St Peter’s Church Parkstone KEYS Walking Pilgrimage - Parkstone to Salisbury 
7th to 9th August 2003


This is an account of the KEYS Pilgrimage from St Peter’s Church, Parkstone to Salisbury Cathedral conducted in the week when the hottest temperatures, in England, were recorded!

The pilgrimage comprised six youth members of KEYS – Richard McLester, Kirsty Paul, Charlotte (Lotty) Rimer, Elizabeth McLester, Robert Leedham and Rebecca (Becci) Grainger, three adult members The Rev Dr Simon Chambers, Wendy and Roger Bayldon and a dachshund called Suki.


The St Peter’s Church, Parkstone Youth Group was formed in the Autumn of 2002, at an inaugural Barbeque.  It was decided the group would have two sections one for those over 14 years old and the other for those 11 to 14 years old.

The older group was the first to get itself organised and shortly after Christmas 2002 the young folk started to meet regularly on a Sunday evening after Evensong. 

At one of the early meetings the title KEYS was unanimously selected for the group, this is no acronym but a move to adopt the emblem of St Peter – his keys.

In the winter it was decided that there would be two major activities in which KEYS would become involved, one was to organise and partake in a pilgrimage from St Peter’s Church, Parkstone to Salisbury Cathedral.

It was decided that KEYS should have a banner, and following the success of the Christmas Banner produced for the church, the decision was to make this banner ‘in house.’  The design was left entirely up to the younger members of KEYS with technical assistance from Wendy.

Figure 1: Original Design of KEYS Banner

The symbols are the English Rose (top left) depicting ‘Creation,’ the Dove of Peace (top right), clasped hands of friendship (bottom left), Poole’s emblem ‘The Dolphin’ (bottom right).  In the centre is the upside down cross and keys of St Peter.  On the back is the scallop shell emblem of pilgrims.

Planning and Preparation

Route Planning.  It was decided that where ever possible the route should not go along any roads with heavy trafficthis started to restrict the routes available.  It was also decided that the daily legs of the route should not exceed 15 miles.  It soon became obvious that the route to follow from the outskirts of Poole should be the Old Roman Road.  Conveniently this route went through Witchampton, where the leaders had some friendly contact with a church oriented family.  The second leg proved to be less easy to select and ground reconnaissance was carried out and fortunately assistance from Church House proved most useful in the selection of the second night stop.  Once the route had been selected they were tested by some of the senior members walking the route.

The selected route was:

Day 1.  The pilgrimage will be routed from Parkstone, through Poole, to the Roman Road access at Upton Park, to the lunch stop at Lamb’s Green; the next stage will be to Kingston Lacy, then Bradbury Rings, King’s Down Farm, Zannies Cottages then into Witchampton.  The first night will be spent in the Methodist Church Hall in Witchampton.

Day 2.  From Witchampton, by the Roman Road to Gussage All Saint’s for mid-morning break, using James Cross Lane the route is to The Harley Gap along the Jubilee Trail to Gussage Hill and crossing the A354 head to Chapel Down Farm thence to Brushy Bush House and Sixpenny Handley for Lunch.  Depending on how tired the pilgrims are the route to Broad Chalke will be decided at lunch.  Night stop will be at the Sports Centre, Broad Chalke.

Day 3.  Climbing the slopes to the top of the ridge to Compton Down to meet the Old Shaftsbury Drove through Harnham via Harnham Hill, Harnham Slope and follow the Avon Valley Path into the cathedral.  There will then be a service in the cathedral at 15:30 hrs. 

Administration.  An early decision was taken, based on the success of an earlier pilgrimage experience, to have an administrative vehicle and driver.  This vehicle would carry all the bedding and kit not wanted by day.  The vehicle would also be available in case of emergency to take injured pilgrims to hospital.

Banner Making.  This was a major undertaking and involved a number of evenings being spent doing needlework the result is as shown in figure 2.  The symbols are those described above

Figure 2:  Front of Banner

It was decided that there should be an emblem on the back of the banner as well and it was decided to adopt the international emblem of pilgrims – the scallop shell.  This is shown in figure 3 below.

The background material used was presented to KEYS and is Thai silk.  It is estimated that the banner took about 72 hours work to complete once the design and pattern had been finalised. 

