The Turtle Dove Pilgrimage



Folk singer Sam Lee, along with William Parsons of the British Pilgrimage Trust, lead eleven pilgrims on a journey across Sussex tracing the origins of the iconic folk song The Turtle Dove.

Over a hundred years ago, the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams travelled through Rusper, Sussex, collecting the stories and songs of the locals he encountered. He stopped at the Plough Inn, where he set up his Edwardian recording equipment to capture the songs of the pub’s landlord, whose crackled voice and haunting melodies can still be heard today. Vaughan Williams transformed one of the humble folk songs, The Turtle Dove, into a choral hit – extracting the song from Sussex and exporting it to the concert halls of London.

This Pilgrimage seeks to return the song to the land from which it was taken.

Moving through woods, churchyards and village halls, the pilgrims sing as they progress toward the Knepp rewilding estate, where they hope to sing The Turtle Dove to the last remaining colony of turtle doves in Sussex. Along the way, the pilgrims muse on the meaning of pilgrimage in a secular age and the contemporary relevance of this ancient song.

Presenter: Sam Lee
Producer: Claire Crofton
A TBI production for BBC Radio 4

A pilgrimage across Sussex tracing the origins of the iconic song The Turtle Dove.