The Walter Hilton Way – Thurgarton Priory to Southwell Minster – 5 miles, 1 day. Google Map Burgundy Line. Walter Hilton (c.1340-1396) was an influential guide to the spiritual life throughout the later Middle Ages. He gave up a legal career to live first as a solitary and then in an Augustinian community at Thurgarton, devoted to practical parish work as well as prayer and study. He wrote On the Mixed Life, calling people in ordinary life to combine business and prayer. His most famous work, The Scale (or Ladder) of Perfection, follows Augustine in describing the soul as an image of the Trinity. The second part takes the form of a spiritual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He bids his pilgrim combine humility and love in saying: ‘I am nothing; I have nothing; I desire only one thing’. Read more here. This pilgrimage across the lovely, quiet fields of a hidden part of Nottinghamshire, follows Walter’s steps to what was then the pro-cathedral under York, where water and oils were distributed to local churches.
Click to download route/s in GPX file format for your smartphone’s map app
Instructions for using a GPX file to show you the route offline on your smartphone
Buy Cathedral Pilgrim Passport here
100 bus to and from Nottingham, twice hourly weekdays, hourly on Sunday. Stop at either Red Lion (Corner Croft)
Trains via line from Nottingham to Newark variable, add half a mile to your journey, up Station Road to village centre.
Red Lion in Thurgarton or many options in Southwell, including Minster Refectory
- From 26 bus stop in Thurgarton village centre take Priory Road to the north by the hair salon and follow it uphill, passing a beautiful cricket ground to the left. The footway rises and separates from the road as you go on and curves left. The churchyard and Priory Church of St Peter will soon appear on your left through a wall. It was here that Walter Hilton served as an Augustinian canon and wrote his Ladder of Perfection. Church is usually open on Saturdays or a key can be borrowed from the vicar on 07720010066 . (The vicarage for returning the key is opposite the Red Lion). It is a fine church with a memorial to Walter Hilton and a copy of his writings. The rest of the priory is now a private house and the setting is idyllic.
- Leave the churchyard and follow the road onwards. It takes a sharp turn to the right and becomes a public bridleway. After about 500 yards you will see a gap in the hedge on the left. Go through and a bench offers a rest and a notice bidding us remember all the animals who were used in experiments when the Priory belonged to Boots.
- Carry on up the lane through a car barrier with views over the valley where there are (obscure) Roman remains.
- Turn right just past a barn conversion by a public footpath sign by an austere grey farm building and keep close to the hedge to the bottom of the field. Follow along to the right until a gap opens with a small bridge over the dumble (local word for a deep cut stream).
- Cross the bridge and through a gate into the next field and cross diagonally left to the next gate, which leads to another. Hug the left hedge until you reach a farm track and gate. Cows for Long Clawson stilton cheese often pass along here for milking.
- Cross the track to yet another gate and follow the left hedge until the path joins a track and you come between buildings of Bridle Path Farm to a road. Turn right.
- This is the peaceful village of Halloughton and the road leads to Manor Farm, once a Prebendal holding of Southwell Minster with an ancient tower (prebends were clergy financed by land-holdings). Opposite lies St James’s Church, a good place to rest and pray. It has a window with St James’s pilgrim scallop shell and Southwell Minster. The Pilgrims Chapel at Southwell has a tapestry with another such shell.
- Follow the road to the end and cross the main A612 with great care. Turn right (counterintuitively) to walk on the wide grass verge to a public footpath sign on your left, which takes you into Brackenhurst land. This is the environmental science and agriculture part of Nottingham Trent University and is sustainably managed, with helpful display boards. Turn left over a bridge across another dumble and turn right to follow the trees passing three hedge boundaries to your left.
- Immediately after the third you turn left onto a farm track, viewing Brackenhurst House in the distance. (You can make a detour to view the gardens of what was the boyhood home of Lord Allenby, associated with the British remit in Palestine, now part of the university.)
- Turn left at the first lamppost to join a metalled road that takes you past another cricket ground, when you turn right along a grassy signposted public footpath between farm buildings. It emerges through a gate onto a lane. Turn right towards the footpath sign, getting your first view of the Minster across the fields. Take the footpath to your left and follow it diagonally right to a white footpath sign across the field, often planted with maize or barley. Carry straight on across the next field until the path curves left down the hill, hugging the fence of the Minster School grounds. A new building, this school has an Anglo-Saxon origin as the Cathedral School and still has a junior department for choristers.
- The path comes out in the War Memorial Park. Turn right and left at the end of the path to pass the children’s playground. Turn right through its car park to join a path at the end by the Bramley Apple Trail sign. This fruit was invented in Southwell and has a window in its honour in the north transept. Follow the path to another yellow footpath sign by two green posts and fork left to the Minster. You pass the ruins of the palace of the Archbishop of York and a lovely garden, which you can visit later, along with the State Chamber which survives. You can now enter the Minster by the South Door on your right or continue round to admire the beauty of the Norman West End before coming in by the North Door. Or circumambulate (walk round) the whole Minster before entering as a sign of respect.
I al a member of The Society for Creative Anachronism in the USA. As our Arts and Sciences Minister I am leading a small group (about 2 dozen folk) in full garb (kit) on a mini pilgrimage of our own, as a means of better understanding the experience. We are only planning to travel about 1.5 miles, and will include family’s with children. Our stops are not nearly so wondrous as yours,since we lack the historic sites here in Springfield, Oregon. We will stop in an old church that is now a pub/restaurant, an old catholic church which now serves as an outreach center for the needy, and our final destination will be a third church, still serving its flock, which appears as if it might have been built in the middle ages (actually late 1880s). Your post has inspired me!
In preparation for our walk we are making walking sticks, pilgrims pouches, bog shoes, and pewter tokens to be handed to participants at each stop. We will also have passports to be stamped and shells to be handed to each participant at the beginning of our walk. Your post has provided much I was missing! Thank you!!
we thoroughly enjoyed the walk from Thurgaton to Southwell but please could you just check the instructions beyond Halaughton as we found that after we followed the footpath past St James Church and turned right the first gate we came to had a no entry to ramblers sign. It was a foggy day & we did end up walking further than the route suggests.
We look forward to the next ramble.
Christine & Steve Baldwin