My B&B host gives me a lift back to the Ring Circle Fort, and I’m on my way, downhill to Lichfield. One was supposed to be able to see the cathedral from up here, but low cloud prevented that. There was good walking up on Gentleshaw Common and then old tracks through woods to come out onto quiet lanes to sleepy Chorley.
For the next two miles I walked along the ancient Cross In Hand Lane, so named from the wooden cross pilgrims would hold as they approached St Chad’s Well. This lane was a joy to walk, in places hewn out between sandstone banks and in others with mature hedges. A scattering of farms were passed along the way, and at the bottom of the last hill a cave reputedly used by Medieval candle sellers to pilgrims.
The house belonging to Erasmus Darwin, the Physician and naturalist and Charle’s grandfather, is now a museum in the shadow of the cathedral. The man himself was looking out of a window. There are many fine houses in Lichfield which is worth a longer visit.
At last the three unique towers of Lichfield Cathedral were seen as I approached the magnificent entrance. A Saxon church was built here to house the bones of St Chad, to be replaced by a Norman Cathedral, the present Gothic structure dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. One walks down the beautifully vaulted nave, through the chancel and there in front of you is the shrine of St. Chad.
Behind in the Lady Chapel are the famous Herkenrode stained-glass windows rescued from Belgium. St. Chads Head Chapel was closed to the public.
Two relics related to St Chad were on display — The Lichfield Angel, a beautiful limestone carving from the chest that contained his bones. The 8th century St. Chad Gospels, from which St Chads cross emblem was derived.
Leaving the Cathedral I notice the statue of St Chad by local sculptor Peter Walker recently installed in the grounds. He looks a kindly man. The south door is every bit as good as the main one,
I then wander alongside the lake, Stowe Pool originally a 12th century millpond and fishery, to reach St Chad’s Church and Well and my final interpretation board! When St. Chad arrived in Lichfield, 669, he baptised converts at a local spring and founded a monastery. He was buried here in 672 but his bones moved the Cathedral when it was built in 700. The present day church is mainly from the 14th century with many more recent modifications. Nearby is the Well which has been popular as a pilgrimage place, at one time surrounded by arched walls but now by a simple wooden structure. I’m not sure that the water is very pure.
My journey had come to an end, I have learnt a lot and experienced a good mixture of rural and urban scenery. The route was well thought out in that respect. The churches have been inspiring and whatever your religious views they are beautiful buildings and how well we preserve the past in Britain. The problem of churches being closed occurs anywhere nowadays. The guide book is well written and informative, the instructions are clear. There was no shortage of accommodation (putting my Crewe faux pas aside) or dining possibilities, although Covid precautions are still affecting the latter. As usual, I met relatively few people walking any distance, and only four on The Two Saints Way. I covered 90 miles from Chester to Lichfield, but I have to say I was relieved to know I could now rest my heel for a few days. There has been constant background pain all week, which at times distracted me from my surroundings — I was beginning to feel like a real pilgrim towards the end and possibly should have dipped my foot in St. Chads Well.