Roy's walk around the Deanery
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Canon Roy Woodhams (Rector and Area Dean of Cranleigh) writes . . . .
When I became Area Dean last September, I made a promise that I would walk to every Church in the Deanery, to meet people and to pray! I had originally intended to do this in the autumn, but workload and the wet weather got in the way, and so I have undertaken to do this on four days, across an eight day period starting yesterday!
So, yesterday morning, seven of us gathered for Morning Prayer in St Nicolas, Cranleigh at 8am, and then set off in the fantastic spring sunshine to walk from Cranleigh to Okewood Hill, via Ewhurst and Forest Green. The intention was to walk almost exclusively on footpaths, avoiding the roads, but we soon made the decision (on local advice about some flooding) to take the road to Ewhurst, where we were met by Revd Clare Shepherd who joined us for prayer and provided coffee!
We then took to the public footpaths, and thought we were doing well, until we were within sight of Forest Green Church, when we found ourselves up to our wasted in thick gooey mud! The only thing to hold onto was a fence, but unfortunately the fence itself was an electric fence, so three of us got shocked, while one (me) slipped and fell flat on his face in the mud! The good news is that we all survived, and at the end the kindly farmer hosed us down before we went into Forest Green Church for more coffee, homemade cakes and prayer.
The final leg of the journey was less eventful to begin with – discretion had taken the better part of valour, and we took to the road for the first two miles, eventually skirting the Gatton Manor golf course on tracks and paths, to arrive within sight of Okewood Church, only fifteen minutes behind schedule. One final obstacle was a very slippery downhill descent, but again we all survived, and were very pleased to be greeted by yet more coffee!
Six of us did the whole ten mile walk (including one who came in at the tender age of 92!) My thanks to Barbara, Jackie, Margie, John and Maurice who went the whole way, and Paul, Clare, Clive and Barry who joined us for various sections!
I will be walking again on Thursday, when further adventures will take me from Peaslake to Shere, Albury and Farley Green, with yet more to follow on Friday and next Monday!
There is an old saying that "The sun always shines on the righteous"! We must have been very righteous this morning as seven of us set off (including Revd Tim Heaney, Rector of Shere) from Peaslake Church this morning in glorious sunshine, but with a fairly stiff northerly breeze. The first leg of our walk took as through beautiful lanes and paths of the Surrey Hills and we were treated to some magnificent views south to Winterfold and North to the Downs. At Shere we were greeted by Pat and Judy with delicious homemade cakes and very welcome coffee. We also joined in their regular
10am Communion Service Presided over by Revd Mike Currier, at which I gave a short talk.
For the next leg of the journey, to the ancient Saxon Church in Albury Park, there were just three of us - myself and the infamous Nursey Sisters (four if you count Rocky the dog! Margie and Juliet Nursey are now members of my church in Cranleigh, but grew up in Shere and Farley Green - as we left Shere they were able to show me a bench by the River Tillingbourne which is dedicated to their late parents Joe and Win Nursey. As we left the village we took to The Pilgrims Way and were met at the gate of Albury Park by Revd Andrew (Vicar of Albury) and Sheena Pearson. The Saxon Church is always a joy to visit, and it was especially nice to see a number of visitors in addition to ourselves.
It was only a short walk to Albury New Church, where we were treated to a lovely sandwich lunch provided and prepared by Sheena. Onwards and upwards (literally) across Farley Common, guided by Peter, to our destination of theday (just over 9 miles from our start) at the unique 'Barn Church' at FarleyGreen - I know that this part of the walk was a special joy to Juliet and Margie who had both been baptised there in 1936 and 1942 respectively!
Thank you to everyone who joined me today, and those who welcomed and fed us, and those we met along the way! I'm now resting my feet in preparation for tomorrow, the longest of my four days, which will take me from St Martha's to Shamley Green, via Chilworth, Blackheath, Wonersh, Bramley andGrafham - lots more prayers, and lots more cake to look forward to!
