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Julie Howlett and Brad Lorenz, from Dorsington, cycled and walked 1,000 miles on a mystical pilgrimage in aid of MIND

A COUPLE who cycled and walked 1,000 miles on a mystical pilgrimage have described it as an ‘emotional and spiritual challenge’.

NHS worker Julie Howlett and computer programmer Brad Lorenz, who live near Dorsington, journeyed from Norfolk to Cornwall following the mystical St Michael’s ley line.

Travelling under the name ‘The Modern Pilgrims’ and camping overnight, they passed through Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Devon before arriving at their destination.

The pair left their home on 30th April and spent three-and-a-half months on the road, highlighting awareness of mental health and wellbeing, while raising funds for mental health charity MIND.

Brad, 51, suffers from pure-OCD while Julie, 55, has battled post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Job done … Julie Howlett and Brad Lorenz back home after completing their 1,000 mile cycle between Norfolk and Cornwall. Photo: Mark Williamson. (58842788)
Job done … Julie Howlett and Brad Lorenz back home after completing their 1,000 mile cycle between Norfolk and Cornwall. Photo: Mark Williamson. (58842788)

Julie, a clinical support worker at Stratford Hospital’s Nicol Unit, said their bikes, dubbed Burtie and Brenda, were weighed down with equipment.

Julie, carrying 44kg, fell off her bike more than 40 times and almost ended up in a canal when another cyclist sped past too closely, while Brad was loaded up with 57kg.

The couple, who live on a river boat in Barton Marina, set off from Hopton-on-Sea on the Norfolk coast, which marks the start of St Michael’s ley line, also known as the Beltane line. It runs across the country from east to west, including through Glastonbury and Avebury, ending at Carn Les Boel in Cornwall.

It’s thought ley lines were used for navigation, as they run between landscape features and prehistoric monuments, and there are many legends about their mystical energies and healing powers.

Julie, a mum of three adult children who spent most of her own childhood in care, told how they spent one night sleeping on a bench in Cambridgeshire.

She said: “That was the coldest and loneliest night of the entire journey but we were rewarded in the morning when a lady brought us some water and cake.”

And when they were in Wellington, Somerset, it rained for two solid days.

“Everything was wet – our clothes and our tent,” she explained. “We ended up camping on a church access ramp with our bikes either side but I was so exhausted, I slept like a log.”

Another challenge was pushing the heavy bikes up the 1:3 gradient of Porlock Hill, which took almost six hours. Tragedy struck halfway through the trip when Brad’s mother died and the couple returned to Stratford for the funeral.

When they reached Glastonbury, which was roughly the halfway point of their pilgrimage, they rested for a week at the home of their hypnotherapist friend Naema Sinclair.

Julie recalled: “We cycled 34 miles up over the Mendip Hills and down into Wells and we could see Glastonbury Tor in the mist as the sun was setting. As we sailed down the hill, all the fields were laid out below like a patchwork quilt. We arrived at 10pm to see Naema in flowing skirts, holding up a light – it was magical.”

Along the route they visited churches and Brad, who is the author of a book on runes, was particularly interested in recording stained-glass designs featuring St George and the dragon and other art reflecting myths and legends associated with ley lines.

The couple trekked through Devon and Cornwall including St Michael’s Mount to Penzance and along the south coast in the heatwave, battling dehydration and heat exhaustion, as they headed towards Land’s End.

Just after 5pm on 11th August they reached their destination, Cornish iron age fort Carn Les Boel, the last ‘node’ on the ley line.

Luckily, as their daughter lives in Liskeard, they had five days to recover.

Julie, who took an unpaid sabbatical from her job and is due to go back to work this month, explained: “The pilgrimage was a physical, emotional and spiritual challenge. It’s completely changed the way we see things, in that it’s taught us that rather than always trying to fight to control and organise everything, it’s better to let the universe do what it’s going to do and go with the flow.”

Julie and Brad recorded every stage of their journey in a blog. To find out more about their journey, or donate to MIND, see www.themodernpilgrims.com.

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