The details of pilgrimages from 1975 to 1996, excluding 1992, were written by Bill Haynes back in 1997, and originally published on Danny Thomas' Pilgrims Progress website. Details of 1992 and 1997 onwards have been added by other pilgrims.
On an April night in 1995, Ropley Village Hall was home to a mixed group of people who had taken part in a series of walking pilgrimages over the last twenty years. Many were the stories that were recounted and the memories that were revived. How had it all begun?
“Lets walk all around the boundaries of Surrey and Sussex”, was the suggestion made in 1974 to the Vocations Committee of the Arundel and Brighton Diocese, the area of which comprises those two English counties. We had been discussing how we should mark the Holy Year, 1975, and the success of an annual sponsored walk called Youthgather had been mentioned. So – lets have a much bigger walk was the suggestion which was laughed away by the committee. After the meeting was over three of the priests attending the meeting decided that it wasn’t such a crazy idea and that we should give it a try. Father Jude McHugo’s health wouldn’t allow him to take an active part, but he has often offered the pilgrims hospitality at the school he is connected to, St George’s College, Weybridge. Father Bob Garrard, the curate at Caterham, took a big part in the early pilgrimages, and did much to set the spirit of the pilgrimages. And Father Bill Haynes, who is now the “President” of the pilgrimage organisations and who is just beginning to write this account, 22 years on.
The route of that first pilgrimage, following the boundaries of Surrey and Sussex was explored by Fr. Bob and by Fr. Bill and his mother, Madge Haynes, during the summer and autumn of 1974. It was to be as far as possible a footpath route, avoiding busy roads, with overnight accommodation being provided each night by various parishes of the Diocese through which our route passed. On Easter Monday, 31st March 1975, 32 intrepid walkers met at the Arundel Cathedral, and started the 14 day trek. For the most part they were strangers to one another at the outset, but they became firm friends as they endured the 240 mile walk, the snowy weather, and the hard floors at night. Indeed two marriages sprung from that first pilgrimage! The route was Arundel, Midhurst, Farnham, Weybridge, Epsom, Caterham, Lingfield, Mayfield, Hurst Green, Rye, St Leonard’s, Eastbourne, Peacehaven, Upper Beeding and Arundel. We walked solidly for the 14 days, and on the last day we were met on the South Downs above his house at Storrington by Bishop Michael Bowen, who led us back to the Cathedral and celebrated Mass with us. The question was would we repeat the experience, and it was decided that next summer we would walk the traditional Pilgrims Way from Winchester to Canterbury.
When we got around to planning it we decided that Winchester to Canterbury was a bit short, so we would start from Arundel, our own Cathedral. This time the walk was in the summer. We needed the extra time to prepare, and the previous year Easter had been exceptionally early, and in later years we would not have had a fortnight’s school holiday after Easter. This time the group was much larger, 50 pilgrims began from Arundel and by the time they reached Canterbury their number had grown to 70. That year was extraordinarily hot, and we were lucky to have a camper-van as a support vehicle which could provide us with cold drinks when it could meet us at various times on our route. Since then we have always had a drink stop vehicle following our route. The route was: Arundel, Midhurst, East Meon, Winchester, Medstead, Farnham, Guildford, Dorking, Caterham, Borough Green, Aylesford, Charing and Canterbury. We took one day off walking to explore Winchester, and ever since then Rest Days have been a much enjoyed part of our pilgrimages. Sadly, in those earlier days of ecumenism, we were not allowed to celebrate Mass in Canterbury Cathedral. At the end of this pilgrimage the question was not whether we have another pilgrimage the next year, but just where it would be to. And so it had been each year since.
Our next chosen destination was Walsingham, again starting from Arundel, and taking a route to the West of London. This was an even longer route and we realised that a fortnight’s holiday could be extended to 17 days, by starting on a Saturday and ending on a Bank Holiday Monday. The route was: Arundel, Storrington, Horsham, Dorking, Weybridge, Windsor, Beaconsfield, Tring, Luton, Ashwell, Barrington, Cambridge, Ely, Stoke Ferry, Castle Acre, and Walsingham. Water is my memory of that pilgrimage. A torrential downpour as we walked into Windsor, which caused the roof of the building where we had been going to stay to collapse. The flat boring land and water ways of the Fens. And a ford which every pilgrim had to wade through on the last day into Walsingham.
