Walsingham included in international pilgrimage study

A recent Dowry of Mary pilgrimage at the Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham.
A recent Dowry of Mary pilgrimage at the Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham.
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Reilgious sites near Fakenham are to be included in a major new international study of the impact that mass pilgrimages have on their areas.

The village of Walsingham is estimated to attract up to 300,000 visitors a year to its Anglican and Catholic shrines.

Now, the area is to be included alongside the likes of Tondheim in Norway, Puglia in Italy and Canterbury in a £1 million project which aims to find ways of protecting heritage sites, while also encouraging economic growth around them.

And people who run businesses in the area are being encouraged to share their experiences.

Martin Wilby, chairman of Norfolk County Council’s environment, development and transport committee, said: It would be great to hear from a range of businesses – places to stay, shop, eat, and those who provide activities for people visiting the area.

“I’d urge businesses to get in touch as we’d love to know more about how their location has brought any benefits or drawbacks.”

The study will look at how Walsingham and the surrounding area has been affected by its pilgrimage status andpotentially encouraging lower-impact forms of travel, like walking and cycling.

Jason Loates, who manages the Wensum Lodge Hotel in Fakenham, said: “For 13 years now it’s been lovely to have guests from all over the world staying with us and quite a few have come to the area specifically to visit the shrine.

“In the past we’ve welcomed groups of clergymen from Portugal who have spent over a week here and other pilgrims may just spend a couple of nights.

“We’ve found that being so close to Walsingham does bring us extra guests particularly at the time of religious festivals and over the summer months and we often wish we had even more rooms.”

Any businesses that want to take part should email norfolktrails@norfolk.gov.uk by the end of February.