Mostly Durham – we meet loads of people.

We managed to arrive in Durham in glorious sunshine in time for the prayers at the shrine of St Cuthbert in the cathedral. It felt very right to light a candle there and join in the prayers along with others and was good to meet Robin and Janet from York.

Gourmet Gospel Burgers
Gourmet Gospel Burgers

We went into the Gift shop and met Enid, went to Gospel Gourmet Burger and met Ian.

The NE Christian Aid rep Val, had emailed various people in Durham to advise them of our arrival and so we got a good welcome from Stephen Cherry, the person leading Evensong. We, and the Christian Aid project in Afghanistan, were mentioned in the prayers.

Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral

In the same evening, we visited the Lindisfarne Gospels (excellent exhibition! and nice welcome from Stephen Roberts the big red heart man) and moseyed about looking for somewhere to eat and met various other folk who had been in the cathedral Evensong. So hello to Val and Janice and Stephen, Katherine and her daughter Kaitlin, members of the choir, Rob and Theresa from Preston, and Fred from the URC church in Durham who greeted us in Priors Walk. It sounds like a lot of people in a short period of time – and it was most encouraging.

The route to the Tyne took us along a cycle track (ex rail track). Initially we took a wrong turn (how?!) and had to walk back. This is the first serious misreading of the map we have had and we thought it should have been straight forward. However a Good Samaritan Lynda kindly confirmed our new direction and gave us a Cornetto each.

Auckland Castle
Auckland Castle

Eventually we arrived at Bishop Auckland where Auckland Castle used to house the Prince Bishops but is now open to the public. The guides are excellent there, we sampled the tour on our way north two weeks ago.

St John's Escomb
St John’s Escomb

The climax of the day was our visit to Escomb church. This is thought to be the earliest complete Saxon Church in the country and possibly in the world. It was beautiful inside with a prayerful atmosphere.


Miles walked so far – 95

Churches visited – open 3   locked 5

Kissing gates – 3

Trig points – 0

Accompanying walkers 0

Scrabble – Nancy 2   John 2


Hexham send off and walking to Durham

We are now walking the stretch of the route between Hexham in Northumberland and the River Tees which takes us into NorthYorkshire through county Durham. It started with a service at Hexham Abbey entitled ‘Journeying without stuff’. We were welcome by curate, Phil Mellor-Smith and The Rector, Graham Usher. Graham interviewed us about the pilgrimage asking such searching questions as ‘Why put yourself through this?’ and ‘What are the essentials for your journey?’ and ‘How can the church learn from her heritage but let go of the past and journey in mission into the future?’ Not sure how well we answered but the congregation seemed to have their interest piqued and we were engaged in lots of conversations afterwards; Simon and family on holiday, Ralph and Jean, Chris and Dorothy and many more.

Hexam Abbey
Hexam Abbey

On our journey afterwards to Riding Mill we met two runners Hugh and Aria who checked our map for their run and had been in St James Riding Mill in the morning. Thank you both for your interest and generous donations for Christian Aid. Corbridge church was just about to host a concert as we arrived, but we were spotted as non-concert goers and given space to pray and leave our prayer card, thank you ladies. Karen and Fiona along the river Tyne stopped to chat despite the biting flies Karen had suffered. A warm welcome came when we got to Riding Mill from their vicar Alison.

Nancy in the rain outside St Ebba's church Ebchester
Nancy in the rain outside St Ebba’s church Ebchester

As everywhere, the next day was very wet. We met Ted on the bus to the start of the route and he filled us in with all sorts of historical information about the locality. It was the first rain we had walked through and by the time we got to Consett the rain was bouncing off the streets and pouring off the rooftops.

However, the next day dawned fine and we received a lovely welcome from Edward Knifton at Christchurch Consett to send us on our way. On this day we were joined by Peter Taylor and met his wife, Sandra, in Lanchester and also Celia and Judith, and Ian, a local preacher from Lanchester Methodist church. The good folk there had heard of the pilgrimage and hoped someone would be around to meet us on our journey.

