Hands, Space, Face - how to be a pandemic pilgrim

AS A MIDDLE-AGED woman with dodgy knees from misadventures in my 20s, I have an aspiration to walk out of my front door and find adventure.

One of the views Becca Chamberlain saw on her pilgrimage: the River Meon near Wickham Picture: Courtesy of Church of England Diocese of Portsmouth

Too many readings of The Hobbit and a lifelong obsession with a wandering rabbi called Jesus and his nomadic followers led me to want to be a pilgrim.

The encouragement in 2020 to ‘take a daily walk’ has seen more appreciation of the outdoors, particularly for me as I live by the sea and close to a country park. The extra time some people have had and the focus on mental wellbeing has led to a reawakening of mindfulness and spirituality, with resources springing up everywhere.

I felt it was a good time to invest in my own faith journey as I wasn’t able to rely on physical church services or meeting in smaller groups. I felt drawn to an older Christian spirituality of the Celtic saints, Forest Church and finding God in unexpected places.

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Encouraged by members of the British Pilgrim Trust, who spoke at a virtual seminar I attended, I looked at their website map for routes near me and chose the Pilgrim Trail, grandly subtitled Hampshire to Normandy!

The first day I walked in temperatures too hot and socks too thin, from Winchester to Bishop’s Waltham. I took in the rural and urban landscapes, historic sites and churches, and enjoyed a quieter pace of life. I was able to mull things over, pray and just be. I stayed with friends and their company, food and bed were most restorative.

Day two was shorter, from Bishop’s Waltham to a campsite outside Wickham, via a lovely pub lunch. The woods and streams were beautiful, the nettles less so. The last day I walked through the Southwick estate with its well-maintained footpaths and ample wildlife. Walking into bustling Portsmouth was hard on the senses but reinforced why I had gone.

It was an excellent experience I would recommend to anyone. I wrote poems with my hands, made space to think, and turned my face to sun. Hands, Space, Face, a real pandemic pilgrim.