Virtual Pilgrims’ Progress

DAY 24


We have accomplished 191.13 miles today, which is more than enough to complete our journey back to Nottingham a week early! We have covered 4000 miles, travelled through a variety of places, and raised £1585 so far on Justgiving (and as I know there are donations coming in, I think we can be confident that the church has raised somewhere in the region of £2000 for Christian Aid this year).


The first stge of our journey today takes us from Hunstanton to Walsingham (19.7 miles) and completes another leg of our pilgrimage.



Walsingham has been a place of pilgrimage since the 11th C, since Richeldis de Faverches had a vision in which the Virgin Mary instructed her to build a replica of the house of the Holy Family in Nazareth in honour of the Annunciation. It was an important place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, with relics including a vial of the Virgin’s milk. Even into the Tudor period it was significant: Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn both made pilgrimages there, as did Erasmus. The shrine was dismantled in 1537, with the connivance of its prior, who received a pension for his collusion. The shrine was then in abeyance until the 20th C, when a new statue arrived with papal blessing. Since then, the shrine has grown, and now has both Catholic and Anglican shrines, and even an Orthodox presence. 

Graham and Catherine visited today:


At the Slipper Chapel…

they elected not to walk the last mile barefoot.

At the Anglican Shrine Church, they were surprised not to find any of you – so assumed you all made an earlier start than them!


Inside the elaborately decorated Shrine Church is the reconstruction of the Holy House…

and, within that, is the image of Our Lady of Walsingham. For more details on the shrines see here: and here:


Outside, the garden with the Stations of the Cross is very peaceful.


From Walsingham to Ely, via Swaffham (50.2 miles):
Swaffham is one of the many locations for The Man Who Became Rich through a Dream folk tale (Aarne-Thompson type 1645). In this version,  a pedlar from Swaffham who dreamed for several consecutive nights that if he waited on London Bridge he would eventually hear good news. He travelled to London, and waited for several days on the bridge. Eventually a shopkeeper asked him why he was waiting, and the man told of his dream. The shopkeeper laughed, and replied that he often dreamed that if he went to a certain orchard in Swaffham and started digging, he would find buried treasure. The pedlar returned to Swaffham, and found the treasure. The church is also very elegant, with late medieval carvings and a chestnut roof. However, shareable photos are hard to find, so if you’d like to know more, follow this link:


On to Ely, another cathedral city: here the cathedral arrived before the town. It was founded by Etheldreda (also known as Audrey), daughter of Anna, king of East Anglia in 673, after two celibate marriages. When her second husband Egfrith wished to consummate their marriage, she left him and became a nun under her aunt Ebbe at Coldingham, and then went on to found a double monastery (men and women) on the Isle of Ely, which was her dowry. Etheldreda’s foundation was destroyed by the Danes some 200 years later, and refounded as a Benedictine house in 970. Etheldreda had a shrine in Ely, destroyed in 1541, when the Benedictine house was disbanded and the church refounded as an Anglican cathedral. The current building took 116 years to complete – not even William the Conqueror could make it go faster. Like so many other buildings we’ve visited, George GIlbert Scott helped restore it in the 19th C. If you’d like to join worship here remotely, the services can be found on the cathedral’s YouTube channel: The poet Wendy Cope is among Ely’s current inhabitants: here is her poem celebrating the first decade of women priests in the Church of England:


Here are Jim W’s photos from a recent visit:



Ely to Cambridge (21.2 miles).
From Ely we need to travel to Cambridge, it seems only fair having been to Oxford (it was easier for Cromwell to have the monarch executed than it was to found a third university at Durham). The area around Cambridge has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and appears in Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Viking accounts. The oldest surviving college is Peterhouse (founded 1284) but some of the best known colleges are later foundations, notably Kings College, whose chapel was started by Henry VI, finished in the reign of Henry VIII and now features on Cambridge City Council’s logo. 


Photo by Jose Llamas on Unsplash.


If you’d like to listen to King’s College Choir, try here: Cambridge University Library is a copyright library, which also has open shelves: this is a swots’ paradise. Most elegant is the Wren Library in Trinity College, although the urgent instruction for readers not to lick their fingers was slightly alarming. 


Cambridge is also the location of Westminster College, the training college for the URC:


From Cambridge on to Rutland Water (55.9 miles) – an opportunity for water sports and walking. This is the reservoir in England with the largest surface area, although Kielder Water has a larger capacity. It was first flooded in 1976. 

Here is Normanton church, which survived the flooding of the reservoir:

Photo by Karen Cann on Unsplash


Rutland Water to Oakham (6 miles) is a small distance:
Oakham is the county town for Rutland, which has yet another church renovated by George Gilbert Scott (All Saints). The town also has a curious custom with horseshoes:  members of royalty and peers of the realm who visited or passed through the town had to pay a forfeit in the form of a horseshoe. This unique custom has been enforced for over 500 years, but nowadays it only happens on special occasions (such as royal visits), when an outsize ceremonial horseshoe, specially made and decorated, is hung in the great hall of the castle. There are now over 200 of these commemorative shoes on its walls. Not all are dated and some of the earliest (which would doubtless have been ordinary horseshoes given without ceremony by exasperated noblemen) may not have survived. The earliest datable one is an outsize example commemorating a visit by King Edward IV in about 1470. The horseshoes hang with the ends pointing down; while this is generally held to be unlucky, in Rutland this was thought to stop the Devil from sitting in the hollow. The horseshoe motif appears in the county council’s arms and on Ruddles beer labels. Recent horseshoes commemorate visits by Princess Anne (1999), Prince Charles (2003) and Princess Alexandra (2005).[8]


Oakham to Nottingham (31.7 miles) This is our final destination! Well done everyone! 


Here is Christian Aid’s prayer for this week:

God of Pentecost,
renew your spirit within us
so we may show your love to one another
and see your kingdom come. Amen.



Thank you for your commitment and contributions!




DAY 23


Today’s weather has not deterred our group – 288.81 miles have been recorded today, with yesterday’s banked milage included! Our total raised for Christian Aid currently stands at £1585.


Leaving the Peak District, we are now travelling north again to Skipton (65.6 miles):
Setting off today, we will first pass through Sheffield, by Penistone, Huddersfield, Haworth and Keighley – proper Yorkshire!  Sheffield has been producing knives since the Middle Ages (The Canterbury Tales make mention of it) but really led the industry in the 18th C and onwards. As a city, Sheffield has invested significantly in its infrastructure, including parks and public spaces, although its recent decision in the years before the pandemic, to cut down its street trees has been contested. Penistone is high in the hills, and offers views over West Yorkshire and North Derbyshire, and it is well known for its local breeds of sheep.  


