A land of Creeks, Polders and Poplars

The Pilgrims of St Francis in the Netherlands (Tochtgenoten van Sint Frans) have organised the International Pilgrimage 2023  in Zeeland. –  Flanders, Netherlands, and Belgium 

The area of West Zeeuws-Vlaanderen borders directly on the North Sea and Belgium and is only accessible from the Netherlands via a 6 km long car tunnel through the Westerschelde, or the bicycle ferry Breskens – Vlissingen.  For many centuries it consisted of salt marshes and mud flats. But more and more land was reclaimed from the sea and it became an agricultural area. Now, due to its location, the western part, has also become a tourist attraction.

Over the centuries, this part of the Netherlands was a plaything for rulers and many battles have been fought over the centuries. During the 80 Years’ War 1568 – 1648, it was part of the struggle of the Netherlands for independence from Spain.  But much better known is the battle in 1944. There was then a heated battle between the Germans and the Allies around the Westerschelde, for supplies to the important port of Antwerp.

This part of the Netherlands, has also had to deal with many refugees and migrants over the centuries. The Huguenots, expelled from France and southern Belgium). In 1723 a smaller group of Protestants were exiled here from Salzburg when the archbishop of Salzburg moved 25,000 Lutherans. Thus, some of them found a “welcome” here. Unfortunately, many could not withstand the hard work of reclamation and died or emigrated further, including to Virginia in the US.

All these events have left their mark. We hear many French and German surnames. In the landscape, we see forts and lines, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries and traces in the villages. Almost all villages were destroyed by shelling or bombing in 1944.  Aardenbrug and Groede are the only villages that came out of World War II reasonably undamaged. In Groede, we can still see a Lutheran church, dating from the Salzburg period. In Aardenburg, an old hideaway church from 1636 can still be found, now belonging to the Mennonite Community.  As a result, there are many different denominations here  and significantly more Roman Catholics compared to the rest of Zeeland.  

Dates The pilgrimage starts on Saturday, July 29 (arriving if you wish the night before – Friday, July 28 -17.00) 

It ends after breakfast (by 10.am) on Monday, August 7  

Venue The Pilgrimage starts and finishes at the secondary school in the village of Oostburg in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen (NL).

Groups  Most groups will consist of about 15 – 20 people, with different nationalities and age groups. 

There will be a variety of groups:-

1  For walkers –  one with different venues every night.

                             one with more challenges (Adventure Group)

                             one with less changes of venue (Star Group). (Star groups have 2 or 3 venues)

2 A cycling group.
3 A Senior Centre for those who cannot walk very far or who need beds.  

Note – access to the Centre is by an outside staircase (no lift) . 

Possible Costs

Adults                                                                                                     €200.00£35.00€160.00
Young people over 12, Students, Apprentices, Unemployed                            €125.00£35.00€85.00
Children from 4 – 12    €70.00£17.00€50.00
Children under 4      free
Senior Centre€250.00£35.00€210.00

The balance must be paid in euros (cash) at the beginning of the pilgrimage.

Other details will follow later .

Please send your application form, by post or email, together with the deposit before March 31 2023  to:- 

Ian Mason  92 Bodmin Ave.  Stafford  ST17 0EQ ,  ianmason@talktalk.net     T. 01785 662194

Please contact Ian Mason  if you have any questions,  need printed forms or if it is your first time. 

More information is found on the Practical Information page https://pellegrinifrancesco.eu/en/international-pilgrimages-practical-information/