As a statistician who rarely practices the art (and thereby a "useless statistician") I thought I'd share some useless statistics with you! Or maybe not so useless, I'll let you judge.
If anyone wants to add more statistics, or to argue with any of mine, please feel free to contact me!
Originally constructed in 2001 and updated September 2010.
It's not ALL John Chenery's fault! But it was he who, when reviewing my update to the "useless statistics" , suggested that we (i.e. I) add the places (churches, pubs) etc that we've stopped at most frequently. With 36 pilgrimages under our belt this as a daunting task, especially as the description given often varies from year to year (e.g. Ropley Church or St Peter's, Ropley). The only reliable way was to log every stop by grid reference. And so, a project was born...
I now have a database with every recorded stop (from the route notes) of every A&B Walking Pilgrimage. With the help of a geographic information system (even the grid references vary in the last digit, and there are typos) I've cleansed the data, can display it overlaid on maps of the UK or local areas. So now I can reveal the result of all this analysis...
Not surprisingly, when you think about it, is that the place most visited by our pilgrimages is our cathedral in Arundel. The start or end point of all the early pilgrimages, visited on 9 out of the first 10. Since then our visits have been less frequent as we've started from the north of the diocese when heading away - keeping the distances manageable. Indeed, 2003's visit to Arundel was our first since 1997, and we visited again in 2007. But in total, 16 separate pilgrimages have visited the cathedral.
A bit more unexpected was the runner up, with 8 visits over the years, namely Chichester Cathedral. The end or start point of several pilgrimages, visited on several others...
Three churches tie for third place with 6 visits: St Pancras at Lewes and St Peter at Firle reflect the number of routes that cross in that area, and St Anthony of Padua at Rye, the end of Sussex and a staging post on any route round the south Kent coast.
Also on 6 is a landmark - Edburton Hill on the South Downs north of Portslade, a cross roads for east-west and north-south routes.
The most visited overnight stop is the Convent of Mercy at Midhurst, with 5 visits (but none since 1991) - a key staging post heading west from Arundel.
Interestingly no pubs seem to have had as regular attention, though the Trevor Arms at Glynde features 5 times, but only because it's a landmark in the route notes - it's not been an official lunch stop that often!
(Note that I've not included reunions etc, only the official pilgrimages)
So what else do we learn from the data? Well, plotted on a map, we've pretty well covered the Diocese and most directions out of it. Some recent pilgrimages have filled gaps between earlier routes. Within the Diocese, the lines criss-cross, but there is a notable hole: we've never been to Godalming or Petworth or the area in between. Nor have we been to the very north-west of the Diocese, Frimley and Camberley. And it's quite sparse around the line Hayward Heath - Uckfield - Heathfield - Battle. But perhaps the biggest revelation is that we've only ever been to Reigate, Redhill and Crawley on one pilgrimage each, and never to Horley (but Redhill and Crawley are popular reunion locations). Even 9 years after I originally wrote this, we have not closed these loopholes!
How far have we walked to
date? The total "official" mileage (what was on the Route Cards) is
7,102 miles up to the end of St David's in 2010 (not including reunions
etc). On the assumption that the average number of walkers on any given day
is about 50, that's over 355,000 miles (enough to get to the
moon, and we're well on the way back now!)
Which was the longest
pilgrimage? The first Walsingham Pilgrimage in 1977 totalled 273½
miles, 13 miles more than the next longest, Buckfast 2 in 1982.
Which was the shortest
pilgrimage? The Papal Pilgrimage in 1982 was just 101 miles long, from
Arundel to Wembley. The shortest "annual" pilgrimage was Canterbury 3 in
1988 at 142¾, when (after the trials of
Walsingham 2) we went for a one-week pilgrimage. The shortest two-week
pilgrimage was St Richard's
Anniversary in 2003 at just under 161 miles!
Which pilgrimage had the longest days? The Buckfast 2 Pilgrimage
in 1982 averaged just over 20 miles per walking day, beating Buckfast 1
(19.3), Walsingham 1 (19.2) and Norwich (18.6). No wonder we started
Buckfast 3 in Winchester!
Which was the longest single
day? A 26½ mile marathon from Horndean to
Fawley on Buckfast 2, especially as it included a ferry crossing: we set out
at 7.30 in the morning and were due in at 8.30 that evening. Next was a 25½
miler from Osmotherly to Richmond on Lindisfarne, and a 25 miler from
Fordingbridge to Blandford Forum on Buckfast 1. We haven't had a day over 24
miles since 1985. Every pilgrimage up to 1996 had at least one day over 20 miles, but since then 8 out out 13 have had no days over 20 miles.
