New waymarked Walsingham Way

24 May 2021
A new waymarked walking route between Norwich and Walsingham is being launched to celebrate the tradition of pilgrimage in the county, encourage more people to enjoy the rural landscape of the Wensum Valley and provide a boost to sustainable tourism in the local area.
Walsingham Way

Called the Walsingham Way, the new 37-mile path is inspired by a network of pilgrimage routes that once crossed the county as pilgrims from across Europe travelled to north Norfolk’s Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. Founded in 1061, it is thought to be the oldest shrine in the world dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The project to waymark the Walsingham Way has been made possible thanks to a partnership enabled by Norwich Cathedral and involving many different organisations and individuals.

The modern-day Walsingham Way route – which will take about three days to complete on foot - can be started from either Norwich Cathedral or the city’s Roman Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist.

Walsingham Way (c) Bill Smith
Walkers will be guided by signs featuring the new Walsingham Way logo of two linked Ws that together form the letter M. The M, which is adorned with a crown, is a tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary to whom the Walsingham Shrine is dedicated.

Along the way, walkers will enjoy beautiful views of the Norfolk countryside, including the river valleys of the Wensum and Stiffkey, and pass by many of the county’s villages and historic churches, before reaching Little Walsingham. Known as England’s Nazareth, the village is today home to both an Anglican and a Roman Catholic shrine as well as the ruins of the original priory church.

While the route is closely linked to Christian pilgrimage, the hope is that it will also be enjoyed by people of all faiths and none, and that it will also benefit tourism businesses in the area.

Walsingham Way Map web version (c) Annette Hudson
The Revd Dr Peter Doll, Norwich Cathedral’s Canon Librarian and Vice-Dean, said: “The Walsingham Way has been established not only for those who wish to make a spiritual journey to a holy place but also for those seeking a connection with the natural environment, the heritage of the region, and physical and mental well-being.
“The hope is that it will draw green, sustainable tourism into the Wensum Valley and encourage additional visits to attractions along the route such as the Bishop’s Palace at North Elmham, historic churches, and the Shrines, Abbey Grounds, and other attractions at Walsingham.
“The route will hopefully also expand demand for accommodation and catering and drive the creation of businesses and jobs supporting the needs of walkers and cyclists along the route.”

Norwich Cathedral has been working in partnership with the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, the Anglican and Roman Catholic Walsingham Shrines, The Walsingham Development Group and many others.

The project has also been supported by funding from the European Union LEADER funding for rural economic development, the Diocese of Norwich, the John Jarrold Foundation, and Norfolk County Council, and by the considerable goodwill of volunteers, landowners and parish councils.

Walsingham Way (c) Bill Smith
Walsingham Way (c) Bill Smith
Walsingham Way (c) Bill Smith
The Chapel of Bishop Herbert de Losinga at North Elmham (c) Bill Smith
St Peters Church in Ringland (c) Bill Smith
All Saints Church at Swanton Morley (c) Bill Smith
Walsingham Way near Weston Longville (c) Bill Smith
Norwich Cathedral (c) Bill Smith
Walsingham Abbey (c) Bill Smith
Walsingham Way (c) Bill Smith
Walsingham Way (c) Bill Smith
Walsingham Way (c) Bill Smith
Walsingham Way (c) Bill Smith
The Chapel of Bishop Herbert de Losinga at North Elmham (c) Bill Smith
St Peters Church in Ringland (c) Bill Smith
All Saints Church at Swanton Morley (c) Bill Smith
Walsingham Way near Weston Longville (c) Bill Smith
Norwich Cathedral (c) Bill Smith
Walsingham Abbey (c) Bill Smith
Walsingham Way (c) Bill Smith


Canon Doll said: “The waymarking of the Walsingham Way has been a long-term project that has been a real team effort and our thanks goes out to everyone who has helped to make this project possible.
“We hope that people of all ages will now enjoy walking the route and experiencing this special part of the Norfolk countryside. We are very lucky to have such beautiful rural landscapes in our county and it is important to highlight that we must all do our best to help protect these areas for the future by abiding by the Countryside Code while out walking.”

