Can local history facilitate new pilgrim routes?
The Way of St Augustine has been developed by the Green Pilgrimage Network Canterbury Partnership. The historical account of St Augustine (Canterbury’s) arrival on the Isle of Thanet and his journey to Canterbury is being reinvigorated as there is a renaissance in interest in the story and learning about St Augustine. This is in tandem with the Shrine of St Augustine (Ramsgate) being recognised as a national pilgrimage site in 2015 by the Roman Catholic church in England. The route was developed using some existing footpaths linked with sites of historical note in the story of St Augustine’s travel to Canterbury.
The project reaches its objectives of using the work of stakeholders’ existing delivery to greater effect by working collaboratively in a project which ensures legacy and sustainability by not being reliant on a particular funding stream, capacity and employment of dedicated project officers, or individual organisation.
The main stakeholders and beneficiaries –
The lead partner is the Diocese of Canterbury, working in partnership with others such as Explore Kent, the Churches Conservation Trust, the Shrine of St Augustine, Canterbury Cathedral, local businesses, places of worship, monastic communities and volunteers.
The primary resource need in the foundational work is officer time to research and liaise with any interested party or stakeholder. The development work is achieved by producing a range of resources in printed and electronic format.
Evidence of success
Over 1,500 pilgrim passports have been distributed, visitor book comments, website traffic and footfall along the pathways. Part of the annual celebrations of the Shrine of St Augustine at the end of May in Ramsgate at which the attendance is growing year on year.
The research phase is essential to ensure that no significant stakeholder or organisation is omitted. The need to understand organisational responsibilities and confidence to be fully part of the project. The rapidity in which a project can be developed if all things are considered properly.
Potential for learning or transfer
The use of historical information, with local facilities in terms of buildings, social networks, businesses and volunteers.
The sustainability and legacy of the project can be attributed to the widening of the constituency of the stakeholders, while also becoming an annual activity which raises awareness. The project has been enhanced by the growth in interest in the life of St Augustine.
New pilgrimage and walking routes can be promoted through existing historical and cultural factors. The impact on local rural businesses and communities in linking their history to a wider international and European narrative.
The value of social investment and networks to incubate an idea to become a viable project which can be mutually beneficial without significant financial expenditure.
The influence of history in regard to sharing information and impact on people from other European countries in shaping the 21st Century mind in a culture of suspicion and search for identity.
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