Pilgrims Trail - Anniversary Walk

As part of the 1300th commemorations surrounding the foundation of Mont St Michel in Normandy a pilgrimage will commence on Wednesday 17 September along the Hampshire Millennium Pilgrims’ Trail from Winchester to France.

Setting off with a blessing from the Very Reverend James Atwell, Dean of Winchester Cathedral, 18 Pilgrims from Hampshire and France will make their way across 155 miles of countryside over 13 days, from Winchester to Mont St Michel in Normandy, France. At Mont St Michel they will be joined by pilgrimages across Europe to celebrate St Michael’s Day on 29 September.

Hampshire County Council's Deputy Leader and Executive Member for External Relations, Councillor Roy Perry, and Reverend James Atwell, Dean of Winchester Cathedral and President of the Basse Normandie Regional Council, Mon Laurent Beauvais, will be joining the beginning of the walk to the Hospital of St Cross. Here, they will visit the ancient alms houses and meet some of the brothers.

Councillor Perry commented on the walk: “The Pilgrims’ Trail brings the people of Hampshire and Normandy together and serves as a reminder of our shared great heritage. I hope this anniversary will remind people in England and France about the route and also encourage them to become more active and start walking even if only to enjoy small sections of the trail.”

Leading the walk is 75-year-old John Cawley from Colden Common, who walked the Pilgrims’ Trail when it first opened in 1999. This will be the seventh time he will have completed the walk. John who also helped Hampshire County Council organise this commemorative walk, said: “This is one of the highlights of the year for me, I will be meeting up with French and English walkers who I have completed the walk with ever year since it opened, so it’s like going home when I arrive in Mont St Michel. The walk will take around 13 days in total, three days in England and ten days in France and my favourite part is definitely walking across the bay at Mont St Michel.”

The Pilgrims’ Trail was developed by Hampshire County Council and is a medieval route from the shrine of St Swithun at Winchester Cathedral, weaving across the landscape by way of Bishop's Waltham and Southwick to Portsmouth in the footsteps of the Miquelots, pilgrims who made the long journey to worship St Michael in Normandy. Today travellers have the advantage of special waymark signs - green in Hampshire, blue in France leading to the medieval sanctuary of Mont St Michel in Normandy France, 155 miles away.

The cult of Saint Michael was widespread on the British Isles from the ninth century. By the time of the reformation in the sixteenth century, there were more than six hundred churches in England dedicated to Saint Michael. Mont St Michel also attracted pilgrims from Scandinavia, Italy and Germany, with many British pilgrims stopping at the mount before heading to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.