Redundancy sets Otley man on fresh path
For most people, redundancy is a blow that can seem like 'the end of the road'. But for Otley man, Tony Maskill-Rogan, losing his job was to set him on a brand new path – along ancient routes once trodden by monks.
Shortly before his redundancy, the keen walker had stumbled upon a drawing at Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, that turned out to be literally life-changing.
The etching, in a medieval book, highlighted the route Cistercian monks had once taken each year from North Yorkshire to Citeaux Abbey in France.
Tony said: "I had a strange feeling, like shivers down my spine, when I saw the drawing and thought 'that's a walk, why isn't it available?'.
"Then, after being made redundant, I talked to my wife and said 'I'm going to do it', and she ended up, after handing in her notice in, and coming with me.
"I had got to a certain age last year, 50, where I suppose it was either time to get a fancy sports car or go on a pilgrimage! I went for the pilgrimage and I'm very glad I did – it's been a fantastic experience."
The couple ended up completing the 978-mile trek from Rievaulx Abbey to Citeaux Abbey, near Dijon, in 68 days, which involved often seeking out makeshift accommodation.
But that was just the beginning, and they now have a dedicated website up and running, abbeywalks.co.uk ( created by Documentopia.com ), to encourage more people to set off along an historical route. The site describes in detail the path of both their first pilgrim's trail, St Bernard's Way, and others, which have been updated with GPS co-ordinates added.
Outlining their goal, Tony and Rachel say on the site: "The Abbey Walks mission is to make routes available to walkers that were taken by monks in the 12th to 14th centuries, either between abbeys in the UK or from their own abbey to their General Chapter meeting in France.
"Monks would have followed ancient paths, drovers’ tracks and Roman roads in order to travel between abbeys. "Our aim is for walkers to follow in the monks’ footsteps as closely as possible, but with modern day urbanisation also use modern footpaths."
Although a labour of love, the couple also hope to create some revenue by listing accommodation and places to eat on their site.
Tony, meanwhile, is keen to stress that while he is a Christian he is not promoting the routes in any religious way, instead intending them to be used simply as "historical walks brought to life".
He said: "When you talk about a pilgrimage, people think straight away that it must be religious, but it really isn't – it's all about the journey, the people you meet, food you eat and experiences you have."I think there's a massive audience out there for this. Towards the end of our walk last year, the blog I ran had 3,000 people following or liking it."
Article published in the Ilkley Gazette + Wharfedale Observer, Thursday 22 October 2015