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Archive for the ‘walks around the UK’ Category

Day 2 of my Way of St Augustine walk dawned bright and cheerful; blue skies and fluffy white clouds 🙂 Yayyy. I had been so blessed with the weather on both my walks. Most of the days were lovely blue skies and fluffy white clouds and not too hot. Perfect for walking. I guess one can excuse the heat and rain if one had good weather otherwise 😉

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You are here….yayyy 🙂 Bright sunny day and I’m off for a walk

I slept so well that night at The Rising Sun Inn… the bed was so comfy I could quite easily just have stayed in bed the whole day. LOL But adventures awaited and breakfast would soon be on the table. I dressed, tidied the room, packed Pepe and set off. First stop: dining room. Nary a soul joined me…apparently I was the only guest that night. Besides the ghosts that is.

Breakfast was a splendid affair….’Full English’ please preceded by cereal, tons of fruit and a cup of tea. I had to eat well since it wasn’t likely I would eat again that day till Canterbury. Anyway I needed the energy.

And then it was time to go. Bill settled I got some last minute instructions from the landlady and at 08:35 I was on my way…first a bit of an explore of the hamlet then onto School lane and across the fields…..it’s along this lane, through the gate and directly across the fields, just head towards the church spire! Hmmmm. Nope.

After much backwards and forwards and walking through a farmers farm 😉 which was actually a bonus since they were picking raspberries and I got to taste some (delicious), I finally decided to ignore the direction to walk through the gate, checked map my walk and set off…once again creating my own ‘way’ and St Augustine will just have to deal with that! So there!!

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lovely open fields but nary a church spire in sight

I did finally spy the church spire and although it definitely wasn’t direct, I eventually found my way. The houses were so quaint and quintessentially English it was hard to bear it! As I passed close to the church I saw one house that I just loved. I remember thinking that it looked a bit sad and that if I lived there I’d be out in the garden enjoying the flowers and the roses. When I read the visitor’s book I noticed a heart-felt request to pray for the health of a lady, someone’s Mother….turns out she lived in that house, but a little notation above the original request mentioned that she had sadly died just the week before. It was so heartbreaking, and then I understood why the house looked sad.

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a beautiful house with an air of sadness. I love the roses and the red phone box. quintessential English houses

All Saint’s Church, West Stourmouth was just wonderful to visit. An absolute gem of a church, so much history within those walls. The first incumbent 1281!!! Just wow. Reading the memorials is truly eye-watering…some of the dates are just incredible. I spent some time there just absorbing the serenity and peace and then set off once again….I could not find the route. After walking back and forth I finally spotted two gentlemen chatting nearby and asked them…they showed me where to turn and I wasn’t mistaken, it really just wasn’t clear and there were no markers. Perhaps because I had come a different route straight from the inn instead of from Plucks Gutter, I probably came in at a different angle and therefore the map didn’t make sense.

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these little churches are absolute gems. a real treasure house of history

Walking through the Kent countryside was such a treat. I crossed channels of water and walked through fields of ‘something or other’…sorry no idea…I’m not an expert, but it was lovely anyway 😉

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channels of water and fields of crops

My next destination was Grove Ferry and the marina. A gentleman suggested I head towards the house with the boat on the roof? Okayyyy. It took me just over an hour of walking and I was there….blissful green grass and lots of lovely water. Pity I couldn’t have a swim!! I spotted a pub, The Grove Ferry Riverside Pub, and stopped off for tea and a piece of cake and the all important rest. Chatted to a family who were driving through. Nice.

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house with a boat on the roof! paths of green. Grove Ferry Marina and the pub. another gate

And then it was the long stretch through Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve in the Wickhambreaux Valley. I loved the many gates I passed through.

What a treat it was walking through the nature reserve. Over an hour of peace and quiet, just me and nature; miles of grasses, channels of water, birds, butterflies, bees, dragon flies and blue skies with fluffy white clouds; blissful.

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Stodmarsh Nature Reserve

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As I neared the exit I noticed a wooden bench with the word DAD sculpted on the back. I rested there for about 10 minutes and thought about my Dad who has also done a number of ‘Caminos’.

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DAD – nice

Shortly afterwards I found St Mary’s Church in the village of Stodmarsh. Another wonderful little church. To my surprise there was a story board featuring the Way of St Augustine 🙂 Magic. I’m on the right road! This hamlet too was just gorgeous; ancient buildings and so much history it’s hard to take it all in.

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a dainty little hamlet – Stodmarsh

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St Mary’s Church Stodmarsh

As I left the village I passed some amazing farms; wide open spaces with the river in the background. Such a beautiful day I could barely believe it. And so goodbye to Stodmarsh. This country is beautiful.

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Goodbye Stodmarsh

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I love a good tree

From here I set off through some pretty remote countryside, through forests of trees, some old, some newish, along lonely pathways, past lakes and occasionally I spied other walkers through the trees…usually disappearing before I reached them. It was weird, but interesting.

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The Way of St Augustine – I’m pretty sure these trees are not the same he saw!

My next destination was the Domesday Book village of Fordwich that I reached just before 3pm. Stunning place. As I entered the village I passed a house named ‘Monks rest’ – too divine!!!

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Fordwich; a Domesday Book Village on the Way of St Augustine

The church again was just amazing!!! I love these churches, they are so extraordinary. This church like the others, an absolute gem of a stop on my route, was open but again sadly, no pilgrims stamp. You can feel the aeons of history thick in the air; as early as 620AD with remnants of the Saxon building. And I just loved the donation box!! Stunning. I had never seen one like it before. I spent ages here and got to speak to quite a few people as they came in to visit. I signed the visitors book and was delighted to see that a couple from Shawnigan Lake, Canada were waking the Way of St Augustine on the same day as me 🙂

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Church of St Mary the Virgin Fordwich

16 fordwich church

Before I left Fordwich I crossed the river over the bridge and took some photos. Definitely going to have to visit here again..so much to see and so little time.

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Fordwich; a Domesday Book village on the Way of St Augustine. The Town Hall is awesome! loved the houses

It was by then already 15:30 and if I still wanted to visit St Augustine’s Abbey and Conduit House, I had to get moving.