The Whitefaced Woodland, derived from the Penistone breed:
Mark Hogan from London, UK, USA – Sheep at Freightliner Farm, CC BY-SA 2.0,
For more information, see here:


Its annual agricultural show draws in attendance from across the counties, and includes horticulture and handicrafts (and presumably, cake!) as well as agricultural displays. Its daughters include Kate Rusby and Rachael McShane from Bellowhead: here are clips of their work – Rusby:; Bellowhead Haworth is famous for the Parsonage and the Brontes, a much-told story. Here is one of Emily Bronte’s poems:

Love and Friendship

Love is like the wild rose-briar, 
Friendship like the holly-tree—
The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms 
But which will bloom most constantly? 

The wild rose-briar is sweet in spring, 
Its summer blossoms scent the air; 
Yet wait till winter comes again 
And who will call the wild-briar fair? 

Then scorn the silly rose-wreath now 
And deck thee with the holly’s sheen, 
That when December blights thy brow 
He still may leave thy garland green.

(For more, see:


And a photo of the North Yorkshire Moors that Emily loved:

Photo by Nighthawk Shoots on Unsplash


Skipton’s first parish church is dedicated to the Holy Trinity; the first building was probably constructed in wood around 1200; the present church (with 15th C additions) dates from about 1300. It was damaged in the Civil War and repaired and renovated with money given by Lady Anne Clifford. Lady Anne (1590-1676) was clearly a formidable woman, who fought long and hard to inherit her father’s title and estates; she was eventually successful and gained access to the estates in 1649, but this was only after all the possible male heirs had died. She was tutored by Samuel Daniel, a distinguished poet of both Elizabethan and Jacobean periods, and was a literary patron and a diarist for much of her life. She married twice, although both marriages saw their fair share of disagreement, apparently because having taken on the law of the land, Lady Anne was not really one for obedience in marriage.  Here is a picture she commissioned: she is presented as a little girl in the left hand panel, a mature woman in the right, and in the middle are her parents and brothers. (


van Belcamp, Jan; The Great Picture; Lakeland Arts Trust;


From Skipton, we journey to Ripon (28 miles) stopping at Fountains Abbey, a Cistercian foundation from 1132, when some 12 monks were expelled from St Mary’s monastery in York, and given land by the archbishop to form their own house. The abbey became the second richest Cistercian house after Rievaulx, largely through its sheep-farming and wool production. As a building it suffered significant despoliation at the Reformation, but it, together with Studley Royal Water Garden it is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Photo by Gibbon FitzGibbon on Unsplash


Photo by JR Harris on Unsplash


Ripon is only a short distance away. Its Christian origins are also recounted in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, but in contrast to some of the other towns we’ve passed through, Ripon did not undergo huge changes in the Industrial Revolution, and still remains a market town at heart. The cathedral was founded by Wilfrid, whose crypt remains intact under the present-day building, making it the oldest structure of any English cathedral. The present building was started in 1180, by Roger de Pont L’Eveque, Archbishop of York. It has particularly distinctive misericords, dating from the 15th C, which were created in the workshop of the Bromflet family, whose name appears in local records.



Ripon was originally a minster, and only became a cathedral in the 19th C; in 2014, it became the cathedral of the diocese of Leeds. The cathedral has a page dedicated to pilgrimages, noting that 2020 was meant to be a year of them, particularly towards peace, commemorating the end of WW2. If you’d like to follow up their suggestions, next time you get to Yorkshire, here they are: Here are our photos of a visit to Ripon.



From Ripon to York is only 24 miles. We missed out York on our journey north, so it seems only fair to visit on the way back down. York was a Roman settlement, then Anglo-Saxon and then Viking. Its first church, according to Bede, was a wooden structure in which King Edwin was baptised in 627. Edwin ordered the wooden structure be rebuilt in stone but he was killed in battle in 633, and his successor Oswald had to oversee the completion of the church. The final version of the building was reconsecrated in 1472 – these things take time. Amongst its many treasures, it has a window uniquely dedicated to all the women who died in WW1 and WW2 ( is also associated with the development of the railways and of chocolate production (both Terry’s and Rowntree’s), items dear to the hearts of several of our pilgrims.


Photo by Cristiano Pinto on Unsplash


Photo by Alex O’Connor on Unsplash


From York to Wakefield (29.9 miles):
Wakefield and its surrounds has been home to people since prehistoric times, and Wakefield appears to have grown into a settlement with three streets (Westgate, Northgate and Kirkgate) and a church under the Vikings. The cathedral and parish church is dedicated to All Hallows (or All Saints, after the Reformation), and owes its current appearance to a renovation by Gilbert Scott in the 19th C (there’s a whole other pilgrimage in visiting all the churches Gilbert Scott rebuilt.) There are still some medieval remnants – more misericords! – and 17th C rood screen and font. As well as being the location of an important battle in the Wars of the Roses, Wakefield’s late medieval existence was distinguished by the Wakefield plays: mystery plays written in a particular verse form, leading to the conclusion (not undisputed) that they were all written by the same hand. The plays in question are: Noah, The First Shepherds’ Play, The Second Shepherds’ Play, Herod the Great and The Buffeting of Christ.  The best known of these is The Second Shepherds’ Play, distinguished by an imagined paired narrative to the Biblical one, where the shepherds have first to retrieve their stolen sheep before being instructed by the angels. The mix of farce and devotion is quite startling to a modern audience, but it provides a little more dimension to the shepherds themselves. Wakefield is also home to the Hepworth Gallery, which holds important collections of the work of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, among others (


The map shows the route of our travels so far today:



The first stage of the next part of today’s pilgrimage takes us from Wakefield to Worksop (35 miles):
Worksop Priory (formerly the Priory Church of Our Lady and St Cuthbert)  was founded as an Augustinian priory in 1103. It is associated with two stunning medieval books: the Worksop Bestiary (now in the Morgan Library, New York), given to the Priory in 1187, and the Tickhill Psalter (now in the New York Public Library), produced in the 14th C by the prior John de Tickhill. 


The Tickhill Psalter…


and the Worksop Bestiary…



Although the Wiki entry doesn’t mention it, Worksop is of course home to The Crossing (, a resource shared between the Methodist Church and the URC, designed by Mark Hodgson and mentioned in the most recent edition of Pevsner’s Architectural Guide to Nottinghamshire. 


Worksop to Southwell is only another 19.9 miles:
We will skip past Edwinstowe: the medieval ballads of Robin Hood scan very badly and are disturbingly violent; Maid Marian is a 16th C replacement for the medieval Robin’s devotion to the Virgin Mary; and in any case, the first reference to Robin Hood as a historical figure occurs in a Scottish chronicle, where he is used to demonstrate the poor government of the English king. So on to Southwell, with a glad cry. The early history of the town is unclear, although the Romans were clearly there too, since a Roman villa has been excavated from under the Minster. The earliest church is said to have been founded by Paulinus, the first Archbishop of York in 627, when he was baptising in the Trent. From the pre-conquest church, only a tessellated floor and a tympanum (decoration above a doorway) survive; the Norman church was completed c. 1150. The most severe damage it has sustained was during the English Civil War in 1646, when the adjoining palace was nearly totally destroyed, first by Scots troops and then by local people.



