St. Olave’s Wirral-Chester Viking walk

Friday July 29th 2011


John_19950001StVIK  9845

- in conjunction with St. Olave’s Chester, the Church of St. Mary & St. Helen at Neston, Wirral, Wirral Council and the Municipality of Trondheim


Enjoy some of our magnificent Viking Heritage the healthy way! The annual St. Olave’s Wirral-Chester Viking Walk commemorates St. Olav Haraldsson, patron saint of Norway and goes from St. Mary and St. Helen’s in Neston (Nesstún) to St. Olave’s in Chester (13 miles or 20km). It was recently featured in The Norseman magazine.  All are welcome on the 2011 walk on 29th July (St. Olav’s day) and we meet at 9.30am.


from “On the Pilgrim Way to Trondheim” by Stein Thue: Wandering into a new landscape: Pilgrims made their way to the shrine of St. Olav in Nidaros Cathedral (the Cathedral in Trondheim) for a little over five hundred years, from 1031 until the reformation in 1537.  When we now encourage people to walk the pilgrim ways it is to reap the benefits of outdoor life, special cultural experiences and personal reflection. The pilgrim dares to leave behind everything that is near and dear and wander into a new landscape, where he becomes a peregrine, a wanderer from far away.  In the middle ages he would break from everything around him to express his devotion, seek healing, or do penance.  Today a pilgrim seeks knowledge, recreation and self-fulfilment in such a way that perhaps the path is more important than the goal.
The pilgrim understands that there is a path he must travel and that there is risk in the endeavour.  The benefits nevertheless outweigh the risk for those who dare embark on such and adventure, as on their return from their fulfilling wandering, they will shed at least one prejudice and replace it with at least one new idea.




Please note, that though this walk is not strenuous, it is long. Please wear appropriate footwear and bring refreshments to last the distance. People who take part do so at their own risk.


The walk is approximately 20km (13 miles) and starts at the St. Mary & Helens Church at Neston (meet 9.30am – includes a demonstration of the magnificent Viking stonework (fragments of at least 3 crosses) and replica reconstruction of one of the crosses (the “Viking Lady” cross) shown above - and makes its way along the coast via Denhall to Burton, then Shotwick, joining the towpath of the Canal at Blacon and through to St Olave’s Church in Chester. 


King Olaf Haraldsson (995 – 1030) is credited with converting Norway to Christianity. In life he was a typical Viking; he spent most of his life fighting, and he died in the Battle of Stiklestad. However, his support for the new religion meant that he was recognised as a saint soon after his death. His cult spread quickly to other Scandinavian countries – which at that time included England - and in Chester St Olave’s Church was an early dedication by its Viking residents to the new saint. Throughout the old Viking lands the festival of St Olav (the “Olsok”) is still celebrated on the days near the anniversary of his death, 29th July, 1030.

   A time for reflection for the pilgrim against some beautiful Wirral scenery        

The main Olsok Festival in Trondheim Norway is celebrated well into August and includes a pilgrimage, which runs from Oslo to Trondheim, where he is buried.  The festival was recently revived also in Wirral as part of the 1100th anniversary celebrations of Vikings settling in Wirral, and culminated in a service led by the 2002 St. Olavspilgrimprest Kjell Skartseterhagen at St. Olave’s (see the video links below which describe the background).  From this sprung the idea of a Viking Churches Heritage walk between the Church of St. Mary and St. Helen at Neston - St. Helen is also associated with Norse settlers coming via Ireland - and houses the famous fragments of some ring headed crosses recording events from the life of a Viking couple.

Important Notice for Participants

As in previous years, the July 29th 2011 walk will require a reasonable level of fitness to complete the full distance of 13 miles or 20km - this is a long way.  As before it will also be possible to join in for only part of the walk.

Make sure that you wear adequate footwear - this is particularly important for this years walk from Neston to Chester where there will be a stretch which has a sharp cinder surface, and the route also passes through lanes and fields which may be muddy or waterlogged.

Make sure that you have adequate clothing, especially waterproofs (if the forecast is for showers) and sun-lotion if the forecast is sunny.

There are no shops along the route where refreshments can be bought (with the exception at Burton Manor), so please bring your own supplies - in particular it is important that you bring something to drink.

Toilet Facilities: There will be some at the church at Neston, then at Burton Manor: we are hoping to arrange a break at Shotwick, but there will be no further facilities until Telford’s Warehouse Pub at Chester Canal as, like Ingimund in AD907, we reach the City Walls.  Please note that walkers are responsible for their own safety and come on the walk at their own risk. To give the police an idea of numbers please can you let me (Steve Harding) know by Thursday 28th July, 12noon.

We would like to make it clear that, in common with the main Olsok Pilgrimage in Norway, although we provide a guide, you come at your own risk and are responsible for yourselves.  You are also responsible for making your own transport arrangements from St. Olave’s at the end of the walk.  It may be possible for groups to share a taxi back to Neston.

Outline Route

·         Meet at 9.30am for a 10am start at St. Mary and St. Helen’s Church, Neston. Then along the old coastline to Denhall and Burton

·         Then to Puddington and Shotwick, to the Chester cycleway (mind the bikes!) and joining the canal towpath at Blacon.

·         Along the towpath at Chester to the Castle Walls, then to St. Johns Street, Wolfgate, Duke Street, then up Lower Bridge Street a few metres to St. Olave’s.


Detailed Route and maps:  click here.



Reconstructed replica.jpg

The magnificent “Viking Lady” Neston cross replica/ reconstruction at St. Mary and St. Hilary’s – the start of the walk






Please note that walkers are responsible for their own safety and come on the walk at their own risk.



Steve Harding,



St. Olave’s




Pilot event, July 26th 2008

~20 walkers/Pilgrims, made the trip in 2008, including the Norwegian Consul of Liverpool and his dog Morgan, under absolutely glorious conditions.   After a demonstration of the Viking stonework in the Church of St. Mary and St. Helen (Neston) the party moved on with stops at Burton (courtesy of Dovecote Nurseries) and Puddington (courtesy of Michael and Sarah Groves).  After a stop at the Norman Church of St. Michaels at Shotwick we pushed on across the Welsh Border and then onto the cycleway at Sealand where Dan and Steve gave a talk about the Vikings and St. Olave.  We then pressed on along the cycleway back across the border again to the Canal towpath at Chester and the final stretch down Northgate and Bridge Street with the weary walkers arriving at St. Olaves at 16.30… and then down to the Cross Keys Pub! 

Hear this preview to the walk on CityTalk105.9 (Liverpool) recorded just before the walk started and this article in Wirral News appearing the previous Wednesday.

Here are some photographs, courtesy of Dan! (click to download the high-res image):

Olsok08_3(Norwegian_Consul Olsok08_4(field_near-Shotwick)

Olsok08_6(Chester_canal) Olsok08_8(St





Article in the Norseman Magazine, January/February 2009


Olsok: St. Olaf's pilgrimage in Norway produced by Trondheim Kommune


Ólavsøka: St. Olav’s Festival in Faroe Islands


Olsok Service at St. Olave’s Church, August 2001


Olsok Service at St. Olave’s Church, August 2002


St. Olave’s Wirral Chester Viking Walk 2010 


Wirral and West Lancashire 1100th Viking anniversary Home Page.
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