A pilgrimage for nature 

The Ancestor’s Trail is a walking event inspired by biodiversity and our belonging in nature. Based on Richard Dawkins’ book ‘The Ancestor’s Tale’, metaphorically we lay the Tree of Life over the landscape lining up its branches with existing footpaths to form walking trails - see the example maps below.

On the event day, groups of people gather at the tips of these branches representing the life-forms they include, such as monkeys, marsupials, birds, butterflies, plants and, of course, ourselves. Symbolically, as we walk we rewind evolution from the present day backwards in time towards our shared origins with all life nearly 4 billion years ago. 

With a little pre-arranged choreography, each group's starting time is contrived so that everyone meets and merges along the way. In this way our ever-increasing band of pilgrims arrive together at a place representing the 'dawn of life'. 

Wherever possible, each trail begins (and ends) close to public transport links. The event embraces both science and the arts to help us negotiate its extraordinary journey and has taken place at least 20 times in 5 different locations including the UK, USA, Canada and Russia. 

Its aim is to support Nature Conservation and, so far, has been run by either Humanists or academic institutions. 

A new version of Richard Dawkins' and Dr Yan Wong's book The Ancestor's Tale, is now available. The book,on which our trail is based, takes us on a journey back through time meeting up with our increasingly distant common ancestors.

The One Zoom allows you to explore the tree of life in a completely new way: like a map, everything is on one page, all you have to do is zoom in and out.

'Congratulations on this great thing you've created'

Tim Minchin

'A biological pilgrimage in Epping. Quite interesting!'

Stephen Fry

© 2018 Ancestor's Trail

Background photograph by Martin Morris