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Reform Magazine | October 18, 2017

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Peak pilgrimage

Peak pilgrimage

The travel writer Dixe Wills tries Britain’s newest pilgrimage

Sorry, you’ll have to come back over the stepping stones – I forgot to read you what it says in the guide book.”

Carl, a long-suffering soul who serves the twin functions of church minister and my principal walking companion, without ever letting on which is the greater trial to him, obediently retraced his steps to the near bank of the River Dove.

“Thank you. Now: ‘Suppose God is on the other side of the river. How far along the stepping stones towards him do you feel you are?’”

He dutifully paused on an appropriate stone. We would have spent the next few minutes comparing notes on our respective choices, as suggested by the guide book, had I not already embarked on a rant about the folly of forcing one’s theology to fit whatever topographical features one happened to come across (“Putting the ‘anal’ into analogy”, is, I believe, how I expressed it, with a wit clearly undulled by the advance of years). If Carl sighed, the sound was lost in the angry chuntering of the swollen river as it attempted to sweep us from our fragile perches into sweet oblivion. Greetings from the front line of Britain’s newest pilgrimage route.

The Peak Pilgrimage was launched last summer, having been devised by the parish of Eyam and Baslow in conjunction with an author named Bob Jackson. It stretches for 35 or 39 miles, depending on which of the two routes takes your fancy towards the end, and transports the merry pilgrim across the Peak District National Park from Ilam in Staffordshire to Eyam in Derbyshire, mostly by public footpath. The journey takes in no fewer than 13 churches, each one containing a Bible-verse sticker to be hunted down and stuck into the official guide book. Over the course of two-and-a-half days we would thread our way through Dovedale and Lathkill Dale, march into Bakewell (the only town of any size on the route), slither, slip and slide down into the Chatsworth Estate, trace the River Derwent through rare Derbyshire wetland and come at last to Eyam, a heroic little village whose name resonates down through the ages and which we would learn at last to pronounce…

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This is an extract from the April 2016 edition of Reform.

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