Things get a bit hazy from here onwards. I was already very tired. The previous two days of walking had worn me out. Thank goodness I had decided to do these 2 walks prior to my Camino in Europe. I have learned so much about distances, timing, and carrying the backpack. Invaluable lessons that allowed me to adjust my Porto to Santiago route considerably.

As a result of my tiredness and the map not matching what I was seeing, I very definitely went off-route!! I asked for directions but the people I spoke to hadn’t heard of St Augustine’s Way so I simply asked for directions to Canterbury…and ended up having to navigate a golf-course and finally ended up on the Roman Road into Canterbury rather than following the final stages of Augustine’s route. 😦 But on the plus side, I found a cafe for some much needed chocolate and a sugar-rush…a can of Coke. I seldom drink the stuff but these were desperate times and I really needed the energy.

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countryside and reading maps….LOL

And as a major bonus I managed to visit St Martin’s Church…even though it was closed by the time I eventually got there. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe that I managed somehow to end up visiting this church. Although it was securely locked, I did get to walk around the grounds for a few minutes and rested there before my final push into Canterbury.

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St Martin’s Church Canterbury – oldest church in continuous use in the country

St Martin’s Church was the private chapel of Queen Bertha of Kent in the 6th century before Augustine arrived from Rome. Considered to be the oldest Church in the English speaking world still used for worship, and has been for over 1,400 years. It was here that Queen Bertha welcomed Augustine, who with his 40 companions, set up his mission when he arrived from Rome in 597 AD to convert the Saxons. Here they remained until King Ethelbert granted him the land for the abbey and the cathedral which, with St Martin’s, now form the Canterbury World Heritage Site.

And so to Canterbury Cathedral. Footsore and weary beyond belief I passed through the city walls at just on 17:00! Hoorah. I would be in time, only just, to get my Pilgrim’s Passport stamped at the Visitor’s Centre. Once again it was supremely fun at arrive at the gate to the cathedral as a Pilgrim; the folks on duty at the gate are marvellous and made a great fan-fare of my arrival 🙂 – Make way – we have a Pilgrim coming through. Hoorah!! By 17:15 my passport was stamped and I was having my photo taken in front of the cathedral. What a blessing. What a journey. I still can’t quite believe that I actually walked for 3 solid days. Wheww.

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Finally through the city walls and so to Canterbury Cathedral

The staff invited me to stay for the Choral Mass which I did. But first a bit of an explore. I visited the cloisters and the Chapter House where I photographed the stained glass window featuring Archbishop Chichele for my client. They had a fantastic exhibition about pilgrimage to Canterbury featuring the route from Winchester…next on my list me thinks 😉

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Canterbury Cathedral – journey’s end The Way of St Augustine

As I left a verger came along to lock up and I asked her to direct me to the tomb of St Augustine. She went one better and unlocked the area for me; usually closed to visitors so that I could take some photos and pay homage. I can’t describe how fantastic that was.

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The shrine of St Augustine at Canterbury Cathedral

After the choral service I went walkabout through the gardens and almost got myself locked into the grounds for the night LOL But fortunately I discovered to my relief that the entrance to the cloisters was still open. Not that I would have minded staying there overnight, but I had places to go and people to see….and work the next day!!! blergh.

It seemed such a let down to be heading back to work after such an amazing 3 days. But needs must; I have a Camino to save up for!

I did a quick tour of Canterbury to take some photos and then I was off to the station;

The River Stour in Canterbury - looking towards the East Bridge

The River Stour in Canterbury – looking towards the East Bridge

no time for a pancake treat this trip but I shall make up for it next visit! I reached Tonbridge (my accommodation for the night) at just after 9pm. Seriously ready for a shower and bed.

And so endeth my pilgrimages to Canterbury; the Roman town of Dvrovernvm.

In case you missed it: Day 1 The Way of St Augustine

Medieval pilgrimage: a pilgrimage is a journey to a holy place connected with the stories of the bible. People have made pilgrimages for centuries and thousands still do so today, but it was especially popular in the medieval period. Early churches were built over the tombs of saints. The bodies and relics of saints, famous miracle-working images and statues , and holy wells, all attracted pilgrims. Apart from major holy cities such as Rome and Jerusalem, there were many thousands of major and minor pilgrimages sites across Europe and hundreds in England.

Why is Canterbury so important?Canterbury is where St Augustine, who reconverted parts of southern England to Christianity founded his cathedral in 597 AD. The cathedral always attracted pilgrims as a special holy place, but it was only after the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170 that large numbers of pilgrims began to come to Canterbury. Canterbury has one of the largest collections of holy relics; bones, clothes and other items associated with saints in England. Most pilgrims only visited Canterbury once in their lives, so it was important to make it as memorable an experience as possible. Pilgrims, then as now, liked to take a souvenir of their journey, and Canterbury had many different badges that could be bought in the town, and which would identify the wearer as a pilgrim to Thomas Becket’s shrine. 

 

 

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St Augustine’s Way from Ramsgate to Canterbury.

The Way of St Augustine aka St Augustine’s Way – I first learned about this particular walk on one of my many Camino 2017 practice walks between Broadstairs and Cliffsend last year. Frankly I’d never heard of St Augustine before then but by all accounts he was quite an adventurous fella. I did some research and decided to do the walk.

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St Augustine

I’d made a list of walks I wanted to do in the UK so added this as it was quite short at 19 miles from Ramsgate to Canterbury and seemed eminently achievable.

As it turned out I actually walked 28 miles (?) and the hours are only my walking hours, not rest periods during the day. I was able to tag the walk on after my Southwark to Canterbury finale that ended on 29th July.

Day 1 : Walked 24.03 kms (15.02 miles) – 8 hours and 24 minutes
Day 2 : Walked 20.93 kms (13.08 miles) – 8 hours and 04 minutes

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Broadstairs to Ramsgate

 

The Way of St Augustine; my journey from Ramsgate to Canterbury started really from Broadstairs, at which time I walked from Viking Bay to St Augustine’s Shrine in Ramsgate.  I’d had some really amazing help from Hunter and John of Friends of St Augustine, who prepared maps for me and answered my questions about the route and where to stay etc.

