The British Pilgrimage Trust

The British Pilgrimage Trust is a charity dedicated to renewing pilgrimage in Britain (Charity Registration Number 1176045).

The BPT was formed in 2014 as a Charitable Trust, and re-formed as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation in 2017 (Regd. 1176045). Our core goal remains to “advance British pilgrimage as a form of cultural heritage that promotes holistic wellbeing, for the public benefit.”

We believe that ‘holistic wellbeing’ includes physical, social, environmental and spiritual health, and we aim to make these benefits accessible to wide new audiences. The BPT believes that pilgrimage is a bold new opportunity to promote community and diversity in Britain’s spiritual landscape.

Journeying on foot to holy places – aka Pilgrimage – was once Britain’s most popular expression of leisure and spirituality, enjoyed by Kings and serfs alike. But the tradition was cut short in 1538, when Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell banned pilgrimage in Britain. Ever since, the tradition has lain fallow.

Today, there is a global renaissance of pilgrimage – 300,000 on the Camino to Santiago, 2 million on the Hajj, 20 million on the Arbaeen and 100 million to Kumbh Mela. It is time for Britain to take part. Much of the core infrastructure is already in place – off-road footpaths, under-used churches, pubs and village shops. We simply need to join the dots…

The BPT believes that pilgrimage in Britain today should not attempt to imitate Medieval forms of religious exclusivity. Instead, we are aiming to renew the tradition to fit with modern needs. To this end, the BPT aims to help pilgrimage become a spiritual activity that is open to all, without proscription by faith/non-faith identity.

The BPT’s primary project is the Old Way Pilgrimage from Southampton to Canterbury, which we aim to become a flagship route for Britain to highlight new solutions and models for best practice to help take forward British pilgrimage. This was discovered by William Parsons on a 14th Century road map, and has been developed into an authentically ancient 220 mile pilgrimage route via the South Downs.

The Old Way launches in 2020!

The BPT Network department is also documenting routes throughout Britain, and is keen to list pilgrim events being hosted by other organisations and individuals. The BPT encourages the creation of new pilgrimage routes as well as the re-discovery of old ones – in fact, Guy Hayward and Britain’s Holiest Places author Nick Mayhew-Smith are currently working alongside the Association of English Cathedrals to create accessible 1-day pilgrimages to mark the Year of Cathedrals and Pilgrimage in 2020. We are partnerned with English Heritage, with whom we promote pilgrimage routes in their Annual Handbook and Member’s Magazine that connect their heritage sites. We also list advice on our website to encourage would-be-pilgrims to create new routes within their own communities.

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Our Team

Executive Team

 Will Parsons

Will Parsons

Old Way Discoverer and Author

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

Dr. Guy Hayward

Network Department

Guy co-founded the British Pilgrimage Trust, after completing a PhD on how singing forms community. Guy also runs the website choralevensong.org.

Alice Attlee

Alice Attlee

Old Way Project Manager

Alice is the Project Manager of the Old Way for the BPT. She first set out on pilgrimage in 2017, and has been enchanted by it ever since, as well as being a published poet, writer, and yoga teacher.

Nick Mayhew-Smith

Nick Mayhew-Smith

Holy Place Expert (Network Dept)

Nick has written a number of books about sacred places and the landscape, most notably Britain’s Holiest Places (2011), which was made into a BBC Four television series. He recently completed a PhD on Celtic nature spirituality, which forms the basis of his latest book The Naked Hermit (2019).

Patrons

Janet Astor

Janet Astor

Patron

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

Dr. Rupert Sheldrake

Patron

Rupert is a biologist and 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

Georgina Fitzalan-Howard

Patron

Georgina has been working directly with the BPT to spread awareness of the plans for the Old Way that passes by her home in Arundel.

Robin Bridgeman

Robin Bridgeman

Patron

Robin is one of 90 elected hereditary Peers in the House of Lords, and a keen and regular pilgrim to Lourdes.

Peter Owen Jones

Peter Owen Jones

Patron

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.

Trustees

Peter Gangsted (Chairman)

Peter Gangsted (Chairman)

Chairman of Trustees

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.

Dr Merlin Sheldrake

Dr Merlin Sheldrake

Trustee

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.

Abigail Rowe

Abigail Rowe

Trustee

Abigail works professionally with three charities, primarily in a fundraising capacity. She is currently walking the bounds of England, in a bid to keep learning more about our amazing heritage.

Advisors

Penny Furniss

Penny Furniss

Communications Expert

Penny is creative director of thisisabout.com and Fellow Commoner at Downing College, Cambridge.

Sir Simon Jenkins

Sir Simon Jenkins

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

Satish Kumar

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

Rt Revd Dr Martin Warner

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 – i.e. the majority of our proposed route from Southampton to Canterbury – and therefore we are thrilled that Bishop Martin has pledged his support for the route.

Dr. Robert Macfarlane

Dr. Robert Macfarlane

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

Jill Purce

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

Dr. Kathryn Barush

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

John Brierley

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

Patrick Holden CBE

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. He sees the potential for pilgrimage to reconnect us with our land.

Martin Palmer

Martin Palmer

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

Emma Bridgewater

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’.

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.

Dame Fiona Reynolds

Dame Fiona Reynolds

Academic + Conservationist

A former Director of the National Trust, Dame Fiona Reynolds is the Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and the Chair of the Cathedrals Commission. A noted campaigner and media figure, her recent book, The Fight For Beauty, traces the historical precedents for conservation by policymakers and poets alike — alongside her own lifelong dedication to beautiful landscapes. During her tenure at the National Trust, Dame Fiona raised the charity's profile from 2.7 million to 4 million members.