From Southwell, in order to meet up with the Jennings, we are travelling to Walsingham (93.4 miles). We won’t quite make it there today so we rest tonight in Hunstanton.

Here is the map of the second section of today’s journey:



DAY 22


The total milage submitted and counted for today’s journing is another 116.52 miles.

We begin by setting off on our journey north, from Stratford to Coventry (18.8 miles)

Coventry’s fame goes right back to Lady Godiva, an 11th C example of political protest against excessive taxation, if probably legendary (a story preserved in the idiom ‘peeping Tom’; the source of the other idiom, ‘being sent to Coventry’ is unclear, although it is first recorded as a phrase in 1703, in Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion.) After WW2, however, Coventry’s response to the bombing of its 14th C cathedral, dedicated to St Michael, which left only the spire standing, made it distinctive. A new cathedral, designed by Basil Spence, was built next to the old, and holds significant art work, Graham Sutherland’s tapestry, Christ in Glory in the Tetramorph and Jacob Epstein’s statue St Michael’s Victory over the Devil near the entrance. Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem was written for the cathedral’s opening: a recording of it can be heard here: The cathedral’s ministry to the city and the rest of the world is focused on peace. Coventry is also currently UK City of Culture.


Photo by Sam Clarke on Unsplash


Photo by ian kelsall on Unsplash



Photo by Stuart Frisby on Unsplash


From Coventry to Lichfield (26.7 miles):

Lichfield is first mentioned in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, as the place where St Chad settled the bishopric of the Mercians in 669. Chad’s shrine was in the cathedral – the first church to house his bones was built in 700, just shy of 30 years after he’d died. 



By Bs0u10e01 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


The wealth of the area and its rulers has recently been demonstrated by the discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard, only 4 miles from Lichfield. 


The shrine survived as a place of pilgrimage until 1538 when it was destroyed under Henry VIII. Apart from Chad, Lichfield’s most famous son is Samuel Johnson, he of the Dictionary fame. He was famed for his aphorisms and wit, and any dictionary of quotations will throw up a wide variety, but here is one that seems apposite to our pilgrimage: “Life affords no higher pleasure than that of surmounting difficulties.” ~ Samuel Johnson. (Although I suspect he’d never had a work meeting cancelled at the last moment.)


From Lichfield to Buxton (46.5) – from the Black Country to the Peak District:
Buxton is the highest market town in the country, and is best known as a spa town. Even the Romans knew it as a spa, and by 1460 it was dedicated to St Anne. Its fame continued through the 17th C (when the philosopher Thomas Hobbes paid a visit) and was redeveloped as a spa town to rival Bath by the Duke of Devonshire at the end of the 18th C. At the end of the 19th C, further developments took place, including the building of the (then) largest unsupported dome in the world, the Devonshire Dome, with a diameter of 44 m and bigger than both the Pantheon and St Pauls. This was designed by a local architect, Robert Rippon Duke. The Opera House was designed by Frank Matcham in 1903, and today hosts an annual festival.

From Buxton we journey through Tideswell and Eyam to Chesterfield (24.3) across the Peaks, with some spectacular views. 


Photo by Nik Demidko on Unsplash



Photo by Luke Thornton on Unsplash


While we don’t take the views for granted, sometimes I think we take our access to them as granted. 

Here is a thought-provoking piece on other communities’ experiences of the countryside by Maxwell Ayamba:


First pause comes at Tideswell

By Tideswellman – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Tideswell’s church of St John the Baptist is known as the Cathedral of the Peak because of its grandeur and size. This did not stop it being the subject of an unseemly dispute between Lichfield Cathedral and Lenton Priory in the 13th C, on one occasion becoming so violent that 18 lambs were killed and the priory monks managed to carry off another 14. Lenton Priory was fined severely for its behaviour by the Pope, although that did not entirely put an end to the dispute. The current church (built after the Lenton raid) contains some 15th C misericords, and a memorial to Thurstan de Bower and his wife (although this is disputed, and details on these people are scarce).


Photo by Beth Macdonald on Unsplash


Although Eyam has a long history of inhabitation and of lead-mining (back to Roman times and further), it is primarily known as the Plague Village. In 1665, bubonic plague came to the village through fleas in a bundle of cloth, and spread quickly through the village. The priest William Mompesson and the Puritan leader Thomas Stanley led the village through the outbreak, moving worship outdoors, requiring families to bury their own dead, and most famously, isolating the village, so that supplies brought from outside were left on stones outside the village, and paid for with money doused in vinegar to kill infection. The church records 273 victims of the disease, including Catherine Mompesson, the priest’s wife, who refused to leave for safety with the rest of her family and died at the very end of the outbreak.



Photo by Jacob Amson on Unsplash


Chesterfield is best known for the spire of its church, twisted 45 degrees and 2.9m from its true centre. Legendary reasons tend to involve the Devil, either through his sneezing or because a Bolsover blacksmith mis-shod him, and he leapt over the spire in pain knocking it out of true. These seem unlikely. Other reasons advanced have included the lack of skilled craftsmen at the time of construction (some 12 years after the Black Death); the use of unseasoned timber; or the weight of lead used on a spire not designed to bear it. Becky also notes that: Chesterfield is also the only twisted tower in the UK and alarmingly isn’t actually attached to the tower, it stays up purely by weight and balance. Whatever the cause, it’s a significant landmark.


Photo by Huw Edwards on Unsplash.


Chesterfield is where we will stop tonight, before heading up to Yorkshire tomorrow. 

The map shows this leg of our pilgrimage:





DAY 21


From one cathedral city to another, from Winchester to Salisbury (24.2 miles). We are of course here to admire the very fine spire of Salisbury Cathedral! 


Photo by Alexander London on Unsplash

Salisbury is the source of the Sarum Use, common across medieval religious practice in England and in Scotland too. Salisbury Cathedral was never attached to a monastery, so its liturgical practice fitted much better with other parish churches. Most recently the cathedral has been in the news as a temporary vaccination centre against Covid, although the vaccination team has recently moved out to another building in the cathedral close in order to allow the cathedral choir back into the building and to start preparing it for visitors. The organist and his deputy have put in many hours of service playing background music for the vaccinating teams and their patients, and have produced a CD of Meditative music to support the NHS: The Cathedral was the first in England to start a girls’ choir, in 1991, and now the two choirs split the weekday services. To hear the cathedral choir, see here: It also has nesting peregrine falcons, but at St Andrews with Castle Gate, we can enjoy the NTU peregrines without travelling too far!