Arundel to Glastonbury was just too short a route after our previous experiences, so we decided to take route via the Isle of Wight. This necessitated jokes about Christian pilgrims walking across the Solent, of course, but actually we used the Portsmouth – Ryde ferry and Yarmouth – Lymington ferry. This produced a marvellous route: Arundel, Chichester, Hayling Island, Ryde, Ventnor, Freshwater, Brockenhurst, Fordingbridge, Salisbury, Steeple Langford, Maiden Bradley, Stourton, Castle Cary and Glastonbury. We passed Old Sarum and Stonehenge in the days when you could explore the whole of the sites without being fenced in 100 yards away. Each year, the number of pilgrims were growing. We now had 70 full time pilgrims and almost 100 at some points. In several places for the next few years we had to divide ourselves between two halls at night. Our catering resources were being stretched. Parishes that offered to feed us en route just couldn’t cope, and when we cooked for ourselves it was quite difficult too. This was the year that one of our caterer/drivers walked out under the strain halfway through! Next year Frances Dean and Rosemary Wheeler would come to our rescue, and ever since Frances has been the backbone of a dedicated catering team.
By now there had been a change of Bishop in the Archdiocese of Southwark. Bishop Cyril Cowderoy had gone to his eternal reward, and our own Bishop Michael Bowen, who had blessed the beginning of our pilgrimage plans, had been taken from us and was now the Archbishop of Southwark. Now, we could get permission to celebrate Mass in Canterbury Cathedral, we had to walk there again. But, just to do something different, we took a different route from 1976. We began in Brighton, walked close to the coast to Canterbury, and returned across country to Arundel. Our route was: Brighton, Seaford, Eastbourne, St Leonard’s, Rye Sellindge, Canterbury, Charing, Benenden, Wadhurst, Forest Row, Hayward’s Heath, Upper Beeding and Arundel. It was on this pilgrimage that our numbers hit the highest ever, with well over 100 pilgrims sleeping overnight in Charing. And Rosemary Wheeler, George Kelly and Sarah Lane led by Frances Dean set new standards of culinary excellence in the pilgrimage catering department from which we have never looked back.
That year I had taken a group of students from Cardinal Newman School, where I was full-time chaplain from 1975 to 1981, to Buckfast Abbey, and when I told the Abbot about the walking pilgrimages he invited us to make a pilgrimage there. Well, it seemed, and it was, a very long way, but also quite a challenge. Our route led along the wonderfully scenic, but also very hilly Dorset and Devon Coastal paths. The route was Arundel, Midhurst, East Meon, and Winchester (repeating the first three days of the First Canterbury pilgrimage) and then: Romsey, Fordingbridge, Blandford Forum, Dorchester, Burton Bradstock, Lyme Regis, Sidmouth, Exmouth, Chudleigh and Buckfast Abbey. It was a marvellous and most strenuous walk, and when we got there the Abbot said why hadn’t we come two years later when they were celebrating their centenary, so we decided we would!
1981 was the year of St Wilfrid celebrating the 13th centenary of St Wilfrid’s landing at Selsey and bringing Christianity to the South Saxons. The churches of Sussex, in working out plans to celebrate the event together, invited us to organise an ecumenical pilgrimage that year. And so we did, and ever since, our pilgrimages have had an ecumenical nature. We decided that we would visit all the churches and schools in Sussex dedicated to St Wilfrid, which produced a great loop of a route all around Sussex. We began in Brighton (St Wilfrid’s CofE church). Then to Selsey (St Wilfrid’s RC church) via Church Norton where St Winifrid landed, and on to Bosham (where there is the earliest Christian Church in Sussex) and to Chichester (St Wilfrid's CofE church). Then via Pulborough and Cowfold, to St Wilfrid’s Secondary School, Crawley. Then back to St Wilfred’s CofE church, Hayward’s Heath and via St Wilfrid’s RC church, Burgess Hill to Lewes. Then via St Wilfrid’s CofE church, Polegate to Michelham Priory, and via St Wilfrid’s RC church, Hailsham, to St Leonard’s. And finally by St Wilfrid’s church, Winchelsea Beach to Rye, where there was a splendid and most fitting ecumenical conclusion to the whole pilgrimage. Henceforth the pilgrimages were to continue as an ecumenical event, struggling with our differences, the continuing ban on inter-communion, but enjoying and learning the riches on one another’s heritages.