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The St Augustine Trail

I’d decided to attend the Sunday morning service at the shrine and so at 07:11 on July 30th I set off with Pepe; my fully loaded backpack, heading for Ramsgate. The service started at 08:30 and I figured I had loads of time since it usually took me just on 45 minutes to walk the distance…Hah!! I hadn’t factored in the weight of the backpack slowing me down and forgot that I still had to climb the hill on the opposite side of Ramsgate Harbour and walk to the shrine…as a result I slipped into the church with 2 minutes to spare and sweating profusely from rushing to get there on time.

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St Augustine’s Shrine in Ramsgate

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Shrine of St Augustine

After the service I took some photos (of course) and then joined the parishioners for tea and biscuits and a wee chat, and at 09:44, following the map that John had kindly printed for me I set off from The Shrine heading for the 2nd of what was to be many stops; St Augustine’s Cross.

I passed through familiar territory walking along the clifftops at Ramsgate and stopped for a swing in the park…how can I not? It’s my favourite 😉

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stopping for a swing 🙂

From there it’s a short walk to Pegwell Bay

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Pegwell Bay – I wonder how it looked in AD 597

and taking the clifftop walk I soon passed the Viking Ship and Cliffs End village signboard,

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Viking Ship at Cliffsend

then a right turn and within no time at all I found the cross….I can’t believe I didn’t know it was there!! Managed by English Heritage, it’s free to visit.

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St Augustine’s Cross

After taking some photos and getting my bearings on the map, I found myself walking along secluded lanes and farmlands. One field in particular was really amazing…sunflowers as far as the eye could see.

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sunflowers; a touch of sunshine on a cloudy day

I had got a wee bit lost just before this as the map didn’t show the massive arterial roadway that crossed over the railway and so I missed the turn under the bridge…but thankfully some fella was walking towards me so I didn’t go too far off course. He directed me back to the bridge and mentioned that he had done this many times before!! hmmm. I also missed the crossing of the railway line, but after finding myself in a cul-de-sac of trees, I again retraced my steps and hopped across quick as a flash…I loathe railway crossings.

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the railway crossing I missed…

I got to chat to a lovely elderly gentleman at this point and he was quite impressed at my endeavour. Actually most people looked at me like I was quite insane when I told them what I was doing. LOL Nonetheless I was on the right track and soon I could see the spire of St Mary’s in Minster. I found the abbey quite easily. Oh my word. What a delightful surprise.

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Minster Abbey

Quite different to what I was expecting, but just amazing. I summonsed one of the Nuns who live and work there, and she kindly stamped my Pilgrim’s Passport for me 🙂 Of course I took loads of photos and then visited St. Mary The Virgin Church.

St. Mary’s Church, founded in 670AD is known as the ‘Cathedral on the marshes’ and is the mother-church of western Thanet. Fantastic place with oodles of history. Sadly there was no stamp for my passport.

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St Mary’s – cathedral on the marshes

Quite hungry by then I stopped off at The Bell Inn for Sunday Roast 🙂 A hearty meal very much appreciated.

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The Bell Inn, Minster

The Bell Inn was built during the reign of Elizabeth I in the year 1576 and is apparently a pub with ghosts……The earliest recorded occupant of the property is one Thomas Calfe who is mentioned in a sale document of 1611. In 1715 the rector of the parish held the first tithe supper at The Bell and in 1718 with his help and persuasion a 7 day licence was granted on condition that no liquor be administered between the hours of divine service. The penalty for doing so was a day in the stocks, a heavy fine or in some cases a flogging. In 1864, The Bell was lit by gaslight for the first time.

After a rest (I took my shoes and socks off and revelled in the cool wet grass) and the delicious meal, I hoiked Pepe onto my back and made my way back to the abbey. While at the shrine in Ramsgate earlier I had noticed that there was a Gregorian chant event at the abbey in the afternoon, so I decided to pop in. Getting there a tad late (45 minutes) I slipped quietly through the door…LOL – I only entered right next to the speaker and with a huge backpack…quietly I was not!! However, it seems I had stumbled into what was a semi-private event and there was a fee to be paid?? eeee. Oh well… But the organiser chap kindly let me off since I had got there very late and wasn’t staying for the 6:30 event at the church…which was the chanting part of the event. Duhhhh. So I just stayed as long as it was polite to do so, had a cup of tea and a delicious slice of chocolate cake baked by the nuns, left a hefty donation in lieu of my entrance fee and at 5:30 I set off once again. Destination Plucks Gutter. Seriously? Plucks Gutter??  I thought I’d have a quick squizz at wikipedia and here is their description: “The hamlet is named after a Dutch Drainage Engineer called Ploeg, whose grave is in All Saints Church, West Stourmouth. Ploeg, being the Dutch for a plough, the hamlet takes its origins from the Dutch Protestant tradition of draining marshland by creating a ploughed ditch”. I’m really not sure how that converts to Plucks Gutter…but there it is!! Although just a hamlet it has an interesting history with links to King Alfred and the Vikings, smugglers and of course was part of what was then the Isle of Thanet on the Wantsum Channel (now built over).

Most of the Way of St Augustine walk was through farmland and along streams and what was once Saxon Shore, although I warrant that Augustine would find things very different to his time!

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channels of water and fields of crops

Whenever the going got tough, I reminded myself that they didn’t have it any easier…I think! The land has been pushed back so far since then that you can’t even see the shoreline from that point, so maybe they walked along the beach whilst I was dragging myself through a jungle LOL

Traipsing across farmlands and recently cut fields that left horrible spiky stalks that crunched underfoot I was in danger of being pierced at the ankles!!

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spiky stalks…horrible to walk in this

Barring my first misdirection, I had so far managed to follow the map quite easily with the help of some signs attached to either gate posts or barriers etc…but somewhere, in the middle of nowhere I lost the trail.

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signs…..here there and everywhere…and anywhere

The map indicated to head inland at one point which I did and followed a narrow channel (there were a LOT of channels and streams in this area; salt-marsh works and farmland as far as the eye could see) but the crops were so high and so thick that I simply could not find ‘The Way’. I tried walking along a particular pathway, but that was making me double back and there was no way to cross the channel which appeared to go on for miles…that I could see anyway. Eventually after walking back and forth a few times and carefully looking for the pathway, I gave up and walked back to the river. I could see from the map that it lead towards Plucks Gutter so figured I would walk along the riverbank till I reached the bridge. Hah!!Great plan….or so it seemed.

