Curiouser and curiouser cried Alice


Early thoughts from a Pilgrimage ... 

Last week we (the other pilgrims and I)  walked in Tuscany -  from San Gimignano to Montalcino.  A mere 65 miles of the ancient Cammino, which goes from Canterbury to Rome, a total of 1300 miles. We called it a Pilgrimage for we wanted to make it a time when we intentionally spent time to draw closer to God.

And on the way we met Alice.

Rucksack on back, skin tanned, legs strong -  walking from Hertfordshire to Rome. Alice graduated earlier this summer from her studies of mediaeval history; left her home in Hertfordshire on June 23rd  and set out to walk to Rome. Take time to think. Cogitate on what may lie ahead for her. And meet her parents in Rome on September 23.

We were fascinated, astonished, curious. Why do it? Where did she stay at night? Would she be there in time? What did her parents think about it? And is it changing her, or her attitudes or beliefs?

Her tales were of sordid campsites in northern Europe, of a night finding nowhere to sleep and walking on in the dark - 30 miles without a stop, and then of warm Italians and welcoming Catholic churches and convents and parishes; and of how their faith was drawing her in, causing her to reconsider her agnosticism and making her wonder about becoming a Roman Catholic. And of calling her mother every other day to reassure her.

Later that night, when we had toiled up a hill to stay at the  Fattoria Pieve a Salti and were sitting by the pool under the setting sun, we prayed for her, for her safety and for her faith.  Thought of her sleeping in the parish church at Buonconvento, and of the 201 km she still has to walk to reach Rome.


Maybe some of us felt inadequate - our 65 miles felt very tiny in comparison. Most of us felt old - Alice is 22, our pilgrim party contained two who are 73, one who is 70 and one who is about to be; several in their 60's and 50's.

But comparisons are not always reality.

As we arrived in Montalcino after a long steep incline  at 20% there was a grand sense of achievement.

Physically -  many of the pilgrim party were not used to long walks each day, steep hills, strange beds, learning long sections of  Psalm 27: The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple...

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock...

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”

Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

And spiritually  - thinking of how the deer desires, longs, pants  profoundly for water in the intense heat, especially the day we were unable to refill empty water bottles and the sun was hot and the path long and steep. How deep is our desire and longing for the Lord in our lives?

Or our ability to walk at all, being so wonderfully complex in our makeup, walking so slowly as we revelled in God's creation of us.

Remembering one morning of how He walks beside us. One pilgrim spoke of the intense sense of  the Lord's Presence beside her as we imagined His walking alongside us - and of how that Presence was accompanying her ever since.

One morning, married couples held hands and prayed together as they walked - one couple said they had not walked hand-in-hand for thirty years. Nor prayed together like that. You could almost see their marriage strengthen.

65 miles. 12 pilgrims (although only 10 made it the whole way). 6 days of walking. Too much pasta and plenty of water. No blisters, no falls, no casualties. God walked beside us, watched over us, drew us closer to Him. And each other.

And now it's over.

And already some are looking forward to next year and walking the next part - Montalcino to Vitterbo.

Come with us? Curious though it may be, walking in order to spend intentional time with God seems to work.











Interior Design

Exciting news this week from Mays Farm - the decorating is about to begin! Not everywhere, but a few rooms are ready for their paint. Bookroom red in the Library, lime white in the Drawing Room and bedroom two, whitewash in the Chapel. The reason? Apart from the obvious ...

The reason that these four rooms MUST be decorated is that all the furniture is arriving during the last week of June and will need to be stored in those rooms until the rest of the house is ready. We have been really blessed that we were allowed to leave all our stuff in the London Vicarage, and not have to pay for storage. But now the Vicarage needs to be emptied and so the Removal Men are booked and we will be reunited with our belongings.

It took FIVE HOURS (on a flight from DC to Heathrow) to go through each of the new rooms and decide which furniture will go where. What a blessing this new calling of our ministry this is proving to be; I was SO excited I could barely sit still even with the seatbelt sign warning on!

But we can't put the furniture into most of the rooms just yet and so it will be stored in one of four rooms - and those need decorating before it is unloaded! Might you like to come and wield a paintbrush with us and others?  Come and enjoy a day in the country at Mays Farm - each of the previous work days have been great fun and we have loved having others around who have blessed us, enjoyed the work, been blessed, eaten lunch together in the Walled Garden. And prayed. We want to pray over this Retreat House, again and again and again.

