On 18 and 19 October 2019 there was a Pilgrimage from 5 different points in the Diocese of Oxford to the shrine of St Frideswide in Christchurch Cathedral.
Our leg started at the Church of St Nicholas, Islip. Our planned route took us along the River Cherwell towards Oxford, before cutting across country to Water Eaton and to Cutteslowe Park. From the park the route was on pavements until it emerged into University Parks. From there it went through the historic centre of Oxford in the final leg to Christchurch Cathedral.
Nigel Lambert, the Churchwarden of St Andrew’s, Oddington had planned the route and with his wife, Margaret, had walked it several times in the weeks leading up to the pilgrimage. Rev. Lucy Thirtle, of Islip, was in charge of organising our leg of the pilgrimage.
Up until the second week in October the cross country route remained dry and fairly easy to walk. In the final week the rain started and conditions under-foot became somewhat unpleasant. The river and a tributary had overflowed and there was much standing water. The footpaths were muddy and boots became heavy. Two days before the pilgrimage Nigel declared it possibly hard work for the less able but still safe to walk. That night there was torrential rain, which came back the following afternoon. Roads in Islip flooded and were impassable and it was reluctantly concluded that the risk to pilgrims was unacceptable high.
The decision was to start the pilgrimage from Cutteslowe Park at a later time. This decision was broadcast to all who we knew were intending to walk. As a fall-back, Nigel was asked to man Islip church at the original starting time, just in case anyone turned up. Just one lady arrived, having come from near Banbury. A sense of relief soon evaporated when more and more arrived, most having travelled a long distance. They accepted the reason for cancelling the walk but were clearly disappointed. Nigel then offered to lead a walk on roads to Cutteslowe Park, having assessed that he could manage the risk. There was enthusiasm for this and 25 of us set off. On a quite unattractive route there was enthusiasm and a real sense of togetherness. After 90 minutes we joined the rest of the pilgrims in Cutteslowe Park. Picnic lunches were consumed and we gathered together for prayers and to sing a hymn.
In good spirits we set off towards the centre of Oxford. In the beautiful setting of University Parks we stopped again for prayers. The final leg took us past colleges and ancient university buildings, before entering Christ College under Tom Tower and into the Cathedral.
There was time to visit the Prayer Stations set up within the Cathedral before partaking of the welcome tea and coffee provided for us. At 4pm there was a Closing Pilgrimage Liturgy, led by the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt. Revd. Dr Steven Croft. A memorable day, despite not going according to plan!