Following on from Francis’ “Coordinator’s Article” and the release of the poster and booking form, here is the “Chief Route Planner’s Column”.
The hall in Kenton has been confirmed, so the route shown at the bottom of the poster is the confirmed route. The result of some thoughtful debate at the September AGM, I believe the route chosen is a pleasing mixture of old and new. The middle section is largely as it was on the 1982 and 1996 Buckfast Pilgrimages, a walk along or close to the glorious Jurassic coast of Dorset and Devon, featuring Lulworth Cove and Golden Cap. The route from Kenton to Buckfast is new: instead of heading inland at that point as previously, we only do so after taking in a further section of coastpath, all the way to the outskirts of Torquay. This will include Dawlish where the Great Western mainline runs right along the sea wall and we have seen on the news how it gets damaged by exceptional storms. The pilgrimage starts in Salisbury and avoids Bournemouth so that the first rest day is in Wareham and we only hit the coast after that.
It is interesting to look at the routes of the three previous pilgrimages to see how distances have shortened over the year. In 1980, the 6th pilgrimage ever started in Arundel and went to Buckfast – a walk of 251 miles in 13 walking days (an average of over 19 miles per day). The monks invited us back for their celebrations in 1982 of the centenary of the rebuilding of the abbey (it was originally completed in 1018 but demolished at the reformation). Again the pilgrimage started in Arundel. A ferry across Southampton Water provided a short cut this time but there were still several days over 20 miles long, up to 26.5 miles! By 1996 the pilgrims were becoming less tough. The route was shortened by starting in Winchester, but there was still one day of 22 miles and several just under 20 miles. These days we aim to average 15 miles and never exceed 18 miles and by starting in Salisbury, I think we can just about deliver that!
John Chenery, chief route planner