A DORSET man has completed a 1,411 mile foot pilgrimage to Rome.

Former soldier Harry Bucknall walked for 94 days after setting off from Child Okeford.

He trekked through temperatures of 40C and routinely completed 15-20 miles a day, setting off at around 5.30am to avoid the hottest part of the day.

Harry, an author, is not a religious man but has “spiritual wanderings”, and did the journey for the adventure.

He told the Echo: “Everybody writes about the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage to Spain but very few people have written about this pilgrimage to Rome.

“It’s a much harder route and it’s much longer.”

He set off in May and went through London, northern France, Switzerland, and into Italy and over the Apennine Mountains.

At night he stayed in whatever accommodation was to hand – from youth hostels to monasteries – and he walked with friendly strangers all along the route, including a group of young Polish priests making their own pilgrimage.

“There were two very difficult stretches,” he said.

“One was from between Reims and Bernisson in France which was very flat and very boring, and the other was crossing the Apennines. The gradients were simply appalling.

“But what was incredible was the human kindness you met along the way.”

He took a pair of large brass keys inscribed by Child Okeford engineer Mike Marshall. One will be displayed on the church wall and Harry will keep the other.

Harry, 46, who served in the army for 12 years and was a Major of the Coldstream Guards, is from Everley.

He is now a project manager and travel writer and the adventure will be turned into his second book, provisionally called ‘Like A Tramp, Like A Pilgrim’, due to be published next year by Bloomsbury.