Being pelerins* or pilgrims is a long standing Christian tradition. In the bible the closest thing I can think of is the passover, although other pilgrimages existed. You might remember Jesus went missing on the way back from Jerusalem celebrating the passover (Luke 2v43). The people who gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the harvest festival at Pentacost were also pelerins.
I have just been one of a number of pelerins making a pilgrimage to Paris by bike for the COP21 climate talks. I’m going to write a few blogs over the period of the talks on my experiences.
I heard over the summer that Tearfund and Climate Stewards were planning a cycle and walking pilgrimage to Paris for COP21. I had wanted to go to COP21 since I heard it was going to be there. I knew I could get to Paris in an ecologically sound way, although I had not envisaged cycling… The whole trip took a lot of time to organise and it was only two weeks before that I knew it was going ahead. Then the terrorist atrocities happened and the whole trip was thrown into doubt. All the cyclists still wanted to go, but at the last minute Tearfund pulled out. This reduced our number to 9 (one person also pulled out for health reasons). In the end our tickets and hotel bookings were transferred across and we went unofficially. The idea was to cycle from Newhaven to Paris with a guide although some of us started from further away and I planned to start from near Guildford.
It was with some trepidation I set off from Edinburgh on the 22nd. I cycle regularly to work and had increased my route slightly, had done leg exercises in the gym, but was this going to be enough for me to keep up with my fellow pelerins? Would I get on with them and how would I get on cycling on dangerous roads particularly on my own to Newhaven?
At 08:30 I set off from West Horsley near Guildford. The day was clear with a heavy frost on the ground. I cycled through beautiful ancient beech woods (after a steep climb) and beautiful countryside to Horsham. One thing I reflected on as I pedalled along was COP21 is as much about protecting nature as it is people (the two are linked).
After a break in Horsham for Victoria sponge I pedalled on through Sussex. I passed some stunning churches.
The last hour before lunch was a struggle although I found a very quiet road for much of this stage. After a good break for lunch I continued more slowly along the bottom of the South Downs to Newhaven taking in some stunning views and beautiful churches.
* French for pilgrim.