The program will focus on creating an environment for reflection in order to deepen your connection with God. A typical day will look like this:
Morning: Pilgrims usually rise shortly after daybreak to enjoy the crisp morning air. We will begin the day with a short facilitated meditation on the suggested theme for the day followed by an orientation for the hike ahead. Breakfast will then be on your own, based on your own needs and desired departure time. The morning will be spent walking, with rests and lunch along the way.
Afternoon: After walking 4-6 hours (averaging 25 km each day), you will arrive at your overnight destination sometime in early to mid-afternoon. Everyone is permitted to walk at their own pace, with or without a companion. Afternoons will be spent showering, resting, journaling or doing laundry. Before dinner, you will have the opportunity to debrief the day with the group over drinks, if desired.
Evening: You may choose to eat dinner with our cohort, a smaller group, or on your own. Afterward, there will be an optional brief meditation before bedtime.
The program above describes a typical day and the opportunities that will be available to you. While we hope you will participate in some of the group sessions to enrich the experience of others, it is not required because we realize that every person’s pilgrimage is unique. Each person comes with different questions, hopes and needs. We want to respect and honor where each person is at. The intent of the program is to provide a basic rhythm that pilgrims can follow as desired.
|Day 1||Arrive in Winchester for orientation.|
|Day 2:||Begin the walk from Winchester Cathedral, following the St Swithin’s Trail to New Alresford (10 miles)|
|Day 3:||Walk from New Alresford to Alton (13 miles)|
|Day 4:||Walk from Alton to Farnham (10 miles)|
|Day 5||Walk from Farnham to Guildford on the North Downs Way (14 miles)|
|Day 6||Walk from Guildford to Dorking (10 miles)|
|Day 7||Walk from Dorking to Reigate (9 miles)|
|Day 8||Walk from Reigate to Westerham (14 miles)|
|Day 9||Walk from Westerham to Wrotham (9 miles)|
|Day 10||Walk from Wrotham to Rochester (12 miles)|
|Day 11||Walk from Rochester to Thurnham (12 miles)|
|Day 12||Walk from Thurnham to Lenham, with optional detour to Leeds Castle (11 or 8.5 miles)|
|Day 13||Walk from Lenham to Wye (11 miles)|
|Day 14||Walk from Wye to Canterbury (13.5 or 8 mile option)|
|Day 15||Departure day|
North Downs Pilgrims’ Way
This pilgrimage begins in Winchester on St Swithuns’ Way and connects to the North Downs Way National Trail in Farnham. It is a historic pilgrimage route to Canterbury Cathedral in Kent, home of the shrine of the martyred archbishop, St Thomas Becket. Perhaps the most well-known of British pilgrimages, and was famously ‘re-discovered’ by Hillaire Belloc at the turn of the last century.
Between Winchester and Farnham you will pass through the Itchen Valley and the quaint towns of Alresford, Alton and Chawton, which was Jane Austen’s home. From there you will move on to a soothing waterfront trail along the River Wey. The route continues on minor roads or trails through ancient woodland, expansive grassland, orchards and farmland. It follows a major chalk ridge past charming villages and historic churches such as the ruins of St Catherine’s Chapel – an important pilgrim church dating from the 13th century – and St Martha’s Church, perched on a hill with soul-soothing views. More stunning views await at Box Hill which overlooks River Mole, one of the summits of the North Downs and part of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Beauty.
Farther down the trail is Rochester, another historic cathedral city famous as the home of Charles Dickens. Kings Wood is another magnificent part of the trail and the largest in Kent. Upon exiting the woods you will catch sight of Canterbury Cathedral 11 kilometers in the distance and proceed through orchards and nature reserves before finally entering the glorious historic city itself.