Walking Day is held in high esteem by Warrington people.
It dates back to the early 1880s and it is said that early 'walking days' were introduced as a counter-attraction to the Old Newton Races, now well-known as Haydock Park Races. The date was arranged to coincide with the last day of the race meeting, generally on a Friday and it is only in more recent times that the walks are held annually on the Friday nearest to 1 July.
Reverend Powys, Rector of Warrington in 1832, was accredited with its introduction, and the concept of people walking together as an expression of Christian Witness originated from this.
Initially, it is understood that mainly members of the Church of England took part, but in 1857 the first record of Roman Catholic scholars joining in with the celebrations of Walking Day was reported in the Warrington Guardian.
However, until 1908 the different religious denominations followed a separate route from the Church of England procession. Although in 1909 the same route was used by all denominations, the non-conformists and Roman Catholics did not assemble in Bank Park, nor take part in a march past the Town Hall. Eventually, in 1920 all participants in the procession came together to proclaim a joint acknowledgement of Christianity.
Over the years the numbers of participants have varied and past records indicate that some 10,000 children and adults have taken part in the procession. Although there has been a decline in participation, around 4,000 people still walk in the procession each year.
Thousands of the town’s population will be lining the traditional route to enjoy this popular annual occasion, which is now regarded as a step towards the erasure of historical differences between the various churches and their ecumenical aims.
At precisely 10.30am the members of the parish church will, by tradition, walk through the beautiful and famous ceremonial gates to begin the procession, followed by other participating churches from inner Warrington, all proclaiming their Christian faith.
For over 100 years, Warrington Walking Day has given an enormous amount of pleasure not only to those actually taking part in the walks, but also to those who watch along the various routes. It is hoped that it will continue to do so in the years to come.
The next Walking Day will be on Friday 3 July 2020.