From the moment we heard that Pope John Paul II was to visit England we decided that we just had to walk to one of the events. We had plans for Canterbury, and for Roehampton, but eventually settled on the Wembley Stadium event. We devised a most interesting route through West London following the Grand Union Canal: Arundel, Pulborough, Horsham, Dorking, Weybridge, West Drayton, and Toyngton, near Wembley. This pilgrimage in the May sunshine was wonderful. Our final resting point was less that a mile from Wembley Stadium, and it was an irony that those who came up by coach for the day had to walk much further that we did, that day, although we had walked the whole way.
1982 was the year we walked two pilgrimages, as we responded to the Abbot of Buckfast’s invitation (challenge) to visit them again in their centenary year. We repeated the Dorset and Devon coast path second half of the route, but for the first part we devised a new route avoiding a few miles by getting a chartered boat to ferry us across the mouth of Southampton water. The route was: Arundel, Midhurst, Horndean, Fawley, Bransgore, Studland, Lulworth Dorchester, Bridport, Lyme Regis, Sidmouth, Exmouth, Chudleigh, Buckfast Abbey.
Few people know that England has its own Lourdes, but dating back to the Eighth Century. Then Mary appeared to swineherd, Eoves, and caused Evesham Abbey to be built, which was for many centuries a great centre of pilgrimage, much as in the Nineteenth Century she appeared to Bernadette at Lourdes. It was also revered in earlier times as the place where Simon de Montfort ("the father of modern democracy") was killed, having previously been victorious at the Battle of Lewes. So our route in 1983 was: Lewes, Burgess Hill, Horsham, Wonersh, Farnham, Old Basing, Douai Abbey, Didcot, Oxford, Charlbury, Moreton-in-Marsh and Evesham. While at Oxford the pilgrims made the decision to make a much more adventurous pilgrimage the following year to Holy Island.
Tony Morwood-Leyland took over the responsibility of organising this pilgrimage from myself, Fr. Bill Haynes. It was indeed very complicated and ambitious, both because it was far from our homes mostly in the South of England, but also because for the first time we were traversing wild upland countryside on a pilgrimage. The journey began by train to York. The pilgrims walked to the Holy Island via: York, Wiggington, Ampleforth, Osmotherley, Richmond, Barnard Castle, Stanhope, Minsteracres, Hexham, Cambo, Rothbury, Whittingham, Wooler, and Holy Island. Then after a coach journey and a day in the Cathedral City of Durham, the pilgrims returned south by train. A relatively small group of pilgrims make this difficult journey overcoming a number of unforeseen problems en route.
It was now 10 years since the first pilgrimage and 20 years after the formation of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. A celebratory route was devised around the Diocese visiting each Deanery of the Diocese. The organisation proved difficult, and it was after this pilgrimage that I was again asked to take over the pilgrimage from Anthony Morwood-Leyland, with the help of an organising team or committee. For the first time a formal structure was developed of how a pilgrimage organisation could be shared between a number of responsible officers: an Accommodation Officer, a Chief Route Planner overseeing a team of Day Route Planners, a Booking Secretary, a Treasurer, a Transport Officer, a Catering Officer (Frances Dean of course), to mention but a few. The new team worked extremely well and efficiently.
