It felt strange to be on my feet again after so many hours driving. It is all very well saying that one should stop every two hours, but a woman on her own does not necessarily feel safe doing that; so, apart from an early stop for petrol and a coffee, I had kept going.

As I stood by my dear old Volvo, I thanked it for bringing me here and then looked around me to get my bearings. Good fortune had taken me to the car park up the road from the Anglican Shrine, so the lowering black clouds did not concern me over much – nor the fact I had no rain coat.

The car park was almost empty, which meant that my plan had worked. I had chosen this Friday deliberately – a Youth pilgrimage was ending and no new one coming; individual pilgrims would be there, as I was, but no crowds; I did not want crowds. What did I want?

An odd question for a pilgrim, which made me realise, Romantic longings aside, how different was my position from that of a medieval woman. In the first place, I should not have been here alone; I should have been part of a group, and we would have been busy unpacking and preparing for what next. I had been so busy planning the getting here that I had not quite answered that last question – even to myself.

I’d hoped to come with my sister (well, she is my step-sister, really, the child of our father’s first long and happy marriage, and much older than me), but she did not feel up to the journey. But I had come to pray for her, and for all those I loved. I had not, at that level, come for me. So, I left my own concerns with God and with the Blessed Virgin and, remembering to lock the ovlov (I anthropomorphise most inanimate objects I use a lot), I set off in the direction of the Shrine.

The streets of Walsingham are extremely narrow, and some of the 4x4s which insist on navigating them leave no room for pilgrims on foot, and my stay was almost extremely short – as a great black beast of a vehicle came hurling along as I reached the exit of the car park; it missed me by two seconds. A reminder that modern Walsingham held dangers as well as whatever it was I had come here for.

I looked over at the ancient inn, which faces you as you walk towards the Shrine. It seemed the very model of a Tudor-framed building; what horrors had it witnessed in 1538? To the right was a museum through which lay access to the ruins of the ancient Shrine; I took my first decision – I was not in the mood for history – I had come here to talk to the Virgin Mary.

The Shrine shop tempted me – so many statues of Our Lady and the saints, and so many icons – a ‘great cloud of witnesses indeed. But that temptation could wait.

Taking care to watch out for traffic, I walked down the narrow pavement to the colonnaded entrance to the Shrine. This was new. A lovely retired Anglican priest with the twinkliest smile I have ever seen asked if he could help? Yes, I said, smiling back – he already had.