The Walter Hilton Way – Thurgarton Priory to Southwell Minster – 5 miles, 1 day. 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, which is peace. He bids his pilgrim combine humility and love in saying: ‘I am nothing; I have nothing; I desire only one thing’. The one thing is Jesus. 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.
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 100 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 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 right.
- Immediately after the third you turn right 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.