From Salisbury we will make a short trip to the ultimate stone circle, Stonehenge (9.3 miles). As we learned recently, it was imported from Wales, or at least some of it was, a monumental achievement. 


Photo by Mila Buenavida on Unsplash


From Stonehenge to Wantage, to the Vale of the White Horse (24.2 miles). The White Horse is one carved into the hillside at Uffington, and has been there since the Bronze Age. There are several hills and valleys in this complex: the Manger has rippled sides from the retreating permafrost from the last Ice Age – those ripples are known as the Giant’s Step; to the east lies Dragon Hill, said to be the site where St George slew the dragon (a long way from Cappadocia, just saying) and the blood poisoned the ground and left a chalk scar. The top of White Horse Hill is the highest point in Oxfordshire, with views over six counties. Wantage seems to have had its moment of glory when the future King Alfred was born there in 849.



Leaving Wantage,we are travelling to Oxford, and Christ Church, the cathedral in a college (14.9 miles). The college was founded by Thomas Wolsey, but changed its name and its allegiance when he fell. Oxford’s patron is St Frideswide, an abbess of a well-endowed religious house in the early eighth century. Although she was venerated by the 11th C, very little is known about her or her house because its records were destroyed in a fire in 1002. In 1122, the monastery was rebuilt and taken over by Augustinians, Austin friars, and in 1180 her relics were translated to a new shrine. Over 100 miracles were recorded in the year after translation, and the shrine became a place of pilgrimage. In 1525, Wolsey appropriated the monastery and its revenues for Cardinal College, to become Christ Church. The remnants of Frideswide’s shrine are still in the cathedral. For more information, see here:


Skipping lightly round the burning of Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer, we should also note that Charles Wesley attended Christchurch, and started the Holy Club in Oxford; and a century later, the Oxford Movement brought its own changes to the Church of England, not least the founding of Anglican religious orders. In the 20th C, Oxford was home to the Inklings, the most famous of whom were J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis. It is a measure of the enduring success of Lewis’s books that Philip Pullman should be so exercised by them; Pullman’s Northern Lights  also makes use of Oxford as a backdrop. 


Photo by Tetiana SHYSHKINA on Unsplash


Here is the map of our travels to Oxford:


Next, we move on from Oxford to Burford (18.8 miles).

Burford is on the very edge of the Cotswolds, and in its way has had its share of adventures. The church, dedicated to St John the Baptist, has grown organically since its Norman foundations. It has a merchants’ guild chapel and a memorial to Henry VIII’s barber surgeon, which display images of South American peoples, and its churchyard also saw the execution of 3 Levellers after a mutiny in Cromwell’s army in 1649. 


Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash


Most extraordinary, however, is a local legend of a fiery coach containing the judge and local landowner Sir Lawrence Tanfield of Burford Priory and his wife flying around the town that brings a curse upon all who see it. In real life Tanfield and his second wife Elizabeth Evans are known to have been notoriously harsh to their tenants. The visitations were reportedly ended when local clergymen trapped Lady Tanfield’s ghost in a corked glass bottle during an exorcism and cast it into the River Windrush. During droughts locals would fill the river from buckets to ensure that the bottle did not rise above the surface and free the spirit.

From Burford to Stratford-upon-Avon (30.3 miles). Stratford of course lives on the reputation of its most famous son, William Shakespeare. Shakespeare was buried in Holy Trinity Church in his home town, right up by the altar, demonstrating his wealth and success. This is Prospero’s last speech in The Tempest, Shakespeare’s last play:


Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please.
Now I want Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
Let your indulgence set me free.


Photo by James Homans on Unsplash


The map below shows the remainer of our journey today as we travelled from Oxford and reached Stratford on Avon:


We have 11.34 miles left over to start our journey tomorrow.




DAY 20


Good evening, pilgrims: at 10 pm,despite the truly appalling weather, we have a total of 180.61 miles for today, including those held over from yesterday. 


Here is Jim’s photo of Exeter. (This was the cathedral’s best side – work was going on on the other!)


Bournemouth to Southampton (28.5 miles):
Southampton features primarily in my mental geography as a sea-going port for mail ships and container ships, as both times we accompanied my father on a voyage as a family, we left from Southampton. I remember the 1982 departure better, as the Table Bay‘s engines failed and the ship began to swing just as it was passing the Canberra, then the heroic hospital ship of the Falklands campaign. In retrospect I doubt very much that there was any danger of impact, but in any case, the tugs kept Table Bay moving forward until its engines restarted. The town has been an important port from early on, particularly after the Norman Conquest, when it was on the main route between Winchester and Normandy. 

Southampton is where to catch the ferry to the Isle of Wight and to Cowes (12.2 miles). Our route round the island is 51.7 miles, from Cowes to Ryde to Shanklin to Puckaster to Yarmouth and back to Cowes. Here are some coastal photos to get us in the mood (courtesy of Adam and Jacob):







On our way round, Jill urges us to look out for Quarr Abbey, a still current Benedictine house. The original foundation was in 1132, by Baldwin de Redvers; 15 years later, the house joined the Cistercian order, and maintained a good reputation for piety and good works, until the monastery was dissolved under Henry VIII. The modern community at Quarr arrived fleeing from restrictive French laws on religious houses at the beginning of the twentieth century. To find out more, see here: Jill also suggests a stop at Newport Minster, dedicated to St Thomas. Apparently, there has been discussion as to whether this dedication is to St Thomas the Apostle or St Thomas Becket  – the new (well, new then) church was built in 1175, 2 years after Becket’s canonisation  (he was definitely fast-tracked, but if anyone wants to know more about Thomas Becket and his afterlife, see the exhibition at the British Museum opening today –; the final view is that it can be dedicated to both. There is also a thatched church, St Agnes, sponsored by Lord Tennyson’s son, Hallam:


By August Schwerdfeger – Own work, CC BY 4.0,


and a tiny church, St Lawrence, in Ventnor. Peter reminded us to look out for the Pepperpot, AKA St Catherine’s Oratory, built as penance in 1328 by a local landowner after plundering church wine. (He was lucky, John Balliol had to found Balliol College to pay off the Bishop of Durham about 60 years earlier.) The Oratory was endowed to support a priest to tend the light and to pray for the souls of those lost at sea. 


Photo by Call Me Fred on Unsplash


And just before we get on the ferry again, there is St Mildred’s at East Cowes, where Queen Victoria worshipped when staying at Osborne House. It has some splendid spires – like a Rhine castle, says Wikipedia. St Mildred was a princess of Mercia, who became an abbess of Minster in Thanet. Her sisters also were regarded as saints and she is venerated in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church as well as the Anglican Communion.


