Western Camino – Day 2

We left Zion United Church in Frampton Cotterell and said goodbye to the wonderful Zoe who had cared for us and given us so much heartfelt hospitality.  We were blessed by Stephen – we have been richly blessed on this journey so far, and it’s a very pleasant experience (not often encountered in my previous job as a government economist!). We’ve been enjoying learning different songs each day, this time Janne led us in Bella Mamma.

The first part of the day saw us heading to Rangeworthy where we popped into the excellent Crown and Rose who let us camp out in their garden for a bit; we had the first chips of our Camino.  The rest of the day saw some excellent countryside as we crossed many stiles, most of which were high and wobbly! We also had many brushes with cows and their calves in this part of the walk.  Ginny, who joined us for a couple of days, turns out to be an excellent cow whisperer. We eventually arrived in the lovely Wotton Under Edge where we have had some amazing veggie curries at the Baptist Church which has really lifted our spirits, particularly as it was followed by some pretty scrumptious apple crumble.  This lovely church is also very exciting because it has a shower!  We ❤️ showers.  We have a discussion forum this evening with people from the church and tomorrow we walk to Stroud.

Tacitly endorsing clean energy!

Special shout outs for Sarah our indefatigable walk leader over the past couple of days and Iszi, the world’s most patient back marker!

Western Camino – Day 1

Around 50 people gathered in Bristol Cathedral this morning (9th September) along with Stitches for Survival for the start of the Western part of the Camino to COP. After the important safety briefing (try not to get lost) we lit a candle to mark the start of this sacred journey. We were given a blessing by one of the Canons and we presented them with a banner from Stitches for Survival, who have made banners for all of our hosts.

We then went out into the elements at midday to walk to Frampton Cotterell, our first night’s stop.  The weather couldn’t make up its mind, meaning people spent a lot of time trying to figure out the right thing to do with their rain trousers and jackets.  We spent a lot of the walk going alongside the river Frome.  At one point the path turned into a flood, at which point some brave souls waded through, and some less brave souls took the longer route around!

Eventually we arrived at Zion United Reform Church and as we arrived Stephen the Reverend of the Church who had walked with us blessed our journey.  After finally arriving, after all the planning, I felt like crying. It was a beautiful moment.  Sometimes walking with a rucksack makes me feel very independent.  And sometimes, it just makes me realise how vulnerable I am – how dependent I am on at some point reaching the warm indoors (with its lovely vegan lasagne and chocolate cheesecake). And how dependent I am on the kindness of other people, we’ve been given a lot of kindness by this church.

After our amazing dinner, we gathered with local people to for a discussion on climate change, and what brings us to this walk. 

Bring on day two!

Reflections – Day 4

👣 After some surprise pastries and a blessing at St Luke’s, we joined a whole load of ‘day walkers’ at St Peter’s Church, St Albans before setting off for a much shorter walk than yesterday!

We proceeded through the town centre at a gentler pace engaging with a lot of passers-by and then through some beautiful countryside, pausing for lunch at St Mary’s Church in Childwickbury who let us use their loo! We were a nice big group today including our youngest pilgrim yet (13 months) who reminded us to be curious about the world as we experience it. 😀

We arrived at Harpenden Quaker Meeting in time to chill in the garden before yet another amazing dinner, and a well-attended event at St Peter’s Church Harpenden with Extinction Rebellion St Albans Area and Change The World Through Music XR. We’re so thankful for a homely place to stay tonight and a cooler forecast for tomorrow! 🌧️

Reflections – Days 1 to 3

👣 Day 1 started with a wonderful send off at St James’s Church, Piccadilly accompanied by the XR Samba band, followed by a time of reflection with XR Jews and the Earth Fast at Parliament Square. We then made our way as a huge group of walkers through to Kilburn with some police escorts who helped us cross the road! We were greeted at St. James Church, West Hampstead with an amazing dinner and an evening of live music from Worldwide Welshman and friends with the local community! 