The pilgrimage was in honour of St Dunstan who reformed English monastic and church life in the 10th Century, aided by the King of Wessex. In 973, in Bath Abbey, he crowned Edgar as the first King of all England. The route was: Brighton, Henfield, Billingshurst, Haslemere, Alton, Old Basing, Kingsclere, Kintbury, Marlborough, Devizes, Westbury and so to Bath. The new team organisation worked well, with Mike Simons, the Accommodation Officer, pointing the way ahead. Bath was a beautiful destination. The greatest memory will be Sister Margaret Crinyion, who was about to leave her more open order to be a contemplative Poor Clare, busking on the streets of Bath, and generally having a last fling!
The next year, 10 years after our First Walsingham Pilgrimage, the pilgrims walked to Walsingham again from Arundel but this time taking a route to the East of London crossing the Thames via the Gravesend – Tilbury Ferry. Like the first it proved to be a long and difficult pilgrimage and was again very watery! The slogan for those who took part in this pilgrimage was “We survived the Roxwell Flood”: a river burst its bank and at one stage we were walking waist deep in water, only to find when we arrived that night that the Roxwell Village Hall had also been flooded! It continued to rain for several days and again leaving Thetford we needed to be rescued from a flooded riverside route. The route was: Arundel, Upper Beeding, Hayward’s Heath, East Grinstead, Sevenoaks, Shorne, Hutton, Roxwell, Rayne, Sudbury, Bury St Edmonds, Thetford, Mundford, Swaffham, Fakenham, and Walsingham.
You will notice that by now we were repeating our destinations and numbers have crept into the titles of our pilgrimages. After the long, long walk to Walsingham a shorter, even only one week pilgrimage was looked for the next year. We made it a long week from a Saturday to a Bank Holiday Monday and walked directly from Arundel to Canterbury, re-crossing quite a few previous routes. The shorter pilgrimage was very enjoyable, but some said it was over before it was started, so the one week formula has not yet been used again. Our route was: Arundel, Worthing, Hassocks, Seaford, Eastbourne, Battle, Benenden, Charing and Canterbury. A highlight for me was taking the pilgrims to East Worthing and celebrating Mass with them in St Charles Church where I was ordained.
St Richard was born in Droitwich in 1197, and became first chancellor of Oxford University and then Bishop of Chichester in 1244. So our route in his honour was: Droitwich, Alcester, Shipston-on-Stour, Chipping Norton, Oxford, East Hendred, Thatcham, Overton, Ropley, Horndean, Chichester. On this pilgrimage we were first joined by one Danny Thomas, who is now the proud owner of this illustrious Web Page! En route we became very enamoured of St Richard, a holy and humble cleric, and decided to follow his footsteps again the next year.
At the end of his life St Richard, who at last gained control of his Episcopal lands, set out on a preaching journey, which ended in Dover where he fell ill and died. This obviously suggested to us a marvellous route along the South Coast: Chichester, Selsey, Littlehampton, Worthing, Brighton, Ringmer, Hailsham, St Leonard’s, Rye, Dymchurch, Hythe, to Dover. As an extra treat from Dover we made a day pilgrimage to Boulogne, and celebrated Mass in Boulogne Cathedral. We crossed the channel by ship, but during the walk we had some wonderful views of the Channel Tunnel workings that were then in full swing.
Our first pilgrimage to Glastonbury via the Isle of Wight had become something of a pilgrimage legend, particularly when the Glastonbury Song, “As I was a walking” had become something of a theme song for us. And so the younger pilgrims were insisting that we repeat the route. As it happened only a few of the original overnight stoops were still available, so the route ended up being parallel rather than identical to the original. It was: Arundel, Midhurst, Emsworth, Ryde, Ventnor, Totland, Brockenhurst, Wellow, Salisbury, Sutton Veny, Frome, Downside Abbey, Glastonbury. It was during this pilgrimage in Ventnor, that the “Pasta Pot Declaration” was made by myself. The Pasta Pot was a restaurant where I had taken the organising team for a meal, and where I told them that, come what may, I would not be responsible for organisation of another pilgrimage. Since 1986 I had enjoyed the co-operation of a splendid team each year, but I had always been responsible for pulling the whole thing together – to be the “hub of the wheel” as it had been described. During the rest of the pilgrimage it was all sorted out and both Alan Fox and Andy Ollard had expressed a willingness to take over. As it happened Alan was to lead for two years and Andy for two. It was on this occasion that for the first time Danny Thomas tried his hand at route planning.