Figure 3: Back of  Banner


Spiritual Planning and Preparation.  Pilgrimages are spiritual occasions and it was decided there would be regular services at the start, each evening and morning and finally at the cathedral.  Pilgrims were in addition, guided to consider the occasion from a personal spiritual basis.  The following services were held:

a. Eucharist.  There was to be an Eucharist in St Peter’s Chapel of the Holy Name prior to setting out and at this service the banner would be blessed. The service designed by Simon

b. Evening Service 8th August.  Richard McLester and Kirsty Paul were to design the service.  The theme was Peace and during the service a playlet was enacted by all the pilgrims and one of the guests who was invited to the service.

c. Morning Services 8th and 9th August.  On each morning a shortened version of the Morning prayer was celebrated using Celebrating Common worship as the resource for the service

d. Evening Service 9th August.  Becci Grainger and Lotty Rimer designed the service the theme of which, to tie in with the pilgrimage, was Footprints.  Each pilgrim was asked to place a candle on his named footstep and write with whom they were journeying on the way.  See fig 4.

e. Final Service.  Simon was to be responsible for the design of the service to be used on arrival at the cathedral.

Administration.  The administrative plan involved Wendy driving the family car , towing a trailer carrying all the pilgrims’ night kit, food for the day and sufficient water to replenish water bottles 4 times during the marching day.  As chief administrator Wendy also ensured the night stops were open for pilgrims’ arrival, and she was responsible for the cooking.  There was room to carry up to three pilgrims who might be casualties at any point in time.  An Administrative Order was produced to guide the pilgrims on what to carry and wear.

Contingency Planning.  When the week for the Pilgrimage arrived it was the hottest on record, and there was a danger that pilgrims might be withdrawn, until a contingency plan was made.  It was decided that on Day 1 we would journey as far as we could, then when it became too hot those incapacitated by the heat would be lifted up in the admin vehicle.  It was also decided that if it became too hot for all to continue the admin vehicle would shuttle the pilgrims to the next staging place.

Sponsorship.  During the meetings prior to the pilgrimage the group had become exposed to the charity Hope and Homes for Children. This charity’s mission is give hope for children worldwide, who have nowhere to live due to war or disaster, by providing them with loving family homes. In selecting this charity the pilgrims will endorse their own spiritual journey by sharing their pain along the way with other children more deprived and in pain.  It was decided that sponsorship would be sought for this charity.

The Journey

Day 1 – Stepping Out

The party and some families met at the church from 9 o’clock, on the same day of the funeral service of a well respected elder of St Peter’s – Les Smerdon.  Timing now became important.  the pilgrims had to clear the Churchyard in order for the mourners and hearse to be given the necessary space!  Well there is always someone who causes the pressures to rise, and sure enough at 09:30 we were still waiting for him!  He duly arrived with his family.  A simple and effective Eucharist and blessing of the banner then followed.  Music for the hymn provided by the church’s portable stereo system.

After the service there was just enough time to complete the packing of the trailer, which looked like a refugee’s hand cart piled with all the baggage, assembling for a photo call and moving off with banner flying through the streets of Parkstone and Poole.  Meeting as we went mourners arriving for the funeral and they gave us their encouragement.  A thought went through my mind of the pilgrimage building new lives to take over the gap left by a departing elder. 

Figure 4: Preparing to move off.

Figure 5: Parading the banner through Parkstone

The temperature was still quite bearable at this stage.  The procession moved through Poole Park crossing the road onto the pavement around the Dolphin Centre , under the railway line to the place where the homeless are fed each night.  Here the banner was rolled up and put into the admin vehicle, a quick refill of bottles and off we went.  As the journey progressed around Holes Bay the temperature started to rise and the heat was exacerbated by the urban environment of roads and buildings.  At one stage thinking to take the easy way, the main group kept to a lower path only to find on this route there was no way across the railway at the top of Holes bay, so we retraced our steps and climbed the higher path!  The route to the first stop was slightly circuitous as it had to avoid main roads, however at last we were able to cross the main A 35 at Upton Park, then heading North along the Roman Road to the outskirts of Creekmoor for lunch.

