Tag Archives: Stoke Minster

Two Saints Way Pilgrimage with Bishop Michael September 21-24 2016

The Background
Earlier this year my friend Philip Swan mentioned to me that the newly appointed Bishop of Lichfield, Michael Ipgrave who was then the Bishop of Woolwich, is a keen walker and suggested he might appreciate a copy of The Two Saints Way guidebook. I duly sent him a copy and quite soon I had a card from him thanking me for the guidebook and mentioning that he might be able to link his inauguration, which was due to take place in Lichfield Cathedral on September 24th, with The Two Saints Way.

This initial contact eventually led to the arrangement of a three day pilgrimage from Stoke Minster to Lichfield immediately prior to the inauguration. This was coordinating with a nine day ‘Season of Welcome’ designed to give opportunities for people to meet the new bishop. I agreed to organise and lead the pilgrimage and Bishop Michael asked me to choose a small core team to accompany him on the journey. The team that came together consisted of Ann Fisher who was High Sheriff of Staffordshire between 2014 and 2015, Rev Sally Smith, Team Vicar in Hanley and Ali Shadravani who is from Iran and has been involved with the Sanctus Project for refugees and asylum seekers – see http://www.sanctusstmarks.co.uk Sally’s husband Roy kindly agreed to drive the support vehicle.

tsw01Wednesday September 21st – Stoke to Stone
Our pilgrimage began at Stoke Minster. Before setting off, we gathered for morning prayer at the old eighth century Saxon preaching cross. Appropriately in this location, we had two mini preaches from Bishop Michael and Robert Mountford before we set on our way singing Bunyan’s “To Be a Pilgrim” – we had the BBC Midlands Today team filming the occasion which meant an early request to backtrack and repeat the start of our journey a second time!

We went over to the Trent & Mersey canal and started our journey south, pausing for Bishop Michael to do an interview for BBC. It was a busy media day with Bishop Michael doing further interviews for Radio Stoke and for the Stone Gazette.

We had a good stop for morning refreshments at St Mary’s Trentham before pressing on to the hilliest section of the pilgrimage on the ridge above the Trentham Estate with the busy M6 below to the west. We had a brief pause at the Duke of Sutherland monument which is a fine viewpoint before descending to Tittensor where we had an excellent lunch stop at St Luke’s.

The afternoon walk to Stone was over Tittensor Chase to Saxon’s Lowe, a possible burial place for King Wulphere, where I shared the legend of St Wulfad and St Rufin to the group and to some cows who came as the story began and left as soon as I finished! Our last stretch was back on the canal. There was a good crowd gathered to greet us at St Michael’s & St Wulfad’s for an occasion that

included the opening by Bishop Michael of a new interpretation panel highlighting the history of Stone especially in relation to pilgrimage. Amongst those attending were the Stone Mayor Jim Davies and Sue Thursfield, Manager of HSBC Stone which helped to fund the new panel. As soon as we had we completed the opening, the heavens opened and we were glad to move swiftly into the church for refreshments!

Here are some images from the first day:

A steep ascent at Trentham

A steep ascent at Trentham

A pause for meditation in King’s Wood

A pause for meditation in King’s Wood

The cows listen to the Legend of Wulfad & Rufin!

The cows listen to the Legend of Wulfad & Rufin!

Bishop Michael opens the new Stone panel

Bishop Michael opens the new Stone panel

Thursday September 22 – Stone to Stafford
Our second day began in the oldest part of Stone which is the crypt with its fine vaulted ceiling in the basement of the privately owned Priory House. I am grateful to the Gillow family for allowing us to start there and it was great to have Charles Gillow and his friends walking with us during the day. The Augustinian priory at Stone was built around 1140. After a short prayer tin the crypt we went up to the garden of the house where there are a few more fragments of the priory and where
we completed morning prayer.

It was a fine sunny day as we walked the canal once more to St Saviour’s Aston where we received a very warm welcome. We then visited the wonderful chapel at Aston Hall where Deacon Trevor told us the story of the bones of St Chad and how they were rediscovered in the chapel in 1839. It was then a further mile or so across the fields to the charming little village of Burston with its mill pond and the unassuming St Rufin’s Church where again we received a very warm welcome. It was mentioned that there were no records of any Bishop of Lichfield visiting this church before.