For only the second time, the pilgrims chose a route which neither started nor finished in the diocese. This was a pilgrimage in honour of Wales' patron saint from Mumbles (on the edge of Swansea) to the tiny cathedral city of St David's. The route started with a scenic two-day detour to the end of the Gower Peninsula and back, and then skirted Llanelli to the reach the first rest day at Burry Port, the home town of pilgrim Linda Green. At Burry Port we had a barbecue on the sand dunes, gathered around a drift wood fire, lit expertly by pilgrim John Cullen. The Pembrokshire Coast is beautiful, but is also renowned for wet weather, and the pilgrims got duly soaked heading into the second rest day at Tenby. There was no accommodation in St David's itself, so the pilgrims final base was Solva, 6 walking miles short of St David's. After walking to St David's on the final walking day, the pilgrims had a choice of following the orange arrows on a scenic route back to Solva via St David's Head, or returning by a direct walking route or getting a bus. Then came the Celebration Day and Celebration Meal. Waking the following morning the pilgrims had a major shock: during the night after the Celebration Meal, John Cullen had died in his sleeping bag. He had always walked at the front of the pilgrim band and been first in the queue for dinner - now he was the first to heaven.
Julian of Norwich was an English mystical writer who lived as a hermit in Norwich. “The Revelations of Divine Love” is one of the great English Spiritual Classics. And the route to Norwich was magnificent threading together so many different typed of English countryside. The route was: Guilford, Chobham, Burnham, Amersham, St Albans, Stevenage, Royston, Cambridge, Isleham, Lakenham, Thetford, Hingham, Norwich. The geographical and the spiritual route were lovingly crafted together by Alan Fox on his second year of leadership.
Now Andy Ollard was in charge for a wonderful westward journey, just touching Wales for the second time. The shrine of the Fourteenth Century Bishop of Hereford, St Thomas Cantilupe, in Hereford Cathedral was its conclusion. The route was: Guildford, Farnham, Old Basing, St Mary Bourne, Collingbourne Ducis, Marlborough, Calne, Marshfield, Frampton Cotterell, Chepstow, Brockweir, Monmouth, Ross-on-Wye, Hereford. By now there was a long list of pilgrim marriage, of those who had met on our pilgrimages. But this time the meeting of Joseph Bonnici from Malta and Marietta Ort from Canada led to a truly international marriage. They are now living happily in the U.S.A.
In the Arundel and Brighton Diocese our local saint, St Philip Howard was celebrating his fourth centenary, and our pilgrimages were celebrating their 20th birthday, and the Diocese its 30th anniversary of breaking away for the Southwark Diocese. The route taking in the Tower of London, where St Philip died, and something of the route of our first pilgrimage, and linking Arundel and Southwark commemorated all three events, and some Protestant Martyrs as well, to be ecumenical. Our route was: Arundel, Storrington, Cranleigh, Cobham, Southwark, Bromley, Westerham, East Grinstead, Uckfield, Eastbourne, Seaford, Ringmer, Brighton. The route into London from Hampton Court was made aboard a River Thames Steamer, and the route out on the Docklands Light Railway. In London the Pilgrims visited Southwark, Cathedral, the Tyburn Convent, the Smithfield Martyrs Shrine and the Tower of London. And so Andy Ollard’s two years of leadership came to an end. Now Patrick Reeve, who for many years had been our pilgrimage treasurer, was chosen as leader.
