European Green Pilgrimage Network – Interreg

The Communities and Partnerships Framework of the Diocese of Canterbury is a member of the European Green Pilgrimage Network – Interreg and the Green Pilgrimage Network (GPN), a global network of pilgrim cities and other sites which are sacred to many different religious traditions. They are all united in sharing a vision “of pilgrims in all continents, and the pilgrim cities that receive them, becoming models of care for the environment and leaving a positive footprint on the earth.”

Project Budget

The total project budget is €1.18 million between the partners between October 2016 to October 2021.

Name of funding programme – Interreg Europe

The Green Pilgrimage Project will show how growth and development policies can economically exploit and protect natural and cultural heritage.

Pilgrimage is recognised as one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry (UNWTO, 2015) with more than 300 million pilgrims every year.

Ancient pilgrim routes such as The Way of St James to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, report an annual 10% increase in numbers, particularly among non-religious. Harnessing this increased popularity to protect natural and cultural heritage is a common challenge faced by those responsible for Europe’s major pilgrimage routes.

Green Pilgrimage will show policy makers how to protect natural and cultural heritage whilst developing jobs and growth along pilgrim routes through developing low impact tourism, digitalization, pilgrim accommodation and strengthening local traditions. This reconnects pilgrims with their environment, landscape and culture.

  • Kent Downs AONB unit (UK)
  • Diocese of Canterbury (UK)
  • Norfolk County Council (UK)
  • National Institute of Tourism Research and Development (Romania)
  • Puglia Region (Italy)
  • Trondheim County Authority (Norway)
  • Östergötland County Council (Sweden)

To find out more visit the Green Pilgrimage website https://www.interregeurope.eu/greenpilgrimage/

The role of the Diocese of Canterbury

The Diocese of Canterbury (DOC) through its European Green Pilgrimage Network organised the opening event in May 2017, outlining key objectives and inspiring partners about the potential of Green Pilgrimage to benefit local communities and landscapes.

The DOC will share its Pilgrimage experience with partners in workshops and exchanges organised throughout the lifetime of the project. It will act as a broker between local authorities and faith groups who manage pilgrimage routes and destinations.

As Pilgrimage experts DOC will advise the partners throughout the project on existing best practice across Europe. DOC will also organize opportunities for diverse European Cultural Routes from Saints Cyril and Methodios in Czechoslovakia, St Olav’s Way in Norway and the Via Francigena running through England, France and Italy to share their findings with partners.

The Network will be available for advice and consultation for partners as action plans are drawn up and implemented.

Aims and objectives

  • integrate pilgrimage objectives into a range of policy types affecting natural and cultural heritage and to evaluate their impact on asset enhancement and protection
  • integrate sustainability indicators into policies impacting on natural and cultural heritage
  • sustainably develop the economic potential of pilgrimage as seen in the rapid growth of pilgrimage in places like Santiago de Compostela or Walsingham in Norfolk
  • develop a broader interpretation of pilgrimage as a journey with meaning; walking for health, for remembrance, for leisure, etc. Wider pilgrimage accessibility increases its potential for heritage development
  • promote green pilgrimage ethos as a low carbon socially responsible outdoor activity
  • share best practice on pilgrimage route management, promotion and business engagement
  • enable stakeholders to benefit from regional expertise
  • inform regional policy of project results and outputs
  • support a network of pilgrimage places and routes in Europe
  • develop Green Pilgrimage action plans that enable the development of natural and cultural assets through sustainable economic growth.

Anticipated outcomes

  • improved understanding of Green Pilgrimage across partner regions and how they valorise natural and cultural heritage
  • best practices analysed and available for trial and transfer between regions
  • joint understanding of a range of policies impacting on natural and cultural heritage protection
  • improvement of a range of policies impacting our heritage and analyses of how to transfer improvements between policies
  • ability to measure economic benefits and sustainability of best practices identified
  • improved understanding of smart specialisation innovations for pilgrimage routes
  • stakeholder understanding of a range of growth policies and how they impact natural and cultural heritage
  • increase in European pilgrimage numbers of all faiths and none and across ethnicities and age groups
  • increased value for pilgrimage tourism providing inward investment to natural and cultural heritage assets
  • growth policies that both develop and protect natural and cultural heritage.

Key benefits for Kent

  • increased economic value to the major pilgrimage and long distance assets in Kent e.g. North Downs Way, Pilgrims Way, Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Way, Via Francigena
  • increased awareness of the potential of pilgrimage related tourism for Kent businesses
  • increased knowledge of pilgrimage and long distance walking growth for Kent policy makers and tourism organisations
  • evidence base to enable further funding to improve pilgrimage and long distance walking infrastructure.