photos: Charles Butcher
On Good Friday morning, 17 pilgrims carrying a large wooden cross stopped for rest and refreshment at Stanhoe Methodist church, on their way to Walsingham.
The pilgrims, who represent the organisation Student Cross, had set out from Leicester the previous week. Walking an average of 16 miles a day, they arrived at Docking on the Thursday night and spent the night there. They then planned to follow the old pilgrim route along the green lane to South Creake, and from there to Walsingham.
For some members of the group this was their first pilgrimage on this route, while others had done the journey many times before. On last year’s pilgrimage the group rested by Stanhoe pond, but this was the first time they had made an official refreshment stop here.
Student Cross began in 1948 as a Catholic event. Today the pilgrims include people of all ages and Christian denominations. Ten Student Cross groups from all parts of the country – more than 250 people altogether – converged on Walsingham on Good Friday afternoon. Most had walked around 120 miles.
Throughout the middle ages, Walsingham was one of northern Europe’s most famous shrines. Many English kings and queens made pilgrimages to Walsingham, including Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn.
It’s just possible that these monarchs stopped in Stanhoe on the way, perhaps at the chapel of St Peter whose foundations are believed to lie at the south end of Cross Lane, next to Chapel Field. “Stanhoe’s cross was almost certainly a way-marker for the route to Walsingham,” said local historian Gillian Beckett.