Which pilgrimage had the
shortest days? St Dunstan's in 1999 averaged just 14.3 miles per walking
day, a bit less than St Chad in 2000 (14.6) and Martyrs in 1995 (14.7). The
average walking day has been generally lower in recent years, though this
depends on the route and accommodation. Since then. most pilgrimages have had average day lengths between 15 and 16 miles, with a few creeping up to 17 or even 18. On the basis that "short" is less than 10 miles and "long" is more
than 20 miles, St Richard's Anniversary in 2003 was the first pilgrimage
ever to have no "short" days and no "long" days. Moderation in all things... (An achievement repeated in 2007, 2008 and 2009, but not in 2010.)
was the hilliest pilgrimage? In calculating the
timings for each day, we use the Naismith formula, allowing 20 minutes per
mile walked and 20 minutes per 500 feet climbed, so we have to measure the
ascent (or rather, get the mapping software to measure it). "Hilliness" can
be expressed as the percentage increase in time over the flat equivalent (a
2 mile walk with 500 feet of climbing would require 40 minutes for the flat
walk and 20 minutes for the climbing, and so would be 20/40 = 50% hilly). I
have applied this to pilgrimages since 2000, and Chester in 2004 is the
highest with a hilliness of 24.6% (I'm sure those who walked it would not
disagree!). Lincoln in 2006, despite its hills in the middle, was only 15.9%
hilly, though three days in the Peak District were 28, 29 and 30%. The least
hilly of these 21st Century pilgrimages was 2003 at just 13.7% - well it had
two days with hilliness of only 1%, including the flattest day, from
Newchurch to Rye, in which we climbed just 75 feet in nearly 16 miles.
Most pilgrimage seem to come out at about 17% hilly. But 2010 was a record breaker in recent years, at almost 30% hilly and 28,000 feet of ascent, on top of its long days (not as severe as Buckfast 1 or 2, but we were all younger then!).
Which pilgrimage went furthest
from our Diocese? Easy - both Lindisfarne pilgrimage (1984 and 2009), which started further away than
most finish. Holy Island is 400 miles drive from Arundel. The stretch furthest from Arundel was also the only stretch common to both routes - the causeway to Holy Island. Next furthest is St David's, but that's just under 300 miles so relatively close!
Which pilgrimage stayed
closest to home? Well, treating the Cathedral at Arundel as "home", I'd
reckon it was the Birthdays Pilgrimage in 1985 which was always within about
45 miles of Arundel. St Wilfrid's in 1981 stayed wholly within Sussex (East
and West) but went to the eastern edge at Rye, some 10 miles further away.
Which pilgrimage reached the
highest altitude? As far as I can ascertain this was Bolt's Law on the
day from Stanhope to Minsteracres on Lindisfarne (1984) where we topped 1772
feet! The previous day would have come very close, but due to poor
visibility we followed a lower, road route. We nearly reached the record again in 2006 when we crossed Axe Edge Moor
outside Buxton at what was planned to be 1,739 feet; in the event, the
drinks stop was slightly off the planned route, and because of the rain we
stuck to a lower path, at just 1,700 feet - still a clear second place.The third highest was the ascent of the Long Mynd, 1,575 feet, on Chester (2004). Apart from these, the
highest I'm aware of is Rippon Tor (1560 feet) which we crossed three times
- on the last day of each of the Buckfast pilgrimages.
Which pilgrimage reached the
lowest altitude? That's a rather trickier question, as we've often been
down to sea level (or at least, to the level of the sea). My vote for the
lowest (deepest?) would be the last day of Lindisfarne, where the incoming
tide must have reached waist deep. (An alternative award goes to Mike
O'Shea's sunglasses which sank to the bottom of Lyme Bay during a water
fight off Lyme Regis in 1982). At least, the above analysis applies to "above ground":
in 1995 the Martyrs Pilgrimage took us under the River Thames through
the Greenwich Foot Tunnel which is reported to be 15.2m deep,
and in 2009 the Lindisfarne Pilgrimage walked through the Tyne Foot Tunnel
which is 12.2m metres below the river bed. If these measurements are on the same basis, and the Thames is no shallower than the Tyne,
this makes the Greenwich Tunnel the deepest we've actually walked.
Which was the coldest
pilgrimage? This is easy - the very first Holy Year Pilgrimage in 1975
was at Easter, and we endured blizzards, so that was the coldest by far. Of
the others? I haven't a clue! Anyone else got an opinion?
Which was the hottest
pilgrimage? The start of the Pilgrims Way Pilgrimage came at the end of
the long, hot summer of 1976. But the rain came mid-way through. I remember
the middle of Buckfast 3 as particularly hot, but it was cool and wet at the
start and the end. The hottest pilgrimage day was the first
walking day of St Richard's Anniversary in 2003: we were in Kent not far
from Gravesend where the hottest temperature ever in the UK was recorded at
Which was the wettest
pilgrimage? By repute, I'd have said Walsingham 2, where the hall at
Roxwell was flooded. But this may not be the pilgrimage with most wet days!
