by Pippa Woodhams

Leeds Country Way Pilgrimage triumphantly reached the half way mark in February, having walked thirty-six miles in monthly installments, since our Horsforth start back in September.

Walking together through the landscape is one way we can slow down and become ready to receive from both the physicality and the metaphors present in the natural world around us. We’ve watched the passing of autumn, winter and spring, battled storm Angus and storm Doris, and enjoyed brilliant sun at the least expected times of year.

This is a new reflective challenge to sense how city connects with its surrounding countryside: muck heaps; TV studios; industrial farms; motorways; sightings of buildings from Roman remains to cathedrals and communications towers.

Some sections of the city inspire thoughts about our hospitals and healing, others education or the many aspects of housing need over the centuries. Our most recent walk criss-crossed the motorway junction of the M1 and M62. At other times the sheer beauty of the natural world took our breath away, memorably the stunning extent of St Aidan’s nature reserve and its wildlife.

The meaning of the word “companion” comes from “those with whom you share bread”. It’s the friendship we’ve enjoyed, the stories of saints, fellow-travellers and local histories, which fill the memory. We’ve found friendly pubs, unexpected cafes and corners for refreshment. Thanks to Tom Lusty for his gallant leadership and chocolate, and to all the interesting people who are taking part or chatting with us on the way.

If you are someone fortunately able to enjoy walking, I’d thoroughly recommend the Leeds Country Way (google it for routes and transport links). The route gives unique perspectives on our city, is giving much food for thought, and has introduced us to many new parts of Leeds. Read LCI blogs to keep up with our latest insights. We still have the route through Woodkirk, Gildersome, Cockersdale, Pudsey, Calverley and back to Horsforth yet to discover: please come and join us, on monthly Wednesdays. Contact LCI at events@leedschurchinstitute for dates and connection details.