From Upton Bishop to Jerusalem: A Pilgrimage during the winter lockdown

Published on: 31st March 2021


A church congregation in Upton Bishop in Herefordshire used the recent lockdown to encourage one another through daily exercise whilst raising money for the church finances. All the usual fundraising opportunities were out of the question – but the determined group set out to invite Upton Bishop village to take part in a virtual walking tour to reach Jerusalem by Easter.


In early January, as the footpaths and fields surrounding the Herefordshire village of Upton Bishop were chilled by bitter winds, Olivia Boon, church fundraiser, set out on her daily walk. By the time she returned, she had walked nearly 4 miles and completed the first steps in the virtual pilgrimage. The target distance to Jerusalem was 2,886 miles.


The idea was to walk, run, cycle or ride near to where they lived and plot the miles on the pilgrimage map, using Google maps. As more pilgrims joined, the ever-increasing mileages they sent in each weekend drove progress and the original plan was scrapped. It soon became apparent that the pilgrimage needed a narrative and Olivia decided to write a blog post that they shared on the virtual village noticeboard. They set out the plans to the congregation and the village in the weekly newsletter and on the Upton Bishop website.


Olivia explains: “When we planned it, we found a more or less straight line between here and Jerusalem. It included three ferry crossings and a lot of walking through parts of central Europe where Google Earth images where scarce. We passed around details of the plan by word of mouth, social media and posters. We also ordered proper pilgrim’s cockle badges to give to our most generous donors.”


Numbers swelled rapidly and the Pilgrimage became the hot topic of conversation on the lanes of Upton Bishop and among village families and friends. By the time the group reached Istanbul in early February, they had grown in number from the original six to nearly 90, some of whom had only an indirect connection to the village. The weekly updates via the blog were followed with so much enthusiasm that the group decided to make the return journey using a route that would take them through various holy sites and cities. With so many involved, the Pilgrims quickly drove up the miles covered each week, reaching eye-watering distances of nearly 1500 miles. The final total distance for the adventure was 9154 miles.


The group have raised nearly £1500 thanks to their efforts and by the time, they came to write the final blog post they found emotion running high. “It was quite a moment to say farewell to everyone after the experience.” said Churchwarden Jane Ayres “For all involved it really helped to ease the tedium of the recent lockdown. We are deeply thankful to all those who gave so generously.”

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