: from Reading to Salisbury and the Ports of the Southwest
Reading W, the first major town would be Salisbury/Sarum.
A Roman road, the Portway, leads there from Silchester
which one can reach via the Kennet Navigation towpath,
and then by paths and lanes. Although the Portway between
Silchester and Andover cannot be directly followed for
most of the route, it can be shadowed with paths and
lanes, and from Andover it can be followed more or less
exactly to Old Sarum, from where the centre of modern
Salisbury is easily reached. In Andover, little
remains of the small priory, a cell of Benedictine Saumur.
Just to the S, at Wherwell, nothing remains of the Benedictine
nunnery (the current building is C19).
are now 3 possibilities, depending on which port
you want to get to.
the obvious route is on the Roman road, Ackling Dyke,
via Badbury Rings and Wimborne Minster, where was a
minster of secular canons, dating from Saxon times.
This Roman road can be followed pretty much in its entirety.
although there is plenty of prehistoric interest on
this route, there is little in the way of facilities
between Salisbury and Wimborne; further to the E, and
halfway between the two towns, was the Benedictine priory
of Cranborne. To get there, leave Salisbury via the
Avon Valley Path, but continue S to Hornington and the
path along Grim's Ditch to Tidpit. Grim's Ditch (one
of several in the country) marks the boundary between
Wiltshire and Hampshire, and is probably a Bronze Age
boundary marker, one of the enormous number of prehistoric
earthworks in this area. At Cranborne, only the
church remains of the priory.
Cranborne, head for Wimborne St Giles and
the extraordinary church and henge site at Knowlton,
excavated in recent years by Bournemouth University.
From here, head for Badbury Rings and, via Pamphill,
Wimborne. See Dorset Historic Churches Trust for details
can be reached by using another Roman road, by Corfe
Mullen straight to Poole Harbour. Poole's church of
St James is a C19 rebuild of a medieval foundation.
the obvious way from Salisbury to Weymouth is
via the Roman roads, again via Badbury Rings, and then
Dorchester. There is no modern path along the Badbury-Dorchester
road, but just W of Badbury was the largest abbey of
Cistercian nuns in England, at Tarrant Crawford. Little
remains of this, though the nearby church (Churches
Conservation Trust) has some fine medieval wall-paintings.
lead further W to Milton Abbas, where a public school
now occupies the house which replaced the Benedictine
abbey. The church survives, and is used as the (very
grand) school chapel; it houses a bust of St James.
The C12 St Catherine's Chapel nearby was a pilgrim chapel
and has an inscription on the south doorway granting
an indulgence to pilgrims who visit it. The parish church
of St James is C18, along with the rest of this estate
village. More tracks lead over the downs to Dorchester,
a Roman town which had a Franciscan friary and a hospital
of St John, but nothing remains of these.
Dorchester-Weymouth Roman road is now the main road,
but you can shadow it, perhaps to the W via Maiden Castle.
Exeter and Plymouth
Salisbury, a track, one of several known as the
'Herepath', runs W along the edge of the downs past
Chiselbury most of the way to Shaftesbury. Just to the
N, in the village of Ansty, the C13 church of St James
is where the Knights Hospitaller had a commandery where
there was also a Hospice.
Benedictine nunnery with the shrine of Edward the Martyr
was the largest in England, but little remains to be
seen. The current parish church of St Peter was built
at the gates of the abbey as a pilgrim church. The W
of Shaftesbury is known as St James after the parish,
though the current church is C19. You can leave the
centre down Gold Hill (one of the most photographed
streets in England) and along St James St, or along
Abbey Walk with its fine views, and down the partly-cobbled
Stoney Path, a pilgrim path, to St James church.
next destination is Sherborne, and to get there you
must leave the downs and cross Blackmoor Vale. To the
S is Hinton St Mary; the Roman Villa marked on Explorer
maps is where the early mosaic of Christ was found.
hard to believe now, but the small town of Sherborne
was a Saxon see, the precursor of Salisbury. The present,
largely C15, Sherborne Abbey has a fine C15 wooden statue
of St James, though this does not originate from Sherborne.
Canonicorum is the next major shrine en route, which
pilgrims may well have reached via Yetminster (the Macmillan
Way can take you there) and Beaminster, both
of which, as their names suggest, were early minster
churches, even if nothing remains of them today.
shrine of St Wite is remarkable for having survived
the Reformation, and the current church reflects the
wealth that pilgrims brought in the Middle Ages. It
is one of only 2 shrines in Britain, and the only one
in England, still in situ. Nearby, at Morcombelake,
is Wite's holy well.
you are almost on the coast, and a simple way to the
Exe estuary would be to follow the coast path. Scenic,
but nothing to do with pilgrimage. You are also back
on a Roman road, this time from Dorchester to Exeter,
which ran via Axminster, where it crossed Foss Way,
and Honiton, in other words the main road. So head to
Axminster using the little lane via Raymond's Hill
is known today for carpets, but it's the originally
Saxon church which provides the name of the town. Just
to the S was Cistercian Newenham Abbey, though little
remains of this.
Honiton was largely destroyed by fire, and the town
is today largely known for lace-making. Probably the
more interesting church is at Ottery St Mary.
This is very different country from the Wiltshire Downs,
with steep valleys heading down to the sea. There's
no obvious route into Exeter from the E, though
if you do approach the city past the airport, you will
pass close to the remains of the Benedictine nunnery
of St Catherine at Polsloe. More scenic is probably
to head for Topsham and then up the river/canal into
the city centre. Between Topsham and Exeter, there was
a C11 Cluniac priory of St James, a charter relating
to which is in the archives of King's College Cambridge.
Besides the cathedral, another church of secular canons,
parts of Benedictine St Nicholas Priory, including the
guesthouse, remain and are open to the public. There's
more on Exeter in the Middle Ages on the City Council's
modern travellers may head across Dartmoor to get to
Plymouth, it's unlikely many pilgrims will have
braved its notorious bogs. More likely is that they
skirted the S edge. Buckfast had a wealthy Cistercian
abbey, though little of this medieval building remains
in the modern abbey complex. The abbey offers many facilities
to visitors, including accommodation. C11 Totnes priory
was Benedictine, though the current priory church was
rebuilt in the C15. And on the coast at Torre (after
which both Torquay and Torbay are named), was the richest
Premonstratensian abbey in the country. The remains
of this, along with a fine medieval barn, now belong
to Torbay Council.
Exeter, head SW to Christow ('Christian place'),
where the C15 granite church is dedicated to St James.
From Bovey Tracey, the Dartmoor Way can take
you to Buckfast.
Bearne's Dartmoor crosses site describes the old track,
marked by crosses, between Buckfast and the next monastic
site, Plympton Priory. Although Plymouth is now the
main town in the area, it was only small in medieval
times, though it did have Franciscan and Carmelite friaries.
The former Friary Road railway station was on the site
of the latter. Plympton was much more important:
the C12 Augustinian priory was dedicated to St Mary
and the remains are now near the church. Plymouth's
church, St Andrew's, was destroyed in 1941 and rebuilt.
at wanadoo.fr - 26/12/2016