The two pilgrimages to the Benedictine Monastery at Buckfast in the early 1980’s were becoming faded memories among the older pilgrims, and younger pilgrims asked that we might make the epic journey again, concluding along the coast paths of Dorset and Devon. But this time, with deference to a desire for shorter distances, we started from Winchester instead of Arundel. The route was: Winchester, Romsey Sway, Bournemouth, Wareham, Wool, Dorchester, Bridport, Lyme Regis Sidmouth, Exmouth, Chudleigh, Buckfast. Danny Thomas ascended to new heights as accommodation officer, and never has pilgrimage accommodation been so good.
The national celebrations of the 1400 years since St. Augustine landed at Pegwell Bay to begin the conversion of England, led the pilgrims to plan a fourth pilgrimage to Canterbury for the following year. This time the route took us from Chichester, following the Sussex and Kent coast all the way to Ramsgate, before turning inland up the Stour valley to Canterbury.
Patrick completed his 3-year stint as coordinator with the realisation of a dream – to make a pilgrimage through Cornwall to St Michael’s Mount. We started in Plymouth – further west than we’d ever been in England – and headed north to Tavistock before crossing the Tamar into Cornwall. Heading south-west again we reached the coast at Fowey and enjoyed their regatta on our rest day before following the Saints Way across the peninsula to Padstow. We then followed the north coast to St Ives, before crossing back to the south coast via the St Michael’s Way to Marazion and St Michael’s Mount. Here we received a warm welcome from Lord and Lady St Leven, but there were recollections of Holy Island as the tide started to cover the causeway as we headed back to the mainland!
All change at the top this year as Lesley Hill succeeded Patrick as coordinator and Aidan Simons attempted to follow Danny as accommodation officer. We started from Chichester – as far west as possible within the Diocese – and went via the Isle of Wight and Salisbury to Bath. Things got off to a bad start – we hadn’t realised a van proclaiming “hire me one way” meant that it had no reverse gear!
Lesley’s desire to lead the pilgrims to her native midlands was realised with the happy coincidence that Lichfield Cathedral, founded by St Chad, was celebrating its 1300th birthday. St Chad was a protégé of St Aidan, which provided a link with our earlier pilgrimage to Lindisfarne. Once more we started from Guildford, and followed a fairly straight line north-north-west. An rest day in Henley-on-Thames provided an opportunity for “mucking about on the river”, repeated in Stratford-upon-Avon where we stayed in Shakespeare’s old school. On this pilgrimage we enjoyed the company and inspiration of Father Joe Kengah from Kenya, opening our eyes to new possibilities. We didn’t enjoy two nocturnal fire alarms, but did enjoy the welcome we received in Lichfield, inspiring us to start our next pilgrimage there in search of Chad’s brother, Cedd. 2000, start of the new millennium, was also the year we wrote an online diary of the pilgrimage, which achieved a strong following and has become a regular feature in the 21st Century.
John Lamb took over as coordinator from Lesley, ready to lead us to the wilds of the North York Moors, to Lastingham where both Chad and his brother Cedd were abbot. However, a major outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in England effectively closed the countryside, and it was impossible to plan the walking days, even though we had accommodation. Although things started to open up, we reluctantly took the decision to postpone the pilgrimage.
A year later we were able to make our pilgrimage to Lastingham, starting with a great send off from Lichfield. Our first day had been optimistic, and we ran late, then got soaked, arriving in Uttoxeter long after nightfall. However, things looked up as we enjoyed the more rugged countryside of the Peak District on the long first stage to Sheffield. We wove our way between parts of industrial Yorkshire for a second rest day in York, before two challenging days first across the Howardian Hills then onto the edge of the North York Moors. The pilgrimage, in honour of two brothers, culminated with a relic of St Chad being processed from Kirbymoorside to Lastingham, first by brothers Patrick and William Reeve then brothers Mike and Jonny Gamble. John Lamb’s only pilgrimage as coordinator ended unusually – with the celebration meal in a hotel rather than “in house”, because the hall was so small.
