The Day Before Pilgrimage

26th March 2018

Despite snow flurries and travel disrution The British Pilgrimage Trust led 20 hardy Pilgrims around Winchester on Saturday 17th March. 

Dr Guy Hayward, walk leader and Founder of the British Pilgrimage Trust picks up the story...............


How do you establish your presence in Winchester before you start making pilgrimage to Canterbury? Saturday’s pilgrimage was designed to answer this question for our twenty pilgrims, and let them experience a circular route round Winchester. Our group started at Hyde Abbey, the place clouded in mystery where King Alfred is allegedly buried.

We filtered water from Hyde stream nearby and, whilst singing a water song “Water Flows, Life is Given/Rises from Earth, Falls from Heaven.”  drank of it, before heading to St Lawrence’s Church, built on the site of William the Conqueror’s palace chapel, where we added this water to the church font (which became a feature of the day at the various churches).

We headed from there to Winchester Cathedral where we gave some of the water to the crypt, which happened to be flooded, with the evocative Gormley sculpture rising from the water. Around the shrine of St Swithun we gathered our thoughts and minded ourselves of the intention we had initially set at Hyde Abbey Gate. This intention was either a question that pilgrims wanted to answer in their lives, or something that they wanted to bring into their life or let go of. The idea was that the pilgrimage, even only one day in duration, could help in granting this wish. Then it was to St Swithun-upon-Kingsgate church, where spontaneously the group of twenty pilgrims fell into an extended silence of several minutes. Onwards to Winchester College Chapel and pre-reformation Chantry where we all sang 'To be a pilgrim’ to the original Bunyan lyrics in the Chantry’s great echo. Then on to the Hospital of St Cross where we all took the oldest charitable institution of the Wayfarer’s Dole of bread and ale and had luncheon in the Old Refectory.

After lunch we all played pooh sticks standing over the River Itchen in the water meadows, again letting our sticks symbolise our intention flowing away with the river. Next it was up St Catherine’s Hill, where we walked the historic labyrinth called the ‘Mizmaze’ (probably 350 years old, possibly older), where pilgrims were again minded to contemplate their original intention for the eight minutes or so it takes to walk it. Down the hill, along the river towards the oldest parish church in Winchester, St John the Baptist, with Saxon wall paintings, and then finally ending at the Cathedral, where we all bid farewell, more smiley than when we started.

Lyrics from the song ‘Water Flows’ by William Parsons

Many thanks to Will & Guy for organising, leading and reporting back on our first celebration walk. Visit the British Pilgrimage Trust website here 


For details of more 40th Anniversary led walks click here 


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