Love it or loath it, there’s more to Walsingham than the shrine! Never mind summer’s high church high jinks! I recommend Walsingham’s wet winter woods in February.
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, some call it the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary or Candlemas falls on 2nd. Forty days after Jesus’ birth Mary, Joseph had taken their new baby on pilgrimage. At the temple in Jerusalem the infant Christ was recognised by the elderly Simeon and Anna who spoke to his parents about their child and his destiny.
One misty February morning found me on pilgrimage in Walsingham. I had parked at the Slipper Chapel, then walked the Holy Mile to the Abbey – avoiding the traffic on the main road by following the new path along the old railway line.
Paying my entrance fee, I passed into the Abbey grounds and made straight to the pack-horse bridge. Wow! Snowdrops, Candlemas Bells some call them, bejewelled with dew, bowed their heads beneath the skeletal spindles of bare branched trees. And here and there among the Snowdrops the gold of Aconites shone through. Here was a treasure beyond price.
Alternative names for Snowdrops are Fair Maids of February and Purification Flowers. Walking the paths my mind turned to Mary, motherhood, joy and pain, life and death, the mystery of suffering and Anna’s prophecy that a sword would pierce her heart.
I thought about Simeon too. Like him I’m near the end of my life. Like him I believe that Jesus is the answer to all the worlds ills – “a light to lighten the nations!” But will I be ready to sing the Nunc Dimittis when my time comes?!
I tried saying the words out loud:
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen : thy salvation…….
And in the wintry wood the flowers shone like stars in the night sky!
The Abbey Grounds are open daily 10 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. £3.50 for adults. £2.59 concessions. Tickets from February – to the end of October are available from the Shirehall Museum. Visitors are advised that stout shoes should be worn: dogs be kept on leads; and although not all the grounds are wheel chair accessible and there is a wheel chair that can be borrowed by visitors