The True and Perfect Account
of a peregrination to the cathedral in Hereford, in celebration of 40 years of devout journeys thorough the whole island of Britain
A true and perfect account of the brethren, all saints of the Welsh Border, making devout pilgrimage from Hyssington in the Countie of Montgomery to the Cathedral at Hereford in the county of that name.
Herein is reported many wondrous events and blessings bestowed upon the devout travellers on the way and thorough the many difficulties and vicissitudes that befell them.
who at the start & being of uncertain mood, may have been regarded as Mr Bunyan’s ‘Ready-To-Halt’ but was to the whole company (& proved as such by steadfast action), none other than “Valiant for Truth”,
wrote the following summary.
The texts below are enlivened, for the betterment of understanding and the improvement of grace and virtue of the reader, with quotations from one John Bunyan and the King’s England traveller, Arthur Mee.
“The Pilgrim’s Progress from this world to that which is to come Delivered under the similitude of a dream”
“As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a Den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep: and, as I slept, I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold, I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back. ”
The 1976 original:
had 90 young students, supportive teams & a doctor in attendance on the first day
The 2016 present:
a constantly varying number & many experienced ‘pilgrims’ of one sort or another.
Day: The First. Wednesday 13 April
Hyssington to Clun
Saints of the Day:
Carpus & Papylus, Guinoch, Martin 1, Agathonice
The “Acts of Carpus, Papylus, and Agathonice” state that they died during the reign of Decius in the third century. Carpus and Papylus were arrested by the Roman authorities. When they refused to worship the Roman gods, they were led through Pergamum in chains, and then tied to horses and dragged to Sardis. Agathodorus and Agathonica followed Carpus and Papylus to Sardis, and there Agathonica was strangled to death with ox sinews. The men were all decapitated.
There are other versions (there always are ‘other versions’) – the strangulation being accompanied by being ‘clawed alive’, whilst others have incineration: Agathonice witnessed the deaths of her brother Carpus and Papylus. While watching their agony in horror, Agathonice threw herself in the fire blazing pyre. Despite the crowd trying to persuade her for the sake of her child, she did so anyway.
St. Guinoc (Gwynog, Winnoc, Winoc, Winnock or Guinoch) of Buchan, Scottish bishop (ca. 838). ‘Winoc or Guinoch was a bishop, and is said to have excommunicated the Scots in their war against the Picts, and to have assisted King Kenneth by his advice and prayers in a great battle, in which he completely broke the power of the enemy. He is said to have died about 838.’ (Baring Gould)
Martin 1st was a Pope greatly opposed to Monothelitism (Jesus: two natures, one will). The argument illustrates (as did earlier debates) the manner in which institutions decide on ‘truth’ (i.e. by imposition through use of position & power).
Morning: from Hyssington to Bishop’s Castle
‘A quaint little town of steep streets and old houses, set among the border hills on the edge of the treeless Forest of Clun… We notice that two vicars from of the C18th & C19th were here for long periods…’
“Then he gave him a parchment roll, and there was written within, Flee from the wrath to come. The man therefore read it, and said, Whither must I fly?
Do you see yonder wicket-gate? The man said, No. Do you see yonder shining light?
He said, I think I do. Then said Evangelist, Keep that light in your eye, and go up directly thereto: so shalt thou see the gate; at which, when thou knockest, it shall be told thee what thou shalt do.”
“I beheld then, that they all went on till they came to the foot of the hill Difficulty, at the bottom of which there was a spring…. and the name of the going up the side of the hill is called Difficulty. Christian …then began to go up the hill, saying,
“The hill, though high, I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way to life lies here:
Come, pluck up heart, let’s neither faint nor fear. Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.”
“I looked then after Christian, to see him go up the hill, where I perceived he fell from running to going, and from going to clambering upon his hands and his knees, because of the steepness of the place.”
