The third and fourth sections of the Fife Pilgrim Way were accomplished on 25 and 27 April, in the good company of Christine de Luca and Angus McIntyre: from Cardenden to Markinch (11 miles) and Markinch to Ceres (13 miles).

For the most part, the journeys were though beautiful rolling countryside: fertile fields, meandering rivers and sunny paths, even in surprising places such as the outskirts of Glenrothes.

Beyond the rich conversation and reflection that walking brings, there was much around us to engage. The nature of pilgrimage, of sometime uncertainty and the reliance on others, became very apparent on the second stretch. The way at Clatto was blocked by fallen trees from the recent storms and a complicated route onwards through a forest only becoming apparent when two local ladies appeared from nowhere as ‘guardian angels’ to lead us onward. More bizarre was that not only did we have mutual friends, one of them was distantly related to one of us by marriage!

In addition, we were drawn back continuously to the inspiration of the rich heritage of Christian faith in central Fife, stretching back a millenia and more, in such as:

• Finglassin’s Well on the outskirts of Kennoway where medieval pilgrims to St Andrews along this route would have stopped to drink; and the ‘Waterless Road’ on the ridge outside Ceres, where it is known that those pilgrims walked and in whose footsteps we followed.

• The ancient Stob cross in Markinch, and its church, St Drostan’s, having the oldest structure in Scotland in continuous use, being its Norman tower from the original 12th Century church (we were privileged as well to be given a tour of the beautiful 19th Century church interior).

• The former Arnot Memorial Church in Kennoway, founded in 1753 as an Associate (Burgher) congregation, whose first minister, William Arnot, was a friend of John Newton, former slave captain and writer of ‘Amazing Grace’; which was led in the 1970s by Roy Copeland, a lay missionary who came to faith under DP Thomson and former miner and communist, and which underwent (at least!) six changes in denomination over its 250 years of existence

Christine captures so well the beauty of the land and nature, the opportunity to reflect, the ‘healing vista’ and the presence of God, in her evocative poem and reflection that she has written about the stage from Markinch to Ceres, which accompanies this piece.

Onwards to St Andrews on Saturday 7 May!

God bless,

Sandy

 

Fife Pilgrim Way: Stage 4
Leaving behind the River Leven, giddy river singing to the sea, no longer a staccato of mill wheels. An old industrial landscape reshaped, resurrected.
It is tempting to think all is well with the world.
Upward tread and the view of the Forth: familiar landmarks from the Bass Rock and Lammermuirs, to Arthur’s Seat and the Pentlands. Over the hill, and suddenly a view of the Lomonds.
It is so easy to think all is well with the world.
Reaching into the Howe o Fife; fecund, fertile – rolling fields: wheat rising, oil-seed rape yellowing, potatoes biding their time deep in accordion furrows, catching perfect light. A farmyard in a dip, ship-shape, in tune with the season’s tasks.
Tangled hedgerows, shelter belts – a sanctuary for wildlife.
Gratefulness for farmers who husband this land.
Accompanied all the way by lark song aloft and the hurl of wood-pigeons. Yellowhammer on a fencing post – gone in a second; one crow, king of a mighty field, admiring its sandy tilth, as if he’d shaken that fine sieve all by himself.
Red admiral leading onwards in the sunshine and a tiny white butterfly, poised with ballerina wings on a wayside flower. Primroses and dandelions, occasional violets.
It feels like a healing vista; ‘a closer walk with God’; ‘a calm and heavenly frame’.
Great woodlands laid low from a mighty gale – a necessary detour, a chance encounter with walkers.
Mindful of the destructive power of nature and of man; grateful for shared moments, for trust.
Little towns, a day’s carting apart, proudly stone-built; places where strangers still greet one another. Churches whose doors have welcomed thousands through their wavering denominations.
Wells and Waterless Ways: for pilgrims, a church on a hill: beacon and resting place.
For time to reflect, to recharge.