Tag Archives: Two Saints Way

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

Walking past 70…

2sw-David2sw-map

On May 2nd, I reach my ‘three score years and ten’ and so at this new fresh stage in my life, I’ve decided to walk (surprise?!) The Weardale Way which is 70+ a few miles. This time I’m not going to do it all in a couple of days as I did with The Two Saints Way 5 years ago. It’s time for a more reflective walk getting to know this lovely part of the world in County Durham that my wife and I have come to after three years on the Isle of Arran.

As well as walking, I would like to raise some funds for The Two Saints Way and for a project called Food4Thought through our charity Fountain Gate Trust – Reg Charity no 298768.

Pilgrim Pods on The Two Saints Way
2sw-logo
The recent publication of the guidebook, recently described as “highly impressive” by Walk Magazine, means we are expecting more walkers this year. There is a great need for suitable accommodation for the unemployed or others on low incomes who would like to walk the Two Saints Way but cannot afford to pay normal B&B prices. We want to raise funds for 5 ‘pilgrim pods’ at 12-15 mile intervals along the route. If I can start the ball rolling with £2,000 I am hoping that individuals, local churches and councils will add to my £400 grants to buy the pods. The idea would be that these pilgrim pods would cost no more than £20 a night.

The challenge is to find the right 5 locations – they might be on a farm or a churchyard or even in someone’s garden. If you would be interested in this possibility or have any other advice on camping pods, please get in touch with me.

food4thought
2sw-food4thoughtWe have been providing daily meals for 100 children at The Good Shepherd Nursery School in Pirang in The Gambia now for 3 years.
It is a critical project which began when we responded to the heart cry of the headteacher Binta Badjie who said to us, “How can the children learn when they have no food in their bellies?” The photo shows the children with doughnuts at the first meal we put on! We urgently need to raise £2,000 to ensure that the children continue to be fed in the coming year.

How to Donate
You can donate online to the Fountain Gate Trust account at Lloyds TSB Sort Code 30-95-02 Account no 00225314 or if you prefer you
can send a cheque payable to Wendy Cleary, The Treasurer, Fountain Gate Trust, c/o 32 Garrick Road, Lichfield, Staffordshire, WS137DR. Please indicate if you wish your gift to be allocated just to The Two Saints Way Project or Food4Thought or else we will divide your donation between the two. If you are in a position to Gift Aid your donation please give via this link: https://my.give.net/davidpott.

Thank-you so much.

Two Saints Way Progress Report

The Two Saints Way GuidebookTSW_Guidebook It has been a major task getting the guidebook ready – the assembling of photographs and obtaining permissions has proved a lengthy process. Finalising the mapping is the final task before we can hopefully publish later in the year.

Inevitably changes occur with the route such as kissing gates being installed in place of stiles. For that reason it would be very good if we could find volunteers who could walk different parts of the route in the next two months before it goes for publication. If you can help in this way do contact David Pott at dlpott@twosaintsway.org.uk and we will send you the relevant part of the guide for you to check for accuracy.

We are thinking of having a walk on the Two Saints Way with book launches in Chester, Nantwich, Stoke, Stone, Stafford and Lichfield.

 

Spam or not?
Since Christmas we have had a sudden upsurge in people signing up to receive notifications of these blogs. We cannot think of any article or programme which may have caused this increase and although the email addresses appear to be genuine, we are not certain if they are. If you have signed up since Christmas, could you please email admin@twosaintsway.org.uk to confirm that you are a real person!

Are there any ‘champions’ out there?

As most of you know, David Pott who initiated the Two Saints Way has now moved to Scotland and the new project leader is Marg Hardcastle who is based in Stoke. In order to keep the project moving forward, the Two Saints Way team feel that it would be best to find local coordinators or ‘champions’ who can promote the route in their area. Apart from Marg Hardcastle in Stoke, Lilas Rawling has agreed to be the Lichfield local coordinator. We now need to find  ‘champions’ who live in or near the other key locations of Chester, Nantwich and Stafford.

We are looking for those who have some interest in walking and pilgrimage. With the Staffordshire Hoard on view at the Potteries Museum, which is also on the Two Saints Way, there is a strong emphasis on rediscovering our Mercian heritage. The main elements for the role of champion would be:

1. Linking with other local people who have already connected with the Two Saints Way and coordinating to promote the route. These include ‘pilgrims’ friends’ who are a point of reference for pilgrims and who check their part of the route to ensure that signage, stiles etc are maintained.

