Escape on Foot: CPW Walking Week 2019 Report
Walking Week: 3rd-7th June 2019
…”Stand at the crossroads...ask for the ancient path, ask where the good way is and walk in it and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16)
We arrived at Willersley Castle, a Christian Guild Hotel above Matlock, to a very warm welcome from our leaders and Chaplain Fr Tim.
I had come alone and this was my first Walking Week with CPW, but very quickly felt part of a “family”.
The hotel, originally the stately residence of the industrialist and inventor Richard Arkwright is perched above the Derwent Valley with idyllic panoramic views of the Derbyshire countryside. It is a great venue for an event of this kind, with recently refurbished rooms, and a lovely large swimming pool which we could relax in after our walks - if we didn’t find ourselves having napped on our beds before dinner!
Each day an early hearty breakfast was followed by prayer, music, and discussion of a theme from a variety of sources: Scripture, from Robert Macfarlane’s ‘The Old Ways: a journey on foot” and John O’Donohue’s “Walking on the Pastures of Wonder”, which would serve to inspire our walking week. We would then set off from the hotel on foot and walked at a gentle pace for 4 hours or so each day, blessed with mostly fair weather. The first 30 mins of each day’s walking was in companionable silence – this was a new experience for me and gave us a chance to “tune into the sacred presence of landscape”
…”Stand at the crossroads...ask for the ancient path, ask where the good way is and walk in it and you will find rest for your souls”
We had Mass in the open air each day and this was a truly interactive and fulfilling experience thanks to Fr Tim’s spiritual leadership, the preparation of our musicians and the willingness of us all to fully participate. It was wonderful to bring liturgy “out into the landscape and allow the elemental force of the landscape to clothe liturgy … with sensuous texture and enable us to come in.” (O’Donohue)
Every evening there were active discussions and a variety of workshop activities helping us to reflect on Mary and Joseph’s flight from Syria and the plight of Syrian refugees in more recent times.
Fr Tim recalled his experience of walking from Canterbury to Rome sharing his encounters with fellow travellers, pilgrims, migrants and indigenous shepherds (and their dogs!) His words really helped to inspire us in our daily hikes in the beautiful countryside in search of God and peace in nature.
During our last Mass, just before going our separate ways we gave thanks for 75 years of CPW and for the fun and friendship shared during our walking week.
In the words of one of our group, there was “over everything, an awareness of the presence of God in nature, in the stones on our path, in words spoken out-loud or in the depths of our hearts - a precious closeness with one another, immediate and lasting.”
Heartfelt thanks to our leaders and chaplain.