Come and celebrate Chester’s great Viking history by taking part in this year’s St Olav’s Viking Heritage Walks named after the Norwegian patron saint who gives his name to St Olave’s Church in Chester, founded by the city’s Viking settlers.
The walk is organised by Professor Steve Harding in conjunction with the re-enactment group Viking Chester – this will be the 10th anniversary of the highly popular walks.
Previous walkers have included BBC historian Michael Wood – who filmed and broadcast the walk in The Great British Story – A People’s History as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, and BBC’s Tom Pinfold, star of Tudor Monastery Farm.
Prof Harding –author of Science and the Vikings – said: “The idea of the walks started in 2007 – the 1100th anniversary of the Vikings coming to Chester. Although it didn’t get off to a peaceful start they established a vibrant community to the south of the city – alongside the English, and surprising to some many were Christians and St Olave’s church on Lower Bridge Street – named after the patron saint of Norway St Olav Haraldsson – the Viking Saint – originated from these people.
“Every year in Norway during the week leading to St Olav’s Day (July 29) there is a major pilgrimage to Trondheim where he is buried, with thousands taking part.
“We thought it would be a great idea to have a similar walk here, but split in two parts, linking two churches on the Wirral peninsula also with strong Viking roots – St Bridget’s at West Kirby and St Mary and St Neston - with St Olave’s at Chester, so every year since 2007, up to 100 hardy souls – including Norwegians -have been trudging the 20 miles or so to St Olave’s but split over two days.
“This will be the 10th anniversary of the walks (at least in modern times). The idea came from Norwegian friends. Every year they have an annual pilgrimage from all over Scandinavia heading towards the shrine of St Olav at Trondheim. St Olav is the greatly loved patron saint of Norway – his day is July 29, and people walk up to 100 miles.
“Since we have a St Olave’s church in Chester, we thought it would be a good idea to do a mini-walk or pilgrimage to celebrate our own great heritage.”
The Chester and Ellesmere Port walk takes place on on Saturday, July 29 (St Olav’s Day) and will start at the National Waterways Museum, near the old Viking settlement at Whitby, Ellesmere Port (meet at 10am for a 10.30am start) and will go along the towpath of the Shropshire Union Canal, around the City Walls to St Olave’s Church off Lower Bridge Street, in what used to be the Viking part of the city.
This year, as previously, the warriors from the Viking Chester re-enactment group will ensure the safe passage of St Olav ‘pilgrims’ for the final walk. The walkers will be joined by the Rev David Chesters, Canon of St Johns, who will lead everyone to St Olave’s.
The walk will end with a blessing (in both English and Norwegian) and a cup of tea. Along the walk there will be regular updates about places of Viking importance.