Catching Lives would like to say a big thank you to Holly Andrews who has returned from her 140 mile journey along the Pilgrim’s way, from Canterbury Cathedral to Winchester Cathedral, raising over £1000 for Catching Lives along the way.
This money will be used to directly support homeless and vulnerably housed people in the Canterbury area. If you would like to donate you can do so on Holly’s JustGiving page which is found here
As you can imagine, this was quite the experience and you can read Holly’s reflections on her emotional and arduous trip along this historic route, and also her reflections on her time spent working for Catching Lives, below-
“I arrived at Wichester Cathedral around 3.30 pm on Thursday. I’d left Canterbury Cathedral on the previous sunday at 9am.
My route took me along verges, the sides of A roads, town, village and city pavements, footpaths and bridleways, across fields, through the occasional stinging nettle bush, along the Pilgrims way, North and South Downs way. I’m not gonna lie. I did get lost quite a lot.
I got into Wichester Cathedral and sobbed for about half an hour. I spoke to two lovely volunteers who offered a chaplain, I told them they were enough. I knew the mechanics of getting home but didn’t know how I’d return to life after being outside & alone for so long. I know five days may not seem like long, but spending at least 10 hours a day outside and away from home is really an odd sensation. The contact I had with friends and family along the way helped immensely, but I felt so overwhelmed that I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about seeing them, although I missed them chronically.
Walking to Winchester train station I felt really disconnected from the rest of the world. On the train into London I met a man named David, he’d been in the army and we had a good chat. He made a £20 donation and talking to him really helped me to feel connected back to the rest of the world. When I got to London I was amazed to watch the world rush past me as people scrambled frantically at rush hour. I squeezed into a tube carriage and met another stranger; he complimented me on my walking stick and said it looked like it had come far. I didn’t get his name, but he’d walked part of El Camino De Santiago at the end of May. He helped me to get off at the right stop and get to the right platform for my connection. I think that without these two strangers I would’ve really struggled on the journey home. I think I learnt a lesson here, we need to be open to others as we don’t know what they may need and a brief interaction can make all the difference to someone.
The amount of kindness I encountered along the way was amazing. In Shackleford the shopkeeper didn’t charge me for my coffee and sweets, when asking for directions I was offered countless lifts (by the third time this occurred I managed to stop laughing and learnt to graciously decline – ‘cars are cheating – I have to walk!’). On the third day a taxi firm just outside of Guildford gave me my fare for free. My Air B and B hosts were fantastic and so accommodating, above and beyond what they offered in their listings. My aunty Ruth and uncle Anton were wonderful and collected me hours after I said I’d arrive, they made me delicious late night dinner and a brilliant packed lunch for the next day. But more than the practical side of things they radiated care and compassion for me, as they have done so for my whole life.
I arrived back in Canterbury just before 8pm Thursday night and was met by some friends. They bought me a couple of drinks and it was wonderful to see them. Physically I was in a pretty bad way. My legs and arms were scratched and stung from brambles and nettles, my feet, however, escaped relatively unscathed, bar an infected blister on my right little toe. I had ‘rucksack rash’ and grazes and bruising on my shoulders and lower back. My calves, feet and ankles were pretty swollen and red and I had small collections of blisters from heat rash. Writing this on Tuesday I am mostly physically healed, although tired beyond belief, I feel heavy and drowsy most of the time.
I saw my parents, three of my siblings and nephews on Sunday, I spoke with my stepfather about finding closure and ending from this journey. I concluded that we put a lot of emphasis on these things, when really they merge into our narrative and become part of the continuum that is life and the ways in which we experience it.
My feelings of disconnection along the way resonated with an emotion I’d often felt whilst working at the Open Centre. Not being able to understand how the world could just continue whilst people sleep rough, experience abuse and violence, are treated cruelly as children and adults and denied the opportunities that would enable them to be safe and to live happy lives. We live in such a developed country with so much technology how can these injustices occur? Why aren’t we doing more?
The duration of the walk offered time for reflection and thinking. Being really present and focusing on an end goal & destination. My thoughts over the five days kept returning to two clients I’d worked with who died from overdoses. On the final day I kept them alongside me & walked with the intention of taking them to peace & a better, more dignified death. It may seem trite, a little grandiose, but my intentions were for them to have a good rest.
Overall and overwhelmingly I had a reoccurring thought, or mantra, we are only capable because we are loved, this we must remember because although it is often the norm, there are people out there denied this”.