👣 On Day 2 we were sent off with a blessing from the vicar and made our way in the sun through to Kenton Methodist Church where we received an absolute abundance of food and some great conversation with church members and local XR activists.

👣 Day 3 started with some Jewish traditions for Rosh Hashanah from Jonathan (Shana Tova!). We were apprehensive about the walk today as it was 15 miles in 28 degree heat. But thanks to excellent planning by our navigators we had a fantastic day and even managed a dip in the river! 🐟 We finally made it to St Luke’s Church in St Albans where we were again treated to tea and a fantastic meal! Now we’re ready for an evening with the local community sharing and reflecting on each other’s stories.

We have been blown away by the hospitality we’ve experienced even in these first few days! Thank you to all our hosts, past and future. 🤗

People’s stories: Rachel White

After experiencing burnout in 2018, I took time out from a stressful job and in June 2019 flew to France to walk the Camino Frances.

Rachel on the Camino Frances

After completing this five-week solo trek across northern Spain, I returned to the UK very much a changed person, I had learnt to be grateful for the trees that shaded me from the sun, for the company of the birds, bees, mice, & butterflies that were beside me daily on the stretches where there were no other humans in sight. Walking in nature for hours before meeting another town became my norm. I slowed down, I became grateful for the cool breezes at the top of a steep hills, for the sunshine that would dry my hand washed clothes, and the rain when it came, for refreshing & cooling my aching joints. I learnt to appreciate the quick connections I made with those who offered a friendly smile, a warm welcome at the end of a long day, and for those who shared their food and offered words of encouragement and love in whichever language it was spoken.

When I returned home I did not realise I was changed, but still remember clearly the words of advice I had received from some nuns I had met whilst staying one night in a medieval convent along the way. They had warned me that when I finally reached Santiago, that that would not be my final destination but, that it would be only the beginning of my journey… I would use the lessons I had learnt on my Camino to continue on my journey.

 I will be honest I really had no idea at the time what the nuns meant by this, but I noticed quickly on my return to the UK that the life I had known before my travels, now seemed to not work for me. I noticed how now there seemed to be so much traffic, pollution, people rushing around, a life geared towards consumerism and waste. I had to search out the green spaces and the birds…why were there so few in the sky? and where were all the butterflies and flowers? they were harder to find now, why had I never noticed this before? And where were the friendly smiles? and easily made connections now?

I also now felt a little ashamed to be a human… a little angry I could not just slot back into my old way of life… frustrated that my eyes had now been opened, and there was no going back. I would stare at my wardrobe, with so many clothes, accessories and shoes, so much stuff to choose from, I felt guilty and overwhelmed by so much choice. .so many unnecessary purchases, that I had been led to believe could bring me satisfaction and happiness. 

And so, this is how I found myself in Trafalgar Square on 7th October 2019 looking up a group of brave young people locked on to a tower, at my first ever protest, listening to a young man speak his truth, a speech so inspiring that it led me on my own unexpected path to become a climate activist. In the tower I noticed he looked anxious, his face pale, palms sweating, trembling a little, as the police scaled the tower to arrest him, but I also noted that he also looked calm, peaceful, resilient, resolved to the job at hand.

 This young activist had joined XR the year before, as part of their media & messaging team. As a wildlife biologist he had specialised in tropical animal conservation and travelled, and worked alongside many indigenous communities in Ecuador, Mexico, Bolivia & Brazil and had seen first hand what happened to those individuals who stood up to ecocide in their countries, who often lost their lives in doing so …he was also confused as to why the mainstream media were not reporting on these crimes/murders of these people trying to protect their lands.

I later learned that like me, this young man was reluctant to become an activist, but felt compelled by the circumstances he found himself in to do all he could to oppose and prevent greater crimes of ecocide and genocide, and so he chose to take part in an action where he splattered paint on the Brazilian Embassy in London to raise awareness of the Brazilian Governments crimes against its people and lands.

Sadly, at the start of 2020, I heard the shocking news that this 25-year-old activist had collapsed and died suddenly, as the result of an undetected heart condition. So saddened by the news, I travelled to London (just before the pandemic struck) to attend his vigil organised by XR, and activists, friends and family attended to remember, honour, mourn and celebrate his life cut short far too soon. 