What better way to start a day than to stand at the top of St Martha's Hill in yet more glorious sunshine, and at the beginning of my third day of walking to each church in our Deanery! There is something special about St. Martha's - a place of prayer and pilgrimage, and (as George Mcleod would have called it) a Thin Place! I was again joined by Barbara and Jackie (veterans from the 'Muddy Monday' walk, but it was sad that this was the first of our Church visits where there were no locals to greet us!
Nevertheless, we prayed and prepared, and outside were surprised and delighted to bump into my Cousin-in-Law, Moira Savage, jogging inpreparation for her forthcoming running of the Edinburgh Marathon - good luck Moira!
From St Martha's we began our downhill journey towards Chilworth, and on the way met Team Rector Tim Heaney panting uphill to join us for this leg of the walk! After a brief mud encounter we arrived early at Chilworth and were
greeted warmly by a small band of parishioners and welcome coffee and loos!
The next step over the hill to Blackheath proved uneventful, and we came in 20 minutes early to another warm welcome at yet another unique specimen of a place of worship! Onward from here we were joined by Margie (veteran from the previous two days) and locals Bruce and David who guided us around Barnet Hill to Wonersh Church where we were greeted with a lovely lunch provided by Alex, Heather and Nancy - thank you!
Onward for a short walk to Bramley, where we met a large contingent of enthusiastic welcomers, and on further via the Downslink (the old railway line), now joined by Revd Graham Smith, to Grafham. More mud to challenge us, but great to be met on the way by a further large local contingent, led by Revd Camilla White and on to the Church where we found more hot drinksand warm welcome.
Our final leg, found us back-tracking to the Downslink, and a right turn onto the Greensand Way and a final arrival (13 miles from our start) at Shamley Green Church, to be met by Revd Sally Davies, husband Kevin, and Churchwarden Jonathan, for our final coffee of the day.
Monday will see me on my final walk from Hascombe to Dunsfold, Alfold and Loxwood - eager for the challenge!
The first half of today’s journey found us walking between two of Simon Jenkins’ England’s Thousand Best Churches! Leaving St Peter’s, Hascombe, in yet more glorious sunshine (perhaps the best of all four day’s) four of us set off upward and onward across The Hurtwood. Days two and three had spared us from too much mud, but today certainly made up for it – at the top of Holloways Common we had the first of a number of extremely muddy encounters, which we were to characterise the day! After enjoying some stunning views as far as both the North and South Downs, we made the treacherous descent of the aptly named Breakneck Hill (but I am happy to report that none of us did!)
Reaching Dunsfold Church, we were pleased to receive a warm welcome, coffee, and meet three more walkers ready to journey on with us (along with an increasing number of dogs!)
The next leg of the journey took us past Dunsfold’s Holy Well, whose waters, renowned for their healing properties, and drawn for baptismal water for many centuries. This was a fairly uneventful (apart from the mud) part of our journey, but through some beautiful woods and several encounters with the disused section of the Wey and Arun Canal. The four of us arriving at Alsfold in good time to enjoy our picnic lunch and to be met by Revd Greg Cushing, who was to walk with us the final leg of my epic piltimage, via part of the newly restored section of the Wey and Arun Canal (and a lot more mud) to arrive at Loxwood Church happy and slightly relieved!
Reflecting back across the whole four day experience – 45 miles covered, 26 different walking companions, 53 non-walking meeters and greeters, lots of happy encounters on the way, wonderfully rich conversations as we walked with stories shared,19 churches visited, and most importantly 19 churches prayed in! As well as having a totally enjoyable time, I have gained some real insights into the joys, sorrows and challenges of these deeply rural communities and churches that make up our beautiful Cranleigh Deanery!
Thank you to everyone who has made this possible, and a special mention has to go to Margie Nursey, who walked all but three miles with me!
A Pilgrim’s Prayer:
God of our pilgrimage, you have given us a desire to take the questing way and set out on our journey.
Help us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus,
that whatever we encounter as we travel,
we may seek to glorify you by the way we live.