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sigh

Firstly the riverbank was exceptionally narrow and I walked (dragged myself) along long grass with just a few inches between me and the river. Mindful of the weight of the backpack, I was having nightmare visions of falling in and not being able to surface due to the weight of the pack…but thankfully I had my walking poles. They really came into their own at this point and saved me from many a stumble on uneven ground and a possible tumble into the river. Eventually my luck ran out and the grassy riverbank ran into thickets of weeds and nettles as tall as me!! I was confounded as to what I should do. It was getting later and the sun was setting. Fortunately said sun was ahead of me so pulling on my ‘big girl panties’ I plunged into the fields of corn! Never mind ‘Children of the Corn’ – I am ‘Woman of the Corn’ hahahaha

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Woman of the Corn…no snakes!!

The stalks were taller than me and for at least 30 minutes of plunging and shoving my way through, I could not see anything other than green corn stalks and a faint glimmer of the sun. Walking through these stalks was eerie and a tad unnerving. I was reminded of when I was about 7 or 8 following my grandfather through a small field of corn that he had grown on their property in South Africa. I was casually strolling along behind him when I looked up and right there before me, with head poised to strike was a thin green snake! Fuck! I can tell you that never have I been so terrified. I screamed, the snake snaked and my grandfather came up with a stick and whacked it into kingdom come…or gone! As the case may be. So yeah, walking through this particular field was rather unpleasant. Fortunately I didn’t see any snakes…but perhaps they saw me and scarpered. I was kinda hoping that like Ireland, this particular field didn’t have snakes!

After what seemed like forever, with all sorts of greenery tangled in my hair and poking through my clothes, I stumbled out of the field and voila the bridge was ahead of me 🙂 Hurrah!! Only problem was that I ended up in a boatyard of some sort so had to find my way through a maze and then do some serious climbing of fences and gates. Forget the signs that say ‘Keep Out’ …mate, I’m leaving, no worries.

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Plucks Gutter and the River Stour

I have also learned that I can climb a gate with a fully loaded backpack in situ!! Something I had to do quite frequently on this walk. LOL

Once I reached the bridge over the River Stour it was so much easier; tarmac! Yayyy. I was in Plucks Gutter…but thankfully not in a gutter. I stopped to read the history board outside the Dog and Duck Inn; fascinating stuff!! Then my feet hit the mac and I was off…only a few more minutes of walking to be done and I would be able to have a cuppa and put my feet up, but first I had to navigate this road. It was however quite scary since the road, if you can call it that, was narrow and had no sidewalk or place for pedestrians. Once again I sucked in my breath and set off….The Sun Inn according to the map at the pub was within a 25 minute walk.

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You are here….Plucks Gutter and Stourmouth

And what a treat Stourmouth proved to be, lots of lovely quaint houses greeted me…although frankly I was too tired right then to be more than a little impressed. Suddenly as I rounded a corner there it was….. The Rising Sun Inn – my accommodation for the night. And once again, exhausted and dusty, but not wet (thankfully), I stumbled across the portal and traipsed across the reception area. A lovely young lass showed me to my room, and brought me a much needed cup of tea. The landlady soon came by to say hello whereupon I ordered a platter of sandwiches and crisps – delicious. The room at the Inn was absolutely fantastic. A gorgeous big bed and an ensuite shower.

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The Rising Sun, Stourmouth

Within no time at all I had my shoes off, my very dirty hiking pants hanging up to air, and with my feet up on the comfy couch I settled in for a bit of telly. 🙂 Exploring would have to wait for the morrow…for now, I wasn’t going anywhere except into the shower and then bed!! It seemed perfectly apt for me to be staying at The Rising Sun since one of my ultimate favourite songs is ‘House of the Rising Sun’ (The Animals). I still have the 7-single 😉

A spot of history: “Originally a bakery owned and worked by the Monks of the Diocese of Canterbury, the first part of the building was erected in 1372 during the reign of Edward III. Continuing as a bakery and passing through a number of different owners, the building eventually came into the hands of Edgar Rake; baker and brewer in 1682!! Said gentleman applied for an ale and cider licence that was granted on April 4th, 1695. He carried out some building work in 1708 & 1709 but died before this more modern structure was completed. One Jeremiah Bedley; baker and beer seller took over the premises in 1709 and granted a licence to sell liquor and named the premises “The Rising Sun”….probably coz his patrons saw the sun rising after a heavy night!! LOL From 1709 onwards till 1865 all the Inn Keepers of The Rising Sun were bakers, working the old bakery and running the Inn, except for Thomas Lucke who in 1776 was described as a ‘beer seller, baker and ferryman’. The inn was for many years also known as the Ferryman’s Inn as the men who worked the ferries across the mile-wide estuary to the “Crown” (Cherry Brandy House) at Sarre, met here.”

I was hoping to see the rising of the sun on the Way of St Augustine walk and so to spend the night at a 14th century inn called The Rising Sun is superbly brilliant.

And so to bed…perchance to dream. I slept really well that night….the bed was amazing.

Day 2 The Way of St Augustine

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….and other stuff I learned before I had to…….Press Pause 《 #SouthwarktoCanterbury –
a horse, a horse…..my kingdom for a horse!! I could surely have done with a horse on Tuesday last week!!!

horses southwark to canterbury

with my patron Saint; George to guide me, I set off from The George Inn, Southwark to Canterbury and met some other horses along the way…

And there it is; after 3 days of walking, eating, enjoying, seeing and experiencing – heat, exhaustion, love, joy, excitement, support, exploration and pain, my sojourn came to an abrupt end in Faversham 😔😔😔

town of faversham

My relief at seeing this sign was enormous….I thought I was close to my destination! I wasn’t, and had yet another 45 minutes to go; 3 hills and 6 kms in the rain later…..

