The British Pilgrimage Trust

The British Pilgrimage Trust is a Charitable Incorporate Organisation (CIO) set up to restore the tradition of pilgrimage in Britain (Registered Charity 1176045).

The BPT was formed in 2014 after witnessing the ever-increasing success of the Spanish Camino, and concluding that Britain is missing a trick by not providing pilgrims with access to a similar experience.

Pilgrimage was once Britain’s most important expression of leisure and spirituality, an activity for Kings and peasants alike. This was curtailed in 1538 when Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell banned pilgrimage in Britain. Today, there is a global renaissance of pilgrimage – 250,000 on the Camino to Santiago, 2 million on the Hajj, 20 million on the Arbaeen and 100 million to Kumbh Mela. The BPT believes it is time for Britain to revive her pilgrimage tradition. The required infrastructure is already in place – off-road footpaths, under-used churches, and pilgrim support in the form of pubs and village shops. We need only discard our Tudor taboo, join the dots and let people know…

We do not want to re-establish a medieval form of pilgrimage, but to renew the tradition according to modern needs, to create an open spiritual activity without religious prescription. Though practised by most world religions, pilgrimage at its root contains no specific religious association. The word comes from Latin peregrine – ‘per agri’ – which simply means ‘through the fields’. The BPT defines pilgrimage as a journey on foot to holy places (‘holy’ coming from the Old English hallig meaning ‘wholesome’ or ‘healthy’). Holiness can take many forms – cathedrals, river sources, long barrows, ancient trees etc. – and pilgrimage in Britain is the quest to encounter and connect with such places. Such a broad path can welcome people of all faiths and no faith, side by side.

We hope to make Britain world-renowned as a Land of Pilgrimage, and see the proliferation of pilgrimage routes in Britain not as a division of our strength, but as wider basis for greater participation. Britain does not have to focus on a single destination – we have holy places everywhere, and we can avoid the intensified ecological impact of 250,000 people walking the same path yearly, as they do in Spain.

We have been unable to find reasons NOT to want British Pilgrimage to return to our land. Having pitched our vision to thousands of people ‘on the ground’ from all walks of life, we have found it is consistently met with enthusiasm.

Our aims

We aim to revive the British pilgrimage tradition of making journeys on foot to holy places. We are promoting British pilgrimage as a healthy and inclusive form of spiritual green tourism to new and established markets, global and national.

The BPT aims to make pilgrimage something thousands of people in Britain do. We will improve accessibility by creating new routes – particularly shorter 1-day and weekend pilgrimage journeys – engaging new technologies like smartphone navigation, and promoting pilgrimage as an activity set free from religious prescription – in all regions across Britain.

Or a 25 minute talk for the Do lectures:

Our Team

 Will Parsons (Director & Co-Founder)

Will Parsons (Director & Co-Founder)

Author + Wandering Minstrel

Will has been pioneering new directions for British pilgrimage since 2004. Co-founder of the BPT, Author and Wandering Minstrel, Will has taken British pilgrimage from BBC1 to World Service to Vogue Magazine.

Dr. Guy Hayward (Trustee & Co-Founder)

Dr. Guy Hayward (Trustee & Co-Founder)

Singer + Psychologist

Guy is co-founder and treasurer of the British Pilgrimage Trust. A key member of BPT exhibition and guided pilgrimages, Guy specialises in the formation of community through song, and runs the website choralevensong.org.

Janet Astor (Patron)

Janet Astor (Patron)

Duchess of Richmond

A life-long enthusiast of myths and ancient history, as well as a psychotherapist, the Duchess of Richmond is helping the BPT to fundraise and network in order to establish the Old Way route which passes near the Goodwood Estate, Chichester.

Dr. Rupert Sheldrake (Patron)

Dr. Rupert Sheldrake (Patron)

Author + Biologist

Rupert is author of many popular books on modern science. He is known for asking the questions other scientists prefer to ignore, such as in his book The Science Delusion. Rupert's latest pilgrimage experiments have focussed on the potential role of pilgrimage in the relationship between god-parents and god-children.