2. Encouraging churches along the route in your area to welcome pilgrims and alerting local schools to the educational opportunities associated with the Two Saints Way.

3. Making sure the route is promoted through the media and local tourist boards and is on the agenda of the local footpaths team.

4. Keeping in touch with Marg Hardcastle. It is likely that there would be 2 or 3 joint meetings in a year.

If you know anyone who might be suitable for this role or you would like to volunteer yourself, please contact Marg Hardcastle
Email: marg.twosaintsway@gmail.com    Mob: 07515 460537

Ken & Sue’s Pilgramige

For the blog this month, I am handing over to Sue Down who with her husband Ken
have been journeying along the Two Saints Way. Here’s their story…

Ken & I are grandparents, still working but approaching retirement age. We haven’t done much walking but do run quite a bit and have managed to complete a couple of half marathons. When we heard about the Two Saints Way, we were excited at the prospect of walking a long-distance path that went through our ‘own patch’. We loved the fact that the path has such a richness about it from retracing the footsteps of ancient pilgrims and getting a good view of the Staffordshire Hoard; exploring our  industrial heritage through the Potteries and the canals; having the opportunity to level in glorious countryside such as Cannock Chase and the Trentham Estate as well as exploring beautiful English cities, towns and villages.

So the decision was made to walk the way in six days, beginning on 1st April. We planned the route by comparing the draft guide book to Google Earth and an Ordnance Survey Street Atlas that we had. We booked a couple of B&Bs and contacted friends in Baddeley Green. David sent out a barrage of emails to let people know that we were on our way and four friends and their dog agreed to join us for the first day.

We had a thoroughly enjoyable time exploring Chester on Bank Holiday Monday, the highlight being a very informative tour of the Cathedral led by Nick Fry. The weather was dry and sunny albeit bitterly cold. We were very glad to stretch our legs and set off for Christleton. After having a good look round this pretty village we headed for The Cheshire Cat which backs onto the canal. We were superbly well looked after and would have no hesitation in recommending this excellent Innkeepers Lodge.

Tuesday was another dry, bright day with a cold wind. We set off towards Nantwich at a brisk pace which, sadly, we were not able to maintain throughout the day. Ken developed painful blisters on his heels and later in the day I too discovered a few problems with my feet. We lost our way for a time at Calveley when we couldn’t find any way markers to help us. We soon got back onto the canal towpath and continued on our way. To keep our spirits up, we found ourselves singing old hymns – fortunately, there were not many people around at that point! I think the highlight of the day must be limping into Nantwich, 11 hours after we set out, eating fish & chips from the shop on Chester Road. We stayed the night at The Crown Hotel, a bit pricey but a very welcome resting point.

We started Wednesday with a tour of the beautiful St Mary’s Nantwich, thanks to Alan Joslyn, and the purchase of every blister treatment in the town. So with Ken’s wounds dressed and new socks on, off we went again. We decided to walk as far as the village of Hough and then get a bus as Ken’s feet were not up to more than 7 miles. Another dry day saw us crossing fields and strolling along country lanes. We stopped for coffee at the Swan Inn at Wybunbury which was most welcome. You can see on the left the very first Two Saints Way signs to be erected and a new panel with the map also. We got a bus to Crewe, then to Hanley and then to Baddeley Green, where we passed a very comfortable night with friends.

On Thursday morning we were finally able to see the Staffordshire Saxon and the Hoard, at The Potteries Museum, having failed on a couple of previous occasions.  We were back on the bus and heading for home in Stafford by lunchtime. More blister treatment and a night in our own bed saw us ready to fight another day.

Intrepid explorer on Two Saints Way near Tixall!

 

The path goes through the centre of Stafford and out along the River Sow to the edge of Cannock Chase at Milford. That is about 6 miles from our house so our plan was to reassess our fitness when we got there. I’m pleased to say that were able to keep going and enjoyed a fabulous 17 mile walk across the Chase to Beaudesert where Angela Bickley very kindly met us with hot chocolate and biscuits. The last pull up a steep, snow covered trail in the woods was tough but it was well worth it for the views from Castle Ring, the Iron Age fort on the highest point of the Chase.

