Whalley to Blackburn Pilgrimage – First Steps

21st November 2019

Jonathan Carmyllie of Whalley Abbey lit a candle and said a prayer before setting off along the new pilgrimage route to Blackburn Cathedral.

And they’re off. First pilgrim on new cathedral pilgrim route.

He is the first to trial one of the newly launched one-day cathedral pilgrimage routes, and it was fitting for him, as he had intended to spend the day in prayer and fasting in preparation for the coming interviews for an Abbey Guardian.

The Whalley to Blackburn route links the cathedral church of the Diocese of Lancashire with one of the most significant ancient Christian settlements in the county – made more significant by the current plan to relaunch Whalley Abbey as it was originally intended; a Centre of Christian Prayer and Discipleship.

This new route is part of a project by the Association of English Cathedrals and the British Pilgrimage Trust to ensure there is a pilgrimage available to every Church of England cathedral to mark 2020 Year of Cathedrals, Year of Pilgrimage and celebrate our rich spiritual heritage.

Blackburn now has not one, but two routes, one starting at Hollinshead Well, and the other beginning at Whalley Abbey.

As Jonathan explains:
“Roughly 8.5 miles in length, the route from the Abbey crosses the River Calder and leaves Whalley via the wooded path over Whalley Nab heading towards Great Harwood. Although a little steep to begin with, the path affords some wonderful glimpses of the Calder Valley and soon begins to descend, passing Bowley Scout Camp and eventually arriving at St Bartholomew and St John’s Church in Great Harwood.

“This could be a good place for a group to pause, or indeed an alternative starting point for those not wishing to complete the full route from Whalley.

“Following the road through Great Harwood to the cemetery the route now joins the Liverpool-Leeds Canal and continues along the towpath all the way into the city, passing fields, allotments, modern retails parks and reminders of Blackburn’s industrial landscape.

“As a straightforward walk it provides plenty of variety, and as a pilgrimage gives ample opportunity to reflect upon both our Christian and industrial heritage, but also upon some of the issues confronting contemporary society as indicated by closed retail units, crumbling mills and canal side graffiti.

“Arrival at the Cathedral does bring with it a sense, not just of the end of a walk, but of the completion of a stage in a longer journey.

“I lit a candle in the chapel at Whalley Abbey at the beginning, and another in the cathedral at the end – a suitably symbolic way of marking my one day pilgrimage,’ he added.

Rowena Pailing, Missioner at Blackburn Cathedral said:
“We are delighted to celebrate the long tradition of pilgrimage in a new way with 2020 as the Year of Cathedrals and Year of Pilgrimage, especially connecting the two Christian sites of Whalley Abbey and the Cathedral, and also through our education programme which enables school children to be pilgrims for the day.

“Visitors come to Blackburn Cathedral for many different reasons, and are welcomed here. Anyone who is open to a sense of wonder and encounter with God comes as a pilgrim, even if they wouldn’t call themselves such,” she added.

For more information, contact email education@blackburncathedral.co.uk