Four inaugural Pilgrimage Routes walks by the Bishop of Durham have had to be cancelled due to the current Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. 

Today, St Cuthbert’s Day, March 20th should have been the day that Visit County Durham were to launch the six new Northern Saints Trails and the Diocese of Durham would use four of them as Pilgrimage Routes.

The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham said: “It was the intention that we would hold a church launch on Palm Sunday afternoon in Gainford. 

“Following this Bishop Sarah and I, along with David Pott, my wife Rosemary, Lord Michael Bates and his wife Xuelin and my Chaplain, Denise Dodd were going to walk The Way of Life (from Gainford to Durham) during Holy Week. Along the way we were going to be joined by many others.

“You will understand that it is no longer wise for us to undertake the walk then. Further, it would be wrong to do so before the broad coalition of people behind the Pilgrimage Routes, led by Visit County Durham, had officially launched them.

“We had then planned to walk The Way of Love, The Way of Learning and The Way of Light during the period of Ascension Day (May 21st) to Pentecost Sunday (May 31st). For The Way of Learning we were going to be joined by the writer and broadcaster Sheridan Voysey. On The Way of Light Bishop Christine (Newcastle) and Bishop Mark (Berwick) were also going to join us.

“It is deeply disappointing that we have had to make the decision to postpone walking all of them. However we will do so once the routes are officially launched and we can find the right place for them in the future diary. I am delighted that Lord Bates and Sheridan Voysey have already said that they would hope to join us when we do undertake the walks.

“I want to take this opportunity specifically to thank David Pott for all the work he has done to bring about the creation of the routes. 

“Durham Cathedral, the shrine of St Cuthbert, has also put in an immense amount of work for the Year of Pilgrimage and how they will receive pilgrims who have walked any of these 4 routes, or those of the Way of the Angels or The Way of the Sea. Special thanks to Revd Canon Charlie Allen and the team.

“The Pilgrimage Routes are planned to be here for very many years ahead. A short delay, whilst disappointing, does nothing to diminish the delight and joy of this whole project.”