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An Easter pilgrimage to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Castle
This year's pilgrimage has seen blizzards and sub-zero temperatures

When you hear the word "pilgrimage" you may find yourself thinking about a medieval expedition - but the concept is alive and well today.

Every year since 1976 there has been a 100-mile pilgrimage through Northumberland to mark Holy Week.

This year, around 100 Christians from a wide range of denominations are making the 10-day journey on foot.

After setting off on 26 March, they'll arrive on Holy Island on Easter Sunday, 4 April 2010.

Focus on faith

Edward Hawkes, 18, is one of the pilgrims taking part. This is his sixth Easter pilgrimage in a row - he was just 12 when he undertook his first one.

Edward said his experiences on the pilgrimages have varied over the years:

"When I was younger I probably didn't take part in the religious side so much. Kids can't really focus for that long.

I've got pretty sore feet, I'm pretty hungry and I'm pretty cold
Edward Hawkes

"Now I see it much more as a religious thing rather than just a little adventure that I go on every year."

Edward said he feels his faith benefits from the pilgrimage experience.

"It's pretty religious really," he explained. "We get a church service every night and in the mornings as well we do a little liturgy.

"It helps you focus on faith for a good week and you reflect on your entire life, on your friends and family.

"It gives you time to think about those who perhaps you're not always thinking about."

Bond of fellowship

Edward added that making new friends is one of the best aspects of taking part:

"The bonds of fellowship that you form with everyone around - this year in particular it's been quite striking how all of us have gelled as a group so well.

"Even now we're standing in sub-zero temperatures and we've all got a smile on our face."

And the worst part of the pilgrimage?

Abandoned monastery on Holy Island
A 2m-tall cross is carried by at least two pilgrims along the way

Edward laughed: "Our oldest member snores and we all sleep in a church hall so you occasionally wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep."

Sacrifice

Snoring aside, the pilgrimage can be a tough experience. It involves walking 100 miles, sometimes in awful weather, and sleeping on (church hall) floors.

The pilgrims also take turns to help carry a 2m-tall cross.

Edward said: "I've got pretty sore feet, I'm pretty hungry and I'm pretty cold. You can sort of reflect on some of the pain that Jesus might have gone through.

"I don't think we can ever truly understand [Jesus's sacrifice] but I do think it certainly does bring you closer to that idea."

So will Edward be taking part in the pilgrimage again next year? He's not sure.

"I think I'd like to take a break from it maybe one year and see what else I can do over Easter, but at the minute I definitely think it's something I'll be doing for a long time."




SEE ALSO
Gospel walk to mark saint's day
20 Mar 10 |  England
Lindisfarne goes live on Google
21 Jan 10 |  Nature & Outdoors

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