The morning was completed with the climb to Bishop’s Castle, The Three Tuns for lunch & an informal blessing from Sarah, the Curate of the Parish
A blessing on departure from Bishop’s Castle…..
then on to Clun
“Now about the midway to the top of the hill was a pleasant Arbor, made by the Lord of the hill for the refreshment of weary travellers. Thither, therefore, Christian got, where also he sat down to rest him”
‘Mr. Housman… thought it very quiet… and indeed it is quieter now than in its olden days, when border warfare made it a strategic point…. Romantic and impressive on a height washed on three sides by the river, stand the gaunt ruins of a Norman castle…’
Day: The Second. Thursday 14 April
Clun to Leintwardine
Saints of the Day:
Caradoc, Tiburtius & Companions, Benezet, Justin
Caradoc: a C12th saint and early resident of Barry Island (before the development of the Butlin’s Holiday camp)
Tiburtius & Companions: Just a name on a list & then associated with St Cecilia
Benezet: more famously known for his construction – the bridge in Avignon, the ruins of which still receive pilgrims. He is listed as an ‘incorruptible’ (after death). A clear sign of special nature.
He is also said to have founded the Fratres Pontifices – the ‘bridge building brotherhood’ dedicated to building bridges & supporting travellers.
An interesting example of the utter folksy nonsense perpetrated during the ‘Romantick Age’ when the story is first recorded. As with so many ‘folk legends’ there is not a single piece of evidence to support the story – but it has become sufficiently accepted to appear in Encyclopaedia Britannica. Gossip can be very distracting to academics.
Justin: regarded as the first Christian philosopher. Not a sensible course in the times of Marcus Aurelius during whose time he & some of his students were beheaded. In 1968 the Papacy decreed that his feast day was to be moved to June 1st (it, too frequently clashed with Easter). Presumably Justin was consulted ‘prayerfully’….?
The day began with a reading:
Morning: Clun to Bucknell:
“It is possible, historians believe, that here was fought a momentous battle picture in the undying pages of Tacitus, the last fight of Caractacus to stem the Roman invasion…… The truth as to this battlefield can never be ascertained.’
First, an ascent along lanes onto the hills & ridges above the Redlake valley
“He that is down needs fear no fall, He that is low no pride;
He that is humble ever shall Have God to be his guide.
I am content with what I have, Little be it or much;
And, Lord, contentment still I crave, Because thou savest such.
Fulness to such a burden is That go on pilgrimage:
Here little, and hereafter bliss, Is best from age to age.”
Though forestry planation and down to Bucknell
Lunch at the Sitwell Arms
and singing in the Parish Church
Afternoon: Bucknell to Leintwardine:
‘A hillside village dear to the angler and the archaeologist, it has a quiet air suiting its antiquity…. Sir Banastre Tarletan did his utmost to prevent the Americans from shaking off their association with the Motherland… his book… revealed the popinjay in the hero, the braggart in the conqueror… It is absurd’.
In the evening, a tour of the church within its new misericords set alongside the old
& an ancient protective cage below the clock
Day: The Third. Friday 15 April
Leintwardine to Kingsland
Saints of the Day:
Paternus of Wales, Ruadhan
Padarn was a significant figure in C6th British Christianity as the church dedications in Wales and ancient stories seem to indicate. One major centre of British culture developed at Llanbadarn Fawr (Aberystwyth) & Breton stories of 500 saints include him.
A story associates him with Arthur:… a certain tyrant, Arthur by name, …came to the cell of saint Padarn …he looked at the tunic, which he, being pierced with the zeal of avarice, sought for his own. The saint answering said, “This tunic is not fitting for the habit of any malign person, but for the habit of the clerical office.” He went out of the monastery in a rage. And again he returns in wrath, … One of the disciples of Padarn seeing him returning in fury, ran to saint Padarn and said, “The tyrant, who went out from here before, is returning. Reviling, stamping, he levels the ground with his feet”. Padarn answers “Nay rather, may the earth swallow him.” With the word straightway the earth opens the hollow of its depth, and swallows Arthur up to his chin. He immediately acknowledging his guilt begins to praise both God and Padarn, until, while he begs forgiveness, the earth delivered him up.
