Popular vicar drowns rowing 150 miles on pilgrimage from Dorset to Cornwall

Reverend Bob Thorn drowned during the 150-mile rowing pilgrimage along the Jurassic Coast(Photo: Paasikivi)

The body of a popular Dorset vicar was found washed up on the beach of the coastal hamlet of Seatown on Monday, just five miles from his parish of Burton Bradstock.

Reverend Bob Thorn, 59, who was the rector of eight churches in the Bride Valley Benefice, was on the return leg of a Lenten rowing pilgrimage, travelling from Cornwall back to Dorset.

He had left Burton Bradstock in February and had rowed to Pendower Beach near Falmouth in Cornwall, where he had planned to spend Lent in contemplation and prayer, living self-sufficiently in an attempt to become closer to God.

He took the journey in small stages, moving between sea coves, some of which were only accessible by sea.

When his wrecked 10ft long timber boat washed ashore, the police and coastguard searched a fifty mile stretch between Teignmouth in Devon and West Bay in Dorset.

His body was later found in a small cove a few hundred feet from where the boat had been discovered.

Rev Thorn, who was married to another priest and had four children, was inspired by traditions of Celtic Christianity. A keen rower, he enjoyed following in the footsteps of sixth century monks who would often row between places to pray.

He had mentioned his trip in the parish newsletter, which was quoted in the Daily Mail: "When I say, please pray for me, I have to say that I would love sunny skies and warm, helping breezes, but they are not for you to ask.

"They will be as they are. But I do ask your prayers, please, for the fortitude of God being with me, to be strong and of a good courage."

The police have said that they are not treating Rev Thorn's death as suspicious. A post mortem has not yet been carried out.

Along with his pastoral duties, Rev Thorn was a keen singer songwriter who had been active in the Bristol folk music scene in the 1970s.

Adrian Collis, his manager and friend, said to the Daily Mail: "He was a very good songwriter, and part of his thinking of going on his latest pilgrimage was that he would write songs about it on his return, and share his experiences with people through his music.

"Sadly he will never get the chance to do that."

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