Every year, young energetic and well-motivated youth from Castlerigg Manor join other faithful Catholics from across the diocese of Lancaster to walk to St. Mary’s Cleator to celebrate our Lady of Lourdes and to reflect on their personal journey in faith.
The first time I read about the Big Walk on the Castlerigg website, I did not know that it was not only a walk but a great trek to encounter God, discover new things and to explore the beauty of the Lake District.
I was among the lucky group of twenty young people who participated in the Big Walk this year. My friends and I had waited so long for the Big Walk. My friend Matthew, from Newcastle, and I spent part of the night practicing how we will walk while shouting “Yahooooo” , our crazy way of showing togetherness.
We started our two day journey by having food for the soul in our chapel with Mass led by the men of God, Fr. John and Fr. Philip, and we had to prepare with waterproof clothes, walking boots, packed lunch, and everything else we would need.
I thought that we would walk from Castlerigg to Cleator, but no, I was wrong, and we had a short drive from Castlerigg to Honister were we had a cup of coffee. This is where we started to see the beautiful scenery of the mountains and small rivers flowing.
Like any other journey, we started it with big smiles and different ideas about where we were going but a few miles from Honister as we started to climb the mountain, some of us started to slow down in our walking and speed up in our breathing, our water bottles doing their job softening our throats and energising us.
The walk was a moment to reflect on God’s love towards mankind, making new friends, helping each other and crossing different streams of small rivers.
Fr. John, Fr. Philip and Sister Shienrose had to remind us about God who was our shield against bad wind, storm and rain, and on our way we stopped to pray the rosary; it was agreat moment for me to pray the rosary in my Ugandan language (Runyankole) but thank God that as Catholics we have the same rhythm of praying rosary, so everyone was able to follow me in English.
After climbing mountains and hills and crossing many streams, at around 5:30pm we finally reached Ennerdale Valley and Gillerthwaite centre where we were welcomed by kittens and chickens, we had our dinner and a social night. Unfortunately my team performed poorly in the quiz. After the long journey we finally had sleep.
On our second day, very early in the morning at 7:30, every one had to wake up, stretching muscles as we headed to our breakfast.
We started our journey to St. Mary’s at 9:15am and here we had to walk in pairs, sharing our spiritual and social life, talking as the disciples did on the road to Emmaus. I was number three, paired with a very wonderful girl, Paris, who has been offered a law course at Lancaster University and comes from Barrow, indeed we shared ideas both spiritual and social life.
On our way to St. Mary’s it was not an easy journey, as that of Isrealities when they were coming from Egypt. We had to walk 10 miles in the rain but we were prepared enough for any kind of weather.
At the time of lunch, guess what!! All of us had to gather under a storm shelter. All of us, including our friend Bosco (Fr Phillip’s dog) crowded in under a bright orange sheet!
As we were getting closer to our final destination of Cleator our phones started to have network (on our way we had no network coverage). When I tried to open up on my social media I was soon collapsing because my eyes immediately set on information showing how my team Liverpool was beaten by Man City 5-0 but my friend Matthew had to encourage me to stay focused on the reason of travelling.
Finally we reached our destination at St. Mary’s church and we were welcomed as heroes by the beautiful people of Cleator. We changed our clothes to a very smart orange T-shirt to identify us pilgrims. The walk into the church was just amazing. Going through the whole building with the cross, people cheering and clapping, it was a good moment for the people who have walked for the long journey. Mass was celebrated by Bishop Michael, and seen by us from the altar server’s perspective behind the sanctuary. And we joined in prayer with many others from around the whole Diocese of Lancaster. It was my great life experience.
How I wish that next year’s big walk I will be part of it but unfortunately I will be in Uganda praying for you.
Cleophas - Castlerigg Manor