From Cowes we catch the ferry back to Southampton and then go straight on to Chichester (42.6 miles). Chichester was a centre of Roman life, with surviving archaeological evidence of baths and an amphitheatre, and potentially a town house under Priory Park (an area that has not been built on since the Middle Ages, since it belonged to a religious house (the clue’s in the name)). Chichester gained its bishopric in 1075. The cathedral’s website reports that St Wilfrid (whom you might remember from Whitby) founded the see at Selsey before it was moved to Chichester; it is the only cathedral in Britain still to have its separate medieval bell tower; and it has some interesting art, including two large Tudor panels ( It also has a window by Marc Chagall, based on psalm 150: 



According to the cathedral website, among other challenges, Chagall did not speak English, so all communication between him and the Dean had to be translated by Chagall’s wife! For more information, see here:


From Chichester to Winchester (32.5 miles):
Another great cathedral, and another old city. The cathedral was first built in 1079 and is the longest Gothic cathedral in Europe, although in the manner of cathedrals, bits and pieces were added until the 16th C. As well as marking the beginning of an old pilgrims’ way  to Canterbury, it was also a destination for pilgrims. They came to visit the shrine of St Swithin, he of the July rain curse (although Winchester Cathedral insists that this legend has no basis in fact). Although apparently he’d asked to be buried outdoors, his shrine in the cathedral became more and more elaborate during the Middle Ages until it was destroyed in 1538 by Henry VIII’s men.

The Winchester Bible is a great treasure held by the cathedral, the largest and grandest of surviving 12th C English bibles. Like the Book of Kells, making the book beautiful was an act of worship and devotion For more details about it, see here:


 Here is an illustration from the Book of Jeremiah.


With such a long history, it is perhaps not surprising that sometimes things have not gone as planned. If you would like a bedtime story after a long day of travelling, this story tells of an error built on error :


We will spend the night at Winchester, and set off for Salisbury in the morning: here is our progress map:



DAY 19


208.32 miles of travelling today. We are starting in Cornwall and moving north east. Having walked back from St Michaels Mount, we are leaving Marazion for Truro.


From Marazion to Truro, via Helston (25.4 miles).
More sea at Helston: 


Photo by Antonia Maria on Unsplash


Its cathedral was completed only in 1910 (although built on a site used for worship for about 600 years). It is proper Gothic-revival, and very grand (one of only three cathedrals in the UK with three spires). The Service of Nine Lessons and Carols originated here in 1880, when the Bishop of the time, Edward White Benson, formalised the singing of carols in the evening before Christmas. Is it too early in the calendar year or too late in the Christian year to have a link to Christmas carols? I’m not sure, but here is one to Truro Cathedral’s choir:

And a tricksy photo.


Photo by Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash


Our next stop is St Austell (14 miles):
St Austell is a noted centre of Methodism, and its parish church (built in the 15th C) was originally dedicated to the Breton saint Austol, although has been rededicated to the Holy Trinity. However, the primary reason to stop here is Bishop John Colenso, born in St Austell in 1814. He began his academic career as a mathematician, selling textbooks on algebra and arithmetic to Longmans, but like many academics in the 19th C he also entered holy orders, serving a parish in Norfolk before being recruited as first bishop of Natal in 1853. He provided accounts of the Zulu nation for a European audience, but – with William Ngidi a native Zulu speaker –  also published a grammar of the Zulu language and an English/Zulu dictionary. He went on to translate the New Testament into Zulu. Such engagement with the people he had been sent to serve caused him to diverge from what we might think of as ‘standard views’: he wrote a defence of polygamy for instance, and refused to tell his new Christians that their pagan ancestors were condemned to damnation. As a result of questions posed by students at his mission station, he began to question the historicity of some books of the Old Testament, and he also began to question the treatment of African peoples under colonial and imperial rule. He was eventually excommunicated from the Anglican church, despite a Privy Council decision in his favour, but he continued as a biblical commentator and an advocate for the peoples he served. He opposed the Anglo-Zulu war, and after its conclusion, advocated for Cetshwayo, and managed to secure his release from Robben Island. He died in 1883, but his daughters Frances and Harriet took up his cause, to speak for the Zulu people.


By Carlo Pellegrini – Published in Vanity Fair, 28 November 1874.
Downloaded from
Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Dcoetzee using CommonsHelper.
Original uploader was Craigy144 at en.wikipedia 20 January 2006 (original upload date),
Public Domain,


From St Austell to Plymouth (32.9 miles):
Although Plymouth has evidence of ancient inhabitation, for most of us it’s associated with the 16th and 17th Cs, on the one hand Sir Francis Drake, brave Englishman and famous privateer, finished his game of bowls before engaging the Spanish Armada, Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh set off from the port to try to found Roanoke, and the Pilgrims also set sail for the New World in 1620, founding Plymouth on the other side. Two further unexpected religious facts: the Plymouth Brethren are so-called because they held their first assembly in the town in 1831, although the movement did not begin locally; and the Plymouth Synagogue was built in 1762 and is the oldest Ashkenazi synagogue in the English speaking world.

Before we leave the coast altogether, here are Fishermen’s Friends:


From Plymouth, we travel a little inland to Exeter (41.7 miles):
Exeter is another old settlement: Hellenistic coins have been found, suggesting that there was trade between Exeter and the Mediterranean as early as 250BC. The cathedral dates from 1050, when it was moved from nearby Crediton, the birthplace of St Boniface, because Exeter’s Roman walls offered better protection against pirates, probably Vikings. In the cathedral library’s holdings is the Exeter Book, an anthology of Old English poetry from about 970. You can turn its pages here: I recommend The Wanderer – you can find the text of that poem here: The town drew itself to William I’s attention by rebelling in 1068: Harold’s mother  Gytha Thorkelsdóttir (I’m very pleased to discover her name was recorded! was resident in the town at the time. The rebellion seems to have been quashed relatively bloodlessly, although William made sure to leave behind some loyal followers. 


One of our pilgrims walking in Devon:


We go back to the coast to arrive at Weymouth (56 miles), where it is thought that the Black Death first arrived in Britain in Melcombe Regis (half of modern Weymouth) on an army ship or a spice ship. Despite that, Weymouth was one of the first modern tourist attractions, having been visited by royalty, George III and his brother, the Duke of Gloucester between 1780 and 1805. Now, Weymouth is known as a gateway town to the Jurassic Coast. The 155 kilometres (96 mi) of the Dorset and east Devon coast is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation World Heritage Site which is important for its geology and landforms.The steep ridge of chalk, locally known as The Ridgeway, separates Dorchester and Weymouth.


Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash


Weymouth is separated from Dorchester by the Ridgeway, a steep chalk ridge. (7.7 miles)  Although Dorchester is small, it has seen a good deal of history. Its churches preserve architecture from the 12th to the 15th C, and St Peter’s includes a sculpture of St George at the Battle of Antioch. In the 17th C, it was the centre of significant Puritan emigration to North America: the rector, John White, organised one journey which started the settlement of Dorchester Mass, and culminated in the foundation of Massachusetts Bay Company with a royal charter in 1628. The more famous rebels associated with Dorchester are the Tolpuddle Martyrs. They founded the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers in 1833, but swore an oath of allegiance which – in the eyes of the law of the time – conflicted with their duty to the monarch. They were tried in the Shire Hall and sentenced to penal transportation to Australia. They are still an emblem of resistance: listen here – Later, Thomas Hardy used the town as a model for Casterbridge in The Mayor of Casterbridge. He had a house in the town, Max Hall, now owned by the National Trust. 


Dorchester to Bournemouth (27.4 miles):
Obviously the most important feature of Bournemouth is its splendid URC church,  Richmond Hill St Andrews, built in 1865 and enlarged in 1891. 


By LordHarris at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,


However, because of its attractions as an important holiday destination from the 19th C onwards, Bournemouth has had more than its fair share of literary visitors, including J.R.R. Tolkein, who retired to the town after decades of holidays there, R. L. Stevenson who wrote Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and most of Kidnapped while living in the town, during which period he was regularly visited by Henry James, there staying with his invalid sister Alice. It is also the final resting place of Mary Shelley (of Frankenstein fame) and her parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, in the family plot in St Peter’s churchyard, together with Percy Shelley’s heart. 


A picture of the beach at dusk:

Photo by Tomas Kostadinov on Unsplash


We rest in Bournmouth overnight and, tomorrow, set off towards Oxfored with a little over 22 miles in hand.



DAY 18


A total of 167.29 miles had been submitted in the last 24 hours.
Leaving behind  Minehead, we continue to Ilfracombe (34.8 miles). This area has been inhabited since before the Romans arrived, as it has a secure natural harbour and good far land. St Nicholas’ Chapel, the building that sits on Lantern Hill by the harbour is reputed to be the oldest working lighthouse in Britain; it was built in 1361, and the light has been working for 650 years. I shall leave you to work out your own parable!
Photo by Nick Sexton on Unsplash
From Ilfracombe to Bude (41.8 miles). Bude is a town that came to prominence during the 19th C, but unless you’re a surfer, its geology is probably its primary source of interest. To quote Wikipedia (because I can’t even pretend to know much about geology!), Bude ‘is a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) noted for its geological and biological interest.[7] Carboniferous sandstone cliffs surround Bude. During the Variscan Orogeny the strata were heavily faulted and folded. As the sands and cliffs around Bude contain calcium carbonate (a natural fertiliser), farmers used to take sand from the beach, for spreading on their fields. The cliffs around Bude are the only ones in Cornwall that are made of Carboniferous sandstone, as most of the Cornish coast is formed of Devonian slategranite and Precambrian metamorphic rocks.[7] The stratified cliffs of Bude give their name to a sequence of rocks called the Bude Formation.’
Morwenstow, Bude: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
From Bude to more Arthuriana, at Tintagel (18.1 miles). English Heritage have just rebuilt a bridge to join the castle to the mainland, just in time to have to impose a one-way system, so visitors still have to claim 140 steps to leave. Geoffrey of Monmouth does not record how Uther Pendragon got to Tintagel to impregnate Igerne while disguised as her husband Gorlois, (It’s not a very edifying story), but he does mix a powerful brew of magic and Christian destiny for the legendary king. While there is evidence of earlier inhabitation, the castle ruins now visible date from the 13th C, built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, apparently moved by the legend (as the promontory has no military value). It’s certainly a very dramatic site. To read more, see English Heritage’s pages:
Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash
On to Penzance (58.9 miles). While associated in my head with Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance (see here for a link if it’s passed you by:, and Derek as Frederick (oh yes, we have photos!!), Penzance did not ensure much piracy in the 19th C; allegedly it had earlier, in the form of raids from Barbary Corsairs, in the Middle Ages, and given that licences were given to shops in 1425, 1430 and 1432, to transport pilgrims to Compostella, and it was sacked by various foreign fleets, that is quite possible. Completely unrelated, Methodism is the predominant denomination here, although the town now includes a variety of spiritual groups. We are now of course pretty much at the other end of the island of Great Britain from John O’Groats, but still we go on …
Another photo of the sea (I’ve not seen enough of the sea this year):

Photo by Connor Moyle on Unsplash
Seeing as we didn’t stop at Lindisfarne, from Penzance to Marazion and the causeway to St Michael’s Mount (6 miles including the walk out to the island and back). The story there begins in 495, when the archangel Michael, patron of fisherfolk, appeared on the western side of the island to guide some boats to safety. Less obviously Christian is the story of Jack the Giant Killer, who hailed from Marazion, and took on and defeated the cattle-rustling Cormoran. Hints of David and Goliath here, but  as it happens, Geoffrey of Monmouth tells a very similar story about Arthur.
St Michael’s Mount from Penzance (Photo by Lawrence Hookham on Unsplash)
This leaves us with 7.69 with which to start our journey to Truro tomorrow. Here is the map, so we know where we are!
The collect from the Book of Common Prayer Order for Evensong:
LIGHTEN our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord;
and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night;
for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. 



DAY 17


The total distance logged for Day 17 is 168.41 miles so, setting off from Worcester, here is our travelling:

Worcester to Hereford (29.6 miles):
Hereford was an early centre of Christian faith, as Putta became bishop there sometime between 676 and 688, and the city became the capital of West Mercia by the start of the 8th C. Although it’s a quiet place today, its position on the border of England and Wales made for a more exciting (!) life in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period: it had the only mint west of the Severn in Athelstan’s rule, it was torched by Gruffydd ap Llwelyn, king of Gwynedd and Powys in 1056, was the English stronghold against Owain Glyndwr and changed had several times during the English Civil War, and even managed to repel a Parliamentarian Scots army of 14000 under the command of Alexander Leslie, 1st Earl of Leven in 1645. The current cathedral was begun in 1079. It has the largest library of chained books in the world, and the most precious work in that library is the Mappa Mundi created around 1300 by Richard of Holdingham. This puts Jerusalem at the centre, and represents a radically different way of thinking about the world.
By Bjoertvedt – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
From Hereford to another cathedral city, Gloucester (27.8 miles):
Gloucester was a Roman settlement, and like Hereford has been a significant centre of Christian worship for over 900 years. Notable is the stained glass window from 1350 that appears to represent golf, over 300 years before any image of golf from Scotland. Perhaps Edward II brought the game back with him; he is buried in the cathedral. The misericords are quite striking – and make our pews seem comfortable, perhaps? And the 1000-year old cathedral, since 2016, has a solar array, to reduce its carbon footprint. The cathedral even has its own Project Pilgrim: (And I haven’t even mentioned the Harry Potter films …)
Boys playing ball on a Gloucester Cathedral misericord, and the golfer:

