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Help me to preserve Gloucestershire's hidden gem

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The little church of St James the Great in Stoke Orchard may appear humble and unassuming from the outside, but upon crossing its threshold one immediately realises that it's a special and ancient space. 

St James' is one of Gloucestershire's lesser-known gems. Its nave is covered with numerous layers of wall paintings, including one of Europe's earliest and best-preserved cycles of the life of St James the Great -  the patron saint of pilgrims. This is not a coincident: the church was built en route to the most popular of medieval pilgrimage sites – Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

These unique wall paintings are now in need of conservation intervention to ensure that they are preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. Although the church is much loved by the local community, the cost of conservation work is a burden too heavy for them to bear and generous help is needed to have the paintings conserved and interpreted better.,

From the moment I first met members of St James' congregation and saw the paintings up close I knew I wanted to do something to help. Since then we've been collaborating closely planning a conservation project. We managed to attract some of the best professionals in the country to have the paintings assessed and come up with recommendations for treatment. We are now hoping to start conservation work - Phase 1 of the project- in the summer. Phase 2 will see the church made more welcoming for all and its amazing heritage better interpreted.  

What is the best way to raise money for a church dedicated to a patron saint of pilgrims? It must be a sponsored walk to Santiago de Compostela! I always wanted to experience what it is like to walk in the footsteps of thousands, if not millions of pilgrims who have embarked on their Camino way for all sorts of reasons; to search for the divine, try to understand the meaning of life, test their physical strength or simply have an adventure of their lifetime.

This Easter, together with my friend Liz Kitch, the DAC Secretary from Oxford Diocese, raising money for historic churches in her diocese, I will walk to Santiago de Compostela to help fund St James’ wall paintings conservation campaign. We will walk the so-called Camino Ingles, or ‘The English Way’, starting in the Spanish city of Ferrol. It should take us 6 or possibly 5 days (if we are lucky!) to reach our destination by Easter Sunday. 

We will be posting updates on Instagram, so please follow @adam_and_liz_walking_to_santiago to check on our progress!

Please consider making a small donation to sponsor me and help to have these amazing paintings conserved.     

The church is open every day, so please come and visit at your convenience!

Thank you in advance for your contribution to this cause that means so much to me.


Adam Klups

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