Freedom from Torture - A cathedral pilgrimage for Freedom from Torture

A cathedral pilgrimage for Freedom from Torture

There are 42 Anglican cathedrals in England and Barbara Foster aims to visit every one. She is doing it the hard way, like a medieval pilgrim, following the pathways that link these magnificent living memorials of high art and high devotion. Barbara’s walks also have a purpose – she is raising funds for Freedom from Torture.

Barbara started her long distance odysseys a decade ago, after the death of her husband. She wanted something to aim for so started walking England’s long-distance paths. She enjoyed the challenge, whether the gentle ramblings of rural Norfolk or the tough terrain of the Wainwright Coast to Coast, but she wanted something more.

Barbara says:

“I wanted to see the overall picture. Something that would link together the different towns and landscapes. Then I thought of the cathedrals, which have been part of our heritage for generations. I decided that I would visit each one, but in my own way. Like a medieval pilgrim I would go by foot, crossing and criss-crossing the land, linking the routes between cathedrals like a giant spider web.

“And I decided to use my efforts to benefit others. People who have been tortured need love, support and care. The funds I raise will help Freedom from Torture to provide that badly needed support.”

One of Barbara’s first long-distance walks was the Thames Path, from rural Gloucestershire to the Thames Barrier. The 180 mile trek linked the cathedral at Oxford with the two London cathedrals, St Pauls and Southwark, each within sight of the other. Then followed Rochester on the Medway, and finally the Pilgrims Way to Canterbury – the Anglican mother church. In the tradition of the Canterbury Tales, she recalls the “wonderful welcome” from cathedral staff.

The longest single stretch was the route linking Truro and Exeter Cathedrals, 135 miles via the South West Coast Path and across Dartmoor, through some of the most scenic areas of Cornwall and Devon. One of the most challenging routes was following the remains of Hadrian’s Wall, linking Carlisle Cathedral in the west to Newcastle in the east.

A direct contrast was the route across East Anglia, the heart of medieval England’s prosperous wool trade, which saw her visiting five magnificent monuments to glory – Norwich, Bury St Edmunds, Ely, Peterborough and Leicester. Barbara has vivid memories of viewing Ely Cathedral, “the ship of the fens”, across the low lying countryside.

The walks need meticulous planning, not just the route itself but finding facilities to stop on the way. So during the dark and dank winter months Barbara spends much of her time poring over Ordnance Survey maps, looking for the footpaths and bridleways, cycle tracks and backcountry roads, to chart her route.

Barbara started her cathedral walks in 2014 and aims to finish in the summer of 2019. By the end of 2017, she had visited 31 of the 42 cathedrals, some more than once, as she traced her elaborate spider web walks across the countryside.

The main areas yet to be tackled are the cathedrals of the Midlands and northwest. Barbara plans to follow the canals from Birmingham city centre to Lichfield and Coventry. Further northwards another route will head westwards from Bradford following the Leeds-Liverpool Ship Canal across the Pennines to Blackburn.

Some journeys are short, just a few days, others are much longer. Barbara has already planned her final journey, which will end at St Albans, site of England’s first martyr and her “home” cathedral.

Barbara often travels solo but travelling companions for all or part of a journey have been welcome, as are those who help with transporting her to and from starting and end points. Her supporters provide vital assistance in spreading the word and raising vital funds for Freedom from Torture.

So far, Barbara has walked over 1,400 miles and has raised £1,500 for Freedom from Torture – just over one pound per mile. But she wants to raise much more and that’s a great incentive to keep putting one foot ahead of the other. Her walking season starts again in March and will continue until October.

At the end of every journey, Barbara experiences the beauty and glory of an amazing building, but just as uplifting is the knowledge that she is a pilgrim for human rights, supporting the traumatised torture survivors who undertake such long and difficult journeys to seek asylum in the UK.

Read more about Barbara's Walks at:

You can sponsor Barbara's pilgrimage and donate to freedom from Torture at:




































































































































































































































































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