Photo by David Sea on Unsplash
From Gloucester to Bristol (34.6 miles):
Bristol has had a mixed reputation recently, as its relationship with the slave trade comes under renewed scrutiny. However, not all seafaring connections are bad: leaving aside John Cabot and his explorations, and Edward Colston and his,  Bristol was also home to the 19th C seafaring reformed Samuel Plimsoll, who developed the Plimsoll Line to regulate the loading of shipping. Bristol Cathedral came into being in 1542, as the Abbey of St Augustine was repurposed during the reign of Henry VIII. John Wesley founded the first Methodist chapel in Bristol in 1739 and often preached with his brother and George Whitfield in the open air in Bristol and its surrounds. Wesley wrote a pamphlet against the slave trade in 1774, and the Society of Friends also began lobbying against it in Bristol in in 1783. Hannah More also came from the city: she wrote a poem, ‘Slavery’ in support of Wilberforce’s campaign. Here is an extract:
Hold, murderers! hold! nor aggravate distress; 
Respect the passions you yourself possess: 
Ev’n you, of ruffian heart, and ruthless hand, 
Love your own offspring, love your native land; 
Ev’n you, with fond impatient feelings burn, 
Though free as air, though certain of return. 
Then, if to you, who voluntary roam, 
So dear the memory of your distant home, 
O think how absence the loved scene endears 
To him, whose food is groan, whose drink is tears; 
Think on the wretch whose aggravated pains 
To exile misery adds, to misery chains. 
Bristol also home to a great bridge: Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Clifton Bridge:
Photo by Nathan Riley on Unsplash
From Bristol to Wells (18 miles):
Wells is so called because it has three holy wells, one dedicated to St Andrew, and the other two now in the Bishop’s Palace. There has been a church on the site since about 705; the present cathedral was started in 1175, the first cathedral in England to be built in the Gothic style – Bp Reginald de Bohun had seen it on the Continent and brought it back to Somerset. The Wells Cathedral Clock is the second oldest clock mechanism in Britain (and possibly the world): the original works were made about 1390, and its face is unique, with each quarter being marked by jousting knights rush round above the clock and the Quarter Jack bangs the quarter hours with his heels.
By DeFacto – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
From Wells to Glastonbury (7.6 miles):
Glastonbury has been a place of mystery since its foundation, involving faery glass palaces on top of the Tor. Medieval faeries are not to be meddled with; the closest parallel in modern times is with alien life from other galaxies. While the current academic speculation is that the monks of Glastonbury ‘found’ the graves of Arthur and Guinevere at a convenient time in the abbey’s fortunes, there is no doubt that the Arthurian associations are strong. In particular, there is a deeply rooted claim that Glastonbury was visited by Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea; the association of Joseph with the Holy Grail derives ultimately from a narrative in French by one Robert de Boron. This text only survives in fragments but became incorporated into the Vulgate Cycle of Arthurian stories (also in French).  Even William Blake held to the story:
Here is Sally’s photo of Glastonbury Tor: 

Glastonbury to Minehead (40.5 miles):
Minehead is the beginning of the South West Coastal Path, made even more famous by Raynor Winn’s account of walking it when she and her husband were made homeless in their 50s (The Salt Path).
May 1st has been a festival in MInehead since 1465 (probably longer than that, it’s just that someone wrote it up in 1465), and one feature of that festival is the Obby Oss, which takes to the streets each year with musicians and three rival horses, the Original Sailor’s Horse, the Traditional Sailor’s Horse and the Town Horse. They appear on May Eve (called “Show Night”), on May Day morning (when they salute the sunrise at a crossroads on the outskirts of town), 2 and 3 May (when a ceremony called “The Bootie” takes place in the evening called “Bootie Night” at part of town called Cher). Each horse is made of a boat-shaped wooden frame, pointed and built up at each end, which is carried on the dancer’s shoulders.
By Timkevan at English Wikipedia
Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain,
This leaves us with 10 miles in hand for tomorrow! Here is the map showing today’s journey: 



DAY 16


Mileage submitted today is 344.78, which includes weekly totals from some pilgrims. This takes us all the way around Wales and back across the border into England.
The first part of today’s journey takes us the rest of the way to St. David’s:

From Bala, we move on to Machynlleth  (15.3 miles). This town is famous for Centre for Alternative Technology, an educational charity founded in 1973 to develop alternatives to oil. More details can be found here:, or if you prefer to listen here is an episode of the Reunion,discussing the early years:


Our next stop, Eglwys Fach (5.7 miles) was the home of R.S Thomas, the Welsh/English poet and clergyman. Here is an example of his verse (



Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar
Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for the God
To speak; the air a staircase
For silence; the sun’s light
Ringing me, as though I acted
A great rôle. And the audiences
Still; all that close throng
Of spirits waiting, as I,
For the message.
         Prompt me, God;
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting.


From Eglwys Fach to Aberystwyth (12 miles), the home of the National Library of Wales. Amongst its possessions is the Nanteos Cup, a fragment of an ancient wooden mazer bowl. Quite where the cup originated is unknown, but it came into the possession of the Powell family of Nanteos from the Cistercian Strata Florida monastery at the time of the dissolution. Some stories say that the Nanteos Cup is the Holy Grail and claim that the Cup has a power to heal. Before it came into the Library’s care, it would be lent to the unwell in exchange for a valuable deposit such as a gold watch or coin.  


By Photographed by the National Library of Wales
This image is available from the National Library of Wales, CC0 


Photo by Andrew Jephson on Unsplash


Off next to see the Strata Florida monastery at Pontrhydfendigaid (16.3 miles) This Cistercian abbey was founded in the mid 12th C and became an important religious centre in the following centuries. It is the burial place of Prince Gruffydd ap Rhys II and the poet Dafydd ap Gwilym, and the place where the most important primary history source for early Welsh history, the Brut y Twywysogion.

Our next stop is Cardigan (43 miles). Cardigan was also home to a poet, this time Katherine Phillips (1632-64), who wrote poetry extolling the virtues of friendship. ( 

Friendship’s Mystery

Come, my Lucasia, since we see 
That Miracles Mens faith do move, 
By wonder and by prodigy 
To the dull angry world let’s prove 
There’s a Religion in our Love. 

For though we were design’d t’ agree, 
That Fate no liberty destroyes, 
But our Election is as free 
As Angels, who with greedy choice 
Are yet determin’d to their joyes. 

