Welwyn Garden City trekker set for final leg of 2,000-mile cathedral pilgrimage
PUBLISHED: 07:05 05 July 2019
Intrepid Welwyn Garden City resident Barbara Foster will complete her 2,000-mile journey walking between every Anglican cathedral in England by the end of July.
Barbara has raised thousands of pounds for charity since 2014 by travelling to the 42 Anglican cathedrals on foot.
The 76-year-old began to invest her time in walking after her husband Richard passed away in 2007.
She said: "We had always enjoyed walking together and I needed a target to help me come to terms with my loss. The first long walk I did was the 60-mile Lea Valley Way with a friend."
In search of a challenge, the former Benington Church of England Primary School headteacher decided to walk to every cathedral after watching a television programme about them.
Her treks have taken place between March and October each year, the first being the Thames Path and Hadrian's Wall, taking in five cathedrals: Oxford, St Paul's, Southwark, Carlisle and Newcastle.
During the second year of her cathedral pilgrimage, church friends from Benington persuaded her to make it a sponsored walk. Barbara decided she would support Freedom from Torture.
She said: "It is a small charity and anything I raised for them would be invaluable in helping victims of torture rebuild their lives in the UK. I can't imagine anything in the world worse than to be tortured by another human being."
The longest stretch Barbara walked in one trip was Truro to Exeter - 135 miles in 12 days including a 15-mile section across Dartmoor. The first person to give a charity donation was a lady at a bus stop in St Austell.
So far she has raised £2,600, but she hopes it will reach £3,000 by the time her journey ends.
Barbara says her normal pace averages two and a half miles per hour and she walks in all weathers. She remembers it "bucketing down with rain" on her walk to Sheffield Cathedral and "arriving like a drowned rat".
"I was given a wonderful warm welcome and after getting dry under the hand driers in the cloakroom," she continued.
"I was shown around and given a goody bag of souvenirs before I left in sunshine.
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"Last summer was very hot and people stopped to offer me lifts, but I told them I was sponsored and had to walk every step of the way!"
She has had blisters and sore feet on many occasions, and worn out a pair of boots, but luckily has not been ill or had any serious mishaps.
In her Welwyn Garden City home, Barbara has amassed a large collection of mugs, as she bought a souvenir at each cathedral she visited.
She also has an impressive collection of detailed scrapbooks, photographs and diaries to remind her of her achievements and also to assist with the talks she is now being asked to give to various organisations.
The last leg of her journey will be from Welwyn Garden City to St Albans Abbey on Thursday, July 25, starting from her house at 9am.
"About 30 friends, many from the Barn Theatre, want to join me," said Barbara.
"Most of whom have been connected in some way with the walks on this endeavour.
"It will be about 11 miles and quite a logistical task - I must try not to act like a teacher leading a class outing!
"We will be staying for evensong and I have hired a coach to bring us back!"
When she isn't walking to cathedrals across the country, Barbara spends her time at the Barn Theatre where she is in charge of the props department.
She also plays the organ at Benington Church, helps at a school museum in Hitchin and once a week she volunteers in the Welwyn Garden City Oxfam Bookshop.
Her favourite locations from her pilgrimage were Sheffield Cathedral and the Cambridgeshire-based Ely Cathedral.
Barbara already has plans the future visits.
She added: "I want to go back to some of the places I visited and climb the cathedral towers or see more of the surrounding cities and countryside. Things I didn't have time for then when I had to keep on schedule."
You can visit Barbara's website www.barbarawalks.co.uk and she can be sponsored at www.justgiving.com/Barbara-Foster.