The British Pilgrimage Trust is a Charitable Trust set up to restore the tradition of pilgrimage in Britain.
It was formed in 2014 after witnessing the ever-increasing success of the Spanish Camino, and concluding that Britain is missing a trick by not providing pilgrims with access to a similar (or even better) experience.
There was an article in the Guardian at the end of April which looked at the resurgence of pilgrimages.
It describes how ‘in medieval times, you could barely move in England without encountering groups of pilgrims, often heading for shrines to Thomas Becket at Canterbury and the Virgin Mary at Walsingham in Norfolk. Pilgrimages were undertaken for religious reasons, but were also often something of a holiday, a chance to escape the humdrum of daily life, to meet new people along the way, to swap stories.
The resurgence in interest in recent years began with the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage across north-western Spain to Santiago de Compostela. In 1984, 423 pilgrims completed the final 100km stretch of the Camino, entitling them to an official certificate. By 2006, the figure was 100,377 – and by last year, it had exceeded 278,000. Of those, 6,000 were from the UK – a fourfold increase in a decade‘.
The BPT aims to tap into this and its founders, Will Parsons and Guy Hayward say “We’ve opened up the definition of a holy place to include prehistoric burial sites, ancient trees, river confluences, hilltops. Lots of people simply want to connect with the natural world at a pace at which you can appreciate it.”
In “normal life“, they say, “our minds are speeding up while our bodies are staying put. Here, the mind and the body can meet up.”
All proceeds from Trust pilgrimages are ploughed into Hayward and Parsons’s goal of re-establishing the Old Way, a medieval 220-mile (350km) pilgrims’ route from Southampton to Canterbury, which they hope will one day rival the Camino. Using the Gough Map, dating from 1360, the pair are retracing the route using public footpaths. It will take 18 days to walk from start to finish.