Part of the long-term ambition is to create a Walsingham Way website and to develop interpretation along the route to offer additional layers of historical and spiritual context.

Volunteer groups along the route have also already started projects to welcome new pilgrimage visitors. At Great Ryburgh, for example, the church has established an area for campers and will offer hospitality to walkers.

The plan is also for the Walsingham Way to connect with other walking routes, including existing routes such as the Wherryman’s Way from Great Yarmouth to Norwich, and paths being planned for the future such as a King’s Lynn to Walsingham route.

More information about the Walsingham Way can be found at walsinghamway.blog

Further comment about the Walsingham Way project

The Bishop of Norwich, The Rt Revd Graham Usher, said:
 “I walked the Walsingham Way last year at the end of the first lockdown. As I walked the lanes and fields of Norfolk there was an inner unwinding from the tensions of the pandemic. As I approached Walsingham I was conscious that I was in step with countless others through history, singing with Mary that ‘my spirit rejoices in God’. I hope that many people will put on their walking shoes and set out. May this new pilgrim route help them find joy and hope.’”

Elizabeth Meath Baker, from the Walsingham Estate, said: “Here at Walsingham Abbey we are delighted to see the Walsingham Way come to fruition. The village will benefit hugely from an increase in walking pilgrims, visiting in a sustainable way. We hope these walkers will take the opportunity of slow travel to stay here a little longer, take a rest and absorb all that Walsingham and North Norfolk has to offer both physical and spiritual.”

The Rt Rev Mgr Canon Philip Moger, Rector of the Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, said: “Walsingham is much more than a pleasant Norfolk village, but, for centuries, has been a place of pilgrimage, where people from all sorts of backgrounds have journeyed to Our Lady’s shrine to find peace, restoration, new hope, a fresh start. I warmly welcome the Walsingham Way, on which pilgrims, enquirers, the curious, may journey on foot following ancient routes from Norwich, to reach the place, known for many centuries, as ‘England’s Nazareth’.”

Fr Kevin Smith, Priest Administrator of the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, said: “Pilgrims have been making their way to Walsingham for nearly 1,000 years, and many continue to be drawn to this holy place from all parts of the nation. The Shrine is set in a very beautiful part of North Norfolk and all who make a pilgrimage here are invited to discover afresh the beauty of God’s holiness, to reflect on the journey of their lives and to be refreshed in body, mind and spirit. The Anglican Shrine is delighted to commend the new Walsingham Way and looks forward to welcoming those who follow its route to this unique place of pilgrimage.”

John Jones, Head of Environment at Norfolk County Council, said: “We are delighted that the establishment and waymarking of the Walsingham Way is now in place. This walking route, which links the Cathedrals in Norwich and the Shrines in Walsingham, runs through some of the most delightful countryside the county of Norfolk can offer. A journey of true meaning which connects people with place in a very special and significant way. Already attracting walkers, its use will surely grow as those who share their personal experiences will inspire others to follow in their footsteps. Norfolk County Council supports this ambitious initiative through two of its key priorities: promoting low impact, environmentally friendly tourism and its Greenways to Greenspaces Programme which encourages more active, healthier lifestyles.”

Guy Hayward, Director and Co-Founder of The British Pilgrimage Trust, said: “From witnessing how the Walsingham Way has developed over time, we are very excited about the regenerative potential created by the rediscovery of this long-forgotten pilgrimage route. The county of Norfolk is steeped all over in the medieval pilgrimage tradition, testament to the magnetism and mystery of Walsingham. Pilgrims are going to love the experience."

Anne Prentis, a churchwarden at Great Ryburgh, said: “Great Ryburgh nestles in the Upper Wensum Valley in a beautiful but relatively unknown part of Norfolk. We are delighted that the waymarking of the Walsingham Way will enable pilgrims to divert from the beaten track and draw inspiration from our distinctive landscapes and historic churches.”