For decades people have enjoyed the pastime of collecting patches. The hobby took off in the 19th and 20th centuries as travel become more accessible and people were able to enjoy greater amounts of leisure time.
However, the roots of collecting keepsakes go back much further in time. For example, Christian pilgrims in the 12th to 15th centuries were known to collect metal badges to commemorate their journeys and the shrines they had visited. The small lead or pewter badges would usually be pinned to a hat or cloak to show others where they had been.
Pilgrims would touch their badges upon a holy shrine in the belief that it would absorb some of the spiritual power of the associated saint. Some of the pilgrim badges were very popular, with over 100,000 being sold annually at certain religious sites! Collections of surviving badges are displayed in the British Museum.
In today’s busy world, getting out in nature and enjoying time away from screens and traffic offers many people (the writer included) that important headspace and chance to re-set. Collecting patches is a humble way of commemorating a favourite trip, a new place visited or a particular achievement.
Whether you’ve walked the West Highland Way or climbed your first Wainwright, finding a patch with a beautiful design worthy of representing that moment in time can be very satisfying.
Next time you’re on top of a mountain, why not try tapping your patch on the trig point or cairn, perhaps you’ll absorb some of the mountain's spiritual energy!