Our last canal stretch then followed as we walked on to Salt and then up to Hopton Heath where we paused to read the panel about the Civil War battle which took place there in 1643. Our next stop was at the village hall in Hopton where the Mid-Trent churches had put on a marvellous lunch for us.

Bishop Michael and pilgrims following on the canal between Burston and Salt

Bishop Michael and pilgrims following on the canal between Burston and Salt

In the afternoon, we walked over Beacon Hill with fine views over Stafford to Cannock Chase and over to the Wrekin. In Stafford we were able to call in at St John’s C of E School where an after school Messy Church was taking place. It was a delightful time there where we enjoyed the children singing and the children asked Bishop Michael some great questions. We then walked through the suburbs of Stafford and heard the bells of St Mary’s chiming for us before our arrival there. Our day concluded with our end of the day’s walk prayers around the Byzantine font followed by welcome refreshments.

Friday September 23 – Stafford to Lichfield
We began the last day of our pilgrimage with morning prayer in the splendour of St Chad’s Church before emerging into the natural splendour of another fine sunny day. It was pleasant to walk along the River Sow leaving the sounds of Stafford behind until we came to a bridge where the River Penk joins the Sow. Shortly afterwards, we had our morning stop at the home of Tony and Marie Living where it was warm enough for us to enjoy our refreshments in their wonderful garden. This was our only stop that was not a church, but Tony and Marie live on the site of the former St Thomas’s Priory. It is so good that they have been able to host pilgrims on The Two Saints Way in this place where pilgrims would have stayed in medieval times. Afterwards we were shown around some of the remaining priory ruins by the Liveings’ neighbour John Martin.

Deep in conversation….

Deep in conversation….

Refreshments with Tony & Marie Liveing

Refreshments with Tony & Marie Liveing

The second half of our morning involved skirting some sewage works – the wind was fortunately in the right direction! – and across fields, through Black Covert before negotiating a busy road across canal and railway bridges to Milford. From there we drove in two cars over to the southern side of Cannock Chase. This section would have been too much for us to include all in one day, but Bishop Michael has completed this section of The Two Saints Way on other days! Once again we had a wonderful welcome at Christ Church Gentleshaw and an excellent lunch too!

A brief pause in Black Covert

A brief pause in Black Covert

Silent walk in Cross in Hand Lane

Silent walk in Cross in Hand Lane

Duly refreshed we walked on over Gentleshaw Common and via Watery Lane and Chorley to St Bartholomew Farewell for our last stop. Here, as in every church we visited, Bishop Michael gave a blessing before we set off for the last two miles of the pilgrimage. This was along Cross in Hand Lane. Following pilgrimage custom, some of us had small hand crosses and we had a moving time of silent meditation as we approached Lichfield. After crossing the busy A51, we walked on into the city. We passed the cathedral and walked round Stowe Pool to St Chad’s Church where, after our final welcome and refreshments, many others joined us for the special Renewal of Baptismal Vows service which ended by St Chad’s Well with our being joyfully sprayed with water from the well!

Saturday September 24 – Bishop Michael’s Enthronement
It was a great joy for our pilgrim band to join Bishop Michael on this special day and to accompany him to the great west door of the cathedral. The service had already begun and then the dramatic moment arrived where Bishop Michael banged the  door three times with his crozier and then the great doors swung open and we  entered the cathedral. We all enjoyed the deeply moving service which followed and of course were delighted with the pilgrimage references in Bishop Michael’s inaugural sermon!

The pilgrim band - Ali Shadravani, Ann Fisher, Sally Smith, Bishop Michael, David Pott, Roy Smith

The pilgrim band – Ali Shadravani, Ann Fisher, Sally Smith, Bishop Michael, David Pott, Roy Smith

Some Personal Reflections

Bishop Michael
It was an enormous joy for me to walk through the diocese from Stoke to Lichfield. As we travelled along canals and rivers, through housing and industrial estates, across fields, and up and down hills, I was repeatedly struck by the way in which the stories of St Chad and those who have followed him through the centuries are threaded through the landscape of this part of Staffordshire. I carried with me a meqamia, an Ethiopian prayer stick, which I had been given on a visit to the ‘Jungle’ refugee camp outside Calais. It reminded me that many people are on the move in our world today: some’ like us, of their own free will, but others forcibly displaced, or escaping war or famine, or in search of a better life. As we walked on and I leaned on my meqamia, I knew in a quite tangible way the need in the journey of my life to lean on the supporting strength of the Holy Spirit.

