Pilgrimage Tour of Herefordshire

23rd July 2021

This year I took part in the first Pilgrimage Tour of Herefordshire where churches offer overnight accommodation to pilgrims, of the most basic nature mind, you take your own bed mat and the churches provide water and a toilet. That is all you need if prepared but actually the five churches, Madley, Tyberton, Dorstone, Michaelchurch Escley, Clodock, Kingstone (this one by appointment) all had pubs almost next door, which we five pilgrims did go to every evening and really enjoyed. The pilgrimage was the result of Abbey Dore Deanery and in particular the Rev Simon Lockett working together to provide other spiritual uses for churches (than formal services), for people searching for meaning in their lives, people of any faith or none.

We began the pilgrimage on June 20th, one day off the solstice, at Hereford Cathedral and our first night was at Madley, Simon’s home church, though he stayed with us in the (comparatively luxurious) stables bunk-house rather than his own home next door, which impressed me!  Next was Dorstone, via Moccas church (tea provided, and so welcome), up Dorstone Hill to Arthur’s Stone and down hill to Dorstone Church.  This church welcomed us and they are particularly keen to have pilgrims in the future. We continued to Michaelchurch Escley (and the Bridge pub) via Snodhill Castle and Craswall, then along the foot of the Black Mountains (Black Mountain, Black Hill, lots of confusing names) to the fabulous Clodock Church. The next day was a long walk to Kingstone via Wallterstone, Lancillo chapel, Rowlestone, Ewyas Harold.  I have to admit here that we had a lift to Kingstone, we were sorry to miss this leg of the walk but had had a three hour delay in the morning due to one of the party losing their phone (it happens, we recovered and forgave).  The final day took us back to the Cathedral.

The walk was a trial run of what is hoped will be a permanent feature and practice in Herefordshire for anyone who feels the need to walk alone, or with one or two others, as a meditative practice.  This may involve just the walk, but seeing the landscape in the way the early saints did when they first set their preaching crosses up in central places in the community over 1000 years ago, many of these places developed into the churches we see today, each one different, each one with its own special history.  We also did various practices ‘staff meetings’ (pilgrims carry staffs; they help when carrying a pack and to beat back brambles and stingers), silent walking, barefoot walking, holding our foreheads to the stone east of the church and pilgrim prayers.

I was not aware how desperate the state of the church was, I mean I knew it was bad but it is actually in crisis.  When the present vicar of the churches we visited retires (he is now 70 and manages about 10 churches), he will not be replaced.  What will this mean for the parishes and people living there.  I suspect this will be the first time in 1000 years there has been no active services in this part of the Golden Valley.

Some Statistics:

  • Walker:  Rebecca (plus four others)
  • When:  June 20th to June 25th 2021
  • Pack weight:  1 stone (fine)
  • Distance walked:  65 miles
  • No of days: 6
  • No of Showers: 0
  • No of Maps:  1, Landranger 161 Abergavenny and OS on line
  • No of Blisters:  None
  • Weight lost/gained:  None
  • Money spent:  £160 (includes £65 donations to churches)
  • Would I do it again:  Yes
  • If you want to do this:  The route is open.  I would contact Rev Simon Lockett via the Abbey Dore Deanery before embarking, as it is all new.