Cross Fell Pilgrimage June 2022

Nearly 50 pilgrims joined in the second climb up Cross Fell on the 18th June 2022 under the leadership of Bishop Paul Swarbrick, the Bishop of Lancaster, in whose Diocese Cross Fell resides. John Bradburne’s Birthday is on the 14th June 1921 and the anniversary of his death is on 5th September 1979. The previous walk had been held in September and the weather was so atrocious, wind, gales, hail, rain and snow we decided to hold the next walk in June assuming we would have much better weather. We had none of it. The weather was almost similar to the weatherwe experienced in September. It is for this reason that the John Bradburne Memorial Society has decided to hold the next walk up Cross Fell on 15th July 2023. Surely if a walk is held in July, we might experience some better weather? We won’t hold our breath.

Cross Fell is the second highest fell in England outside of the Lake District National Park. It is a walk which has to be taken seriously, as the boggy terrain and lack of clear pathways in some parts can make the climb challenging. Having the right footwear and clothing are certainly essential.

John Bradburne was never one for taking the easiest route and his life was a metaphor for searching for God in unexpected places. We learnt at the beginning of the walk as we gathered in the Church of St John the Evangelist at Skirwith

that John’s father was once the Vicar of the Church. The vicarage was a stone’s throw away from the Church where John grew up and played. The Society hosted an exhibition of the life of John Bradburne in the village hall and this helped to inform those new walkers who may not have known too much about John. Fortified with tea and biscuits kindly provided by the parishioners of St John, we set off on our walk.

This year the organisers decided we would make our ascent from the East side of the Fell. Initially there is an easy ascent across elds and moorland with the occasional boggy section. It was in these sections that we discovered that helping each other was the sure way of getting out of difficulty. There is nothing worse than hiking in wet boots or even worse, wet socks. Moving along to the base of the Fell there is a long grassy incline which eventually takes us to an undisclosed path – having a mobile phone with GPS certainly helps you to know exactly where you are. Once off this path, we come to a very distinct path made up of stepping stones which leads us to the top of Cross Fell. From here we have a 200 metre walk to the trig point and the welcome wind shelter in the form of a cross.

As we arrived the wind got up and the visibility was non- existent. On a good day (whenever they are) you can see across into Yorkshire and even the North East. We huddled together as we ate our sandwiches and drank our hot drinks. We did not dally too long but long enough for Bishop Paul to lead us in prayer and read one of the poems that John had written. The majority of walkers decided to return down the fell from the way we ascended, only a couple of experienced walkers returned by the western route and the even more boggy terrain.

Despite the weather, the sun eventually decided to make an appearance on our descent. Everyone was undeterred by the weather and we’re looking forward to the walk again next year. We arrived at our starting point, St Lawrence, Kirkland. Photos were taken and some managed a cup of beer and a tipple of wine. If those who attended could bring along with them one more friend next year, we would have a good gathering to enjoy our walk even more. Like John we are all pilgrims searching for God and He can indeed be found in unexpected places. The hardships that we may have experienced on our short climb were as nothing compared to the hardships that John bore during his lifetime and especially when he lived at Mutemwa Leprosy Care Centre. For more information regarding John Bradburne and to keep informed about next year’s walk please

Alex Walker

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