Ann Fisher
Our pilgrimage with Bishop Michael leading up to his installation at Lichfield was a marvellous experience. What a joy to spend three days in glorious autumn weather, making our way through such varied and interesting landscape and sharing simple pleasures of walking, talking, eating, praying, laughing and quiet reflection with a wonderful group of people. It was great to spend time with old friends as well as deepening friendships with newer acquaintances and making completely new  connections. Walking the Two Saints’ Way gave me a real sense of connection with the landscape, its history and its communities past and present. It was also an opportunity to reflect on and be grateful for so many blessings: the freedom to walk and to share our beliefs without fear of persecution; the beauty of our surroundings, especially at Creationtide; the warmth with which we were welcomed along the way and, of course, the wonderful celebration at the Cathedral at the start of Bishop Michael’s ministry in the Diocese. I returned home feeling uplifted, refreshed and with many memories to treasure. Thank you for including me and I look forward to sharing more journeys with you all in the future.

David Pott
I am so thankful for how the whole pilgrimage went. My main desire was that it would give Bishop Michael ample opportunity to get to know the diocese in this most natural and Christ like of ways by walking and meeting people, so one of my main pleasures was just seeing him in conversation with people! “Bishop’s move” was a word I got early in the pilgrimage and I am glad to think that Bishop Michael is indeed a bishop on the move and full of purpose and I think that will be great for the whole diocese. I am also so grateful to all the good folk along the way who provided us with such excellent refreshments and always a warm welcome. It was very good to have such a wonderful core team and getting to know each of them better was special too. If I were to choose just one highlight amongst many it would have to be that morning coffee and cake in the Liveings garden – the warmth of the sun, the warmth of the company, the special pilgrimage place – perfect!

Ali Shadravani
Walking the Two Saints Way with Bishop Michael, David, Sally, Ann and other pilgrims we meet along the way was an amazing experience for me. It really made me think about the great importance and value of the the right leadership in all areas of our lives. David was so familiar with the route we were walking, that he knew instantly if someone out at the front was leading us the wrong way. He also knew from his experience which parts of the path were too difficult, and so he took us by an alternative route to avoid getting into trouble. Bishop Michael has come to lead us in our diocese, and I’m sure that he is the right person to lead us at this time. However, we know that he will only be able to do that as he is led by  Jesus, who walks all of our journeys with us. So I will continue to pray for Bishop Michael, that he will always hear the voice of Jesus, saying “This is the way, walk here alongside me”.

Sally Smith
It was a great privilege to be invited to be a part of the core team walking with Bishop Michael, to his seat in Lichfield Cathedral. When I initially accepted the invitation, I was sure that I had several months to get fit and practice walks which were more than a just ‘potter around the park with the dogs’. However, time went by quickly, and so as the pilgrimage approached, I wondered how I would manage to complete it. However, I learned a very great lesson on this walk. And it was the great necessity of walking together, and sharing each others burdens. When I found the path difficult, and when my backpack felt heavy, it was the support and encouragement of my fellow pilgrims that kept me going. Ali carried my bag and supplied me with water, and David encouraged us and gave us lots to think about with his stories and reflections along the way. Bishop Michael has joined us as our Diocesan Bishop at a crucial time, as the need for mutual support for each other in our diocese, and with our ecumenical partners has never been more needed. I pray that Bishop Michael will know the anointing of the Holy Spirit as he leads us, and that he will be gifted in bringing together parishes and deaneries that are divided, as we seek to serve God together, supporting and helping each other, to be the people of God in the world.

A Pilgrimage with the new Bishop of Lichfield

bishop

Earlier this year a friend mentioned to me that the newly appointed Bishop of Lichfield, Michael Ipgrave who has been the Bishop of Woolwich, is a keen walker and suggested he might appreciate a copy of The Two Saints Way guidebook. I duly sent him a copy and quite soon I had a card from him thanking me for the guidebook and mentioning that he might be able to link his inauguration, which will take place in Lichfield Cathedral on September 24th, with The Two Saints Way.

This initial contact has led to the arrangement of a three day pilgrimage immediately prior to Bishop Michael’s inauguration. This will be at the conclusion of a nine day ‘Season of Welcome’ which will give opportunities for people to meet the new bishop. I have agreed to lead the pilgrimage and there will be a small core team including Ann Fisher who was High Sheriff of Staffordshire last year, Rev Sally Smith, Team Vicar in Hanley and Ali Shadravani who is from Iran and has been involved with the Sanctus Project for refugees and asylum seekers – see http://www.sanctusstmarks.co.uk Sally’s husband Roy has kindly agreed to drive the support vehicle.