A hard lesson to learn, but one I’ll never forget…..= DON’T WALK IN WET SOCKS!!!
Fundamentally I knew not to walk in wet socks, one part of my brain was saying “it’s not a good idea to walk in wet socks” while the other part of my brain was arguing “oh nonsense, it’s fine, they’ll dry out while you’re walking” – well it wasn’t and they didn’t.

That time in Newington when I’d stopped at the church to rest and then shelter from the rain…well I walked across the grass in my socks and got them wet. Why?? Who knows?? But, I’ll spare you the minutiae, suffice to say that by the time I got to Faversham my feet were in a sorry state. Although the blisters only pained for 3 days and have lasted till now, they pretty much spelt disaster for the walk. On the plus side I discovered that Newington was not only a Domesday Book village, but the church contained the tomb of a Saint; Robert, a pilgrim murdered on his way to Canterbury in 1150.

St Mary's Church, Newington and the tomb of St Robert.

St Mary’s Church, Newington and the tomb of St Robert. My view from under the tree where I sat to shelter from the rain

After setting off from Rochester at 05:19, 36.67 kms later at 18:56 I quite literally staggered into the Sun Inn at Faversham; feet in agony, exhausted and drenched to the core!!! Oh did I mention that it rained the last 6 kms of my walk that day? LOL…..well yes. It did. A lot!!!  The look on people’s faces in the bar when I fell over the portal absolutely dripping water everywhere was entertaining. The lass behind the bar counter rolled up a huge wad of paper and gave it to me to dry myself off with. I was so wet that I had to unpack Pepe and toss all my clothes into the tumble dryer…thankfully the proprietor was amenable to my doing that!!

Besides the blisters, my phone crashed in Sittingbourne and just didn’t want to charge up, ergo I ended my photo journey too…..at the Sun Inn at Faversham…with no battery power I didn’t want to continue; it was most important to me to have a photo-journal of my journey. Besides that, I wanted to map my walk all the way, for the record. I tried everything – connected it to my emergency charger, to the plug in the wall….no matter what, it just did not want to charge.

Pilgrimage; Southwark to Canterbury

Pilgrimage; Southwark to Canterbury

I had booked to spend the night at The Sun Inn anyway, the fabulous 17th century inn I’d found in Faversham, which was just as well since I could hobble no further (more on that in Day 2’s episode to follow). The next morning, to spare my feet and the nasty blisters, instead of resuming my walk, I hobbled to the train station and took the train to Canterbury. I had to be back at work within a few days and could not afford to be incapacitated by blisters.

My daughter and I met up as we had arranged at The Falstaff, where we enjoyed our cream/champagne tea. Although to be fair, I don’t think either of us were up to celebrating right then…I was too exhausted and she was too ill. I had planned to stay overnight at The Falstaff Inn, a fantastic 14th century inn just outside the West Gate at Canterbury, which was just as well since I could walk no further. There too the staff were amazing. More about that later. 😉

My daughter and I celebrating my journey at The Falstaff with a Champagne Afternoon Tea in Canterbury

My daughter and I celebrating my journey at The Falstaff with a Champagne Afternoon Tea in Canterbury

The long and short of it is that I will walk the last 8.1 miles from Faversham to Canterbury at the end of July after my current assignment.
The distance on Day 3 from Rochester to Faversham was just too great. Pretty much everyone who walks the Camino and the 1000 Mile Challenge agrees; 22.92 miles is pretty much two days of walking. Of course it can be done, but at what cost?

Some of the distance and direction signs I saw between London and Faversham...and onto Canterbury

Some of the distance and direction signs I saw between London and Faversham…and onto Canterbury

So a few lessons learned, experience gained and new knowledge stored for future reference 😉
Meanwhile I’m back at work. My phone is still not working properly and will have to go in for repair. 😡😡

What have I learned after 3 days of walking and 59 miles? One of the most important lessons I learned from my walk/pilgrimage/Camino has to be: never, ever, never contemplate WALKING WITH WET SOCKS!! Other than that:

  • Plan shorter distances. I didn’t have to walk those distances; just that when planning my route, Google maps said 6 hours and 18.1 miles…..at least this much I have gained for the Camino in September; plan shorter days.
  • Pack light!! Even though my backpack (Pepe) was not at full capacity, weighing in at just over 7.5 kgs at the start last Sunday, by Day 2 I was leaving it lying about and praying someone would pick it up and walk off with it….even with all my valuables in it. Hah!! I did in fact post some of the stuff home from Higham; 1.5 kgs lighter made all the difference to the comfort of carrying my backpack.
southwark to canterbury - backpack

My backpack; Pepe, weighed in at just on 7.5 kgs when I left and 6 kgs after posting home 1.5 kgs of stuff!!

  • Eat!! I love my food, but when I’m walking I tend to forget to eat. So I planned to eat plenty of food, frequently and yet even that wasn’t really enough. I can feel my body is still depleted. I’m bumping up the protein no end and yet I still get excruciating cramps in my legs. I’m guessing those dried black ants my daughter bought as a dare will have to be eaten soon!! hahaha.
  • Drink!! Lots of water. I consumed 6 liters of water on Day 1 between Southwark and Thamesmead. It was 28 degrees c with a humidity level of 44% and terribly terribly hot. The water bladder inserted on the backpack weighed in at 1.5 kgs when filled and added to the overall weight of my backpack, but that supply it was most welcome along the way.
  • Rest!! This is imperative, especially on a very hot day. I did in fact take a lot of rest breaks, but because I had a deadline to reach Gravesend by 8pm for a dinner reservation I had made, I really pushed myself to keep going. Although I did snooze on the grass at Woolwich…and woke myself up with the sounds of snoring LOL.
  • Pack a rain poncho!!! Yes, I had packed my rain poncho, but because the weight of the bag was killing me on Day 2 I posted the poncho (weight 385 grams), along with my sandals and a few other bits and bobs, back to my daughter. hmmm.