Ruadhan: C6th. One of the 112 Apostles of Ireland & capable of prophecy.
Morning: Leintwardine via Wigmore to Aymestry
The River Teme, boosted by the waters of the River Clun flows past Leintwardine. It is a point at which there remains a linear link with the furthest west points of the pilgrimage as the first major tributary of the river rises in Sarn parish, well to the west of Bishop’s Castle.
Also, at this point, the youngest member of the pilgrimage, 6 month old Lowena, makes her only appearance (she can be observed being held in Bucknell Chirch)
The group were warned – the route to Wigmore is not safe, disrupted by wetland and loss of bridges.
After most of the distance was completed there could only be mockery at the advice offered.
“Now I saw in my dream, that they [Pliable, Obstinate & Christian] drew near to a very miry slough, and being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. The name of the slough was Despond. Here, they wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with the dirt; and Christian, because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire.”
Mock not least ye be mocked……
and so these pilgrims fell foul of their own mockery…….
There was no bridge…. just a sloughy ditch
………. and there was not way forward without a crossing at that place.
“It is not the pleasure of the King that this place should remain so bad. His labourers also have, by the direction of His Majesty’s surveyors, been for above these sixteen hundred years employed about this patch of ground, if perhaps it might have been mended: yea, and to my knowledge, said he, here have been swallowed up at least twenty thousand cart-loads, yea, millions of wholesome instructions, that have at all seasons been brought from all places of the King’s dominions, and they that can tell, say they are the best materials to make good ground of the place; if so be, it might have been mended, but it is the Slough of Despond still, and so will be when they have done what they can.”
However thanks to some careful research in the undergrowth by Janie M, items, suitable for use in such a crisis, were uncovered and placed.
The crossing began…..
and was successfully concluded…….
Wigmore: ‘It had its in its great days a church, a castle, and an abbey; today the church alone remains in its glory. The castle is an ivied ruin, and the abbey is a farm.’
“Sic transit gloria mundi”. Present day Wigmore, considered through its lost mediaeval status, provides an opportunity to muse on the insignificance of us all. A place of personal military power & influence that never translated into anything less hierarchical and for which it may be truly thankful.
Arrival at Wigmore produced confusing reactions – and for some a sense of loss (of family & friends)
….. though in due course, friends were discovered
reunions of those who were present 40 years before, occurred
and families were found sheltering in the Riverside Inn at Aymestry.
Aymestry. ‘It is an ancient place, for the Roman road from Hereford [‘Magnis’ – west of Hereford] passed through it and crossed the River Lugg and on the rising ground called Pyon Wood is an ancient camp defended by two ramparts and the steep hillside.’
and so – on to Kingsland and overnight accommodation in the Parish Church
more splendid for some:
le lit de lux……
than for others
lit éthique – lit d’un vrai pèlerin
though ‘no one slept here’ – well, not recently…..
Day: The Fourth. Saturday 16 April
Kingsland to Canon Pyon
Saints of the Day:
Bernadette, Magnus, Paternus of Avranches, Benedict Joseph Labre
Bernadette: Yes, ‘the’ Bernadette – no offence intended but there is enough elsewhere for anyone interested in the story.
Paternus of Avranches is probably Padarn
Benedict Joseph Labre: C18th a ’sorrowful mendicant’, one of those so joyously revered by late C19th French catholicism (cf Bernadette et al). He decided to “abandon his country, his parents, and whatever is flattering in the world to lead a new sort of life, a life most painful, most penitential, not in a wilderness nor in a cloister, but in the midst of the world, devoutly visiting as a pilgrim the famous places of Christian devotion”….he would always travel on foot, sleeping in the open or in a corner of a room, with his clothes muddy and ragged.