When attending an XR fundraiser a few months earlier, I had briefly seen Iggy in the crowd dancing with his friends and had felt compelled to speak to him, to tell him how much he had inspired me to take the step to join XR and how grateful I was for all he had been doing to raise awareness of the destruction of brazils lands and those indigenous communities effected and will always be grateful for having had the chance to meet him if only for a few moments to be able to say thank you.

After Iggy’s death, an edited version of the speech he had planned to give at his trial was published in which he admitted he had no intention of denying that he had vandalised the Brazilian embassy, but pleaded in his defence that he had only carried out this act to raise awareness of the Brazilian government’s own crimes: 1. Criminal Damage- to indigenous homes & villages, 2.Arson- destruction by fire of indigenous lands, 3.Ecocide-the mass destruction of the environment on which humans and other species depend on for survival. 4.Breaches of the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous people. Crimes far greater than paint splattered on a wall carried out through love, rage & compassion.

So why do I walk with others to COP26? Why do I feel compelled like Iggy did, to raise awareness, enable people to consider the reasons we must all do our part to save all things this planet has given us?  Why bother you might say? Well I could give you lots of complicated information, data and facts, the science as to the why we must do something, why government’s must take action etc, but I won’t, because I guess if your reading this and got this far, you’re probably already feeling something in your gut that won’t go away will it? I know what it is, because I feel it too, it’s a feeling deep within me that I believe is routed deep into my connection to the earth, and its calling me .. it’s that simple. 

To do nothing would be harder, to ignore all those with no voice, all those in the global south, already greatly impacted by this crisis, to not do anything to safeguard our children and that of future generations, to continue to ignore that call inside me just no longer feels like an option.

Rachel will be joining the caminsta group from Coventry and walking the last 6 weeks to Glasgow.

The Camino at the Liverpool Peace Vigil

Photo from togetherliverpool.org Peace Vigil

Activists for social justice, diversity, equality, peace and the environment shared powerful reflections and prayers at a Vigil for Peace, held under the Peace Doves art installation at Liverpool Cathedral.

The vigil bore witness to the experience of those championing gender, disability, and racial equality, and campaigning to end the climate crisis, eradicate food poverty and modern slavery, lobby for nuclear disarmament, and improve the lives of displaced people.

As part of that event, Andrew James spoke about the Camino to COP and why he and Annette are taking part in it.

Coat of Hopes sets off from Newhaven

The wonderful Barbara Keal and the Coat of Hopes setting off from Newhaven to join the Camino in London

Click here to find out more about this beautiful project.

Will you come to the top of this hill with me?

Look out across the landscape of now; the grey sky stretching over a thousand, thousand closed front doors, the faceless traffic flowing endlessly somewhere, masked parents queuing orderly to pick up their children from school.

A storm is passing, and the air grows still, but the horizon remains dark.

What is there to say, above the hum of traffic and washing machines and devices on standby? Are you feeling the cold? The cold of not knowing what to do? The cold of not feeling a part of the story? The cold of sitting alone? The cold of being static with fear? The cold of having no voice? The cold of uncertainty about tomorrow?

I want to make you a coat.

A coat to warm you. To warm you; with a sense of what to do, and of being a part of the story, with the knowledge that you are not alone, alone; a coat that will not be still, a coat to carry your voice and to comfort your uncertainty. A comforter, a carrier of sorrows, remembrances and a carrier of hopes. Stitched from the ragged past into a gentle armour against a sharp future. So you can wear the promise that we all belong together.

But I can’t.

I can’t do this alone.

How can such a coat be made? And by whom?

Only by many hands, cut pieces of blanket, embroidered, stitched and joined, on a journey. Like a living fable, this coat must grow as it travels on many backs, from the south coast of this island to the city of Glasgow in the north, every person who is willing, may have a piece joined to this coat. It will be a pilgrim coat, it will be a coat of hopes.