Our hearts are doubled by the loss, 
Here Mixture is Addition grown ; 
We both diffuse, and both ingross : 
And we whose minds are so much one, 
Never, yet ever are alone. 

We court our own Captivity 
Than Thrones more great and innocent: 
’Twere banishment to be set free, 
Since we wear fetters whose intent 
Not Bondage is, but Ornament. 

Divided joyes are tedious found, 
And griefs united easier grow: 
We are our selves but by rebound, 
And all our Titles shuffled so, 
Both Princes, and both Subjects too. 

Our Hearts are mutual Victims laid, 
While they (such power in Friendship lies) 
Are Altars, Priests, and Off’rings made: 
And each Heart which thus kindly dies, 
Grows deathless by the Sacrifice.


Then from Cardigan on to Fishguard (17.1 miles)…

Fishguard was the site of the last invasion of Britain in 1797 – the French forces were repelled by women in traditional Welsh dress, led by one Jemima Nicholas:


By Flapdragon – Own work, Public Domain,


Next to St Davids (15.4 miles)…

The tradition is that David was born to St Non just to the south of the city in about 500. In the 6th C, David founded a monastery and church at Glyn Rhosyn, a very strict brotherhood, who worked the land themselves and kept bees, welcomed pilgrims, travellers and the poor and needy. The original cathedral built on the site was plundered and finally destroyed by Viking raiders in 1087. The present cathedral is a Norman building, and contained many relics, including St David’s remains. Many pilgrims visited before the Reformation, including William the Conqueror, Henry II and Edward I and Queen Eleanor – St David’s was particularly popular after Pope Calixtus II decreed that two pilgrimages to St David’s were equivalent to one to Rome. Fill in your own quip here. 


Photo by Matthieu Comoy on Unsplash


From St David’s, we start a new leg:

from Camarthen > Port Talbot > Brecon> Ffynnongynydd > Hay-on-Wye> Shrewsbury > Worcester (238 miles)

Carmarthen, our first stop, has claims to be the oldest town in Wales: there is certainly evidence of Roman urban occupation, named in Ptolemy’s account, and probably dating from the second century. It remained important in the Middle Ages, and its priory of St John the Evangelist and St Teulyddog is associated with the production of the 13th C Black Book of Carmarthen (so called because of the colour of its binding), the earliest surviving manuscript written solely in Welsh (now in the National Library of Wales, MS Peniarth 1):


Carmarthen has a modern tradition of both Anglicanism and non-conformity, especially the Baptist movement. The first was founded in 1762, the English Baptist Chaucer in 1870 and the third in 19872: all three are still welcoming worshippers.

From Carmarthen to Port Talbot, a place of settlement since the Bronze Age. It has a holy well, at Ffynnon Pedr, possibly also a water supply for Margam Abbey, and also the Cross of Brancuf, a carved cross in Celtic knot work. On the cross is carved Fecit Brancuf, but alas, no more is known about him. In 2011, with the National Theatre of Wales, Port Talbot staged a community Passion, with Michael Sheen as The Teacher. It involved 1000 community volunteers and brought 22000 people to the town. To find out more about it, see here:; and here:


To get our next stop, Brecon, we will travel across the Brecon Beacons, one of Wales’ national parks. 

Photo by Carl Jorgensen on Unsplash

Brecon itself has a cathedral, so designated from 1923, when the diocese was formed. In St Mary’s church, there are 8 bells, which have been rung from 1750, the heaviest of which is 810kg. Brecon is also a military town, the home base of a Gurkha company, among others. It has been home to a diverse range of people, including the medieval historian Gerald of Wales (c. 1146 – c. 1223), Henry Vaughan ((1621–1695: the metaphysical poet, Thomas Coke the first Methodist bishop, and Frances Hoggan (1843–1927) the first British woman to receive a doctorate in medicine.

From Brecon to Ffynnongynydd and Maers Yr Onnen. At Maers Yr Onnen, there is a congregational chapel formed in 1692. The meetings are said to have started in 1640, in what was a long-house-derived farmhouse, and Oliver Cromwell is said to have attended a meeting here. The chapel was adapted for worship by dissenters and registered in Prestiegne in 1696. The chapter has been in continuous use since, and is now used by the URC. See here for more detail:


Hay-on-Wye is comparatively close, and seeing as we stopped at Wigtown for a rummage in second-hand bookshops and tea and cake, it seems only fair that we should stop here too. The literary festival has run since 1988, and has brought an astonishing number of people to a small town just over the Welsh border.

By Ismas –,
CC BY-SA 2.0,


We can’t leave Wales without listening to ‘Cwm Rhonnda’, so here it is, from the Tabernacle Welsh Baptist Choir in Cardiff:


Shrewsbury is our next stop.

Shrewsbury Abbey, a Benedictine foundation of the 11th C, became the final resting place of St Winifred. The prior Robert of Shrewsbury oversaw the translation of her remains – he seems to have come from lands very close to Holywell – and helped turn the abbey into a place of pilgrimage. It is this abbey that is the centre of Ellis Peter’s Cadfael novels.

The Wikipedia page for Shrewsbury notes that it has a good many churches, including a Roman Catholic cathedral and a Greek Orthodox Church. Non-conformity was also evident early, as the Shrewsbury Unitarian Church was founded in 1662. 

One of the houses in Fish Street, facing St Alkmund’s Church, was the site of John Wesley’s first preaching in Shrewsbury; a wall plaque records the date as 16 March 1761. According to legend, the spire of St Alkmund’s Church was damaged by the Devil in 1553, and climbed four times by a drunken steeplejack in 1621. Shrewsbury’s first non-Christian place of worship, a Muslim centre, was approved in 2013.

Working together, the churches are active in local community projects, tow work with the homeless, run a food bank and advice centre, and to help people back into work.


From Shrewsbury to our resting place for today, Worcester.

Worcester has been an important Christian site since before the Norman Conquest. One of its early bishops was Wulfstan (d. 1023), whose sermons are major works of Old English, mostly prophesying terrible things if behaviour did not improve. Perhaps because of Wulfstan, Worcester remained a centre for Old English even after the Conquest; in the 13th C, one particular scribe was still copying Old English manuscripts, a scribe known today as the Tremulous Hand of Worcester, because of his very distinctive style. Around the same time, the small Jewish community that had settled in Worcester was expelled, moving first to Hereford, and then being expelled from England in 1290.

Worcester Cathedral was known as the Priory before the Reformation, its crypt dates from 1084, and it has the only circular chapter house in the country.

Photo by Adam Jones on Unsplash

The map show the second part of today’s journey:






Read about Day 1 – 8 here: Vitual Pilgrims’ Progress – Week 1.

Read about Day 9 – 15 here: Vitual Pilgrims’ Progress – Week 2.


We thank Nicola and Derek for the research and the maps creted for these journal entries.