Georgina Fitzalan-Howard (Patron)

Georgina Fitzalan-Howard (Patron)

Duchess of Norfolk + Pilgrim

The Duchess has been working directly with the BPT to spread awareness of the plans for the SDPW in and around her family seat, Arundel Castle, which is on the route. A passionate pilgrim and big supporter of our plans to have pilgrims sleeping in churches.

Robin Bridgeman (Patron)

Robin Bridgeman (Patron)

3rd Viscount Bridgeman + Peer + Politician + Knight

Robin is one of 90 elected hereditary Peers in the House of Lords. A keen and regular pilgrim to Lourdes, he has graciously offered his patronage to the BPT's mission to revive pilgrimage in Britain.

Peter Owen Jones (Patron)

Peter Owen Jones (Patron)

Broadcaster + Author + Vicar

Vicar of Firle, Sussex, Peter is well known as BBC1's 'Extreme Pilgrim', as well as for his many books. With his extensive global pilgrimage experience, Peter is champion of our drive for churches to serve as pilgrim accommodation.

William Cartwright-Hignett (Trustee)

William Cartwright-Hignett (Trustee)

Estate Partner + Charities Chairman

William is a regular pilgrim and entrepreneur whose interests lie primarily in tea and the heritage sector. William has over a decade of experience managing and chairing voluntary and representative bodies, and developing early stage companies.

Dr. Merlin Sheldrake (Trustee)

Dr. Merlin Sheldrake (Trustee)

Mycologist + Ecologist + Musician

Merlin’s recent work has focussed on the symbiotic relationship between mycorrhizal fungi and plants, and how fungal networks may connect different plants together underground. During his time working in tropical forests in Panama, he made many pilgrimages to find rare plants that connect to these fungal networks in unusual ways. He is also an accomplished accordionist, pianist and folk singer.

Penny Furniss (Trustee)

Penny Furniss (Trustee)

Communications Expert

Penny is an award-winning communications expert and has been working with the BPT to develop our long term strategy. She is a Fellow Commoner at Downing College, Cambridge, and writes freelance for Conde Nast Traveller.

Peter Gangsted (Trustee)

Peter Gangsted (Trustee)

Executive Management + Private Equity

Peter spent half his career with Unilever running various businesses around the world, both small to large, initially as finance director and later as operations and managing director. In private equity, Peter was a founding partner of Allianz Capital Partners based in Munich, the direct investment arm of Allianz AG, before becoming a partner of Cinven, the pan-European private equity investor.

Sir Simon Jenkins (Advisor)

Sir Simon Jenkins (Advisor)

Author + Newspaper Columnist + Editor

Simon served as editor of the Evening Standard from 1976 to 1978 and of The Times from 1990 to 1992, and chaired the National Trust from 2008 to 2014. He currently writes columns for both The Guardian and Evening Standard, and sits on the committee of the Churches Conservation Trust and English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Commission Review.

Satish Kumar (Advisor)

Satish Kumar (Advisor)

Activist + Editor + Earth Pilgrim

Satish has been a Jain monk, nuclear disarmament advocate, pacifist, and editor of Resurgence & Ecologist magazine. He is founder and Director of Programmes of the Schumacher College international centre for ecological studies, and of The Small School. He is known for a peace walk with a companion to the capitals of four of the nuclear-armed countries – Washington, London, Paris and Moscow – a pilgrimage of over 8,000 miles.

Rt Revd Dr Martin Warner (Advisor)

Rt Revd Dr Martin Warner (Advisor)

Bishop of Chichester

The Diocese of Chichester stretches from Chichester in the West, to East Grinstead in the North, and as far East as Rye. The Diocese therefore contains the majority of our proposed route from Southampton to Canterbury, and therefore we are thrilled that Bishop Martin has pledged his support.