Figure 6:  Lunch in Creekmoor

The route after lunch was straight up the Roman Road to the afternoon resupply point the Lamb’s Green pub, here we established that prices of lemonade at £2.58 a pint was a disincentive to stop at pubs later on.  At this stage it was decided to drop off our most susceptible to the heat pilgrim, who then joined Wendy in the air conditioned admin vehicle!  They went off to open the hall in Witchampton.

The hottest part of the day was as the pilgrims crossed the water meadow in the Stour Valley making for the weir outside Wimborne 32°C was shown on a personal thermometer.  Some bathed their feet in the Stour, then followed the climb up Vine Hill to Pamphill Church and Kingston Lacey.  It had been thought that there was a direct route across the grounds of Kingston Lacey but this was found to be blocked.  It was beginning to get late at this stage and as the route from Kingston Lacey was to be across more open ground the decision was taken to call a halt to further walking on that day.  The pilgrims were all shuttled to Witchampton Methodist Chapel.

Figure 7:  Methodist Chapel Witchampton

Witchampton was a magical interlude for the pilgrims who were enthralled with the Buxton’s ponies.  The Chapel was sparsely equipped for washing, there being only a single toilet and hand basin, however it was very adequate for our purposes on the first day out.  A little discomfort helped the pilgrims of the fate of those without daily showers.

The Buxtons who live in Witchampton made it possible for us to have the hall at no cost, so they were invited to supper.  After supper of lasagne and copious amounts of squash, we were joined  by the members of Witchampton Methodist community, the vicar of Witchampton and the Buxtons the evening service. 

The service designed by Richard and Kirsty was to celebrate Peace.  The central part of the service was a playlet which was enacted by all the members of the pilgrimage plus Sophie Buxton.  The Methodist members introduced the pilgrims to a most appropriate dismissal prayer which we used thereafter on the pilgrimage.

Settling down after the service took some time as the pilgrims had found some energy resurge to play cards and raff around .  The pilgrims experienced some character building discomfort during the night, including a sleep talk/walk by one of them, falling out of bed by another and no sleep because of elderly snoring for the remainder.

Figure 8:  The sleeping area in the Hall

Day 2 – 8th August.

From the start of the day and at numerous points throughout the day we were reminded that on this day Becci Grainger attained her fourteenth anniversary, more of which later.

Suki the dog proved to be a wonderful alarm clock and at the appointed hour of 06:30 hrs she went around and licked everyone awake!  We were determined to set off as early as possible to take advantage of the coolest part of the day for walking.  A quick wash, breakfast and packing the trailer was the order of the morning before morning prayer.  At morning prayer we were joined by Veronica Buxton and Hazel McLester.  Hazel had come to take Elizabeth away to a previously arranged dog show.

We got away from Witchampton shortly after 9.   The route was to continue along the Roman Road.  Generally a pleasant route through a wheat field where the pilgrims were introduced to the story of Our Lord walking through the wheat field on the Sabbath taking the odd ear of wheat.

The route was well marked until we came to a field of linseed through which there appeared to be no path.  Legs of those wearing shorts became scratched.  At this stage it was discovered that Kirsty had damaged her knee the previous day and was having difficulty walking.  We struggled up the hill to the Horton Inn - Sixpenny Handley road where a shady spot was found to await the admin vehicle to casevac the casualty.  There was quite a wait at this point as the admin vehicle was still in Poole collecting supplies for the rest of the day.  Time was spent singing and telling stories.  Kirsty using the contents of her First Aid pack to bandage her knee.  Eventually Wendy arrived having navigated through the horrendous market day traffic through and around Wimborne

Figure 9:  Casevac Point

A now depleted pilgrimage continued along the Roman Road to the lunch spot,  this spot changed during the morning as progress in the heat was proving slow and the chosen spot had little or no cover.  At a suitable spot in the woods where the Roman Road, now titled Ackling Dyke crossed the main B3081.  Wendy set up lunch alongside the road in the woods again.  It was here that we were joined by Lotty’s friends and we were presented with 30 eggs!  After lunch it was decided it was too hot to climb up to the ridge of Cranborne Chase so we shuttled up to the top of the ridge for a leisurely stroll along the ridge before dropping down into Broad Chalke. 

