The St. Morrell Round

St Morrell’s Round – context and background by Phil Gilbert of Hallaton

The inspiration for this route came after walking the Camino to Santiago in northern Spain.
Returning home from walking for nearly 1,000km across varied landscapes, visiting ancient churches
and medieval villages, and sharing the journey with old companions and new friends, the idea began
to germinate that these experiences were actually available on our own doorstep.
During the first period of Corona Virus lock-down, the appreciation of what we have here in
Leicestershire became a desire to share it and with a nudge from the British Pilgrimage Trust the St
Morrell’s Round was formulated and then shared.
Pilgrimage is not only an ancient tradition but also touches the “zeitgeist” by engaging with issues
around physical and mental well-being as well as teaching us to appreciate and value the natural
world. In the Celtic Christian Tradition, they talk about “thin places” where the distance between
heaven and earth is reduced; places where people may feel the power and energy of God in different
ways. Hare Pie Bank above Hallaton is, for many people, such a place. We know that for two
thousand years people have been travelling there with spiritual intent.
In the late Iron Age pre-Romano Britons met there to feast and buried the “Hallaton Treasure”, there
was likely a Roman Temple and a Saxon Church built there before Martival built St Morrell’s Chapel
which marked the start of three hundred years of Pilgrimage. This ended at the Reformation;
however records show that within two hundred and fifty years the Easter Monday tradition of Bottle
Kicking was taking place from the site of the Chapel. After the “bottles” have been blessed in the
Church the “kickers” go in procession up to Hare Pie Bank. Anybody who has witnessed this event
will know that the participants are drawing on some kind of primeval energy not all of which can be
explained by drinking beer!

We do not have any record of the exact routes that pilgrims took to/from Hallaton on their medieval pilgrimage, so St Morrell’s Round does not claim to follow exactly in their footsteps. However, some pilgrims travelling to/from Walsingham went via Langham near Oakham and so they would be travelling across High Leicestershire north of Hallaton. St Morrell’s Round is a circular walk visiting sites, where modern pilgrims can see and experience things that medieval pilgrims passing that way could have seen.

These include Norman and pre-Reformation church architecture, fragments of the ancient Leighfield Forest, and Launde Abbey. Launde Abbey being built on the site of Augustine Launde Priory.
Launde is of special significance as it was seized from the Church by Thomas Cromwell as a personal possession whilst he was executing the dissolution of monasteries for Henry VIII. Launde Abbey is the furthest point of the walk from Hallaton and so is a turning point in a literal sense as well as a representing a turning point in the history of pilgrimage in England.
The St Morrell’s Round is about 28km long (18 miles) and can be walked in one good day or split into two shorter days walk with overnight accommodation being bookable at the Launde Abbey.