Solstice Reflections

Standing stones, Mull, June 2017

Today is the shortest day of the year. Six months have passed since we finished our walk, and the Spring blooms of England and long days of Scottish midsummer seem like distant dreams.

Sometimes I see a hidden corner of the country in sharp detail, and walk those steps again in memory and imagination.

I wonder what became of the people we met, how they have spent the half-year that separates the solstices.

Since our arrival on Iona Isabel and I have had a busy few months. Soon after we got married we moved to Sussex and I started a new teaching job. Even more excitingly we have a baby on the way, and we look forward to a new arrival in the Spring of 2018!

We have also built on some of the lessons we learned on our Listening Pilgrimage. At Christ’s Hospital School in Sussex we are preparing a programme of activities and speakers for a Refugee Awareness Week in May. If you are reading this and would like to speak about refuge and asylum to the students of this remarkable school please get in touch!

Christ’s Hospital School, a charitable foundation dating back to The Sixteenth Century

Isabel has taken on a role as a volunteer visitor at Brook House detention centre. This is one of the facilities where our government detains people indefinitely while they await either deportation or leave to remain in the U.K. Visiting is coordinated by the Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group, organisers of the Refugee Tales project.

Our friends from the Listening Pilgrimage have been busy too. Here are some of the highlights from the last few months:

Our patrons at Projects For All have continued to work for increased access to education, equality and justice on a global scale. They recently became one of the founding members of International Initiatives for Migrant and Refugee Education. You can read Monika Hubbard’s report and founder Katrin Macmillan’s reflections here.

James Turner has been instrumental in setting up the Choose Love store with Help Refugees which enables shoppers in London and online to buy practical gifts for vulnerable refugees. Click here for some compassionate Christmas shopping.

Help Refugees, along with Iris Andrews also recently worked with artist Ai Wei Wei on the launch of his phenomenal cinematic testament to the global plight of refugees, Human Flow. We urge you to see it, you can view a trailer for the film here.

The work of Room to Heal featured on the UNHCR website in October. You can read the article about how communal gardening is helping those who have suffered as refugees here.

MOOL in Dumfries continue working tirelessly to support those in need by organising clothes, materials and hand-knitted items, which are distributed to refugees accompanied by notes of love and support.  Fundraisers included a Yoga day led by our former host Jill Dobbie.  Find out more here.

Messages of hope from MOOL to refugee children

Refugee Tales has recently celebrated some high profile challenges to the current U.K policy on detention of migrants, and they are planning their next annual walk to Westminster for June 2018. You can learn more here. We look forward to welcoming Refugee Tales walkers to Christ’s Hospital in May, an event which will be open to the public. Please contact us if you would like details.

Secular and spiritual pilgrimages are gaining popularity in Britain, and few work harder to promote the practice than the folk at The British Pilgrimage Trust. They have enjoyed some high profile write-ups in recent months which you can access here.

What about you? How has your life changed since the summer? What journeys have you made? What shifts have you noticed in attitudes towards migrants and refugees?

We would love to hear from you if you have news to share. Please click here to email us.

We would like to wish our kind friends and supporters a peaceful holiday season and a very happy new year.

We hope you will join us in thinking of the many thousands of people around the world still searching for safety, security and a place to call home.  In the darkest night let us light a candle of hope for brighter days to come.

Christy and Isabel.



The seeds that were planted at the start of our journey are at last in bloom!

Here is a photo sent by Abbas in London, who honed his gardening skills with Room To Heal, the organisation we visited in March that supports refugees and asylum seekers who have experienced human rights abuses.

Have your seeds blossomed?  How tall are they?  Send us a photo and we will add it below.

Don’t forget to harvest the seeds when the petals fall off.  You can eat them, feed them to the birds or animals or save them for planting next year!

Molly Hawkins with her Suffolk giants!

Wedding Walk

We got married!

Zaz wedding (13)
Bride, groom and guests. Photo by Lowdy Brabyn.

On Saturday 22nd July Canon Andrew Bowden led our wedding ceremony in St Mary’s, Syde. This tiny church in the Cotswolds that has been a site of worship and gathering for over a thousand years.  The church was packed with friends and family, including children, babies and even a few dogs!

It’s good luck if it rains on your wedding day! Photo by Ed Nattrass


The guide books will tell you that St Mary’s boasts a small stained-glass roundel from the 14th century depicting St James of Compostella.  Sadly this was stolen some years ago.  In its place there now rests the pilgrim’s scallop-shell that I collected at the conclusion of my camino to Santiago de Compostella last year.

Canon Bowden spoke with warmth and insight about pilgrimage as a preparation for marriage, and suggested that our journey, far from over, was beginning anew with the vows we made that day.

St Mary’s, Syde, with mother of the bride Frederica Freer, Canon Bowden and best man Ben Lynch.
The bride wore Holly Fulton, umbrella held by her Matron of Honour Atalanta Weller

After the ceremony the bride and groom led a small pilgrimage a mile across the fields to the reception at Isabel’s childhood home. A few bold guests donned appropriate footwear and carried umbrellas down an ancient trackway, avoiding mud and cows and sheep and enjoying the kiss-gate in true pilgrim fashion!

Keep those wedding shoes fresh!

It was a beautiful weekend, all the more remarkable because Issy planned it while we walked through Britain and in the three weeks since we returned.  Thanks to all the kind family members, friends and neighbours who gave so generously and partied so joyfully to mark this special occasion.

We now have time to reflect further on our pilgrimage and catch up on writing and building on what we learned.

Keep checking in here for further posts about the folk we met between Glasgow and Iona, the events we have attended since then and news of future collaborations with Projects For All.


Post Script:

No prizes for guessing the opening hymn, thank you Bunyan and Vaughan Williams!


Who would true valour see,
Let him come hither;
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.

Whoso beset him round
With dismal stories
Do but themselves confound;
His strength the more is.
No lion can him fright,
He’ll with a giant fight,
But he will have a right
To be a pilgrim.

Hobgoblin nor foul fiend
Can daunt his spirit,
He knows he at the end
Shall life inherit.
Then fancies fly away,
He’ll fear not what men say,
He’ll labour night and day
To be a pilgrim.


Wedding map by Christy