Why a Wye Pilgrimage Festival?

Pilgrimage and long distance walking are fast being recognised as the world’s fastest growing tourism industry (UNWTO). The success of St James Way to Santiago de Compostela, Spain in providing an economic lifeline to rural communities has been documented by the BBC and will soon be the subject of a major new report. Tuscany, the jewel in the crown of Italian tourism, has recognised the Via Francigena pilgrimage route as their ‘tourism product of the future’ and have invested more than €20 million in its development. Beyond economic benefits pilgrimage and distance walking also help protect cultural and natural heritage as well as providing spiritual and well being benefits.   The Wye Pilgrims Festival will communicate the variety of ways to celebrate and enjoy pilgrimage and long distance walking - whatever the reason for your journey.

North Downs Way National Pilgrims Trail

Of the many pilgrim routes in Kent, the Pilgrims Way to Canterbury is the most famous. The North Downs Way National Trail largely mirrors this ancient route and offers walkers a well maintained and signposted route to Canterbury. The North Downs Way was launched in Wye 40 years ago in 1978. To celebrate the 40th anniversary and to promote Kent’s fantastic pilgrimage heritage we are organising Wye Pilgrims Festival. This will be a week-long series of events and workshops to explore the full range of pilgrimage experiences. For those of faith and no faith, for 5km routes to 1700 km routes, for those interested in natural and cultural heritage, drama, poetry, film and more.

The organiser is Catherine Bradley at the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (which also celebrates its 50th anniversary this year). We are encouraging any organisation or individual who would like to run an event or take part in an event to contact Catherine who will promote all events as part of the Wye Pilgrims Festival 2018, some events the Kent Downs will run ourselves but we particularly encourage organisation and individuals who would like to run their own events under the festival umbrella with our support where needed.   

We are very grateful to have the use of the beautiful St Gregory and St Martin church in Wye for the week and local clubs, schools and businesses will also be involved through their own venues as well as through the church. So whether your interest lies in pilgrimage, distance walking, church heritage or just the concept of a special journey please contact Catherine to become involved.

Draft Programme

Monday 24th - Friday 28th September 

Launch of Pilgrims Festival 

Pilgrims Menus in local eateries

Showing of “The Way” and other pilgrim related films – Wye Film Society

Speakers who have completed the North Downs Way, Via Francigena, St Augustine’s Way, St James Way 

British Pilgrimage Trust Pilgrim Songs

Schools and youth activities: Wye Free School, Lady Joanna Thornhill, Spring Grove, Scouts

Dover Players -  St Martin play with local schools

Saturday 29th September 

Multiple themed walks converging at Wye Church : foraging walk, charity walk, British Pilgrimage Trust, church history walk, landscape walk, faith based walk

Various displays/activities in church and grounds

Refugee Tales Walk and Presentation

Pilgrims Feast in Wye Church

Evening entertainment; plays, speakers, music

Sunday 30th September 

Local Pilgrim Breakfasts in local businesses

Service at Wye Church

Scouts parade to Wye Crown for 40th Anniversary of North Downs Way

North Downs Way 40th birthday celebration