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BPT Sussex Pilgrimage Weekender #1 – Lewes Priory to Eastbourne Holy Well

August 5, 2016 @ 8:00 pm - August 7, 2016 @ 7:00 pm


In the first weekend of August, we make pilgrimage among the hills and valleys of old Sussex.

We journey from the ruins of Lewes Priory to the Holy Well of Eastbourne, via many wholesome places – chalk giants, bronze age tumuli and painted churches – among the hills, rivers, seas and skies of Sussex.

The route is a mid-section of the BPT’s recently discovered South Downs Pilgrims Way – from Chichester to Canterbury.

You are invited to come along.

Here is footage from our last Sussex pilgrimage weekender – with the Advaya Initiative:

Advaya Initiative Pilgrimage 2016 from Will Parsons on Vimeo.

From Friday night to Sunday evening (5th–7th), this walking pilgrimage will be guided by William Parsons and Guy Hayward, co-founders of the BPT and pilgrims with many years experience.

This weekend includes:

– Slow, gentle movement toward sacred destinations

– A ‘bring your own beliefs’ policy

– Opening night-walk into the dark silent hills

– Churchyard fire on the first night – for songs and reflection.

– Two night’s accommodation – the first in the Medieval church of Firle, and the second in Alfriston Old Chapel Centre (plus breakfast provided in both venues).

– Gentle non-prescriptive guidance – including traditional pilgrim songs in holy places

– An introduction to modern pilgrim rituals – circumambulation, stillness, and giving gifts,

– Foraging medicinal teas – hedgerow hot drinks for medicine and real local flavour.

– Filtered ‘wild water’ to drink – 100% safe natural water

– Wild swimming in the sea at Cuckmere Haven – South England’s only undeveloped river mouth.

Tickets: £100 (£60 Concession). All proceeds go towards British Pilgrimage Trust, to pursue our charitable goals (and if you pay tax, you can add gift aid on top). A limited number of concession tickets are at buyer’s discretion (as to what they can reasonably donate). Each person donates what they can for first night’s accommodation in Firle Church, and the £20 fee for the second night in Alfriston is included in the ticket price. Breakfasts on Saturday and Sunday are also included, but not lunch and dinner. If you would like to not carry your backpack, we are arranging luggage transfer at £10 per person for the weekend.



“What Guy and Will are doing through The British Pilgrimage Trust is truly epic and incredibly inspiring. Everything was organised and made so easy for me and my Advaya Initiative group…What I thought was so amazing was how they guided us and clearly have a philosophy behind their passion yet there was no expectation for the walk to be anything to anyone or for a site to have any particular meaning…Everything about our trip was perfect and I feel unbelieveably nourished, refocused and uplifted. I also feel so connected to this amazing and under-appreciated land in which live, and its history and spirituality which we never hear about.”
Christabel Reed, Founder of the Advaya Initiative
“We started off the wall not knowing anything about each other, yet at the end of the trip, it felt like I’ve known these people for so long. It’s amazing how you open up to people under such calm and natural circumstances… I will definitely do another pilgrimage in the near future :)”

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See the same event on the second weekend of August



cuckmere meanders2





Friday 5th August  (evening/night walk – distance: 6 miles)

Start at Lewes Priory – once mighty, now fallen, still a vital holy centre. 

Bible Bottom, the ‘last silent place’ in South East England, site of neolithic activity.

Mount Caburn, legendary hillfort and holy centre – with astonishing sunset/dusk vistas.

Sleep and fire at Medieval Church. With evening blessing from Peter Owen Jones (superstar pilgrim and incumbent vicar).


Saturday 6th August (distance: 6 + 4 miles)

Breakfast: Fruit, yoghurt, granola, tea+coffee (provided) (8am)

Morning blessing by Peter Owen Jones.

Yoga session in Church.

Silent hill-climb.

Optional Yoga on Firle Beacon, site of Bronze Age buried Kings and Queens.

Berwick Painted Church – where the Bloomsbury set – Duncan Bell etc., turned a plain church into a modern explosion of colour.

Alfriston Church labyrinth

Lunch from Alfriston deli (self-paying).

Sleep at Old Chapel Centre – the non-conformist chapel of Alfriston, popular with local smugglers. Kitchen and toilets on site.

Supper in George Inn, 500 year old pub, one of oldest in Britain (self-paying).


Bonus Pilgrimage (An optional 4 mile evening bonus)

Church of Good Shepherd, Lullington – the smallest church in Sussex.

The Long Man of Wilmington – ancient chalk giant in the hillside.

Wilmington Church and ancient Yew tree.


Sunday 7th August (Distance: 10.5 miles)

Breakfast – organic fruit, yoghurt, granola, tea/coffee (provided).

The River Cuckmere, south to the sea, beneath the white horse of Cuckmere.

Cuckmere Haven – South England’s only undeveloped river-mouth, place of astonishing natural beauty. With ultra slow sea-entry (optional).

The Seven Sisters – quintessential coastal Britain, everything white, green and blue. Following the dipping cliffs East with the sea on our right, through wonderfully isolated old England.

Lunch at the Birling Gap café (self-paying).

Beachy Head – Place of falling, where despairful people go to end. An important site of pilgrimage and forgiveness.

Eastbourne Holy Well – long forgotten, recently re-discovered. A holy well for immersion and drinking. We filter water, and we put our bodies in. And we sing.

Eastbourne fish and chips, followed by train station homeward (Approx. 7pm)

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Firle Beacon


berwick church2

Berwick Painted Church


wilmington yew

The Great Yew of Wilmington Priory


long man wilmington

The Long Man of Wilmington


seven sisters2

The Seven Sisters

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Who can come?

Anyone over 18 – though in preference, people who love walking the land, and meeting other people. Also, people willing to enter churches and take silence on holy hilltops. It is not a struggle, we promise.

Are there fitness limitations?

Pilgrimage is moderately intense. Our final day is nearly an 11 mile walk, and though it will be slow and gentle, it will be relatively continuous. If you struggle to walk all day, you may find pilgrimage  tricky.

What should I bring?

You will need to bring your own sleeping kit – an inflatable roll-mat and sleeping bag. You will also need waterproof clothing, in case of inclement weather. And you will need clothing sufficient for 2 and a half days’ walking. And you will need to bring money to buy lunch and dinner – though breakfasts will be provided. More detail on what to bring will be sent to you in your order confirmation email.

Is there any baggage transfer on offer?

Yes, the cost for this will be shared for those who want this, which will be £10 over the weekend.

Is this religious?

A triple negative here (defo a positive!) – British pilgrimage is neither non-religious nor religious. It is a “Bring Your Own Beliefs” event. We ask all participating pilgrims to encourage and enable each another’s spiritual paths.

What if the weather is terrible?

As the song goes – “come wind come weather – there’s no discouragement”. OK, easier sung than done, but we will walk on even in rain. Please bring what you need to encounter rain and yet remain happy and dry. This might be

How do I get to the event?

We meet at the front gate of Lewes train station. This has good access from almost anywhere. We take a train back to Lewes – or onward where we like – from Eastbourne.

How can I contact you with any questions?


Is my registration/ticket transferrable?

Your ticket is transferrable between the two weekends, depending on available space.


August 5, 2016 @ 8:00 pm
August 7, 2016 @ 7:00 pm
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The South Downs Pilgrims Way
Lewes to Eastbourne Sussex United Kingdom