Come with Me to the Cathedral (a Pilgrimage in Pictures)

If the trend watchers are right, we’re about to see a boom in pilgrimage. Growing in popularity over the last decade, many of us feel drawn to journey to a sacred place, even if we aren’t religious. I recently added to the number, joining Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham, on a three-day trek from Jarrow to Durham Cathedral. If you’d like to do something similar, read on!

Why Pilgrimage?

This pilgrimage trend makes sense to me. I’ve talked before about the benefits of pilgrimage and how to plan one, even written a book about a life-changing pilgrimage I took with a friend. Bottom line: many of us spend our days at a desk, the world mediated to us through a screen, and a pilgrimage gets us out into the elements—the sun on our skin, wind tousling our hair, boots crunching on the ground. More significantly, pilgrimage gets us away from the everyday to see life afresh—hitting a new path that opens new possibilities for us to see. (Listen to my conversation about pilgrimage on BBC Radio 2’s Zoe Ball Breakfast Show.)

The Way of Learning

All images ©Keith Blundy unless otherwise stated (used with permission)

With their long history of pilgrimage, I was thrilled when the Durham Diocese of the Church of England and Visit Durham announced six new pilgrim routes in the region, dubbed the Northern Saints Trails. Inspired by missionaries like Aidan, Cuthbert, Bede and Hilda, each trail has its own theme (you’ll find them linked below).

I was even more thrilled when Bishop Paul Butler invited me to join him as his ‘guest author’ on the inaugural Way of Learning trail. Joined by Bishop of Jarrow Sarah Clarke, trails coordinator David Pott, and a different group of travellers each day, for three days we walked through beautiful terrain, camped in historic churches and enjoyed local congregations’ hospitality before being welcomed to Durham Cathedral for a special evensong service.

A Pilgrimage in Pictures (and Videos)

Thanks to photographer Keith Blundy, key moments of The Way of Learning pilgrimage were beautifully captured (unless otherwise stated, all images are ©Keith Blundy and used with permission. Copies can be purchased here). In addition, each night of the pilgrimage Paul Butler and I broadcast live on Facebook, recounting the day’s highlights and discussing a theme related to the Way of Learning. Sit back and let me take you on a walk to Durham Cathedral along The Way of learning.

Day 0: Preparing to Leave

Livestream: Called to Learn

Live from Bishop Paul’s home, Bishop Auckland

The Way of Learning trail is named after Bede, England’s first historian and a scholar in the fields of astronomy, mathematics, theology and more. In our first broadcast the night before we leave, we explore Bede’s life and draw out lessons for us today on the importance of learning and scholarship. Every person has a place in God’s kingdom – including the boffins!

Day 1: Jarrow to Monkwearmouth

After a special commissioning service at St Paul’s Jarrow, we headed for Whitburn Parish Church, Whitburn

Each of Whitburn Church’s windows depict northern saints like Bede, Cuthbert and Hilda

Bishop Paul getting his pilgrim’s passport stamped

A varied pilgrim route, through suburbia and across Roker Beach

Arriving at St Andrew’s Church, Roker. Each church welcomed us with prayer and a devotional message

St Andrew’s is nicknamed the ‘Cathedral of the Arts and Crafts Movement’ due to its links with the movement

Stopping by Bede’s Cross, Roker

Arriving at St Peter’s Church, Monkwearmouth

Livestream: Called to Create

Live from St Peter’s Church, Monkwearmouth

Arriving at Monkwearmouth, we discuss the importance of artists and storytellers of all kinds, riffing off Bede’s role as a poet. Bede was based at the twin monastery of Jarrow-Monkwearmouth, an early centre of scholarship and art. How can the church take a leading role today? With guest Sarah Clarke, Bishop of Jarrow.

Day 2: Monkwearmouth to Chilton Moor

Starting Day 2 with prayer and reflection outside St Peter’s

Joined by musicians, civic leaders, seekers of asylum and more, we arrive at Penshaw Monument

Penshaw Monument

Arriving next at St Matthews, Newbottle

Lord-Lieutenant Sue Winfield, the Queen’s representative for Tyne and Wear, joined us for Day 2

St Michael & All Angels, Houghton-le-Spring

The 2-tonne Fenwick Lawson carving of the Ascended Christ at St Michael and All Angels

Ending the day at St Andrew’s Church, Chilton Moor

Livestream: Called to Act Justly

Live from St Andrew’s Church, Chilton Moor

Issues of justice and mercy were a natural part of the ministries of Bede, Cuthbert, Aidan, Hilda and other celebrated northern saints. We explore how to grow in our calling to act justly in our world. With guest David Pott, the visionary behind the Northern Saints Trails.

