It was evident from the moment we received our ‘St Wilfrid Pack’- meticulously prepared and researched briefing notes from Fr Roger including itinerary details and service sheets – that we were to take part in a very special event.
This was not going to be a sightseeing holiday or just a visual encounter with all the places in the North where Wilfrid grew up lived and died, but a quest to get to the very heart of our saint’s life and ministry.
Our first of daily Eucharists started in our very own church of St Wilfrid at 8:00am on a cold and damp Monday morning and it was encouraging to find some of our church family there to join in our communion and speed us on our way.
I think we were all relieved to find that our driver for the week, Brian, was a thoroughly splendid chap who gave us a very smooth drive to our Durham based hotel, with lots of comfort breaks along the way. The weather was gloriously sunny and the wonderful changing views of the countryside as we sped north more than compensated for the long and tiring journey. The journey gave us plenty of time to start to think about Wilfrid and the tumultuous times he lived in.
Having mused on these cataclysmic times in the early life of Wilfrid it was good to see the lofty towers of that glorious cathedral at Durham appear into view and we knew our hotel for the week was not too far away.
The 4 star Royal County Hotel was situated in the ancient Borough of Elvet granted to the monks of the monastery by Bishop William St Calais in 1091 and our hotel was part of the town houses thought to be built around 1630. Goodness knows how Brian navigated the huge coach through the twist and turns to get to our hostelry but it was ideally situated right by the river and quickly accessible on foot to the heart of the city. We were all surprised to find ourselves in the “up market” County restaurant that served very enjoyable meals – Cordon Bleu but definitely not Nouveau Cuisine!
A busy week lay ahead:
Tuesday 12/10/99 – Lindisfarne, Eucharist in the Parish Church, Bamburgh.
Wednesday 13/10/99 – Hexham, Eucharist and visit to the crypt Hexham Abbey, Hadrian’s Wall.
Thursday 14/10/99 – York, visit to the Minster, Ripon, Eucharist in Ripon Cathedral.
Friday 15/10/99 – Free day to explore Durham including the Cathedral.
Saturday 16/10/99 – Return to Bognor via Oundle (where Wilfrid died).
Clearly the logistics of having a base in Durham and fitting in with people we were meeting along the way placed constraints on our timetable and meant that we could not necessarily visit the places in the chronological order that Wilfrid visited them. Also, important sites (particularly Whitby) had to be omitted in the time we had available. The subsequent articles try to address these factors by re-arranging the visits into the order they most had impact on Wilfrid’s life and by making additional trips to more thoroughly cover York and such milestones as the Synod of Whitby.