Sussex walks for the "weekend pilgrim"

Sussex features strongly in the new book Pilgrim Pathways: 1-2 Day Walks On Britain’s Ancient Sacred Ways, published by Trailblazer at £14.99, available from bookshops and from Amazon.

Monday, 15th February 2021, 6:00 am
Author Andy Bull
Author Andy Bull

Author Andy Bull explained: “I was conscious that many people would love to go on a pilgrimage. We’ve all seen TV series such as The Road to Rome and The Road to Santiago, and they show that even the averagely unfit celeb can hobble through one.

“But who’s got the time to walk Spain’s Camino, the Via Francigena through France and Italy or even the Pilgrims’ Way from London to Canterbury? Certainly I haven’t. I needed something I could complete in a weekend.

“I went into my local Waterstones on the look-out for a good guide to short pilgrimages. But I couldn’t find one so I set out to research some suitable routes for myself. I found 20, and decided to see if a publisher would agree with me that there was a market for a book, called Pilgrim Pathways, for what you might call Weekend Pilgrims: people with limited time and busy lives who would love to go on a pilgrimage if they could.

“The book was inspired by the belief that pilgrimage – variously defined as a journey on foot to a place that is holy, important or special – should be open to everyone, of all faiths and none. There are many ancient pilgrim paths in Britain, all of them are dauntingly long.

“Pilgrim Pathways offers routes inspired by the very best of them, distilled into walks of roughly 20 to 30 miles that can be accomplished comfortably in a weekend. The routes take in Britain’s most inspiring landscapes and most powerfully spiritual places.

“Among them is my Blake, Jerusalem and St Richard pilgrimage from Haslemere to Chichester. It follows St Richard’s pilgrim path through the landscape that inspired William Blake to write Jerusalem

“In his poem, William Blake asks: ‘And did those feet, in ancient time, walk upon England’s mountains green?’ following up with: ‘And was the Holy Lamb of God, in England’s pleasant pastures seen?’ Those questions were inspired by the scenery on this pilgrimage. Not that Blake found mountains in West Sussex, but he did find the rolling, richly verdant South Downs, and in particular a hill called The Trundle, or St Roche’s Hill, which he observed on regular walks to a house in the village of Lavant called Robson’s Orchard.

“Blake is not the only inspiration for this pilgrimage. On the path to Chichester you also follow in the footsteps of pilgrims who, in the Middle Ages, passed through Midhurst on their way to St Richard’s shrine in Chichester Cathedral which, pre-Reformation, was the third most popular place of veneration in England.”

Andy, who lives in Ealing, said: “I have written a number of travel, local history and guide books, including two books about America: Coast to Coast, a rock fan’s US tour; and Strange Angels, about obsessive fans of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis, among others. I have also written Walking Charles Dickens’ Kent for publication in the spring, and have just begun researching a book on the Great North Road.

“I have been writing books for 30 years or so. I was a newspaper journalist and found that I had subjects I wanted to tackle that were too big for the standard feature article.”