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.
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.