One of four new pilgrimage walks to Durham will start at Gainford.
One of four new pilgrimage walks to Durham will start at Gainford.

GAINFORD is to be the starting point of one of four new “pilgrimage walks” aimed

at boosting international tourism.

The village’s parish council heard last week that the new walking routes to Durham Cathedral aim to rival similar treks in northern Spain that draw thousands of people.

St Mary’s vicar, Revd Eileen Harrop, told councillors the route from Gainford would be the first of the Northern Saints trails to be launch next year.

The hope is that Bishop of Durham Rt Revd Paul Butler will open and walk the route on Palm Sunday next year.

The route takes starts at St Mary’s Well and takes in Ingleton, West Auckland, Bishop Auckland and Binchester, along established rights of way. She said: “This significant development, with its starting point in Gainford, will provide opportunities for the flourishing of our village, parish and community. There is a tourism and economic agenda.”

The Gainford route will be known as the Way of Life. Others in Hartlepool, Jarrow and Hexham will be known as the Way of Love, Way of Learning and Way of Light respectively.

David Potts, who has been seconded by Visit County Durham and the Bishop of Durham to compile the routes, said there are more than 60 pilgrim routes in the country.

He said even though there are three in the north of England, curiously County Durham didn’t have any. He said the Gainford route could attract international interest because it passes through Bishop Auckland, which houses the Spanish master Francisco de Zurbarán’s paintings, Jacob and His Twelve Sons.

Ms Harrop called on the parish council to support a meeting to get more people involved to maximise the new pilgrimage route’s proposal

The council agreed to discuss the proposal at their meeting in May.