Between Lanchester and Durham an unusual sight – ‘Diggerland’ – a theme park where you can have a go or ride on various kinds of big diggers.


Our next stop is Durham where we hope to view the Lindisfarne Gospels.


Miles walked so far – 77

Churches visited – open – 3 locked – 6

Kissing gates – 7

Trig points – 0

Accompanying walkers – 1

Scrabble – Nancy – 2    John – 3

Over the Pennines to Hexham

These last three days have seen the hardest stretch of walking on the pilgrimage. We have been walking along the edge of the Whin Sill which the Romans used to save digging a ditch on the northern side of Hadrian’s Wall. It has been very scenic countryside and we have met plenty of walkers who are ‘doing’ the Wall from east to west. Quite a number have been from Europe and it seems fitting in a way that the Auxilliaries in the Roman Army who manned the Wall came from various parts of the Roman Empire and would speak their own language as well as being drilled in Latin so they could understand their commanding Legionaries.

Children's 'Roman soldier training' at Birdoswald
Children’s ‘Roman soldier training’ at Birdoswald
John with others on the Wall
John with others on the Wall

We have also met people from UK. Who have expressed interest in what we are doing including Chris and Dorothy whom we have known quite a number of years (who now live in Hexham). Hi too to Beccy and Brad (once workers for Christian Aid), the group of Alston walkers, Karen Brewis, Richard and Angela Kempson, Linda and Graham Jones, Melissa and Duncan who have kindly donated to Christian Aid (thank you both) and the Northallerton Ramblers. Thanks for your interest and support.

Upon our arrival in Hexham in bright sunshine we were welcomed into the town by Christine enjoying a rest on a bench and into the Abbey by the lady on duty and by Jane and Phil in the parish office

The weather has been most kind. As we have watched the forecast on the telly – it seems marvellous how the heavy overnight rain has cleared just in time for us to set off again.


Miles walked so far – 45

Churches visited so far – open 5     locked 2     Roman Temple of Mithras 0

Kissing gates – 24

Trig points – 3

Accompanying walkers 0

Scrabble – Nancy 2  John 1


Great Send off from Carlisle

Carlisle Cathedral did us proud in sending us off on our pilgrimage in style. The rain was falling as we arrived just in time for the main Sunday service at the cathedral and we were quickly ushered to our places. They mentioned us in the notices, in the prayers and we were invited to the front just before the end (after singing ‘To be a pilgrim’) in order to bless us on our way.

The choir that day came from Shrewsbury Abbey and they encouraged us.

At Carlisle Cathedral door
At Carlisle Cathedral door
Some of Shrewsbury Abbey choir and supporters
Some of Shrewsbury Abbey choir and supporters
Sam Michael Julio from the cathedral
Sam Michael Julio from the cathedral

Then we were given our lunch by Michael Manley (one of the residentiary canons) and met two young people Julio and Sam.

Our first stop at a church to pray was St Michael and All Angels (Stanwix) where their youth worker Ben was just setting up for the forthcoming children’s holiday club.

Some of our route was a little damp but still passable and there was a good camaraderie amongst the walkers wading through it. Crosby church at the end of the first day’s walk was sadly locked – but the churchyard boasted a very handy bench to sit on and view the church.

Lanercost Priory
Lanercost Priory

The next day we were walking to the Augustinian Lanercost Priory. The Hadrian’s Wall route we used was not too exciting but the views of Lanercost as we approached were great. The Priory had been ravaged by the Scots and then de-roofed by Henry VIII. But the walls remained strong and it was later roofed and then beautified in the nineteenth century by one of the Howards from Castle Howard. Today it is well worth a visit.

The last day to date we were accompanied by the Hirst family (from Flamborough of all places!) who are walking the length of Hadrian’s Wall and trying 15 miles a day – much more than us.