After another very comfortable night spent with John & Christine Polhill at Reflections, their retreat centre home, we were off again. Wonderful sunshine, no wind for the first time all week and snow stacked up against the hedges. It was a delightful 8 mile stroll into Lichfield. We met up with Lilas Rawling, who walked the last little way with us and before we knew it we were at St Chad’s Well with Mike Preston excitedly showing us the drawings of the archaeological digs on the site. It was a fantastic, heady moment and I felt as though I could have turned around and walked all the way back to Chester!

Mission accomplished!

Probably just as well that Ken was there to keep my feet where they belonged and Lilas very kindly offered us a lift back to Stafford.

Two Saints Way is a wonderful walk that I would recommend to anyone. We learned many lessons about our own capabilities, God’s provision and the beauty of creation and the importance of having the right equipment for the job. We would be happy to help anyone else who is planning to walk the way and can always offer a bed for the night in Stafford. Oh, and we do intend to go back and walk the missing 30 miles!

Pilgrims’ Friends – Modern Knights Hospitallers

One of the features of the Two Saints Way is looking at various features of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages and then seeing how they might be applied in ways that would be relevant for pilgrimage today. Recently I have been thinking about the role of the Knights Hospitallers. Here is something about their duties from a useful website:
http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/knights-hospitaller.htm

The group initially cared for the pilgrims who had reached Jerusalem following a long and arduous journey. However the order was soon extended into providing an armed escort to pilgrims. The escort soon grew into a substantial force. The Order of Saint John the Hospitaller included both knights and monks. The members of the Knights of the Order of Saint John the Hospitaller were both monks and knights. These men of the new order took the monastic vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience and they added a fourth vow, which bound them to protect pilgrims and fight the infidels.

Obviously there is a negative side here especially about ‘fighting the infidels’ and they were involved with the Crusades, but I am interested in the aspect of caring for the needs of pilgrims. Could we on the Two Saints Way have modern Knights Hospitallers who would be ready to help pilgrims in a variety of ways? Perhaps they could be called ‘Pilgrims’ Friends.’ Here are the sort of things I have in mind…

  • B&B provision tends to change quite frequently and it’s difficult for oneperson to keep up to date with what is available in every place between Chester and Lichfield.
  • Some people will be looking for simpler accommodation than what is provided in a B&B or hotel – several people want something that may be a little more akin to how it was in the Middle Ages. There will also be youth groups who would be looking for church hall floors or camping. The local Pilgrims’ Friend would be someone who knew what was available for those ona low budget.
  • People from overseas can often find that there is something that puzzlesthem or is unfamiliar and it would be helpful if they knew there was someone nearby who could help them with their problem.
  • Things are always changing on footpaths such as a new kissing gate
    replacing a stile or a new post being installed that doesn’t have a Two Saints Way marker on it. A Pilgrim’ Friend could walk their local section three times a year to check the situation and report any problems.

It would be good to find people who are interested in pilgrimage and also have a heart for hospitality. I am glad to say that already some people have offered to become Pilgrims’ Friends. If any of you reading this blog would be interested in becoming a Pilgrims’ Friend do get in touch with me via the contact page.

Pilgrims’ Friends along the Two Saints Way would be something personally very satisfying for me as I leave Stone and move to the Isle of Arran which has been much in the news of late because of the huge amount of snow it had recently and the days there without electricity. Some of you will have heard already about this move. We shall be getting involved with a fascinating new project at Sannox on the north east coast of the island. Take a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ix9D48XyRuQ & www.sannox.org to find out more.

Let me assure you that I shall be continuing my involvement with the Two Saints Way and also we have family in Stone so will be back from time to time. Thanks to the internet, it will not be difficult to keep things moving with the main things that need completing at this stage which are the interpretation panels and the guide book.

Other news
The new Two Saints Way leaflet has just been printed and you can download it from the home page. There has been an excellent 7 page article in the heritage tourism magazine ‘Discover Britain’. You can read it on page 16 here http://ow.ly/h3ZZP There is also an editorial about the Two Saints Way on page 3.

Beautiful Wintry Stoke

On Tuesday January 22nd I’d made an arrangement to show my friend Marg Hardcastle the Two Saints Way route through Stoke-on-Trent. With all the snow we’ve been having I wondered if we were going to be able to do it, but fortunately it was a brilliant sunny below freezing day, so we were able to meet up as planned.