Look to the North, and into the near future; world leaders, gathering like rooks to once again talk about the brewing storm – unstable global climate, ecological collapse and mass extinction. That is where your coat must go. Will you let them try the weight of our hopes? If they stand with us, they will delay no longer for the sake of growth, they will act now for the children of the future. May it’s warmth be their encouragement, and our messages guide them…

Find out more about the Coat of Hopes

Driver needed

Camino to COP26, urgent message: Thank you!

We now have two drivers and two vehicles – thanks to the power of the internet or the universe providing…. You decide. However, we would still welcome a third driver. Is there anyone out there who would like to drive with us all or a part of the way?

Please email to snoozingcamino@gmail.com if you or someone you know could help? Many thanks.

People’s stories: Rev Helen Burnett

Helen and family at Chaldon

I’m a Vicar in the Church of England with a parish in Chaldon in the Diocese of Southwark. As soon as I heard that COP 26 was going to be held in Glasgow I had an overwhelming sense that I needed to walk there and to make COP the focus of my action and contemplation during 2021. St Peter and St Paul’s is a ‘pilgrim church’ lying at the half way point of the Pilgrim Way from Winchester to Canterbury it stands as living proof of the roots of pilgrimage and that the pilgrim journey is a vital part the Christian tradition and it helps that I love walking ! 

Through ‘Camino to COP’ I have found a way to fulfil my dream of walking to Glasgow, so from September to November I will juggle home, church and Camino, traveling between parish and pilgrimage walking 3 days each week and ending with 12 days of prayer on the streets of Glasgow as the conference unfolds.

When considering pilgrimage as a living spiritual practise I think of all those who have passed through our ancient parish, carrying with them their burdens, their physical, emotional, spiritual and mental baggage. Throughout history people have walked for so many causes and now I too will set out on a journey, a journey for the future of the planet which will take me through the parish network of England and Scotland, each a local unit that is home to people and species directly affected by climate changes which will be far greater than any other change their parish has ever undergone.

As well as being a priest and teacher I am mother to 4 adult children whose lives will be impacted by climate change long after I am dead. While I will largely escape the societal collapse that will ensue as a result of the policies of wealthy nations, they will live to see the results. 

My heart breaks when I look ahead and imagine what will unfold, and so like so many people before me I am turning to the simplest act of all – putting one foot in front of another, carrying a crucial  message, working out my grief and rage along the way, something done by so many when faced with seemingly insurmountable problems. In times of crisis and injustice people have chosen to set out on foot to demand change but walking does so much more, it slows you down, you notice more, you see the minutiae of the world, you see the detail, you become a tiny part of a much bigger picture, you show solidarity with your fellow walkers and with the communities and landscapes you walk through. 

Camino to COP is part of that great tradition setting out to draw attention to the climate emergency but also a form of resistance involving a journey from one seat of power, Parliament, to another power brokering assembly- COP26. Each and every step intentional, every step a footmark, every step a determined movement towards change. 

Maybe nobody will notice, for sure, lots and lots of people won’t notice! But I sincerely hope that we can create some sense of solidarity with all those who see COP 26 as a critical moment, with all those who cannot afford the time, with those whose voices may not be heard, with all those other walkers and activists, with worried parents, with those who mourn and those who watch and hope against hope  – with those who make the decisions that affect us all. I know full well that the political decisions are being made now, that that the 10 days in Glasgow will largely be rubber stamping, but I remind myself that people on the ground have made a difference in the past and I look to those examples for inspiration. If I don’t do this now, if I look back and I haven’t committed in some way my body, my energy, my time, to affecting change I will not have lived out the call to love my neighbour, to care for the vulnerable, to cherish all of creation – a call common to so many faith traditions and central to the disruptive teaching of Jesus Christ. We’re all so small in the context of climate change as individuals, as citizens, as humans, occupying this amazing planet how can we begin to overturn the damaging systems that feel monolithic? It feels overwhelming, and the systems and the corporations and the political machinery seem impenetrable, it reminds me of long mountain walks and summits that seem too far away, yet by putting one foot in front of another you eventually get there and it feels worth doing, even when the horizon is shrouded in mist. So even though the outcome is unknown I’m walking to COP to show how much it matters to me that we change the way the world operates. I set out from Chaldon on Sept 5th leaving straight from our Sunday morning service, take the train to Parliament Square and step out with others witnessing to the criminal injustice of climate breakdown and a new chapter will begin in my personal pilgrim journey as minister, mother and activist.

