Pathfinders in NEC Area 3 Walk Together

Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? Amos 3:3

Pathfinders in NEC Area 3 Walk Together

Dr Mandela Thyoka, Doncaster Pathfinder Club

Pathfinders in Area 3 of the North England Conference (NEC) went back to nature to discover the beauty of God's creation during a group hiking experience in Bolton Abbey Estate in North Yorkshire on Sunday, 22 May 2022. The Area 3 hike was organised by Area Coordinators (ACs) Kevin James and Henry Channer to allow the Pathfinders to complete some of their basic requirements for outdoor events after the past few lockdown years. In keeping with the true meaning of a Pathfinder – a person who goes ahead and discovers or shows others a path or way – and true to his nature, AC Kevin led the others from the front, with AC Henry at the back of the group. This Sunday morning was beautiful in its spring splendour.

The hike, which was open to all Area 3 Pathfinder Clubs, attracted three local clubs from Doncaster, Hull and Sheffield Burngreave, with 32 hikers. We met in the Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa car park, a perfect base from which to explore the breathtaking countryside. The group accessed the trail via public footpaths, bridleways, and minor roads. The route was deliberately circuitous to build the required mileage. The pedometer registered 11.9 km (7.4 miles) in just over 4 hours, to the tune of aching limbs and a half-day's calories burned.

The next major landmark we encountered on our circular trail was the Priory Church and Ruins of an Augustinian Priory in its beautiful riverside setting at the heart of Bolton Abbey Estate.

Our next trail phase led us to the second major landmark, the stepping stones, synonymous with Bolton Abbey. These stones were used to help workers cross the River Wharfe safely. Today, the 60 stepping stones offer the visitor a fun and challenging experience. Our group attempted to cross the stepping stones but retreated and crossed by the bridge.

We followed the path from the stepping stone bridge upstream through the woodland, where we passed three fallen trees, all laden with coins. It is still a wonder who pushed the coins into the tree and how they did it.

One of the best things about hiking, apart from the hiking itself, is meeting many lovely and like-minded people along the way. For a pleasant experience, there is a certain etiquette that all hikers must abide by – the unwritten rules. For example, hikers must only leave traces of their hiking boots, not litter. Hikers must stay in touch with their group to avoid getting lost. It is appreciable that no noise is good noise, with some preferring to listen to favourite playlists via headphones. Lastly, hikers must observe the hiking hierarchy – with bikers yielding to hikers and hikers to horses.

"It was a great learning opportunity for all, especially for the Pathfinders that came long. We had a great time learning about God in nature, interacting with other Pathfinders, and getting the full benefits of the physical exercise," commented Sue Ndhlovu, Director of Sheffield Burngreave Adventurer Club and a Master Guide in training. Beatrice Kabowa, Master Guide and Counsellor from Doncaster Pathfinder Club, concurred, "The hiking experience was tiring and amazing at the same time. I had the opportunity to see and appreciate God's handiwork in nature. It was rewarding to spend time with fellow Pathfinders. The pain in my feet will fade away, but the memories will stay with me forever."

While we held a debrief in the car park, we witnessed a helicopter land on the helipad, bringing visitors for a Sunday lunch at the Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa. We could have enjoyed a quick escape by helicopter on our way back! The day out at Bolton Abbey was full of fun for all. The team is planning another hike for September 2022, where Area 3 Pathfinder Clubs are welcome to join us again for what will be a monster stomp. Click this link for a few fun photos!

Photograph – Pathfinders, Club Directors and Area Coordinators outside The Cavendish Pavilion.