Dr. Robert Macfarlane (Advisor)

Dr. Robert Macfarlane (Advisor)

Author + Academic

Award-winning writer Robert Macfarlane is an expert guide to the wonder and wildness of Britain. We are lucky to have his advice and support in taking British pilgrimage forward.

Jill Purce (Advisor)

Jill Purce (Advisor)

Teacher + Therapist + Author

Jill wrote the book 'The Mystic Spiral'- detailing the way of the spiral journey in all cultures, which is the fundamental nature of pilgrimage. She teaches people how to discover their spiritual connection through voice and ritual, both at her home in Hampstead and around the world. She is a key advisor on designing the ritual elements of pilgrimage to be as appropriate and powerful as possible.

Dr. Kathryn Barush (Advisor)

Dr. Kathryn Barush (Advisor)

Academic + Historian + Artist + Pilgrim

Kathryn has a particular interest in the art and material culture associated with pilgrimage, especially in the British Isles, which was the subject of her dissertation (Oxford, 2012) and first book. She is Asst. Professor of Art History and Religion at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA where she has been developing a curriculum of pilgrimage studies that involves walking, trekking, and exploring sacred art in context.

John Brierley (Advisor)

John Brierley (Advisor)

Camino Pilgrim Guide Author

John is a pilgrim pioneer who has made pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela 100 times, walked the Camino Frances about 50 times, and the other 50 pilgrimages have been along the other Camino routes, Portugues, Ingles etc. John's guidebooks to the Camino have sold hundreds of thousands of copies, have been printed in 20 editions and translated into Korean, Russian and other languages too.

Patrick Holden CBE (Advisor)

Patrick Holden CBE (Advisor)

Farmer + Activist

Patrick is the founding director of the Sustainable Food Trust, which works internationally to accelerate the transition towards more sustainable food systems, and was the founding chairman of British Organic Farmers in 1982.

Martin Palmer (Advisor)

Martin Palmer (Advisor)

Campaigner + Broadcaster

Martin is the Secretary General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), and Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture (ICOREC). Martin is also a regular contributor to the BBC on religious, ethical and historical issues, and has written various books, including ‘Sacred Britain: A Guide to the Sacred Sites and Pilgrim Routes’.

Emma Bridgewater (Advisor)

Emma Bridgewater (Advisor)

Ceramicist + Rural Campaigner

Emma runs the British ceramics manufacturer ‘Emma Bridgewater’, based in Stoke on Trent. In 2016, she was made President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, a charity that was formed in 1926 to limit urban sprawl and ribbon development. The CPRE campaigns for a ‘sustainable future for the countryside’.

Jonathan Woolley

Jonathan Woolley

Operations and Research Consultant

Jonathan joined the BPT as a freelance consultant in 2017, following a PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge where he studied the operations of UK environmental organisations. He assists the Trust’s strategic development and fundraising activities.

India Windsor-Clive

India Windsor-Clive

Web and Publications Consultant

India joined the BPT in 2017, as an accomplished project manager, bringing a wealth of experience from the publishing and creative industries. She advises on the design of the BPT’s website and brings her keen editorial eye to the production of the BPT’s written materials.

Alice Attlee

Alice Attlee

Events Coordinator

Alice joined the BPT in 2017, having studied the role of literature and the landscape at the University of Cambridge, and honed her event production skills in the city’s thriving theatre scene. She now works as a freelance events manager for the Trust, and handles our email account.

Prof Ronald Hutton

Prof Ronald Hutton

British Historian

A leading authority on history of the British Isles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, on ancient and medieval paganism and magic, and on the global context of witchcraft beliefs. Also the leading historian of the ritual year in Britain and of modern paganism.

Philip Carr-Gomm

Philip Carr-Gomm

Author and Psychologist

Philip was asked to lead the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids in 1988, and since then the Order has grown to become the largest Druid teaching order in the world, now 20,000 strong. He combines this role with writing, and giving talks and workshops.