THE Bishop of Durham will lead inaugural pilgrimages along four of the six new Northern Saints Trails.

All four routes – The Ways of Life, Love, Learning and Light – lead to the shrine of St Cuthbert at Durham Cathedral.

Two other trails – The Angel’s Way and The Way of the Sea – link Lindisfarne and Durham.

The new routes were due to open in March 2020, but that was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

So it will be second time lucky when Bishop Paul Butler embarks on the first of the pilgrimages from Gainford, in Teesdale.

He said: “I think the big thing is it encourages people to take a bit of time-out. To walk, to discover things about themselves, about other people, about Communities but above all about God.

“So for me, walking these routes is a means by which people have an opportunity to spend some time discovering the living God as they discover themselves and the people around them.

“One of the things I love about the new routes is that they are short enough for a large number of people to do them. We’re also going to work on ways of sharing in those walks even if you can’t do them – that’s the next stage for us.”

An inaugural pilgrimage service will take place at St Mary’s Church, in Gainford, on Palm Sunday, March 28 at 3pm.

St Mary’s Well beside the church is the official start of The Way of Life and at 9.30am on Monday, Bishop Paul and wife Rosemary will start the two-day walk.

They will be joined by pilgrimage routes coordinator David Pott and stay at their homes at the halfway point in Bishop Auckland. As the rule of six applies, they expect to meet two or three members of churches along the route.

On May 7 and 8, the Bishop will walk the 28 mile Way of Love from Hartlepool to Durham, during which he and his wife will camp in St Mary Magdalene Church, Trimdon.

This will be the first case of pilgrims camping overnight in churches on The Northern Saints Trails and a number of other churches will be offer the same special service to pilgrims.

When the final pilgrimages on the Way of Learning, from Jarrow to Durham, on May 16 to 19, and The Way of Light, from Hexham to Durham, between May 20 and 23, take place up to 30 people will be allowed to walk together, so Bishop Paul looks forward to welcoming more pilgrims to journey with him.

The fact that the individual routes are all called ‘ways’ has a particular resonance for Christians because in earlier times the Christian Faith was referred to as ‘The Way’.

A soft launch of the trails did take place last July, when local walkers were encouraged to start using the trails. For details visit the website