We started at the point where the Two Saints Way leaves the canal by Oliver’s Mill in Middleport. It’s a grade 2 listed building. In this photo you can see the red loading doors and at the far end are two calcining hovels with their contrasting shapes.

From there we walked along the site of the Burslem Arm which was a short section of canal into the heart of Burslem. It was closed by a breach in the canal in 1961. The Burslem Port Project is hoping to restore the canal. We trudged on through the snow into Grange Park. You can see a Two Saints Way sign in the photo above. It’s hard to believe you’re in the centre of a city as you walk through here!

Next we came to the intriguing 1986 Festival Garden site. You never know what you’re going to stumble upon next – a fine wooden bridge over a manmade ravine, a stone circle, a sculpture gradually getting lost in the trees, a slate path that was part of the Welsh garden – it’s a delight at any time of year! We exited Festival Park past the Etruria Hall and the brick sculpture of Josiah Wedgwood’s head before deciding to pause for a coffee from Costas at the Odeon Cinema.

Duly refreshed I then took Marg on to a secluded pathway which makes use of what was once the Potteries Loop Line. This is not yet officially part of the Two Saints Way as it is not a legal right of way yet although many people use it. I hope we will be able in due course to find some volunteers to make the necessary improvements because this really is an excellent green corridor leading up to Hanley. At the top of the path we turned right to Tescos – remarkably the only shop you pass directly on the route between Chesterton and Tittensor!

The next landmark was the Potteries Museum which is of course a special location for the Two Saints Way because of the Staffordshire Hoard being on display there. Before we crossed the Potteries Way, we enjoyed a very well preserved bottle oven in smart offices which used to be Smithfield Pottery.

Footpath on former Potteries Loop Line

Soon after passing the conspicuous City Central Mosque we entered Hanley Park where we struck up a conversation with two charming Africans who were busy making their first ever snowman! One was from Chad – I should have talked to him about St Chad! – and the other lived in Lisbon and had parents from Angola and Cape Verde Islands. Every time I walk through Stoke on the Two Saints Way I seem to add a new nationality to my list!

For our last stretch we slipped onto the Caldon Canal and enjoyed the mixture of ice and reflections in the water as well as the fading glories of the industrial heritage seen in such things as this attractive green loading door. We descended two locks to conclude our walk at Etruria where the Caldon Canal reaches the Trent and Mersey.

We strongly recommend this walk. It’s a wonderful introduction to fascinating Stoke-on-Trent which needs to stand up and be proud for being quirky and out of the ordinary! If you want to make it a circular walk you can simply walk on north up the Trent and Mersey from Etruria and return to Middleport. It’s a total of 5 miles. If you’d like maps of the route check my other blog about Stoke on June 4 2012.

Caldon Canal at Etruria

NB You might like to get a copy of the new issue of Discover Britain which has a 7 page article on the Two Saints Way. It can be found on line at http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?eid=f98b10a4-d04d-499a-b65d-c0d523665415 It starts on page 16.

 

RANTING ALONG FOR THE TWO SAINTS WAY

A major aspect of my work at the moment is working on the Two Saints Way interpretation panels. One of the most interesting places where there will be a panel is at Englesea Brook. The great majority of churches on the Two Saints Way are Anglican, but Englesea Brook Chapel and its museum is something completely different.

I like the way that this interpretation panel will have some especially good stories
connected with it! Money for the panel has been raised through a 13.5 mile sponsored
walk that took place on Saturday September 29th. John Cornell, a great enthusiast who I have met on some of my visits, lives by the chapel and was the sponsored person.

On the day, John (on the left in this photo) was accompanied by volunteers from the museum and other local people. It began appropriately at Mow Cop car park below the ‘castle’ folly. This is the particular place that will always be associated with the beginnings of the Primitive Methodist movement. It was here in 1807 that two significant camp meeting took place that provided the impetus for the rapid spread of the movement. Because of their practice of singing hymns in the streets the first Primitive Methodists were called ‘Ranters’ which is why John called his walk ‘Ranting Along.’ One of the founders of the movement, Hugh Bourne was a terrific walker – one of his boots is on display at the museum and it has a hole in it because of all the hundreds of miles he walked!