If the LORD does not build the house, it is useless for the builders to work on it. Psalm 127:1 (God's Word translation)

We pray that The Vine @ Mays Farm will be "auspice Christo" (built with the help of Christ)

Here is your own special invite, to come and be part of this:



9.30 - 5.30 (or whenever you can be here within those times!) 

Painting and decorating party

Bring a paintbrush and wear clothes suitable for painting in!

And if you hate painting there' s lots of garden work to be done too.

RSVP - we will provide lunch so need to know numbers.

Don't be a stranger, see you real soon, as our Southern friends would say!

Latest photos of Mays Farm - they may look as if it is still a building site (it is!) but the developments in the two weeks we have been away are amazing to us.  Kitchen floor will be tiled this weekend too. We're getting there!







POST SCRIPT: One couple are having to cancel their places on the Italy Pilgrimage - so there are 2 places available if you would like to join us Sept 7-14, walking the Via Francigena from San Gimignano to Monticello. Get in touch if you would like more info!  


NEW FOR 2013 - Italian Pilgrimages
San g path
San Gimignano
Canterbury to Rome
via f pilgrim
Via Francegina
Mays Farm MAYS FARMRead more







If you are interested in coming on one of the walks, please email us for full details and a booking form. To reserve your place there is a deposit of £200 with the balance due 8 weeks prior to the Pilgrimage.  Places are limited to just 10 people maximum (plus us) so don't delay!
Please pray for us as we put this together; and pray about whether you might be able to come. Do feel free to contact us with any questions regarding the walk. We are so excited about this opportunity and really hope you might be able to join us; and do pass the details on to others you know who might like to come too.


Grace and peace,
Kim and Penelope


Ministries By Design
Mays Farm, Hullavington
Walking the Via Francegina
San G framed

We are excited to be sending you the details for the first of our new pilgrimage retreats - in Tuscany, next June and September. As you know, Penelope has been leading Pilg
rimages on the Cotswold Way for many years and many women have appreciated that opportunity. But now Kim will be joining her in leading retreats and walks for both sexes, for singles and for marrieds  - and we
want you to have the opportunity to come too!
QUESTIONS? call us, we'd love to chat with you!
UK: 07870 497365 (NOT Dec 28 - Jan 21)
USA: (Dec 29 - Jan 21) : 843 325 5220
The Via Francegina
This old pilgrim route goes from Canterbury, England, all the way to Rome. Archbishop Sigericus of Canterbury walked it in 994, and wrote down the names of the places he'd passed through. The route has been recreated so that you can follow in the footsteps of thousands of pilgrims over the centuries who have walked these ancient footpaths. You will be walking through the gorgeous countryside of Tuscany; as you walk there will be time to reflect, to seek the Lord, to have time away from the busyness of everyday life. But with Kim there too it won't be silent all the way!! And each evening there will be devotional times led by Kim and/or Penelope.
You will walk each day, but your bags will be magically taken on to the next hotel where we will all have dinner together in the evenings, and you will have many opportunities for tasting local wines and foods.
The route is stunningly beautiful - we have already walked it and just loved it. From the ancient hill top villages to the refreshingly cool Roman-built swimming pool to achingly beautiful old churches and fabulous gelato .... this is a glorious opportunity for you to experience a vacation with a difference.
The vacation will be organised by Alternative Travel Group and you can look on their website for further information about the walks. ATG journey
However, all your bookings and payments will be done through Ministries By Design, so that it is very easy for you - we will do all the admin!

       There is a choice of dates:
       June 23 - 3
       Sept 7 - 14
       This is an 8 day holiday. We arrive on          day 1, walk from San Gimignano to              Montalcino over the next 6 days and            leave on day 8.
       COST - £1395 (HalfBoard)
       All costs are per person, sharing a twin        bedded room with private bathroom            facilities.
You will need to arrange your own flights to Italy (Pisa airport is recommended but Rome works too), local travel to San Gimignano and from Montalcino and also your own travel insurance.  Other extras are any drinks you require with dinner, and provisions/snacks for lunch each day. Everything else is included, which makes it incredibly good value.
Once you have booked,  we will send you the full details including what to bring with you, and how to prepare for this walk - physically and spiritually!




Hilltop town
Do please pray for us as we begin this new season of our lives and ministries. We will be leaving London on December 25 (yes, really!) and will be renovating Mays Farm for the next few months. We hope to have the Retreat House ready later summer 2013 - more news on all of that later, but you can read more about it in the link "Read More" on the left!