Just like us then…? There should be more support for those who do not wish to be members of an institutional club…. But how?
He is buried in the church in Rome (where is his death mask) which had, as titular priest the interestingly named Cardinal Sin.
Magnus was sufficiently pious and gentle to refuse to raid the inhabitants of Ynys Mon(Anglesey). As Earl of Orkney he was treacherously betrayed and then killed by his brother’s cook Lifolf in 1118.
As well as interesting ‘sleeping’ accommodation Kingsland Church has a curiously interesting church kitchen……..
Internal View….. showing what may be one the most ancient kitchen doors anywhere in the UK.
The church, one of those associated with the Mortimer family of Wigmore, contains mediaeval glass with pilgrimage associations:
St. Thomas a Becket
and the curious small extension in the north porch, probably a chantry chapel. The bones of a woman and child were said to have been found when the coffin was opened in 1826.
Morning: Kingsland to Monkland & Westhope Hill
Monkland: ’Sir Henry Baker, vicar here for a quarter of the C19th. He was one of the compilers of Hymns Ancient and Modern… He sleeps near the lychgate… and will also be remembered as the author of “Daily Prayers for the Use of Those who have to Work Hard”.’ (Hmmm…. and what of the slothful, indolent who do not need to?)
A blessing was provided by Revd Julie Read (incumbent) prior to the group departing for Westhope Hill and Canon Pyon,
……passing, on departure from Kingsland the ruins of the castle
and crossing the line of the Leominster to Kington & Radnor railway
Fortunately the bridge over the River Arrow has been repaired…….
Herefordshire is one of the very few ‘hop growing counties’ and unusually, this particular oast house (once used for drying hops) has, thus far, survived the usual fate of conversion to a bijou residence
Wetted feet can make for a very pensive lunch
Over Westhope Hill….
….Watchful, perceiving that Christian made a halt as if he would go back, cried Keep in the midst of the path, no hurt shall come unto thee.
“Difficulty is behind, Fear is before, Though he’s got on the hill, the lions roar;
A Christian man is never long at ease, When one fright’s gone, another doth him seize.”
and gently down into the lands of commercial cider orchards
with arrival at Canon Pyon
Canon Pyon. ‘The younger houses overlook the comings and goings on the main road, but the church and the older houses prefer the quiet of the lane [when did they choose?], with Pyon Hill rising like a pyramid behind them to a view of Buthouse Knapp and the glorious countryside around… countryside a modern artist has pictured in one of the church windows, where an angel stands among the stars looking down on the sunset scene’’
And all’s well in such a world?
Day: The Fifth. Sunday 16 April
Canon Pyon to Hereford.
Saints of the Day:
Donnan, Robert of Chaise-Dieu, Stephen Harding
Donnan of Eigg: An Irish Gaelic saint. A C17th account
“Donnan of Eigg .. there came robbers of the sea on a certain time to the island when he was celebrating mass. He requested of them not to kill him until he should have the mass said, and they gave him this respite; and he was afterwards beheaded and fifty-two of his monks along with him. And all their names are in a certain old book of the old books of Erin, A.D.616.”
Robert of Chaise-Dieu: Precisely that – founder in 11th of the original Benedictine monastery whose name is now held by the town.
Stephen Harding: C12th one of the founders of the Cistercian movement. Rather severe in his monastic views. He was by origin, being from Sherborne Dorset, English
An early blessing….
…. and ‘A Gathering’,
Pilgrims of Another Age – and place (travelling specially from the north of England, joining locals & those from London, Scotland & York)
Herefordshire – and a living cider orchard tradition.
