythms. It was St. Augustine’s Day. We were nearing our destination and the weather had blessed our journey.

It was an interesting walk to Bracey Bridge through fields and old tracks. There had been an old pilgrim hospital near there, no doubt a stopping place as the pilgrims paid their respects to both St John of Beverley and St John of Bridlington.. More people had joined us and we walked through fields of sprouts, asparagus, wheat and barley. Again we could see Kilham Church in the distance as a useful guide to our direction. We went in the church. We were so grateful to all those church wardens who had opened the churches for us.

It was a bit of a slog up Woldgate, the old Roman Road, but there was pleasure in knowing it was the route the mediaeval pilgrims must have taken. Above Boynton we took a track down through the trees and saw a wonderful view of the Priory across the fields. This was our destination where we would mark the 900 years of its Christian witness.

We arrived early at Boynton Church but it was not long before the other group from York arrived . Nancy gave a short prayer of thanksgiving for both groups. We then walked into Bridlington fittingly led by Pat Norton. It had been another wonderful day led by Richard and again with wonderful support.

We met the York group near Westgate and walked to the Priory together. It was great as we were cheered and clapped as we walked down High Street. The Church Bells started ringing and we had a photo taken outside the Great West Door.

At 5,30p.m. we reassembled for a service of Parish Communion led by Nancy, who had completed the York pilgrimage, helped by other members of both pilgrimages. Members of the Augustinian society had come to support us. There were 70 people attending – a fitting tribute to the pilgrimages, St Augustine and the wonderful 900 years of Priory Christian witness. Feasting followed at the Bull and Sun.

Anthony Halford. 29th August 2013.

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