THE big event in Westminster this week was the State Opening of Parliament, one of the great set-piece ceremonial occasions in the parliamentary calendar.

In the Queen’s Speech, Her Majesty set out the legislative programme for the next parliamentary session.

But the state opening can’t take place without the previous session of parliament being brought to a close and that’s another ceremonial occasion called Prorogation. It took place last Thursday.

Today, the Sovereign’s order to close – or prorogue – the session is carried out by a Royal Commission on her behalf made up of the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Speaker and the leaders of the different political parties in the Lords.

The ceremony begins when the Royal Commission, dressed in parliamentary robes and – for the men – hats, enters the chamber and sits on a bench in front of the throne, behind the Woolsack. The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod is commanded by the Lord Chancellor to “let the Commons know that the Lords Commissioners desire their immediate attendance in the House to hear the Commission read”.

Black Rod heads to the Commons, where, as is customary, the door is slammed shut in his face. After knocking three times with his ebony rod, the door is opened and Black Rod informs MPs that their attendance is required.

Led by the Sergeant at Arms and the Speaker, MPs troop down to the other end of the Palace of Westminster to hear the Queen’s message.

MPs proceed as far as the bar in the House of Lords, with a great deal of bowing and doffing of hats. The doffing of hats is a traditional form of greeting and symbolises mutual respect.

The Lord Chancellor then begins proceedings. Royal Assent is formally announced to all legislation not already passed in the session.

Then, as each Act is announced, the Clerk of the Parliament turns to face MPs declaring “La Reyne le veult” – Norman French for “The Queen wishes it”.

Parliament is then officially prorogued. Finally, in one of the most conciliatory moments in the parliamentary year, MPs file out past the Speaker and shake his hand.

My final contribution in the House before prorogation was in the session devoted to questions to ministers overseeing the work of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

I took the opportunity to ask Rory Stewart, whose ministerial brief covers national trails, if we could have a meeting about my campaign to have the famous Coast to Coast walk, from St Bees Head in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire, made a National Trail.

I received a encouraging response.

The Coast to Coast route runs through the heart of his Penrith and The Border constituency as it does mine (we are Parliamentary “neighbours”) so he suggested that we meet while completing the walk together.

As the walk stretches for 190 miles, it could be a long meeting. And as Rory is also an accomplished walker, having trekked 6,000 miles across Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Nepal and India, I hope I can keep up!