Medieval pilgrimage by Chichester historian in a homemade boat

'Pilgrim' Steven Payne on his medieval-style journey across Wales with his coracle.

'Pilgrim' Steven Payne on his medieval-style journey across Wales with his coracle.

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A medieval enthusiast spent his Christmas on a perilous 230-mile pilgrimage across Wales, raising awareness of homelessness.

Steven Payne, from West Stoke, built a boat to sail the journey made by St Brendan in 530AD along the river Wye to Llancarfan Abbey.

The historian, known for cycling into Chichester on a Penny Farthing, wore only medieval-style clothing for the trip and slept rough.

He said: “I was up on the top of Wales’ highest mountain wearing a sixth century woollen kirtal, basically a long wool dress with a belt round the middle, it was absolutely freezing, carrying a boat.

“I don’t think anyone in the history of humanity has been up there carrying a boat.”

Selling medieval style badges for the two-week trek in December raised £780, but Steven wants to encourage people to offer help directly and reduce the stigma of sleeping rough.

He said homeless people were the ‘modern equivalent of medieval lepers’ in terms of social isolation.

“When you’re homeless you tend to think of yourself as the invisible man,” he said. “When you give directly, you need to have a conversation.”

The trip follows his pilgrimage last year from Southampton to Canterbury, but this year’s trip provided new challenges in remote areas with little chance of help.

Despite losing his boat and hurting his head on rocks half way through, Steven perservered and said he was surprised by the kindness of strangers along the way.

Next year, he plans to hike to Rome or follow the English Eleanor Crosses.

“As long as it’s medieval, as long as it’s perilous, I’m happy,” he said.

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