2020 has been a challenging year for everyone but here at the British Pilgrimage Trust we have attempted to turn the difficulties of this year into opportunities to support, and connect to, our community and find ways to ensure the sustainability of the BPT for years to come.
We have achieved this by creating new resources for pilgrims, some of which we have given to the community, and some of which we have offered up to our supporters in exchange for a donation or purchase. Our website in the past year received 230,000 visitors who visited it 650,000 times.
What follows is an abbreviated summary of our work this year. To read the extended summary, click button below.
2020 has been a good year for press coverage of pilgrimage in Britain. We have appeared in: BBC Radio’s 4 Today, BBC News, Financial Times, Times2, Times Luxx, The Independent, Waitrose Weekend, Town & Country, Country Life, Woman’s Weekly, Tatler, Guardian (Avebury, Ritual Walk feature). Telegraph (Staycation Top 10, Anglesey as a Top 10, Top 10 World Pilgrimages, Glastonbury Water Way feature), Culture Trip, Catholic Herald, The Tablet, Country Walking, Ramblers Walk magazine, Countryman magazine, Suitcase Magazine, New European, House & Garden.
Britain’s Pilgrim Places
Britain’s Pilgrim Places, the BPT’s first ever book, was published in August 2020.
The book has won praise from public figures such as Emma Bridgewater, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Satish Kumar and Fiona Reynolds (to name a few) –and has been featured by Radio 4, the Telegraph, the Guardian, the Times, the Independent…this list goes on. Britain’s Pilgrim Places is an Amazon Bestseller and Hive Top Ten Monthly Bestseller. We are delighted by how the book has been received, and four months since its launch, we are proud to announce its second print run.
Old Way Online Guide
Also in August 2020, the BPT’s much-anticipated online guide to the Old Way launched.
The Old Way Online Guide is an evolving project, which will continue to develop and grow as more pilgrims walk the route and contribute to the guide. We set up the guide to have comments enabled at the bottom of every section, which means that whenever one of our subscribers and Friends wants to tell us something about the route, or suggest an update, they can let us know. In December 2020, we completed our first update of the guide since its launch, incorporating user feedback, and integrating ideas from the BPT Team, in order to continue to nourish this growing pilgrim resource.
Friends of the BPT
The third in our trio of launches in August 2020 was our Friends of the BPT project.
Friends receive: year-round access to the Old Way Online Guide; year-round access to the Sanctuary Project (launching in Spring 2021); a growing number of discounts at pilgrim-friendly organisations; exclusive BPT e-mailouts; advance access to guided pilgrimage tickets; and discounts or free guided pilgrimages – dependent on which tier to which Friends choose to sign up.
Cathedral Day Routes
2020 started well, with an appearance on BBC Radio 4 Today programme talking about the Cathedral Day Pilgrimage Project. But for much of 2020, encouraging pilgrims to make long-distance journeys has not been an option.
As a consequence, the BPT’s focus on creating linear and circular cathedral day-pilgrimage routes has proved a brilliant opportunity to encourage our supporters to safely continue to make pilgrimage.
Our Virtual Pilgrimages are an opportunity to collectively experience the richness, beauty and spiritual awakening of British pilgrim routes from the comfort of our homes.
We began the initiative in the spring on Instagram, before moving the project onto our mailing list, where we were able to provide more detail to the pilgrimages. We made it our mission to take our supporters – virtually – on different pilgrimages across the country, exploring the history and the landmarks found upon the paths. Additionally, we have been suggesting practices influenced by an aspect of the chosen pilgrimage, providing a chance for us to connect, discover and play in these otherwise anxious times.
Alongside our Virtual Pilgrimages, we’ve been offering our supporters a regular collection of resources, brought together by the BPT Team. We loved sharing the podcasts, articles, films, and other work that inspired us during the difficult months of lockdown – both amongst ourselves as a team, and with our followers on social media and mailing list subscribers. This practice helped us to better understand the myriad ways in which pilgrimage speaks to many other current issues.
Strategy & Vision
Though the ability to step out onto the pilgrim path with our supporters was greatly missed in 2020, the restrictions on movement did allow the BPT Team to reflect on the charity’s work – in the past, present and future. Guided by the trustees, the team worked to produce a cohesive strategy for the next three years, to ensure the sustainability of the BPT for many years to come.
With so much content within the website, we felt it was time to update it, to make it easier for pilgrims to use.
One of our most visible changes has been to reorganise our home page. We’ve produced new content to explain who we are as a charity, and what it means to make pilgrimage in Britain. We’ve also restructured the order of the page to make navigating through the website simpler.
On practically every page of our website, updates and improvements have been made, to ensure that for our growing number of website visitors are provided with everything needed in order to start making pilgrimage.
Pilgrimage Community Tools
‘Tips for the Pilgrim Novice’ introduces key practices and ideas that the BPT have found speak to most pilgrims, and also provides a practical kit list for those setting out on the path. We have also updated our ‘Holy Places’ page this year, to demonstrate the scope and variety of places where pilgrims might feel connection and resonance along the way. We’ve also included a page for finding local food along pilgrimage routes, as well as a pages to help you create and test pilgrimage routes – as well as a page on how to guide a pilgrimage. We hope this work will make it easier and more accessible than ever to become a pilgrim in Britain.
In addition to our collaboration with the Association of English Cathedrals for the day cathedral pilgrimages project, and eight cathedral partners for the circular routes, we are now working with the Cathedral Cycle Routes project, a group working to plot cycle routes between every cathedral in England.
We continue to work with English Heritage, and will provide 10 routes for their Annual Handbook 2021/22.
One of our most important roles is as a connector hub between various localised pilgrim route creator communities.
St Edward Way – Kentigern Way – St Alkelda’s Way – St Winefride Pilgrim Trail – Way of St Hild – Northern Saints Trails – Whitby Way – Anglesey – East & West Peckham Trail – Penrhys Pilgrimage Way – Dorset Catherine & Cernunnos Route – King Arthur Way – Robin Hood Way
New Day Pilgrimage Routes: Glastonbury – Avebury Circular – St David’s – Hereford Cathedral – Rochester Cathedral – Guildford Cathedral – St Edmundsbury Cathedral – Edinburgh Cathedral – St Albans Cathedral – Cambridge – Bath Abbey – Anne Lister Pilgrimage – 30 Covid-compliant cathedral circular routes.
We are building our understanding of introducing pilgrimage to schoolchildren, and are forming a list of partners, such as the Phoenix Academy, London, Truro Cathedral, Salisbury Cathedral, a school in Gloucester and the Woodard schools group.
Changes to Our Team
Two outstanding new trustees joined the Board in January 2020, Sylvia Perrins with strong financial and charity expertise and Simon Hillson, a seasoned lawyer. Will Parsons left the BPT in March 2020 and Guy Hayward was subsequently appointed Director of the charity whilst stepping down as a trustee. We were also fortunate in 2020 to be able to employ Alice Atlee, working almost entirely on Old Way, and in particular on writing, testing and launching the Old Way Online Guide. Alice left the BPT in Dec 2020, and she will be succeeded by Dawn Champion, who has 20 years experience in community engagement and volunteer management from her previous roles at English Heritage (South East) and Kent Wildlife Trust.