With there just being three days available for the pilgrimage we have decided to start at Stoke Minster. All the churches on the Two Saints Way will be visited and there will be opportunities to meet him there and to join the pilgrimage itself. If you would like to come, please note the points at the end of the plan which follows. An Indian summer in late September would be very welcome, but whatever the weather I look forward to walking the route again and introducing the Two Saints Way to Bishop Michael. Do please pass on this information to anyone you think may be interested

Wednesday 21st September – Stoke to Stone

Time Event/Location
09:00 Morning prayer at Stoke Minster
09:20 Walk from Stoke to Trentham – 3.5 miles
11:15 Refreshments at St Mary’s Trentham
11:45 Walk from Trentham to Tittensor – 3 miles
13:15 Lunch at St Luke’s Tittensor
14:30 Walk from Tittensor to Stone – 5 miles
16:45 Arrive St Michael & St Wulfad Stone

Thursday 22nd September – Stone to Stafford

Time Event/Location
09:00 Morning prayer Priory House Stone
09:20 Walk from Stone to Aston and Burston – 4 miles
11:15 Refreshments at Burston
11:45 Walk from Burston to Hopton – 3 miles
13:30 Lunch at Hopton
14:45 Walk from Hopton to Stafford – 3 miles
16:30 Arrive at St Mary’s Stafford

Friday 23rd September – Stafford to Lichfield

Time Event/Location
08:00 Morning prayer at St Chad’s Stafford
08:20 Walk from Stafford to St Thomas Priory – 2m
09:45 Morning refreshments at St Thomas Priory
10:15 Walk from St Thomas Priory to Milford – 2.5
11:45 Arrive at Milford Common then drive across Cannock Chase
12:15 Arrive at Christ Church Gentleshaw and lunch
13:15 Walk from Gentleshaw to Farewell – 3 miles
14:45 Refreshments at St Bartholomew’s Farewell
15:15 Walk from Farewell to Lichfield – 3 miles
17:00 Arrive at St Chad’s Lichfield
  • You are welcome to join the walk and there is no need to book
  • Please bring your own provisions with you and arrange your own transport
  • There is a schedule to keep to and evening meetings for Bishop Michael so please be aware of the need to maintain a steady pace
  • Please note that as there is not enough time to do all of the Two Saints Way from Stafford to Lichfield on Friday, it will be in two parts with a morning walk of 4.5 miles from Stafford to Milford and an afternoon walk of 6 miles from Gentleshaw to Lichfield.
  • For further enquiries before the pilgrimage please ring David Pott on 07932 790525 and during the pilgrimage ring Sally Smith on 07962 025659

Stoke & the Two Saints Way

Many people have asked me why I felt that the Two Saints Way should include Stoke-on-Trent. Too many people have negative perceptions of the city, but I have to admit to being a big fan! For me, it’s intriguing, fascinating and rather quirky!

The first thing that drew me to Stoke-on-Trent was the fine piece of an old Saxon Cross at Stoke Minster. This spot in the middle of the pilgrimage route was just perfect. Secondly, I have always appreciated the concept of urban pilgrimage – I wanted the route to be a real slice of England and the urban was essential. In medieval times, pilgrims did not avoid cities, indeed they were often the most important places on the route. A third reason became apparent when it was decided that half the Staffordshire Hoard would be in display at the Potteries Museum. In addition to this, there are other interesting places to see, the Two Saints Way going through Stoke provides some great regeneration opportunities and last but not least, ‘Stokies’ are lovely folk!

I’ve been checking out the best route for a while now and after a helpful walk with the Rights of Way officer Paul Pearce on May 25th I think we are hopefully getting to a final agreed route…

From the northwest, the Two Saints Way arrives in Stoke via a footpath under the A500 to reach the Trent & Mersey Canal just south of Westport Lake. After walking past some fascinating places like Middleport Pottery, we  go off the canal at the Newport Lane bridge beside calcining bottle ovens at Oliver’s Mill. It then goes along the side of the former short stretch of canal called the Bursem Arm. The Burslem Port Project is aiming to restore the canal and the surrounding area and it will be good to support those developments.