Bruce Matheson took the helm as we planned a pilgrimage to honour St Richard of Chichester. We had previously walked from Droitwich (Richard’s birthplace) to Chichester (where he was Bishop) and then from Chichester to Dover (where he died), so to celebrate the 750th anniversary of his death we started from Dover and headed back to Chichester. In the manner of the St Wilfrid Pilgrimage in 1981, we took in as many churches dedicated to St Richard as possible, which resulted in some meandering! The pilgrimage started hot – record temperatures being set within miles of where we were struggling up and down and up again along the chalk cliffs. Most of the pilgrimage was through the familiar Sussex countryside.
Bruce’s second year as coordinator saw us starting from Gloucester (Bruce’s home) and heading north along the Welsh borders, stopping at halls found by new accommodation officer Fred Adilz. Whereas previous pilgrimages had been dedicated to a saint or saints on whom we reflected as we journeyed, this year we gave our pilgrimage the theme of Justice and Peace. But our thoughts also turned to the terrain – a gentle start and finish, but one of the hilliest pilgrimages, or so our legs told us. Closer to God our hearts told us as we reached the summit of another hill and surveyed the beauty before us. The mileage being just too long on the last day, we approached Chester on a river boat,before processing the final yards in our traditional manner.
Sue Adilz (who was Sue Earley when she took the job, before she married the accommodation officer) assumed the role of coordinator this year. For our 30th birthday we were back close to home again, but with a difference. Rather than taking the traditional Pilgrims Way route from Winchester to Canterbury we started in Canterbury and heading west to Winchester. With rest days in Rochester and Guildford our pilgrimage was punctuated by cathedrals, and we took the dedication of the newest of these, the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit at Guildford, as our theme. Each day we reflected on a different gift of the spirit. A refreshing blend of old and new for the pilgrimage: we retraced old steps, stayed in familiar accommodation, but equally walked new paths and found new halls. John Chenery took over from Maurice as Chief Routeplanner and tried to standardise the timings, with considerable success. On the flat or over the hills we ran to time. Celebrating the pilgrimage as an extended family, Aid and Meld Simons who met on the very first pilgrimage were able to renew their marriage vows in anticipation of their silver wedding in the church where they were married.
Our welcome in Chester in 2004 had been special, and we were keen to revisit the city. So we planned a route due east across England to the cathedral city of Lincoln, not far as the crow flies but with a bit of a lump (the Peak District) in the middle. Fred found accommodation hard to get, but we did have a roof over our heads each night (but few showers). This year’s theme was Prayer, with a subtitle of “Faith on the Move”, which brought out some moving reflections. On the Eucharistic side, having 2 Anglican ministers with us as well as our RC chaplain, we were able almost every day to co-celebrate such that all present were able to receive communion. For 25 years, since St Wilfrid’s in 1981, we had described ourselves as Ecumenical and struggled to achieve this label; this year we felt as if we made big strides forward. Reflecting at Lincoln, we agreed this had been one of the happiest pilgrimages.
Peter Doran's first year at the helm had us take the indirect route from Wells Cathedral back to Arundel - via his beloved Isle of Wight. Peter had promised us unlimited sunshine on the island - this wasn't to happen, but it didn't rain on us, which was an improvement on the first week, in a pilgrimage with a decidedly autumnal feel. But this pilgrimage will inevitably be remembered for the death of Pat Olivier, a long-standing pilgrim, at Niton where he had joined us for the afternoon. As we neared Arundel the sun eventually broke through, as if we were letting Pat go into the light. At Arundel we were joined by Bishop Kieran and by Pat's family for the conclusion of this stage in our pilgrimage.
The Magnificat Pilgrimage, linking the mediaeval shrine of Our Lady at Evesham to the Cathedral Church of St Mary at Salisbury took us through the Cotswolds, almost virgin territory for our pilgrimages, for the first week and then through Wiltshire crossing a number of early pilgrimage routes. It was one of the least sunny Augusts on record but, although it was almost always grey, we managed to avoid getting seriously wet. It was also one of the most convivial pilgrimages, largely devoid of the tensions that affect any group living so closely together.