The Hirst family from Flamborough
The Hirst family from Flamborough


Miles walked – 19

Churches visited – 4 open 2 locked

Kissing gates – 80

Accompanying walkers 4

Scrabble – Nancy 2   John 1


The Preparation events

As you may imagine, the last week has seen some last minute flurries of activity, emailing and organising and packing.

The first exciting event was a photoshoot in front of the Priory which was published in this week’s Bridlington Free Press. There also should be a video clip on their website if you want to see it. Poppy Weston, who also speaks on the video clip and stands next to me in the photo, has done an enormous amount of organising for the whole of the Priory900 events. She is hoping to join us on the whole of the York to Bridlington stretch.

Then last Tuesday the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall came to Bridlington. They visited Burton Fleming, the award winning fish and chip shop, Bridlington Harbour and also the Priory. The town was very pleased to see them so soon after the birth of the new baby prince George. We were at the Priory and were introduced as the couple walking from Carlisle to Bridlington. Prince Charles seemed interested and asked about the pilgrimage. If we get a picture from the official photographer, we shall make sure it appears on this website!

Update: Click here to see a video of the Free Press photographs from the event (John and Nancy appear at the 2 minutes 15 seconds mark).

Statistics for the pre- walk week

Royal handshakes – 2 each

Photo -opportunities – 2 each

On-line donations £100   Offline donations  £65

Scrabble scores (practice!) Nancy  2  John 1


Gearing Up

It is now only two weeks before we start our walk from Carlisle and we are beginning to get organised. The churches en route know we are coming.  Last month we tried out our fitness by walking the Fife Coastal path (very nice) and found we could still do it (thank goodness).

So here we are as we shall appear on the pilgrimage:

Photo of John and Nancy as they will appear on the pilgrimage
Geared Up Pilgrims

As you notice we are again wearing the Christian Aid logo as we shall be donating any money we are given to a 3:1 match-funded Christian Aid project in Afghanistan.

The project will fund education for women and girls in rural areas of Afghanistan and enable them to form councils to help them have a voice. It will continue to run whatever the future political settlements that happen in that region.

Click here, or on the Priory900 tab above, for more details of the project.

Here is the schedule of the walks we plan to do:-


Sun 28th Carlisle – Crosby
Mon 29th Crosby – Birdoswald
Wed 31st Birdoswald – Once Brewed


Thurs 1st Once Brewed – Brocolita
Fri 2nd Brocolita – Hexham

Sun 4th Hexham – Riding Mill
Mon 5th Riding Mill – Consett
Tues 6th Consett – Lanchester
Wed 7th Lanchester – Durham
Fri 9th Durham – Bishop Auckland
Sat 10th Bishop Auckland – Piercebridge

Mon 12th Piercebridge – Croft
Tues 13th Croft – Great Smeaton
Wed 14th Great Smeaton – Osmotherley
Fri 16th Osmotherley – Thirsk
Sat 17th Thirsk – Easingwold

Sun 18th Easingwold – Huby
Mon 19th Huby – York
Thurs 22nd York – Stamford Bridge
Fri 23rd Stamford Bridge – Kirkham Priory
Sat 24th Kirkham Priory – Wharram le Street

Sun 25th Wharram le Street – West Heslerton
Mon 26th West Heslerton – Ganton
Tues 27th Ganton – Burton Fleming
Wed 28th Burton Fleming – Bridlington Priory

The 2013 challenge

It has been some time since the last posting on this website. It is not that we have been idle – just plans have been a little fluid.

However, now we have some definite dates for this year and some definite plans.

On July 28th we have a welcome now being arranged at Carlisle cathedral to start off the ‘Prequel’ walk to York prior to the Bridlington Priory900 pilgrimage, which we shall lead.  On the journey we hope to pray in as many churches as we can that we pass. We are also hoping that people from local congregations will join with us on picnics and walks. We’ve fixed up other meetings at Durham cathedral, Escomb Saxon church and York Minster.

The arrival at Bridlington Priory will be on 28th August and forms a part of a whole host of celebration events put on by the Priory. Click on the link for their website: