Markyate pilgrim and her bear hit the trail again

PUBLISHED: 07:55 10 April 2010 | UPDATED: 15:02 06 May 2010

Jacky Gurney and her bear, Benoit

Jacky Gurney and her bear, Benoit

A PARISHIONER and her trusty teddy bear are planning a pilgrimage across Spain. Jacky Gurney, who attends St John the Baptist Church in Church End, Markyate, is one of a group of pilgrims from the diocese of St Albans who will embark on a section of the

A PARISHIONER and her trusty teddy bear are planning a pilgrimage across Spain.

Jacky Gurney, who attends St John the Baptist Church in Church End, Markyate, is one of a group of pilgrims from the diocese of St Albans who will embark on a section of the Camino de Santiago, or The Way of St James, in September.

She joined other pilgrims in the Abbey Orchard on Monday with her teddy bear alongside her.

Jacky, who lives in Pickford Road, completes a 100km stretch of the ancient pilgrim path each year and when she and her fellow pilgrims were walking the Bordeaux section of the journey in 2007, she spotted a small bear sitting on the counter of the tourist office.

Jacky, 58, said that the bear has been her companion ever since: "He was wearing a wine-maker's apron and looked rather sweet, so I made a space for him on the top of my rucksack and now he accompanies me on my pilgrimages. Known as Benoit, he features in many of my pilgrimage photos, usually peeping out of my rucksack!"

In September the St Albans pilgrims will start their Spanish journey at Estella and finish in Burgos, leaving a 500km stretch to the finish point at the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela which they will complete at a later date.

Jacky, who has been embarking on pilgrimages for five years, said that was a great passion of hers: "While I have always loved walking, this is a walk with real purpose. I get to spend time away from the bustle of everyday life, which gives me time to think and reflect on life with its richness of blessings and problems, and get a bit closer to God.

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