Which was the driest
pilgrimage? Good question! I don't remember a pilgrimage where the wet
weather gear wasn't required, do you? Julian Martin suggests that the
rain gear stayed away on Evesham in 1983. Any other suggestions?
John Chenery says that, apart from one very heavy
shower, St Richard's Anniversary in 2003 was rain free. And Peter Whipps
adds "My recollection of the Norwich pilgrimage (1993) is of zero
precipitation during the whole walk. As we finished the last hour or two
into Norwich, the temperature dropped giving rise to a small amount of
'condensation' to refresh(?) us".
Which was the smallest hall?
There've been a number of small halls, but what really matters is how many
people you're trying to squeeze in! The award for the tightest fit has to go
to the Othona Community near Burton Bradstock on Buckfast 1 (1980). St David's in 2010 maybe gets the award for the pilgrimage with the most nights of snug fits, including 3 nights where we had to sleep 20 pilgrims in tents.
Which was the worst
accommodation? Difficult one! From memory, it would be a close run thing
between the redundant school in Ryde (Glastonbury 1, 1978) and the Woodmead
Halls in Lyme Regis (Buckfast 2, 1982). The former hadn't been used for ages
and required thorough cleaning before we could get in; the latter (which
we'd also used in 1980) was due for demolition. indeed, they had started
demolition, but stopped so we could use it (the new hall hadn't been
finished in time).
Which was the best
accommodation? Danny specialised in top quality accommodation during his
tenure, and I managed to find some good halls too, as did our predecessors
in the job. But which was best? Rosie and I agree on King Edward VI School's
hall in Stratford-upon-Avon on the way to Lichfield in 2000, though the
2a.m. alarm call detracts a bit! Anyway, what makes a good hall? In terms of sheer space, the Pafiliwn Bont at Pontrhydfendigaid in 2010 was almost certainly the biggest - there was space for the van (and the cars if we'd wanted) plus 3 wet tents and still acres of space.
Which was the scariest night
on a pilgrimage? For many this would have been at Michelham Priory on
the Sussex Pilgrimage in 1981, when there were bats flying around the
converted barn which we were sleeping in.
What was the biggest disaster
on a pilgrimage? The theft of half of our boots from outside the hall in
Salisbury on our way to Glastonbury in 1978 or the flooding of the hall at
Roxwell on the way to Walsingham in 1987 were major practical challenges,
but I cannot forget Tim Howlett's death after he left the Buckfast 2
pilgrimage in 1982.
What was the closest "near
miss" on the pilgrimage? Probably when the support team arrived at
Farnham on the way to Evesham in 1983 to find that all the plumbing in the
hall had been stripped out and the place was uninhabitable (and we were
there for two nights!). Before the walkers arrived, Mike Simons had
organised the hire of an alternative venue, and most the of the walkers were
hardly aware of the change of plan! More literally, Bill had a close
thing when a car was intentionally driven at him as the pilgrims crossed the
A25 in Borough Green on the way to Canterbury in 1976 (the driver was later
prosecuted and convicted).
What was the greatest number
of pilgrims staying overnight on a single night? Good question, and I
don't know the answer. I know it's over 100, as I remember the first time
this figure was exceeded (at Charing on Canterbury 2 I think).
How old were the youngest and
oldest pilgrims to walk with us? The youngest is a tricky question, as
it depends on the definition! I think I'd give the award to Robert Morwood-Leyland,
who came with his parents in a Moses basket, but clearly walked nowhere! As
for the oldest, there must be several contenders, but I don't know the
answer. Come on, own up!
Which was the toughest
pilgrimage? Both of the Walsingham pilgrimages are renowned for being
tough: the first was just plain long, the second involved the Roxwell flood.
The first Lindisfarne in 1984 had the toughest terrain, but the days were a bit shorter. In recent years at least, the 2010 St David's pilgrimage was physically challenging, with longish days, lots of hills, rain at the wrong times and cramped accommodation: we knew we'd achieved something when we reached the end!
Which was the easiest
pilgrimage? There's no such thing as an easy pilgrimage!
Which was the best pilgrimage?
The unanswerable question! Even for an individual, I think this is a
difficult question. Many people remember their first pilgrimage fondly,
others have the latest pilgrimage clearest in their mind. However, Bill
dared to put up a slide after Buckfast 1 captioned "The happiest pilgrimage
yet?", and I think few would not put it in their top three. For me, St Chad's
was special because of the way it all came together at the end. Others will
remember the community that grew out of disaster - stolen boots (Salisbury,
1978) or flooded hall (Roxwell, 1987). Patrick
reported the welcome at Chester in 2004 as particularly special, and in 2005
at Winchester we were given a standing ovation by the choir as we processed
into Evensong in the Cathedral. Lindisfarne (2009) and St Davids (2010) both had an excellent spirit and a real sense of achievement.
What's the best thing about
the pilgrimage? ALL OF IT!