Spirituality can be found in the everyday experiences of life. Ashley Straw meets a man of God who searched for it during a two-month walk along the M62
ALTHOUGH motorway anoraks may enjoy fruitful hours in the service station cafe discussing facts about the M62, those of us with interests outside the realms of tarmac and blue signs are unlikely to have given the route much thought.
As one of the busiest roads in Britain, with around 100,000 cars passing through some sections each day, it is hardly a place that inspires a pleasant two-hour drive, let alone a two-month walk.
But that was exactly what Rev John Davies had in mind when he decided to trek the entire 107 miles from Hull to Liverpool.
During his unusual journey, the 45-year-old vicar, of Good Shepherd Church in West Derby, which serves the people of Norris Green and Croxteth, walked through Hull, Leeds, Manchester, Warrington and Liverpool and has written a book about his experiences along the way.
The idea came to him when he moved to Norris Green four years ago, just four years after entering the priesthood.
“I didn't know anyone so I thought the best way to get to know both people and the area was to walk around and observe closely what I saw,” he recalls.
“Along the way I spoke to people to find out their history and their stories about living here. I did that for a while and I wrote up the walks on my website for people to read and respond to.
“It was an interesting process and I found that a lot of people started to respond to this and even some ex-pats started to reminisce on the website.”
A little over a year ago, Rev Davies found out he had the opportunity to take a two-month sabbatical from the Church. While many priests take the opportunity to work in parishes abroad, inspired by the responses to his website, he came up with his M62 plan.
“When I got this chance for a break I thought I could visit some cities I don’t know anything about in a similar way to how I explored Norris Green,” he says.
“I was keen to go through some northern cities to do a sort of compare and contrast of Liverpool. I thought the M62 would be an interesting route to take, directly across England from east to west, roughly following the motorway’s path.
“I enjoy walking around cities because there is a rich environment that is often consciously ignored and, if you do walk around with your eyes wide open, a lot of interesting things are revealed.”
The route took Rev Davies past the 260-year-old Stott Hall Farm, on the Pennine stretch, which stands on a 100ft-wide, mile-long traffic island between the two carriageways.
“There is a legend about this that says the farmer resisted the building of the motorway and so it had to be built round the farm, but the truth is that the motorway had to split because of the land was soft and the carriageways would have slipped. It was by coincidence that the farm was there,” he says.
“I met the farmer next door and he agreed to spend a day with me. It was fascinating. Being an urban lad, it shattered many of my preconceptions about the farming community. I would have thought they would have hated the motorway but they are quite philosophical about it.
“It has brought them good business, it helps with communication and they have just adapted to it being there.”
Rev Davies started his journey last September, beginning in the town of Hornsea, near Hull. His final few strides were along Crosby Beach on November 31, 2007.
“It was important to me that the journey brought me home and that it would teach me a few things that would show Liverpool in a different light. I always wanted to finish the route at the place I was born as my original home was in Waterloo, near the beach where I played as a kid. My parents still live there.”
The vicar was helped along the way by contacts from within the church as well as people he met on his journey. Every night he wrote an entry for his internet diary. Most of these form the basis of his book.
“It wasn't me being in role as a vicar on the walk, I didn't wear my dog collar or any of my clerical clothes.
“I think there is a lot of spirituality in every day life that we don’t notice – little things like doing an act of kindness, making you feel welcome, conversations that give you boosts in cafes and on the bus.
“I was hoping to find it and I hope that is what readers of the book will find – the spirituality of the everyday life.”
Rev Davies’ book Walking the M62 is available from www.lulu.com priced £7.99 or £3.75 for a downloadable version.
Article sourced from Liverpool Daily Post.co.uk