Five Cathedrals and Sore Feet

The easy bit was thinking up the Sanctuary Church project – now it’s time to make it a reality and that means fundraising, big time. So, the next bit of thinking came up with a fundraising charity walk and, as the person with this good idea, I thought, ok, I’d better do it then.

I am Graham Norman, 72 years old, churchwarden at St Mary’s and I do like walking. But this can’t be a just stroll in the countryside if I want people to give generously – and I do. No, it needs to be a long walk of some significance and foot-suffering so that people know I mean business about raising this money. And it needs to be significant to me as well to give me the incentive and will power to do it.

My first idea was to walk from Winchester to Canterbury along the Pilgrim’s Way, the footpaths of St Swithun’s Way and the North Downs Way. Then the idea of visiting cathedrals on the way slipped into my mind. Then I thought of logistics and cost and where I would sleep at night; I’m far to old and wimpish to sleep outdoors even in summer. Then I remembered that I was born in Kent, Gillingham, to be exact, but had never been back and how I came back to Christianity through visiting cathedrals, Ely, Lincoln and York, and how I’ve had a lifelong love of old churches, which is probably why I’m so involved at St Mary’s Eling now. The result of this meandering river of thought is this 200 mile walk:

I shall start from Whitstable on the north Kent coast, where we can make a base and stay with relatives. I will start the walk with a pilgrimage to Canterbury along the quaintly named Crab & Winkle Way. Its 14 miles there and back and a good starting day walk. I shall then set out along the Saxon Shore Way to Rochester, calling on my birthplace, Gillingham. Rochester is home to my second cathedral. From there it’s the North Downs Way to Guildford Cathedral and on to Farnham where the route becomes the St Swithun’s Way. This is home territory and the next cathedral is Winchester, where I expect the streets to be lined with flag waving supporters. Then it’s onwards to Salisbury spire via the Clarendon Way. That’s it with cathedrals; the last bit of the walk will be along the Avon Valley Way to Downton and then over to Romsey for prayers in the Abbey, and where I will join the Test Way all the way to St Mary the Virgin Eling Hill. I hope to arrive on Advent Sunday, 29th November 2020, exactly a year after the launch of the Sanctuary Church project at St Mary’s.

That will be 200 miles in a fortnight. In November. I have a stout stick, made by Richard the keeper of the tollbridge at Eling Mill, and a strong desire to succeed. My feet are fine – so far. Please follow this blog with me all the way to Eling Hill.

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