In all, I had a great time. I will write more about my Southwark to Canterbury walk that ended at Faversham in due course. I discovered some extraordinary places, explored magical churches (one of which was being built at the time Chaucer travelled to Canterbury – I mean seriously, how awesome is that!!!), met some wonderful people along the way and saw some incredible sights. I am planning on writing up a day to day travelogue, but in the meantime –

Here are the stats:

1 Pilgrim’s Passport – duly stamped 🙂

southwark to canterbury pilgrims passport

1 Castle – Rochestersouthwark to canterbury rochester castle

1 Horse – seen in a field near Bapschild – ate my tangerine!!southwark to canterbury rochester castle

2 Cathedrals –

Southwark Cathedralpilgrimage southwark to canterbury southwark cathedral

Rochester Cathedralpilgrimage southwark to canterbury rochester cathedral

3 blisters – one on my left heel and two under the ball of my right foot. I cannot tell you how painful those two blisters were by Day 4…..which as it turned out was entirely different to how I originally planned it!!! Duh

3 Inns –pilgrimage southwark to canterbury medieval inns

The George Inn (17th century galleried coaching inn), Southwark.

The Sun Inn (17th century), Faversham.

The Falstaff (14th century), Canterbury.

5 Beds –

YHA Thamesidepilgrimage southwark to canterbury

The Old Prince of Orange, Gravesendpilgrimage southwark to canterbury

Greystones B&B, Rochesterpilgrimage southwark to canterbury

The Sun Inn, Favershampilgrimage southwark to canterbury

The Falstaff, Rochesterpilgrimage southwark to canterbury

6 liters of water – drunk on the first day….between Southwark and Thamesmead

6 kms walked in pouring rain – sans rain poncho (uhmmm yes, well)

9 Churches –pilgrimage southwark to canterbury

The first 3 churches I visited in Gravesend, none of which had pilgrim stamps.

St Mary the Virgin, Chalk – closed

St John’s Church, Higham – open 🙂

St Mary the Virgin, Newington – open 🙂

St Margaret’s Church, Rainham – open 🙂

Holy Trinity, Sittingbourne – open 🙂

and the last one I forget…..both the name and whether it was open or closed LOL

9 meals – in no particular order……pilgrimage southwark to canterbury

YHA, Thameside London – breakfast. always a brilliant spread

The George Inn, Southwark (supper) – fantastic people; my favourite London pub

Costa Coffee, Greenwich (breakfast) – lovely young man; so interested in my journey

The Three Daws, Gravesend (supper) – Josie was amazing; made my night special

The Copperfield, Shorne (breakfast) – imminently forgettable….but nice staff

Crepe & Co, Rochester (supper) – delicious crepes…I had 2 🙂

Manor Farm Restaurant, Rainham (lunch) – Emma was a charming host

The Sun Inn, Faversham (breakfast & supper) – Leigh was very interested in my journey

The Falstaff, Canterbury (Afternoon Tea) – fantastic spread, thoroughly enjoyed

The Falstaff, Canterbury (breakfast) – good meal, lovely staff.

Lunches were mostly buy & go snacks and fruit, with cups of tea or coffee and cake along the way.

22 Places visited: Southwark, City of London, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Royal Greenwich, Royal Arsenal Woolwich, Thamesmead, Erith, Gravesend, Chalk Village, Higham, Strood, Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham, Rainham, Newington, Sittingbourne, Bapschild, Teynham, Ospringe, Faversham…and ultimately Canterbury.

94 kilometers / 59 miles – which brings my miles walked for 2017 to the grand total of 720 miles…..plus all the walking I did that I didn’t record.

160,000 steps plus!

One of the more amusing signs I saw came just as I was leaving Greenwich. I rounded a corner and there before my eyes……okayyyy, I got it!! Thank you!!southwark to canterbury

And that summarises my #SouthwarktoCanterbury pilgrimage that ended at Faversham! Fear not, for I shall complete the walk in just over a week’s time and in fact I’m planning on tagging on a 2nd walk next weekend too…why not? St Augustine’s pilgrimage from Ramsgate to Canterbury. And this time I’ll be sure to keep my socks dry. 😉

Now about that phone…..

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So a few months ago, after a random meeting with a walker on the Isle of Wight in January who was using what turned out to be Nordic Walking Poles, and after reading various articles about the merits of having walking poles for a long journey as well as the various yays and nays of the merits and benefits and nuisance value of carrying walking poles about for anything up to 790 miles (thankfully I’m only walking 165 miles), on the various Camino forums, I finally decided I best get myself a pair…which I duly did in April.

nordic walking poles

propping up the corner in my bedroom….

Since then they have not only decorated my bedroom but have been carted around the UK from job to job, between Oxted and Ireland, Broadstairs and Ironbridge while I procrastinate (what’s new?) about getting them set up and actually putting them to use and learning ‘how to’.

 

Well I FINALLY set them up yesterday and used them for the first time!

 

 

 

 

Hoorah!!! So the prognosis is this…..I dislike them intensely, but they work. So I guess I’ll have to suck it up and use them LOL.

Initially I just strapped them to my wrist, unextended, the idea being to get used to having them in my hand. Horrible. They made my hands all sweaty and the wrist band around my wrist felt horrendous. Under normal circumstance I can’t bear ANYTHING around my wrists….which is why I don’t wear a watch or bracelets or anything such like…I don’t even wear shirts with button down sleeves…it’s that bad. Grim.

nordic walking poles

perhaps I should have left them on this bench LOL

But I persevered. When I arrived at Titsey Hill on impulse I decided I would just get them set up and at least try them out on the first stretch of the very demanding slope. A slope that usually has me stopping halfway; breathless and heart pounding. But……to my surprise I breezed up the slope barely even hesitating. Now unless I suddenly got super fit overnight, it can only be the benefit of the poles. They sure made a difference.

nordic walking poles

taking a rest on Titsey Hill

I then set off jauntily along the path, between the trees with the poles flying akimbo…. especially the left-hand pole that seems to go off piste all on it’s own from time time. Mmmm not sure about that, but I think with practice I may actually get used to using them.

Then it came time to go downhill…..and once again the poles came to the party and I whizzed down with my knees hardly noticing the difference. The end result is that….I still dislike them…intensely, they interfere with my photo taking, and getting my water bottle out the pouch and open is a challenge, but my joints took way less impact than usual and I felt more confident going downhill with my backpack on.