Day 3: Chilton Moor to Durham

A big day ahead with 15 miles to walk and the Songs of Praise team filming us all day

Heading to Chester-le-Street, led by David Pott, the man behind the Northern Saints Trails

Praying at St Mary & St Cuthbert’s Church, Chester-le-Street

Lunch at REfUSE Cafe, recycling otherwise wasted food into gourmet meals and transforming lives in the process

Hamming it up with fellow Pause-for-Thoughter and Songs of Praise host Rev. Kate Bottley

Arriving at Finchale Priory

Kate and I did a enjoyable interview for Songs of Praise

Afternoon prayer at Finchale Abbey, with the Songs of Praise team

Through the fields, cameras in tow

Approaching Durham Cathedral

Approaching the grand door, the cathedral’s bells ringing for us

Being welcomed by Cannon Charlie Allen

After three days and 45 miles, the pilgrimage is complete

A final moment of prayer at Bede’s resting place

Livestream: Called to Recycle Life’s Trials

Live from Durham Cathedral

Pilgrimage reminds us that there are no straight lines in either nature or life – it’s all bend and curve, both blisters and beauty. Cuthbert walked with a limp and we often do too. Drawing from The Making of Us, we look at how God can recycle life’s trials into service to others. With special guests Reverend Kate Bottley and Cannon Charlie Allen.

Do it Yourself: 3-Day Itinerary

Image by David Ross

Here’s our itinerary for the Way of Learning trail with rough arrival times (maps and GPX files are available here). Do call each church ahead of time to let them know you’re planning to visit. They may be able to offer a formal welcome, some refreshment, and a pilgrim stamp to confirm your arrival!

Day 1: Jarrow-Monkwearmouth

09.00 Leave from St Paul’s Church, Jarrow NE32 3DY

13.00 Lunch at the Mill, Cleadon Hill GR 389 632

14.45 Whitburn Parish Church, Whitburn SR6 7JF

16.00 St Andrew’s Church, Roker SR6 9PT

17.15 St Peter’s Church, Monkwearmouth SR6 0DY

Day 2: Monkwearmouth-Chilton Moor

09.00 Leave from St Peter’s Church, Monkwearmouth SR6 0DY

11.30 South Hilton Independant Methodist Church SR6 0PE

13.00 Lunch at Penshaw Monument GR 334 543

14.45 St Matthew’s Church, Newbottle DH4 4EP

15.45 St Michael & All Angels Church, Houghton-le-Spring DH4 4DN

17.00 St Andrew’s Church, Chilton Moor DH4 5NT

Day 3: Chilton Moor-Durham

08.30 Leave from St Andrew’s Church, Chilton Moor DH4 5NT

09.30 Floater’s Mill, Fencehouses DH4 6BQ

11.45 St Mary & St Cuthbert’s Church, Chester-le-Street DH3 3QB

12.10 Lunch at REfUSE Cafe, Cester-le-Street DH3 3AU

14.30 Finchael Prior, Finchale DH1 5SH

16.45 Durham Cathedral, Durham

Northern Saints Trails

You can find maps and downloadable GPX files for all six Northern Saints Trails here:

The Angel’s Way (Seaton Sluice-Chester-le-Street)

The Way of Learning (Jarrow-Durham)

The Way of Life (Gainford-Durham)

The Way of Light (Heavenfield-Durham)

The Way of Love (Hartlepool-Durham)

The Way of the Sea (Warkworth-Jarrow)

Songs of Praise Episode

As mentioned, a crew from the popular TV program Songs of Praise filmed our meanderings, including interviews with many of us. The episode is scheduled to air in the UK on BBC One at 1.15pm Sunday June 13 and internationally soon after.

This was a special journey, one I’ll be reflecting on for some time. I hope you get to take it too.

Please Share


  • May 12, 2021
    Vivienne Voysey

    Sounds wonderful Sheridan!
    God bless and we will be supporting you in our prayers!

    • May 12, 2021
      Sheridan Voysey

      Thank you!


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