Hitching and Staying in Holy Places

First words for a few days –  from the public library in Pembroke. Save our libraries!

Had I been more far sighted (and well budgetted) I would have bought a small laptop or netbook before setting off. This morning I met a couple who were walking and camping with a solar charger and tablet, and obviously this is the way to go. But in fact even if I had my own laptop I was so tired last night I would have had difficulty stringing even a few words together.

Yesterday morning I set off from Tenby along the Pembroke Coast Path. I didn’t know how far I would get. I managed 7 miles, to Freshwater East. This doesn’t seem far, but in the 30 degree heat with the weight of my pack and the ups and downs of the path, it’s not bad. And it is so very beautiful. The water is so clear.


My other main mode of transport, the hitch hiking, has not gone so well as earlier in the week. My itinerary since leaving Chippenham on Tuesday morning was to hitch to Yeovil to meet Brother Vaughan, to spend 2 days with him. That part went OK.

We stayed with friends of his near Hillfields Friary on Tuesday night and then on Wednesday visited Hillfields for mid day prayers and Mass, and lunch, and then went to stay at Glasshampton Monastery / Friary near Worcester. My accommodation at Glasshampton was in a private chapel built by the hermit contemplative Brother Ramon, now deceased. He lived a life of prayer and meditation, much of it as a virtual recluse, in a small shed he built at the bottom of the kitchen garden. The chapel has absorbed something of Brother Ramon’s life of prayer and quiet devotion, and I found it a holy place. Here is a picture of the altar, with on the left the famous Russian icon of the Virgin and Christ child, the Saint Damiano Cross in the centre, and on the right an icon of St. Francis.


It was great to spend 2 days with Bro Vaughan, and to join with him in the Franciscan daily office, and also to meet the Brothers at Hillfields and Glasshampton. I took more photos but won’t upload all of them here.

He kindly dropped me at Hay on Wye at about mid day on Thursday. From there I hitched most of the way to Tenby but got stuck at a Service Station on the M4 outside Swansea, so had to get a bus into Swansea and catch a train for the final miles. It was dark by the time I arrived at Tenby so I decided to just sleep on the beech. There were quite a few people around, and a couple of parties around camp fires, and a nearby cafe / restaurant was still serving, so I found what I hoped was a quiet spot and unfurled the sleeping bag and slept under the stars. It was only about 50 yards from this little beach cafe where I stopped yesterday morning.


I also slept in the dunes last night at Freshwater East.


Apart from hearing some people having a loon about after the pub both of these 2 nights have been relatively undisturbed. I guess this is something akin to life on the street, as I do feel quite vulnerable just bedding down in my sleeping bag. But I also feel that it is a privilege to bed down under the stars, and feel that these places too are holy.

From Pembroke this afternoon I shall carry on along the coast path toward St David’s. More from me anon!


Less than a week to go now and I am feeling some trepidation. To leave behind my wife, home and friends, work routines and support systems for 2 months is fairly radical. Of course I knew this all along but as the start date of 1st July approaches I find myself feeling quite unprepared. A bit daunted too, in truth. But even if I did somehow have the illusion of feeling prepared, it is still a big enterprise.

Other than a couple of items I have most of the kit I need for the journey. Some good boots and a waterproof jacket, an excellent backpack and sleeping bag kindly loaned by Brother Vaughan. And thanks to my friend from Phoenix Housing  Penny Quinton I have a wonderful Hennessy Hammock to sleep in.

Something about the idea of going with just the clothes I am wearing appeals. Didn’t Jesus send the disciples out telling them to take only the absolute minimum and to trust God for the rest? And when the early Celtic monks and saints set out on their voyages they considered their lives as offerings, giving up all their rights and self sufficiency and praying that the Lord would guide them where He wanted them to go. And I also consciously making the decision to give up my (illusory) self sufficiency on this pilgrimage.

But I am going to need a phone and maps and other essential paraphernalia. I’m not exactly Bear Grylls after all.. And I do have a not-very-cunning plan on the route, you might be pleased to hear. At least I know the starting point – my front door – and end point – Iona – and a few of the places in between!

On Monday, ready or not, rain or shine, I will set off walking along the Thames Path to Oxford.


Hopefully by the end of the first day I’ll have reached The Community of the Sisters of the Church at Ham Common where hospitality is offered. Amongst those who live in the community are some who are in Home Office limbo, without recourse to state support or public funds. Housing Justice is involved in developing better accommodation and support for people facing this difficult situation, especially through London Hosting, with colleagues from Praxis, Spare Room, the Catholic Worker and others.

Much of my 9 weeks on the road and on the street is lightly sketched, for the reasons already outlined. But among the places I hope to visit, if the winds are fair, are Hillfields, St David’s, Whitby and Holy Island. Hitch hiking is maybe the modern equivalent of setting out in a little leather coracle – my way of trusting the Lord to lead me where he wants me to be. If it doesn’t go well, of course, I could end up stuck at a Service Station in deepest Wiltshire.

Join me in the adventure by checking back with this blog now and again. And if you are a believer don’t forget to pray for me! Especially that I don’t get stuck at the service station. Thank you