 

So today I decided to go without them and see if I could identify if there was any difference! Was there ever!!! Firstly I felt so free not having them strapped around my wrists and the annoyance of the left-hand pole just doing it’s own thing was a thing of yesterday….but and this is a huge BUT….boy did I ever notice the difference going up that slope again. Yesterday I nearly breezed up (not quite, but nearly) and found the going so much easier…but today it was back to heart pounding, breathless and stopping halfway to recover. Going downhill I very much noticed the difference with my left knee in particular tweaking and twinging in protest. Hmmm…..

nordic walking poles

going downhill on Titsey Hill…

So I’m guessing that despite my dislike for them the poles must go….with me on the Camino!!!

As for the backpack…wow, is this thing ever so heavy!!! I’m not sure how it is that 6.35 kgs can weigh 635kgs by the end of 2 hours, but it does. I’m really glad I decided to pack it and start practising now because I can see this is going to take some getting used to.

nordic walking poles and osprey backpack

my nordic walking poles and osprey backpack looking fairly benign….

One of the articles I read that I found to be of interest was on this website http://caminoways.com/walking-poles

With my walk from Southwark to Canterbury coming up soon I will have to make a decision on whether or not to take them….at least they fold up nicely into my backpack, so if I do take them and they annoy me I can just fold them up shove them back in.

Time will tell.

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While I was working in Oxted, on most days, I made the most of my breaks to explore the area and add to my miles for the #walk1000miles challenge, as well as improve my fitness for the Camino. On one said walk my feet took me to one of the largest surviving historic estates in Surrey; Titsey Place in Oxted dates back to the 16th century.

Titsey Estate Surrey

the beautiful grounds of the Titsey Estate

An impressive manor house set in beautiful gardens on a large estate in the stunning countryside of the North Downs. Sadly the house was still closed for winter but I’m hoping to visit when I next visit Oxted.

titsey house and estate surrey

Titsey House, Surrey

My walk took me along the lanes and by-ways of Oxted and I enjoyed being able to explore further afield. I’m participating in the walk 1000 miles 2017 challenge and this walk from Oxted to the Titsey Estate and along part of the Pilgrim’s Way took 1 hour 49 minutes; 4.57 miles / 11,735 steps.

titsey place surrey

the highways and byways of Surrey

I so enjoyed the quiet of the Downs pathway, just me and the birds in the trees and a few cows. I could see and hear the traffic on the M25, and although it didn’t really spoil the walk, it’s interesting how difficult it is to walk anywhere these days without traffic encroaching. We’re meant to walk for health, but if you consider the amount of traffic we’re constantly walking nearby to….well!!! LOL anyway, moving on from that thorny issue, I love walking and thoroughly enjoyed the views and the house looked awesome….roll on March end.

titsey place oxted surrey

views of the Titsey Place Estate near Oxted in Surrey

Titsey House and Gardens are held in Charitable Trust and for part of the year are open to the public offering and there are guided tours of the house.

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The weather had been pretty grim my first week in Oxted, with some snow flurries on the following Sunday, not enough to impress but just enough to get excited about….it soon melted and didn’t return. However, not to be deterred by the weather, on Tuesday, the afternoon after my arrival, I set off to explore and my meandering took me through the town of Oxted and along the streets and roads and on to a delightful medieval village called Limpsfield. What a treat!! The High Street is lined with houses dating from as far back as the 15th and 16th centuries.

limpsfield surrey, domesday book village, limpsfield, english architecture

some of the quintessentially English houses lining the streets of Limpsfield; a Domesday village

Quintessentially English houses built of local quarried stone lined both sides, looking absolutely charming. I discovered the little church; St Peter’s, constructed in the late 12th century and a Grade I listed building.  As I was entering the church I noticed that it was in fact a Pilgrim church!!! Thrilling. In alignment with my Camino this year I am hoping to gather some stamps before I set off on my walk. There was a stamp hanging on a board at the door, so I’m planning on ordering my Camino passport as soon as possible and when I return to the assignment at the end of March I’m hoping to be able to add that as the start of many I plan to collect on my journey. The church is also famous because the English composer Frederick Delius and orchestral conductor Sir Thomas Beecham are both buried in the village churchyard. Although I looked very carefully I never did find Delius’s grave.

limpsfield surrey, domesday villages of england, english villages, st peters church limpsfield

St Peter’s Church, Limpsfield – a pilgrim’s church

Situated at the foot of the North Downs, Limpsfield would have been on the ancient Pilgrim’s Way that stretches along the base of the downs between Winchester and Canterbury. To my delight on researching the history I discovered that Limpsfield too was a Domesday village: and appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Limenesfeld and held by the Abbot of Battle Abbey, Sussex.

Limpsfield’s High Street is named as a conservation area with 89 listed buildings along the street and in the immediate locality; one of which, Old Court Cottage in Titsey Road, (formerly the manorial court of the Abbot of Battle), is Grade I listed building and dates from c1190-1200 (including aisle posts and arcade plates) with alterations in the late 14th century, and a 16th-century crosswing. (ref wikipedia). Unfortunately I didn’t get to see this building, but the Post Office/village store was just charming so I stepped over the threshold and bought some stamps and a chocolate 🙂

limpsfield surrey, high street limpsfield, domesday book village, domesday book villages of england

Limpsfield High Street

I spent some time photographing all the buildings and meandering about the church and churchyard. I love these old ancient places and often wish I could just knock on the doors of the houses to see inside 😉

At the entrance to the village is a delightful name board – I love finding these!

limpsfield surrey, domesday book villages of england, limpsfield domesday village, villages of england

Limpsfield, Surrey

Limenesfelde 1086 (db). ‘Open land at Limen’. OE feld added to a Celtic place name or river-name

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After a lovely hot shower when I got back to the B&B the night before, I jumped into bed and snuggled down for the night…weary to my bones but every so happy with what I had seen. Thankfully my night was undisturbed so when the alarm went off at 7:30 again I felt refreshed and ready to go go go. This was also my final morning on the island and I was due to catch the 13:47 ferry to Portsmouth and then train to London.