The admin vehicle with Kirsty and Robert had gone on to the night stop, which was the new Sports Hall at Broad Chalke

Figure 10: New Sports Hall Broad Chalke

On arrival we discovered there were wonderful showers and space, a table tennis automatic gaming machine and no sensible cooking facilities!

All pilgrims took the opportunity to have a welcome shower, unfortunately the curtain of one shower did not fall inside the water catcher and a flood ensued!

It was agreed that the night was to be a ‘one can night’ and those with parental permission were allowed a share of beer/lager that was bought from the local pub in Broad Chalke.

 Supper was fish pie and was eaten al fresco on the patio, not everyone relished the dish!

It was now celebration time for the birthday girl.  There were some anxious moments waiting for the Grainger band wagon to roll into town.  However, eventually they arrived and we were able to start the evening service which was designed and conducted by Becci and Lotty, the theme being Footsteps along the path of the pilgrimage.  Each member was asked to place a night light on their named footprint and write in the name of the person or persons whom they were journeying on behalf.

Figure 11:  Footsteps

After the service we celebrated Becci and her twin brother’s birthday.  The cake and wine/Oringina kindly provided by the Graingers.  Frisbee playing in the dark has much to recommend it!

Figure 12:  Blowing out the birthday cake candles

After the excitement of the party all pilgrims were quickly prepared for sleep.  There was little to prevent the exhausted pilgrims quickly settling this evening!  Kirsty and Richard electing to sleep on the patio under the stars.

There were a couple of late visitors in the night but they disappeared causing no harm.  We think they were local residents coming to see what was going on as the security lights were going on and off as the pilgrims readied themselves for bed!

Day 3 – Final Haul

The routine established the day before was repeated with a wake-up call from Suki!  Breakfast and packing became a slick exercise and there was hardly a delay waiting for Elizabeth to be returned.  Unfortunately for her the dog show had been cancelled because of the heat the day before!!!

The decision was to walk along the Chalke Valley for 40 minutes then be shuttled up to the Old Shaftesbury Drove Track along Compton Down, again avoiding any steep climbing in the heat of the day.

The walk along the valley was not as interesting as was expected, however revealed some scriptural value as it went through a wheat field which was very infested with weeds so the parable of the ‘Wheat and the Tares’ was well demonstrated.

Figure 13: Drop off point on Drove Track

The admin vehicle then returned to Poole to drop off the trailer and the aim was to meet the remaining pilgrims at the Mill in Harnham for lunch.  This meant there was an extra water load carried for the last leg of the journey.

It was a very pleasant walk along the Drove track, past the Salisbury Race Course, and the Golf Club dropping down into the water meadow East of Netherhampton and then on into Harnham. 

A welcome drink at the Mill Inn persuaded the pilgrims that this was not the place to eat our lunch, however just behind was the Three Crowns pub where a splendid lunch was had after a game of pool!

Figure 14:  Pool at the Three Crowns Harnham

From The Mill the pilgrims paraded the banner to the cathedral, with Wendy taking the role of Sergeant Major ensuring the Banner party were in step!

Figure 15:  Banner Party and Sgt Major

The pilgrimage reached the Close just before the appointed time of 15:30 and pilgrims were joined by their families as we paraded into the Close.

Figure 16: Into the Close

On arrival at the cathedral it was established that our programme had to change to allow a wedding to be brought forward.  The pilgrims were met by the Canon of the Close at the Sudan Chapel.  The pilgrims were of course delighted to be able to watch as the bride serenely swept down the north Aisle as had been arranged by the Canon

 The final service was conducted by Simon.  Simon had designed a very simple and contemplative service that was so appropriate for the final arrival at our journey’s end. 

Although the Bishop of Salisbury was to meet us at the cathedral, the change of timings meant he was unable to juggle his time to meet the change.

Figure 17:  Sudan Chapel

After the service in the Sudan Chapel the pilgrims returned to Poole full of new stories and with a great sense of achievement.

A celebratory Barbeque was held at 37 Blake Dene Road

Figure 18: Celebratory Barbeque


The pilgrimage was a tremendous success and the pilgrims have been asked to record their feelings and post them on the internet on the KEYS web page

On Sunday the Pilgrims presented the banner to the congregation and were given a round of applause for their efforts.

At the time of this being written we have raised approximately £250.00 for Hope and Homes for Children.

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