October 2014 - Pilgrimage from Avebury to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne
On September the 24th I began my latest pilgrimage, walking from Avebury in Wiltshire towards Lindisfarne in Northumberland. A journey of just under 500 miles, gathering and sharing love stories along the way.
Starting at the spiritual heartland of Wiltshire in the community of Avebury I journeyed with a small bag, and a walking stick. Friends and strangers joined me along the way. I passed through the urban centres of Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle as well as the rural landscapes of the Peaks, the Dales and the stunning Northumberland Coast. On the way I was given hospitality in local homes and churches, eventually finishing up on the holy isle of Lindisfarne, following the pilgrim posts across the mud with companions as the sun rose.
It was a humbling and wonderful experience to meet with so many people and share their love stories together. I feel very privileged to hear these inspiring, sorrowful and joyous stories of loving encounters. I made real friends in the places I least expected and found hospitality in the most unlikely of places. There was great solitude on the path, and deep loneliness at times too. Each step drew me onwards to the next town, amongst days of warm autumnal weather, mixed with winds and rain. Sometimes the path seemed too hard and my legs and feet burned with the effort. On other days it seemed like nothing to walk 20 miles through this beautiful island. Northumberland, the Dales and the Peaks all held me captive in their spacious and intimate landscape. The kind and gentle folk of the Black country and the humour of the Geordies. Every colour and shade of humanity was present as I journeyed on gathering the love stories of England.
Thank you to all of you who smiled at me on the road, who said hello, who offered me hospitality and gave me rest for the night. Thank you for sharing your love stories, for sharing something of yourselves and connecting. I learnt a lot about what it means to be a stranger in a community, to ask for hospitality, to be viewed with dis comfort. I also experienced the open embrace of fellow travellers, the smile of welcome in homes, the openness of connection and shared humanity. Together we explored the nature of the stranger in our community and how a loving welcome with compassion and humanity can make a stranger into a 'guest'. I now know that the guest room is the most important room in the house, for it is in this space and in that welcome that we shine compassion on the world and on others.
AUDIOBOOK - The PATH & THE heart - On the Road to Holy Island
Below are two short excerpts from my recently released audiobook The Path & the Heart. They explore the nature of pilgrimage and thoughts, sounds and connections as I journeyed to Holy Island. If you would like to purchase this audiobook, either as a download or as a beautifully crafted limited edition, then just visit our shop.
Images on the road to Holy Island with A Human Love Story taken during October 2014
THE PILGRIM STAFFS - Walking across the tidal causeway to Holy Island at the end of my 500 mile journey from Avebury. Following the pilgrim staffs that mark the way across the sand while the tide is low. We crossed on a beautiful morning of wind and surf and sunshine. Four companions on the final leg. Thank you for joining me on that last leg Petra, Dad, Gerald and Glynis.
LOVE LETTER AT SEA - This love letter was given to me on my journey by a young lady from Durham. I was aced to read it and then get rid of it as I saw fit. After reading it looking out to sea on Lindisfarne I made a small boat of the pages and allowed it to sail away on the tide. A private story shared, the burden let go and given over to the sea.
GRAFFITI ON THE TOWPATH IN BIRMINGHAM - Just next to this image sat a group go young people taking time out, drinking, smoking. They sat me down, pored over my maps, shared some of their story, their hopes of a new found love. He felt that this new love might just save him. One guy asked me to carry his love story with me on my journey to Holy Island. One girl asked me to remember her. Jasmine, here you are, remembered in print - go well :-)
ON THE PATH TO ASHINGTON - Just after this photograph I met a gentle man who shared a small part of his story with me while I waited on a brick wall. He cried for the loss of his love and his loneliness. He smiled at the fond memory of her.
NORTHUMBERLAND - HOLY ISLAND On arrival in Holy Island we spent time remembering people who had shared their stories and asked for their names and the names of loved ones to be carried here. Along with the names written I left objects given to me on the road, crosses, letters, plants, stones, memories. Written in the sand for the tide to wash clear.
The Route towards Lindisfarne
Part 1 - towards Great Malvern Leaving Avebury I travelled north towards Winterbourne Bassett before making my way towards Malmesbury. From there I made my way towards Bishops Cleeve passing through beautiful Cotswold country, stopping off in Stroud en route. Leaving Bishops Cleeve behind I followed the river crossing the vale and into the Malvern Hills somewhere near Great Malvern.
Part 2 - towards Glossop Abberley, Bewdley, Kinver and Birmingham were all nearby as I continued north towards, Cannock Chase via Pattingham and Brewood. I drew nearer to the Peaks of Derbyshire as I travelled on by Uttoxeter, Oakamore, Ipstones and Leek staying in the tiny hamlet of Burclough. Crossing over the southerly peaks and through Buxton I eventually arrived in Glossop and some rest.
Part 3 - towards Barnard Castle From Glossop I made my way west into Manchester before heading off bound for the Yorkshire Dales. Passing along the Rochdale Canal I travelled to Hebden Bridge and then onwards to Addingham and Kettlewell. I then journeyed North East to Leyburn before making my way to the town of Barnard Castle.
Part 4 - towards Holy Island, Lindisfarne From Barnard Castle I made my way gradually to the coast via Shilden, Durham and St Chads. I then travelled north to Newcastle, Tynemouth and on to Ashington and Alnmouth. I then continued my journey, entering the Northumberland Heritage Coast to Seahouses finally making my way towards Holy Island, crossing over the mudflats onto Holy Island in the morning when the tide is low.