Twenty five years after our first Lindisfarne Pilgrimage we returned, this time with Aidan Simons as coordinator (having been the first post-Bill-Haynes chief routeplanner in 1984). Although the start and end points were the same, the 2009 route did not touch the 1984 route until the final approach to Holy Island. It was a stunning walk - the rugged North York Moors, weaving through the industrial heritage of North-East England, then the awe-inspiring Northumberland coastline. Our numbers were good, posing a few challenges with the accommodation, but these discomforts were forgotten as we processed across the sands (not through the sea as in 1984!) onto Lindisfarne.
There had been a long-standing desire among pilgrims to return to Wales, but it took some time to derive a route that combined the shrine of Our Lady of the Taper at Cardigan, the Ceredigion coast and Aberystwyth, and the tiny cathedral city of St David's. New accommodation officer Rosemary Southon was challenged to find places for us to sleep, and for the first time we had to take tents as overflow. The scenery of the Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire coast was absolutely stunning, though it had its "ups and downs". The inland stretches were often hilly too, and the distances rather longer than usual, so it was a physical challenge. However the welcome we received along the way was tremendous, and for the last day we were joined by the son and daughter of John Cullen, who died in his sleep at the end of the previous St David's pilgrimage. In three words: challenging but rewarding.
In 2011 the pilgrims walked from London to Birmingham in honour of Cardinal Newman. Lead by Nick and commencing with services at Westminster’s Cathedral and Abbey, visiting the shrine of Edward the Confessor, they departed across London’s Hyde Park to the Grand Union Canal. Two weeks later, they followed that same canal into Birmingham on a soaking wet day. In between, the pilgrims walked part-way along the Thames, resting in Oxford and Warwick. Highlights included a visit to Littlemore, where pilgrims learnt about the life and work of John Henry Newman and of his spiritual journey from evangelical roots, through the Anglican Priesthood, his work in Oxford and eventual conversion to Roman Catholicism in later life. The Pilgrimage concluded with a moving service in Birmingham Oratory, his final home.
Starting in Bath Abbey in 2012, Nick led for his second year. The pilgrims followed a meandering route to Exeter Cathedral, taking in Cheddar Gorge, the Somerset Levels, Quantocks and south Devon Coastal Path, approaching Exeter from the south along the west bank of the River Exe. They had rest days in Glastonbury and Taunton. Studying a theme based on the Lord’s Prayer, prepared by Becky, pilgrims examined many versions of this prayer and its meanings in the churches along the way. Highlights included a visit from founder Bill Haynes and his wife Gil in Taunton, where a lively evening was spent singing pilgrim songs in the pub. The pilgrimage concluded with the usual celebration meal, on this occasion, prepared by Alison.
Our new Leader, John, had always wanted to visit Walsingham, so in 2013, assisted by his wife Louise and others, the pilgrims set out from St Albans. They visited Bedford, Ely and Kings Lynn on the way, a large part of the walk following the River Great Ouse, before traversing Norfolk’s rolling farmland via the Sandringham Estate. Rest days were spent in Bedford in honour of John Bunyan, whose book “The Pilgrim’s Progress” was being read along the way, and in Kings Lynn, the former medieval port. Towards Walsingham, pilgrims considered both history and meaning of the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham; culminating in services at the Roman Catholic and Anglican shrines. It was a very moving end to a great pilgrimage, blest largely with fine weather.
In 2014 pilgrims broke new ground and ventured into Lancashire and Cumbria. The pilgrimage commenced with services in Liverpool Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals, then, led by John, the pilgrims set out. Caught up in the end of a hurricane on day 2, they headed inland to cross the River Ribble at Preston, before turning north to county town, Lancaster for a rest day. Along Morecambe Bay, the sun shone, but predictably Lake District weather was varied, with two glorious days from Ambleside to Keswick and two wet ones from Kendal to Ambleside and from Keswick over the Northern Fells. Highlights included a visit to Ladyewell Shrine near Preston, Memorial Service in Holy Trinity Langdale, and the many other public and private reflections on the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WW1 shared by pilgrims and church communities alike. Pilgrims reflected on the theme of Peace and the Way of St Francis, prepared by Bill W and were welcomed at Carlisle Cathedral at the end.