Forward again to 2012 and for those of you who know the area or like following maps
here’s the route the walkers took… They crossed into the High Street and then continued down the famously steep Top Station Road. Beyond the steepest part of the road they veered off to the left over a stile in the hedge, across a field and then it was downhill all the way to the A34 in Scholar Green. After carefully negotiating the main road they followedpaths and tracks leading to the Trent and Mersey Canal. Over the bridge, with a brief backward glance at the view of Mow Cop, they took to the tow path to Thurlwood Farm. It was then on to Lawton Heath, emerging through the ground of a small house onto Betchton Lane and finally after the challenge of further stiles and bridges they made it to

Halfway picnic

Pikemere Primary School gate. Hurrah they had made it to the halfway point! Packed
lunches were enjoyed and new walkers greeted ready for the remaining miles. After the hard slog of the roads they welcomed the new terrain of tracks and footpaths over the M6, where they momentarily forgot how footsore and weary they were and grateful not to be stuck in the traffic as they waved to those who were!

They followed the South Cheshire Way past Haslington Hall, Crewe Golf Course, and
across the busy Butterton Lane into a quieter pastures that led to a bridge crossing the Crewe to Alsager railway. Eventually a bridge crossing the A500 brought them towards the village of Barthomley. A final couple of miles and they were thankfully home to Englesea Brook for afternoon tea and cakes.

Thankfully the weather was fine and all that remained to do was enjoy a well earned soak in a hot salt bath and collect in the sponsorship money!

I think it is just perfect that money for this panel was raised by a walk following this historic route – perhaps it should become an official spur off the Two Saints Way sometime!?

I’m sure High Bourne himself would have been proud of all the walkers and what’s been achieved!

For more on Englesea Brook Museum see http://www.engleseabrook-museum.org.uk/

Jill Barber Project Director of the Museum displays the fruits of John Cornell’s efforts

The Irish Two Saints Way Connection

I have always had a hunch that in the Middle Ages there may have been Irish pilgrims walking along what is now the Two Saints Way. My reasons for suspecting
this were twofold…

Firstly, the Irish were known to be keen on pilgrimage and Chester was the most
important trading port between England and Ireland in that period. Surely if they
wanted to travel to Canterbury or even as far as Rome and Jerusalem, the most
obvious route connecting up significant shrines would include Chester, Lichfield,
Coventry, St Albans and London?

Secondly I knew that monks from Chester had spread the cult of St Werburgh into Ireland. In 1178 the Church of St Werburgh was built in Dublin and in 1183 Benedictine monks were sent to assist at Downpatrick Cathedral. There is also a St Werburgh’s Well pictured here near Dublin. The shrine of St Werburgh at
Chester would have provided an added impetus for pilgrims contemplating longer pilgrim journeys.

In May I stumbled across a fascinating blog by Edel Mulcachy about Medieval Irish pilgrimage see https://edelmulcahy.wordpress.com/about/ I emailed Edel and she soon supplied me with some concrete evidence of an actual pilgrimage journey in 1323 by a friar with the not very Irish sounding name of Symon Semeonis! In the account of his pilgrimage called Itinerarium Symonis Semeonis ab Hybernia ad Terram Sanctam he describes starting off from Clonmel and then journeying across the Irish Sea from Dublin to Chester where he celebrated Easter before journeying on via Stafford and Lichfield to London, Canterbury, Rome, across to North Africa and via Alexandria to Jerusalem!

What an extraordinary journey that was! I had previously thought that maybe Irish
pilgrims from the northern half of the island would have come via Chester, but
Clonmel is in the south west so it seems Dublin to Chester was the preferred sea
route for pilgrims.

Through my initial connection with Edel Mulcachy, I have also connected with
another Irish person Louise Nugent who also has a blog on pilgrimage at http://pilgrimagemedievalireland.com/ I had the pleasure of meeting her in person
recently when I was over in Ireland for a conference. She is particularly interested
in holy wells and it was she who told me about St Werburgh’s Well.

I very much hope that through these connections, we will hopefully unearth more
discoveries about Irish pilgrims of the past but also I very much hope there will soon
be another flow of Irish pilgrims following in Symon’s footsteps on the Two Saints
Way! May they find a warm and hospitable welcome. And in return, if you haven’t
explored some of the Irish pilgrimage sites, I can highly recommend them. My
favourites are the Skellig Islands, several sites on the amazing Dingle Peninsula
and Glendalough.