Walking the way of St Hold on International Women's Day. (Picture Supplied by: Ian Britton)

The Rt Revd Sarah Clark, Bishop of Jarrow lead a service of celebration at St Hilda’s Church Hartlepool on Sunday 8th March to mark the the launch of a unique pilgrimage trail celebrating a significant Saxon saint.

Led by Hartlepool Borough Council, and made possible thanks to funding from the Rural Payments Agency, the 48 mile Way of St Hild is unique as a long distance walk in that it will be supported by augmented reality stations along the route between Hartlepool and Whitby.

Hild – in Latin, Hilda – was the Abbess of both Hartlepool and Whitby in Saxon times and was a significant woman leader. The launch on International Women’s Day 2020 – Sunday 8th March – therefore provides a great opportunity to celebrate the contribution women leaders have made to civic, community and religious life.

Bishop Sarah said: “I’m delighted to be taking part in the launch of The Way of St Hild which is a really exciting route celebrating the importance of Hild to both Hartlepool and Whitby and recognising the huge contribution she made to our Christian heritage.”

Following this service, a number of walkers and runners departed St Hilda’s Church, bound for Whitby.

A small number of guests – including Sue Snowdon, the Lord-Lieutenant of County Durham, Councillor Brenda Loynes, the Ceremonial Mayor of Hartlepool, Gill Alexander, the Chief Executive of Hartlepool Borough Council and Bishop Sarah – were transported to Whitby on HMS Example, an Archer-class patrol vessel of the Royal Navy. This is particularly fitting as it is believed St Hild herself would often have made the journey between Hartlepool and Whitby by sea.

Ultra-distance runner Sharon Gayter – who set a new record in 2019 by running the 822 miles between John O’Groats and Land’s End in 12 days, 11 hours and 7 seconds – ran the 48 mile route.

In the afternoon, a short service of reflection was held at Whitby Abbey at 2:30pm and The Rt Revd Paul Ferguson, Bishop of Whitby, then lead a service at St Hilda’s Church in Whitby at 4pm. He said: “Hild’s remarkable life came to a climax in Whitby and it will be very special to be part of the launch of The Way of St Hild on International Women’s Day. I was delighted welcoming Bishop Sarah to preach.”

The creation of The Way of St Hild – which will uses existing public rights of way and established National Trails – has been supported by the Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, Dean Emeritus of Durham, who said: “The Way of St Hild is offered as a journey that carries multiple significance. It begins and ends with churches associated with St Hild herself, a traditional way of setting out on and completing a pilgrimage at a sacred site. But the journey also embraces the many contrasting natural and human environments of this stretch of coastline, and helps us understand the long history of these landscapes both before and since Hild’s time”.

Bishop Sarah concluded: “It was a fantastic day – really inspirational. I felt really humbled to be walking in the footsteps of such a magnificent leader, she stands as such an encouragement for all women in leadership roles in all walks of life.”

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