Sadly the B&B forgot to put out my breakfast tray so I had to raid the dining room and left with 2 yogurt pots and a box of cereal in my backpack. Oh the food I eat when exploring.

exploring the isle of wight, visit the isle of wight

fantastic views from the top deck of the bus

I hopped onto the 08:50 bus to Osborne and arrived with 45 minutes to spare before the gates of Osborne House opened. Rather than hang around kicking my heels I had noticed on the way in that East Cowes marina was just a stones-throw (okay no not really…it was a tad further), so I set off at a quick pace to explore – despite that it was all downhill, I’m so glad I made the effort.

exploring the isle of wight, visit the isle of wight

East Cowes Marina

The weather was stunning in comparison to the day before and the marina looked beautiful. I explored for a bit then headed back to Osborne House…..urgh those hills going back up!!!

osborne house, exploring the isle of wight, visit the isle of wight

aerial view of Osborne and the house

Osborne House was wonderful. The interior is sumptuous and the views from the patio and many of the windows are stunning. Osborne House was the much loved seaside retreat for Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, built between 1845 and 1851, and apparently they spent many a happy day there with their children. It was also the place Victoria returned to after the death of her beloved Albert in 1861. She was to spend the next 7 years there, holed up, mourning the loss of her husband, friend and confidant, dressed in black and refusing to budge, even though desperately needed as Head of State. She even refused to ‘Open Parliament’, which put the Government in a quandry!  Queen Victoria used Osborne for over 50 years, entertaining foreign royalty and visiting ministers.

osborne house, exploring the isle of wight, visit the isle of wight

Osborne House, Isle of Wight – seaside home for Victoria and Albert

Taken on a guided tour of the lower floor and some of the rooms, we were left gasping by the sheer splendour and magnificence of the furnishings and decorations. Albert had pretty much the final say on how it should look and I can say the man had amazing taste; he has left an amazing legacy for the country.

osborne house isle of wight, visit isle of wight

beautifully decorated and long passageways

Not ostentatious, but finely set out, the rooms are stunning with faux-marble columns, exquisitely woven carpets, fabulous paintings on the walls, much of it original furniture and works of art (some are replicas as the current Queen has the originals).

osborne house isle of wight, visit isle of wight

exquisitely furnished with lush carpets, decorative ceilings, fabulous chandeliers

Their initials V & A interwoven can be seen in ceiling decorations, woven into the corners of carpets and added wherever possible.

victoria and albert osborne house isle of wight, visit the isle of wight

V & A – everywhere you looked there initials were interwoven and part of the decor; carpets, floors, ceilings, cornices

I found it to be quite poignant viewing the rooms and imagined the family living there – how much they must have loved it.

osborne house isle of wight, visit isle of wight

beautiful passageways with exquisite sculptures, finely furnished rooms

Many, many family portraits filled the walls in most of the family rooms. Poignant images of beloved children, from toddlers into adulthood with children of their own; all long gone, some of whom met tragic ends.

osborne house victoria and albert, visit the isle of wight

Victoria and Albert who between them created a dynasty that spread across the world – family portraits

The one room that left me gasping was the fabulous Durbar Room. Added to entertain large numbers of people it was built and completed between 1891 and 1892 almost 30 years after Prince Albert’s death…I’m quite sure he would have approved. This room is stunning! Designed by Lockwood Kipling (father of the author Rudyard Kipling) and master carver Bhai Ram Singh. Detailed with intricate Indian-style plaster work, it is richly decorated in the architectural styles of northern India and reflected Queen Victoria’s then status as Empress of India, the large reception room is breath-taking. Although it looks like everything is carved from ivory, the plaster-work was executed by the Indian plasterer Bhai Ram Singh -there is not one piece of ivory in the room.

osborne house isle of wight, victoria and albert osborne house, visit the isle of wight

The Durbar Room, Osborne House

The Durbar Wing also provided accommodation for Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria’s youngest married daughter, and her family on the 1st floor.

In the display cabinets in the room are some of the stunning gifts received by Victoria when she was Empress of India.

queen victoria empress of india, osborne house isle of wight, visit the isle of wight

gifts for the Empress of India, Osborne House, Isle of Wight

With reference to my visit to The Needles yesterday and the Marconi Monument, in 1898 messages were received from Marconi at Queen Victoria’s Osborne House on a telephone presented by Alexander Bell.

Queen Victoria died at Osborne House in 1901.

queen victoria, osborne house, isle of wight

Queen Victoria – Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Her successor, her eldest son, Edward VII (1841–1910), didn’t need it and as no other member of the royal family wanted to take on the upkeep, the king gave the Osborne estate to the nation on his  Coronation Day in 1902.  Osborne House is now managed by English Heritage.

After the tour which sadly only took in part of the house due to much needed repairs being done on the central staircase, I headed outdoors to enjoy the sunshine and views. The grounds are a delight and much as I wanted to go down to the beach are and visit the Swiss Cottage, my time was almost up, so I contented myself with a quick whizz around the perimeter of the house and at 12noon I recorded the chimes of the clock and then set off back to the bus-stop. In all a fantastic trip.

visit osborne house isle of wight, visit isle of wight

Exterior views of Osborne House and across the grounds to the Solent

My next stop was Ryde, then the B&B where I collected my suitcase and set off for the ferry with plenty of time to spare. I even managed to watch one of the Hovercraft come in to land….again!!! LOL They are fascinating to watch.

And so it was time to say goodbye to the Isle of Wight. I shall definitely return, although I know not when. But there is still much to see and after chatting to the gentleman that I accosted one day on one of my walks in Bembridge, I am inspired to do what he did and walk around the while perimeter of the island. (btw I didn’t harm the guy, I just stopped him to ask about the walking poles he was using!! 😉 )

visit the isle of wight

Goodbye to the Isle of Wight

One of my ambitions is to visit 100 of the Domesday towns and villages in England. There are 84 such places on the Isle of Wight, some of which have morphed into larger towns and others that are still around but looking nothing at all like they may have in 1085/86. I managed to visit 6 of these places: Binstead, Brading, Nettleston, Sandown, Shanklin and a walk through the lower end of Puckpool.

The Domesday Book was commissioned in December 1085 by William the Conqueror, who invaded England in 1066. The first draft was completed in August 1086 and contained records for 13,418 settlements in the English counties south of the rivers Ribble and Tees (the border with Scotland at the time).

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