People’s stories: Isabel Jones

Isabel Jones I’ve connected with so many people and felt the love for our planet…that is in so many hearts.

As soon as I heard about the Camino, I knew I wanted to take part. The climate and ecological emergency is so all-encompassing in its tragedies: loss of biodiversity; loss of human life; unnecessary suffering and gross injustice – that for me, the only appropriate responses are big ones. As part of Extinction Rebellion Malvern group, I’ve taken steps I would never have previously imagined. The Camino is another big step for me to take towards connecting to the future we must all face together. Already, in helping to organise the Western Camino, I’ve connected with so many people and felt the love for our planet and passion for justice that is in so many hearts. What a privilege!

I wish I could do the whole Camino! But work and family commitments mean that I will be walking the western leg from Bristol to Birmingham, and then the last 9 days into Glasgow. I don’t expect it to be easy: it is an expression of our collective need. And I am conscious of the far, far greater sacrifices made by activists in other parts of the world at the sharp end of this crisis.

What will carry me through, in addition to human kindness, will be connection to the natural world. I don’t follow an organised faith but I know the essence that others might call ‘God’ whenever I pause to watch an insect, examine a flower or listen to a bird. I do like identifying wildlife- as an amateur, I’m quite proud of the fact that I can identify several species of grasshopper and cricket by their song – so I’m hoping to be able to share some nature knowledge along the way, as well as our urgent need for climate justice.

The Rev Dr Paul Smith is involved in our outreach while we are staying in Milton Keynes. Paul has invited us to visit the remarkable Tree Cathedral there. 

Camino for me, means the experience of pilgrimage on the way to Santiago de Compostela in north western Spain. That’s what first caught my attention about the Camino to Cop. I love being on pilgrimage and my first experiences of pilgrimage (first to Canterbury along the North Downs Way) and then to Santiago have taught me to see my whole life as a pilgrimage. Unlike tourism, which is travelling purely for pleasure, pilgrimage is travel with a spiritual purpose in mind. So Camino to Cop is aptly named. Pilgrimage is also inclusive. Not all pilgrims have the same religious or spiritual convictions, but all experience the beauty of nature as well as the hardships of daily walking and shared overnight accommodation along the way. And all share the same destination.

My work as an Anglican priest for the past 35 years has brought me to encounter people of many different faiths and beliefs, including people of non-religious moral convictions. We are all on pilgrimage towards more responsible care for our planet. During the period of my ministry the Church’s awareness of the vital importance of caring the planet and our responsibilities about climate change have gradually grown. I now teach about what the Bible has to say on these matters and promote green awareness and action in parish life. This includes observing the newly created “Season of Creation” (first Sunday in September to first Sunday in October) as well as encouraging “green champions” and Eco church policies in each congregation. I look forward to meeting “eco pilgrims” as you pass through our beautiful community of Milton Keynes and hope you’ll feel encouraged along the way!

Steph’s story: “A time of personal growth…”

Steph is involved with Extinction Rebellion Birmingham as well as Animal Rebellion and will be walking the whole Camino from London to Glasgow. “We will all be affected by the climate and ecological crises. Here in the UK we are already seeing increased flooding and extreme weather, and in the Global South people are already suffering in much greater ways. This is only going to get worse, with mass food shortages, deadly air pollution and mass extinction of species that are vital for maintaining the balance of our ecosystems all on the horizon. We need our government, as well as those of other powerful countries, to step up and make the changes needed to help us minimise the deadly effects of climate change and adapt to the challenges it brings. COP26 is a key opportunity for world leaders to do this and so I am walking the Camino to help tell people about it and encourage them to engage with it.I love nature, and whilst I don’t follow any religion, I love the idea of living monk-like, wandering from place to place, accepting the hospitality of different communities along the way, sharing stories and ideas. For me the Camino will also be a time of personal growth, where I can step back from my busy life, live simply, and reflect on the beauty of the living world.”