The final stretches of countryside led through Huntington and to the edge of the city
The moment was not exactly as recorded in Bunyan’s “Progress” but there was the same sense of delight:
Now when FEEBLE-MIND and READY-TO-HALT saw they were very jocund and merry. Now CHRISTIANA, if need was, could play upon the viol, and her daughter MERCY upon the lute; so, since they were so merry disposed, she played them a lesson, and READY-TO-HALT would dance. So he took DESPONDENCY’S daughter named MUCH- AFRAID by the hand, and to dancing they went in the road. True, he could not dance without one crutch in his hand; but, I promise you, he footed it well: also the girl was to be commended: for she answered the music handsomely.
As for Mr. DESPONDENCY, the music was not much to him; he was for feeding than dancing, for that he was almost starved. CHRISTIANA gave him some of her bottle of spirits and something to eat; and the old gentleman began to be finely revived.
After which they were urban pilgrims – and at last, with a glimpse of the cathedral tower
‘Hereford. It has a glory given to it by nature and a beauty given to it by man. Nature set it on the banks of the Wye with fine views of the winding river and the hills of Wales; man has been building up its great possessions for centuries… [and in case you had not absorbed such wonderful hyperbole, Arthur Mee continues:] … It has all the history that its command of the Welsh border has given it and all the natural charm that the valley of the Wye can give.’
One pilgrim claimed to have had a vision of St Tambo – visiting again as he did 40 years ago
However others judged this to be an excessively imaginative leap:
The ancient manuscript describing the ‘Miraculous Interventions on behalf of the pilgrims by St Tambo contra diabolum’ may be viewed by clicking here
The suggestion was rapidly dismissed by another who also quickly explained Heisenberg’s ‘principle’
we cannot measure the position (x) and the momentum (p) of a particle with absolute precision. The more accurately we know one of these values, the less accurately we know the other.
Somehow that ‘uncertainty principle’ seemed to be particularly relevant to a pilgrimage experience in which there was a frequent sense of ‘where are we?’ associated with a questioning as to the speed at which the group travels, which had created an ever-diminishing hope of lunch
…. and of any form of ‘arrival’.
But there was ‘arrival’
First in Hereford town centre
then to the cathedral:
Other memories of ’76 lie embedded in the cathedral grounds:
At the Cathedral Bishop Richard and Dean Michael met the group, & led them to a final musical completion.
A song, adapted from a hymn & composed at the end of the 3 week pilgrimage to Whitchurch Canonicorum in 1986, was sung:
What Wondrous Love is this, O My Soul, O My soul
What Wondrous Love is this. O My Soul
What Wondrous Love is this, That caused the Lord of Bliss
To send such perfect peace, To my soul, to my soul
To send such perfect peace to my soul.
Thru’ hard and rocky ways we have passed, we have passed
Thru hard and rocky ways we have passed
Thru hard and rocky ways, Long tiring testing days
Now peace and rest we feel, in our hearts in our hearts
Now peace and rest we feel in our hearts
One journey’s end is done praise My Lord, Praise my Lord
One journey’s end is done praise my Lord
One journey’s end is done, The Longer road leads on
While travelling home I’ll sing, From my soul, From my soul
While travelling home I’ll sing, From my soul
The restored shrine of St Thomas Cantaloupe provided a fitting place for the final moments of the pilgrimage.
Blest be the day that I began
A pilgrim for to be
And blessed also be that man
that thereto moved me
True it was long ‘ere I began
to seek to live forever
But now I run fast as I can
‘T is better late than never
Our tears to joy, our fears to faith
are turned, As we see:
Thus our beginning (as one saith)
shows what our end will be.
and all sang……
Who would true valour see,
Let him come hither;
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.
Whoso beset him round
With dismal stories
Do but themselves confound;
His strength the more is.
No lion can him fright,
He’ll with a giant fight,
He will have a right
To be a pilgrim.
Hobgoblin nor foul fiend
Can daunt his spirit,
He knows he at the end
Shall life inherit.
Then fancies fly away,
He’ll fear not what men say,
He’ll labour night and day
To be a pilgrim.
………..40 years in the passing.