Sacred Waters Way

Unlike the more traditional pilgrimage routes which focus on destination or a specific pathway, the Sacred Waters Way offers you a series of individual pilgrimages which guide you through the seasons. Each pilgrimage gives opportunities to pause and reflect on your own inner journey and your connectedness to the earth and her living waters.

Developed by River Dart Wild Church the Sacred Waters Way will be launched as a series of guided pilgrimage days. During 2021 these days journey from Dartington down to the mouth of the River Dart at Dartington. Through 2022 the Wild Pilgrims will travel from Dartington up to the source of the river on Dartmoor. During the two year journey, pilgrims will carry the River Dart Charter and will consider how to shift our relationship withthe watrs from one of consumer to one of responsibility and care.

In collaboration with local experts and artists each pilgrimage is themed to offer the chance to explore a different encounter with the waters of the river, and to both walk in contemplative silence and share stories and prayers with others. Booking details for guided pilgrimages is here. After each guided pilgrimage is complete you’ll find details hereof how to recreate the pilgrimage, either on the River Dart or by your own local river.

(please note, maps of routes shown below are for illustration only. Please contact Sam Wernham at River Dart Wild Church for more details)

Pilgrim Safety

While our routes don’t all involve walking on Devon’s moors, the safety advice provided on the Visit Dartmoor website will help you to prepare for your pilgrimage and stay safe along the way.

Visit Dartmoor’s safety advice for outdoor activities can be found here

Route: River Dart
Duration: 8 x 1 day circular routes
Difficulty: Easy

Day 1: Wild Maytide

Wander through the woods of the Dartington Estate from the Victorian church of St Mary’s to the tower of the original medieval church with the ancient Yew tree beside. Along this a wandering way you can explore many encounters with water, from the juicy spring growth of plants (as in the cleaver juice shown being squeezed out by hand in the photo here) to wild water mint growing under the trees. Perhaps take a flask of hot water and add a few leaves to infuse. Down to the Dart herself where you’ll find some of the deadly poisonous wild plants that grow beside water – monkshood & hemlock water dropwort. Pause to reflect on the river of water that passes through a tree in its lifetime, then conclude your walk with some wild water mint tea & sit beside the ancient yew at the sacred heart of Dartington. Along the way you’ll find various wild delights including wood sorrel, beech leaves, garlic mustard and more.

A map of the Dartington Estate can be downloaded here.

This pilgrimage was originally led by the wonderful Myrtle Cooper of Wild & Curious.

(text and images from River Dart Wild Church).

Sacred Waters Way

Day 2: Wild Elements

An afternoon pilgrimage along the river from the ancient yew and old St Mary’s Tower at the sacred  heart of the Dartington Estate, towards St. Mary’s Totnes.
This pilgrimage was originally led by Fr Jim Barlow, Totnes Team Rector who guided pilgrims through meeting the elements of earth, water, air and fire within our bodies and the body of wild as we journeyed in ( mostly) silence. There are so many elements to notice along the way, from the luscious curves of Devon meadows, through the watery world of newts, to gasping gargoyles high in the air and the fire of the sinking sun…
If you time your pilgrimage right you can end at St Mary’s Church in Totnes where the elemental themes continue as candles are lit, incense drifts and psalms are chanted within the stone and wood body of the church.
During the first pilgrimage water was represented as Jim blessed the River Dart Community Charter that we are carrying with us on our Sacred Waters Way pilgrimage to the sea and the source of the Dart. A copy was ceremonially given to the church warden and we hope this is the first step in inspiring others to work towards a Charter of community care for the whole length of the River.
Sacred Waters Way

River Dart Charter

River Dart Wild Church are working as co-creators with the Bioregional Learning Centre to develop a Charter for the River Dart and to travel the length of the river engaging in conversations with those communities who live and work alongside it. Their aim is to highlight to trouble that our rivers are in, to help us understand our accountability for that and to support us to shift from an attitude of consumer to that of care taker for our rivers. If you are walking some or all of the Sacred Waters Way we encourage you to sign the River Dart Charter on the Bioregional Learning Centre website. But maybe also use this pilgrimage experience and this Charter to think about how you might create a personal charter to care for your nearest stretch of water.

Dartington Ancient Yew Tree

Behind the remaining tower of St Mary's Church at the centre of the Dartington Estate stands a great Yew Tree. This ancient Yew is at least 1500 years old and perhaps marks an ancient sacred site. She (she is a female tree as yews can be male or female and can even, very rarely, change gender) has stood within the current Christian graveyard alongside the original St. Mary's church since the thirteenth century.

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St Mary’s Tower, Dartington

At the centre of the Dartington Estate stands the tower of the old St Mary’s Church. Most of the church was  removed and some of it was reused, when the ‘new’ church was built between 1878-90 in its current location at the entrance to the Dartington Estate. Only the Tower of the old St Mary’s […]

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St Mary’s Church, Dartington

The Parish & Priory Church of St Mary was completed in 1450 and is at least the second church on this site, its predecessor being dedicated in 1259. There have probably been churches on the same site for over 1000 years. The Priory attached to the church was dissolved in the sixteenth century and was […]

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