The North Downs Way Pilgrims Festival 2018;
A week-long celebration which took place in the picturesque village of Wye, located in the heart of the Kent Downs AONB, in late September 2018.
The festival commemorated the 40th anniversary of the opening of the North Downs Way National Trail with a programme of inspiring walks, talks, stories, feasts, skill-sharing, and opportunities for reflection.
Celebrating in the sunshine
With over 700 festival event attendances in total; it was truly uplifting to experience the sense of shared community forged by everyone who participated; connecting with ourselves, with each other, and with the landscape.
We explored churches, hills, ridges, valleys, villages, woodlands, country parks, pubs, footpaths and, of course, the North Downs Way with pilgrims receiving a warm and hospitable welcome on their travels through the Kent Downs. The Kent Downs itself was the star of the festival basking in the autumn sun that we were lucky to enjoy all week.
“The great thing is that this festival has really sparked my interest in pilgrimage. I have, over the last 4-5 years, realised just how important it is for my physical and mental health to take long walks and have always relished the time (usually alone) in nature to think and work through problems in my mind. I often feel elated (and exhausted!) at the end of a walk …. and love the ‘journey within’ aspect of pilgrimage.”
“I am now considering undertaking a ‘real’ pilgrimage next year. Thank you for the inspiration!”
What is pilgrimage?
‘Pilgrimage’ means different things to different people but the idea of a transformational journey, whether in the heart, the mind, or the landscape, was a common theme throughout the week; sharing purpose and experience; taking time out from the hustle and bustle to enjoy a slower rhythm connecting with people and nature; enhancing physical and mental wellbeing and experiencing an outward journey leading inwards.
“There was a great buzz in Wye during the week’s events. I have just moved to Wye and the festival offered ways of experiencing the area. I enjoyed learning more about Pilgrimage and the deep connection to the history, geography and spirituality of this place. The feast was a peak experience, with the meaningful readings, atmosphere created and opportunities to get to know people.”
Faversham to Wye with the Augustine Camino
The longest walk of the week was thirteen miles of pilgrimage from Faversham to Wye led by the Augustine Camino. Walkers unplugged and got to know each other as they journeyed through the Kent Downs. They were welcomed at St Gregory and St Martin Church joining the Pilgrims Feast with songs from Guy Hayward, co-founder of the British Pilgrimage Trust. Thanks to CommunityAd and Dave McKenna for sharing this short video of the walk and songs.
The festival would not have been the success it was without our partners, walk leaders, volunteers, and speakers who were so generous with their time and expertise. We owe huge thanks to St Martin and St Gregory Church, The Ash Project, The Refugee Tales, Reverend Ravi Holy, Linda Cross, Ruth Trent, Wye Arts Association, Wye Scouts and Beavers, Playtime Theatre, Lady Joanna Thornhill Primary School, Victoria Field, The Augustine Camino, Andrew Kelly, The British Pilgrimage Trust, Guy Hayward, Cycle UK, Des De Moor, Keith Chesterton, Guy Stagg, Katherine May, Susie Gray, Mefo Phillips, Bridget Reader, Julia Lewis, Dover Players, Barry O’Brien, Paul Chenour, Harry Bucknall, Mandy Bright, Courtney Allen, Chris Anthony, Chris Howard, Maggi Hill, Charing Palace Trust, Diocese of Canterbury, Barbara Wallace, and Rodney Schofield.
Thanks also to the outstanding local Kent eateries and breweries who hosted Pilgrims Menus and donated their fine local produce; Shepherd Neame, Perry Court Farm, Wye Bakery, Wye Coffeeshop & Kitchen, Wye Butchers, The Tickled Trout, The Wife of Bath, The Kings Head, The New Flying HorsePub, The Barber’s Arms, Hogs Back Brewery, and Goody Ales.
Thank you to all the stallholders who joined the Pilgrimage Fayre on Saturday; Ashford Ramblers, A-Z Maps, Richard Friend , Charing Palace, Colin Torode, Julia Lewis, Refugee Tales, Fair Trade , Augustine Camino, Kent Wildlife Trust, and Surrey Hills AONB.
Thank you to the community near and far who supported the festival by putting up posters, handing out flyers, tweeting, sharing, and bringing their friends and family.
“It was a wonderful celebration and the ambience created was utterly amazing.”
“The festival gave me a reason to join a walk – this provided the opportunity to talk to people I’ve not met before.”
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