18 August 2022

Lichfield Peace Walk:
a 30 km walk from one
Saint Chad’s to another

Setting out on a morning walk along Cross in Hand Lane, on the edges of Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I am thinking about visiting Lichfield next week to take part in this year’s Lichfield Peace Walk, which starts next Monday morning in Lichfield and reaches Stafford on Wednesday.

The three-day, 30 km (20 mile) walk is along the pilgrim way from Saint Chad’s Church, Lichfield, to Saint Chad’s Church, Stafford. This is an interfaith venture, supported by members of the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Buddhist communities in the Lichfield area.

Nine monks from the Wat Mahathat Thai Buddhist Temple in King’s Bromley, led by Abbot Ajahn, Thailand’s most senior monk in Britain, plan to take part in the walk along the pilgrim way from Lichfield to Stafford between Monday (22 August) and Wednesday (24 August).

The Lichfield Peace Walk begins at Saint Chad’s Church, Lichfield, at 8 am on Monday (22 August). The Rector of Saint Chad’s, the Revd Rod Clark, is looking forward to meeting the walkers.

Saint Chad’s Church, Lichfield … on the site of Saint Chad’s seventh century church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Chad’s Church is a place of pilgrimage, at one end of ‘Two Saints’ Way,’ a pilgrimage route between Lichfield Cathedral and Chester Cathedral. This pilgrimage route was revived in 2012 and can be followed by starting in either Lichfield or Chester.

The walkers then plan to walk on to the new statue of Saint Chad at Lichfield Cathedral, where they hope to hear news about the planned shrine of Saint Chad. From there, the route takes the walkers to a number of sites in Lichfield, including the Garden of Remembrance in Beacon Street, the site of the former Franciscan Friary, and Beacon Park Peace Garden, before setting off along Cross in Hand Lane.

Many of the walkers expect – appropriately – to hold small wooden crosses as they walk along Cross in Hand Lane.

Cross in Hand Lane begins close to the Hedgehog Vintage Inn on the corner of Stafford Road. Little has changed in the landscape along this route since mediaeval times. The road twists and turns, rises and falls, with countryside that has changed little over the centuries.

At this time of the year, the fields along Cross in Hand Lane are green and golden under the clear blue skies of summer. There are horses in paddocks here, or cows there, and most of the land is arable or being used for grazing. In the past, this walk has offered me opportunities to clear out the cobwebbed corners of my brain and (hopefully) my soul, and allowed me time to enjoy this walk as this walk and as nothing more.

At Farewell, they hope to be greeted at Saint Bartholomew’s Church at lunchtime by the Revd Lynn McKeon, Priest-in-Charge of Christ Church, Gentleshaw, and Saint Bartholomew’s, Farewell. Wednesday is the Feast of Saint Bartholomew (24 August).

The story of this country parish church dates back to a small Benedictine Priory of Farewell, founded by Roger de Clinton (1129-1148), Bishop of Lichfield (1129-1148), ca 1140. He endowed the place with several episcopal estates. The Priory was a stopping point on the pilgrim route between Lichfield Cathedral and Chester Cathedral.

Although it began as a foundation for monks or hermits, Farewell soon became a nunnery. But, as the nunnery prospered, all was not well in Farewell. Reports from 14th-century episcopal visitations found incidents of nuns who left the nunnery and put aside their habit, and nuns who were sleeping two in a bed and with young girls in their beds.

The priory did not survive the general Dissolution in the 16th century. In August 1527, the Chapter of Lichfield was granted all the possessions of Farewell Priory, including the house and church and the Manor of Farewell. By the 18th century, Saint Bartholomew’s Church seems to have been the only surviving part of the priory buildings.

The High Altar and reredos in Saint Chad’s Church, Stafford … one of the ancient sites on the Two Saints Way (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Monday’s stage of the walk ends at Castle Ring. The final three miles of the day up to Castle Ring may ‘be difficult for everyone to do,’ says Andrew Jacobs, ‘but the monks have got a mini-bus if anyone’s flagging in the heat.’

On Day 2 (Tuesday 23 August), the Lichfield Peace Walk walks across Cannock Chase. Beginning at Castle Ring at 8 am, the walkers continue along the Heart of England Way, visiting the Commonwealth, German and Polish war memorials, and continuing along Sherbrook Valley to Milford.

On Day 3 (Wednesday 24 August), the Lichfield Peace Walk sets off for Stafford. The walk begins at Milford Common at 8 am, and continues through golden fields, green forest and along a beautiful river-side walk, before arriving at the final stage of the walk at Saint Chad’s Church, Stafford.

Later this year, in November, Lichfield Cathedral is recreating Saint Chad’s shrine. Andrew Jacobs describes Saint Chad as ‘England’s Saint Francis.’ He says Lichfield Peace Walk has two main goals.

He believes peace on earth cannot be achieved until people of different faith backgrounds talk to each other, and especially visit each other’s places of worship. He also believes that when Lichfield venerates Saint Chad, the city prospers. ‘When his shrine was destroyed pilgrims stopped coming, and eventually violence erupted in the Cathedral.’

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