The route then goes up into Grange Park. There is a pilgrimage link here in that this was the site of Grange Farm which supplied food for the monks at Abbey Hilton. Next is the amazing Festival Park. This was the site of the National Garden Festival in 1986 and has many interesting features including sculpture still in place in the natural woodland. When you leave the park you pass Etruria Hall and a brick statue of Josiah Wedgwood’s head. Next you cross over the A53 and walk up a delightful footpath which was once a section of the old Potteries Loop line.

The next highlight on the route is … Tescos! This will actually be very helpful as surprisingly there are no other shops directly on this route through the city. Soon after, you arrive at the Potteries Museum where as well as the Staffordshire Hoard, you can now see the 9 foot high Staffordshire Saxon statue by Andy Edwards which references the Hoard. After leaving the museum, you pass the new Central Mosque and go through Hanley Park to join the Caldon Canal where you turn west to rejoin the Trent & Mersey at the Etruria junction and from there head south to Stoke Minster.

I know that this route showcases the variety of interest in the middle of the city to great advantage. There is also the potential for an excellent 8 km / 5 mile circular walk using the Trent & Mersey Canal as the western section between Etruria Junction and Middleport. I am hopeful that the footpath improvements can mostly be achieved with voluntary help and that those costs will therefore be minimal. I anticipate that an overall budget of £5,000 will cover this project. I think you’ll agree that that will be an extremely cost effective way to bring benefits to this very special city.

Maps provided by OS OpenData

Forward to the Ancient Future

A short report on the inaugural pilgrimage on the Two Saints Way

 The pilgrims walking round Castle Ring


First of all we were blessed with the most amazing weather. Wall to wall sunshine from March 25th to the 30th then two grey but mostly dry days before an absolute cracker of a day on April 1st. Secondly it was a great core group who completed the journey from Chester to Lichfield. I have led a lot of teams in my time, but this was a group that looked out for each other and was very welcoming to all those who joined us for days or half days. Finally we received the most wonderful hospitality all the way. Complete strangers were put up in people’s homes in every place where we stopped and churches put on amazing lunches and refreshment stops. It can rightly be said that the Two Saints Way is a product of hospitality.

So to some of the week’s highlights:-

  • We began in a beautiful place – having a picnic in the cloister garden at Chester Cathedral beside the beautiful Water of Life statue by Stephen Broadbent. A moving commissioning service followed before the west doors were opened for us to take our first steps to Lichfield.
  • When we arrived in Wybunbury, we were delighted to see the first Two Saints Way waymarks already in place beside the leaning tower of St Chad’s. It was a big encouragement to see this kind of local initiative. Later in the week, we put up waymarks between Tittensor and Stone expressing our desires for future pilgrims as we did so.
  • On Wednesday March 28th the bells peeled out from St Bertoline’s Barthomley as we began the day’s walk, then they followed us all day ringing to celebrate the opening of the Two Saints Way at St James Audley, St Mary’s Wolstanton and at Stoke Minster at the end of the day. That was a lovely gesture that encouraged us on our way!
  • On Thursday 29th we revived the ancient practice of preaching at the two old crosses at Stoke Minster and St Mary’s Trentham. Also we were joined by two Saxon pilgrims from the Poor Cnights of St Chad re-enactment group. They fitted in brilliantly and answered everyone’s questions about their get-up.
  • Reviving pilgrimage practices was a major feature of the journey. On Friday 30th, we brought stones to Stone which used to be done to remember that the martyr princes Wulfad and Rufin were buied under a pile of stones. On the final day we walked in silence down Cross in Hand Lane carrying hand crosses made of olive wood from Bethlehem and then in the pedilavium at Lichfield Cathedral our feet were washed by Canon Pete Wilcox. All these were moving and meaningful occasions and amazing to think they had probably not been done for over 460 years!
  • The final event began with us walking with the Bishop of Lichfield from the cathedral by Stowe Pool to St Chad’s Well, waving palm leaves and singing “To be a pilgrim.” A short dedication service followed during which the first interpretation panel was opened by the Bishop. It was a great occasion and many commented on the high quality of the panel.

Bishop of Lichfield with David Pott

My lasting impression is of profound gratitude for all the kindness and cooperation we have received and above all I am thankful to God, the source and inspiration for the Two Saints Way.

Photo Credits: Castle Ring – Tim Saxton,  Bishop of Lichfield & David Pott – Ian Law, Spotlight