Your daughter has been been arrested.Sandie Stratford’s story

My eyes were rudely opened to the urgency of climate change when my daughter went through the courts for boarding a coal train in 2008.

Our carbon emissions are harming people who least deserve it. Since 2008 I have voted, lobbied, nagged, marched and cried. To no avail: emissions have increased.

During lockdown, I joined an online praying community in Christian Climate Action.  Sitting in grief with others somehow helped me to kindle hope that things could be different.  So we are going to embark on a journey to COP 26 in Glasgow, sharing stories as we go with communities which will offer us floor space.

Other people have cruises or parachute jumps on their ‘bucket list’. This is mine.

Melanie’s story:
The people most affected by ecological and climate breakdown are not being heard.”

Melanie Nazareth: Strategic and Spiritual Lead

I see God in all of creation and believe that I am called to love this creation in all its richness and diversity. This is fundamental to my identity as a Christian and the key reason why I am involved in the Camino to COP.

My ethnic roots are in the small Indian coastal state of Goa and I grew up in the Solomon Islands. What is happening in these two places connects the ecological crisis and the climate crisis straight to my heart. The people most affected by ecological and climate breakdown are not being heard. In Goa, a campaign to preserve the ecological integrity of a national park called Mollem in the Western Ghats in the face of state efforts to drive through a four lane highway and double track railway to carry coal, is being led by young people. In the Solomon Islands, the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change are leading young people in taking action to help prevent and mitigate against climate change. I hope that we can amplify voices like these.

Lorraine’s story: ” I can face myself in the mirror and say that I tried.”

I am not religious but I do feel a strong sense of connectedness to mother earth. Each day I am struck by the extraordinary magic and beauty of nature, combined with a deep anger and grief that we seem hell bent on destroying it. At times, I feel helpless in the face of the scale of the climate and ecological emergency. But I refuse to give up hope – and it is this that fuels my Camino to COP. The scientific evidence on the climate crisis is painfully clear: we may even have reached the tipping point already. Our politicians have failed us. Fossil fuel billionaires act to protect their profits above life for all on earth. Glaciers are melting, seas are rising, islands are disappearing, biodiversity is diminishing and increasingly threatened, intense agri-farming is destroying our world, the deforestation of the rainforest continues unabated – and we are sleepwalking towards a disaster on a scale never previously experienced. 

Do I think the Camino to COP alone can change this? No. But if we all take small actions, perhaps together, we can forge an unstoppable momentum for change. If we rise up, together in a movement of movements, we are strong. 

And when my life comes to an end, at least I can face myself in the mirror and say that I tried. 

Hope dies last.

Join the Western Camino

There are a few spaces left to join the Western Camino – the leg of the Camino which will start in Bristol on the 9th September and join the Camino coming from London in Birmingham on the 20th of September.  The Western Camino will be a beautiful time to come together with other people who care deeply about the environment, walk together, and share our own stories and the stories of people all over the world who will be affected by climate change.  You will be taking part in a beautiful movement of people from Bristol and London to Glasgow in preparation for COP26.  This should be one of the best parts of the Camino because:

  • The weather will be milder!  Early autumn walking in the west should be quite beautiful (if no doubt sometimes wet).
  • We will be making use of the Severn Way where possible.
  • We go through quite a few towns, including a rest day in Stroud, so there are lots of opportunities to make use of public transport to join the walk and get nice food. 

If you are interested, then please read through this information pack, and check out the sign-up link at the end. You can also join our Western Camino Telegram group if you would like to keep up with the group, join as a day walker or offer support.  

The accommodation spaces for Birmingham to Glasgow are currently full, but we can put you on a waiting list in case there are cancellations.

Any questions, contact westerncamino@gmail.com.