The British Pilgrimage Trust

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

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

Pilgrimage was once Britain’s most popular expression of leisure and spirituality, an activity enjoyed by Kings and labourers 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 – 250,000 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 an open spiritual activity without religious prescription.

We define pilgrimage as a journey on foot to holy places – ‘holy’ coming from the Old English halig meaning ‘wholesome’ or ‘healthy’. Holiness can take many forms – cathedrals, river sources, long barrows, ancient trees etc. – and pilgrimage in Britain is the quest to encounter and connect with such places. Such a broad path can welcome people of all faiths and no faith, side by side. The word ‘Pilgrimage’ itself contains no specific religious association, but comes from Latin ‘peregrinus’ meaning ‘stranger’, and ‘per ager’ meaning ‘through the fields’.

Donate to the BPT

  Listen to our BBC Radio interview(s) for an introduction:

Or watch a 2016 talk on British pilgrimage for the Do lectures:

Our Team

 Will Parsons

Will Parsons

Co-Founder

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

Co-Founder

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

India Windsor-Clive

India Windsor-Clive

Web and Publications Consultant

India joined the BPT in 2017, as an accomplished project manager, bringing a wealth of experience from the publishing and creative industries. She advises on the design of the BPT’s website and brings her keen editorial eye to the production of the BPT’s written materials.

Jonathan Woolley

Jonathan Woolley

Operations and Research Consultant

Jonathan joined the BPT as a freelance consultant in 2017, following a PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge where he studied the operations of UK environmental organisations. He assists the Trust’s strategic development and fundraising activities.

Alice Attlee

Alice Attlee

Events Coordinator

Alice joined the BPT in 2017, having studied the role of literature and the landscape at the University of Cambridge, and honed her event production skills in the city’s thriving theatre scene. She now works as a freelance events manager for the Trust, and handles our email account.

Janet Astor (Patron)

Janet Astor (Patron)

Duchess of Richmond + Psychotherapist

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 (Patron)

Dr. Rupert Sheldrake (Patron)

Author + Biologist

Rupert is 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 (Patron)

Georgina Fitzalan-Howard (Patron)

Duchess of Norfolk + Pilgrim

The Duchess has been working directly with the BPT to spread awareness of the plans for the SDPW in and around her family seat, Arundel Castle, which is on the route. A passionate pilgrim and big supporter of our plans to have pilgrims sleeping in churches.

Robin Bridgeman (Patron)

Robin Bridgeman (Patron)

Peer + Politician + Knight

Robin is one of 90 elected hereditary Peers in the House of Lords. A keen and regular pilgrim to Lourdes, he has graciously offered his patronage to the BPT's mission to revive pilgrimage in Britain.

Peter Owen Jones (Patron)

Peter Owen Jones (Patron)

Broadcaster + Author + Vicar

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.

William Cartwright-Hignett (Trustee)

William Cartwright-Hignett (Trustee)

Estate Partner + Charities Chairman

William is a regular pilgrim and entrepreneur whose interests lie primarily in tea and the heritage sector. William has over a decade of experience managing and chairing voluntary and representative bodies, and developing early stage companies.

Dr. Merlin Sheldrake (Trustee)

Dr. Merlin Sheldrake (Trustee)

Mycologist + Ecologist + Musician

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.

Penny Furniss (Trustee)

Penny Furniss (Trustee)

Communications Expert

Penny is creative director of thisisabout.com and Fellow Commoner at Downing College, Cambridge. She is working with the BPT on our long term strategy.

Peter Gangsted (Trustee)

Peter Gangsted (Trustee)

Executive Management + Private Equity

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.

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. The Diocese therefore contains the majority of our proposed route from Southampton to Canterbury, and therefore we are thrilled that Bishop Martin has pledged his support.

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

Academic + 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.

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.