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Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral in the footsteps of Geoffrey Chaucer.

6 years ago, after discovering the George Inn in Southwark and seeing the Chaucer window in Southwark Cathedral I was inspired by my love of London, the River Thames, my love of walking and my interest in Chaucer to follow in his footsteps to Canterbury.

Although I did indeed complete the walk from Southwark Cathedral to Greenwich, life got in the way and I never completed the rest of the journey.geoffrey-chaucers-probable-route-to-canterbury-pic-via-httpfaculty-arts-ubc-casechard346map-htm1

However, since I’ll be walking the Camino de Santiago this year in September, I decided that not having completed my journey to Canterbury is just not on! So as part of my Camino training and in order to complete one journey before the next, I resolved to walk from Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral in July of this year over a period of 4 days. This will not only complete my original journey, but will add 60+ miles to my walk 1000 miles challenge (#walk1000miles) and enroute I will visit a few cathedrals, a couple of UNESCO World Heritage sites and hopefully add one or two new places to Project 101.

To this end I have continued apace with my Camino practice walks (640 miles since January 1st 2017)….only now I am carrying my lovely new Osprey Mystic Magenta Tempest 40 litre backpack with me…75% loaded. I did try one day to carry it fully loaded (8.5 kgs) but I nearly put myself on the ground in agony! So I emptied the water bladder and removed my toiletries and for the month of June and part of this month till I leave for my walk I’ve been practising with 5kgs on my back and slowly built it up to 7kgs.

nordic walking poles and osprey backpack

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

It’s been heavy going and I can see the impact the weight has on my joints and my back, as well as which I am constantly tired. But persevere I must as time is fleeting and although its now July and not April, I can identify with Chaucer’s comment: On Wednesday 18 April, I stood in Talbot Yard off Borough High Street in London getting wet: an April shoure soote was piercing me to the roote. Some days walking with the Osprey has had me feeling like the backpack was ‘piercing me to the roote’. LOL

Chaucer and his merry band of pilgrims left from an inn called the Tabard Inn and although the Tabard Inn no longer exists, I shall repair to the George Inn, the last of the medieval London Coaching Inns, for a meal on the night before I begin my journey. I’m not sure what to eat; fish and chips with mushy peas or sausage and mash with onions…but one thing is for sure….I will be having a glass or two of a suitable brew!!

the george inn

pulling a pint at the George Inn in 2011

The Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer between 1387–1400 of a journey taken by himself and a number of pilgrims from Southwark to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Thomas á Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.

In the year 1387, Geoffrey Chaucer and his motely band of pilgrims gathered in the yard of The Tabard Inn before setting off on their pilgrimage to visit the shrine of Thomas á Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. They travelled mostly on foot but in one or two of the images I have seen of Chaucer on his pilgrimage he is usually seated on a four-legged animal…ergo a horse.

geoffrey chaucer canterbury tales pilgrims route to canterbury

a sketch of Geoffrey Chaucer as he may have looked on his route to Canterbury

Therefore I shall endeavour to travel by foot for as much of the way as I can and revert to horse-power if and when necessary.  I have carefully worked out my daily routes, taking distance into account, and will follow as closely as possible the same route that Chaucer followed….with 2 exceptions: from Southwark Cathedral in London – I will follow the banks of the Thames to Greenwich and from there to Erith

southwark cathedral and geoffrey chaucer

Southwark Cathedral – a place of worship since 606AD

….the road that Chaucer travelled along from Southwark towards Deptford; Tooley Street, is now a very busy, polluted highway with hundreds of cars, trucks and whatall travelling along and frankly; it’s unpleasant. The 2nd exception will be between Dartford and Rochester. Dartford is not a lovely place to spend the night (sorry folks 😉 ), so once I reach the town I’ll take a 7,000 horse-powered vehicle in the form of a train from there to Gravesend (which is not where Chaucer stopped), but since this is my journey…..

As a prelude to the journey I shall once again visit some of the places that were around in Chaucer’s day….albeit today they are somewhat altered and some even have different names.

London Bridge – in Chaucer’s day (14th C): Late Medieval: the Peter de Colechurch Bridge – There was a Stone Gate House on the bridge and on its roof stood poles where traitors’ heads were placed. This practice started in 1304 and continued until 1678.  In the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell’s head was placed on one of the poles.
Southwark Cathedral – a place of worship on this site since 606AD –  a medieval priory which today has become Southwark Cathedral.
Winchester Palace – the remains/ruins of a 12th century palace, London residence of the Bishops of Winchester.
The Clink Prison – 1144-1780 now a museum – The Clink Prison Museum is built upon the original site of the Clink Prison which dates back to 1144 making it one of England’s oldest, if not the oldest Prison.  Now a museum (great fun for a visit)

Saint George the Martyr Church on Borough High Street – a church that was in existence during the 14th Century and before. The earliest reference to this church is in the Annals of Bermondsey Abbey, which claims that the church was given by Thomas de Ardern and Thomas his son in 1122.

And of course The George Inn – in it’s present incarnation, having gone through a number of fires over the years, and rebuilt.  The George Inn was situated next door to the Tabard Inn from whence Chaucer commenced his journey to Canterbury.

On Sunday 9th July, I will stand opposite Talbot Yard off Borough High Street in London getting ………wet? Who knows….we often have rain in July…..but I have a poncho 😉

I’ll be posting photos on instagram as I go and updating my progress. If you’d like to follow along you can find me @notjustagranny and the hashtags I’ll be using are #SouthwarktoCanterbury and #inthefootstepsofChaucer amongst others.

Hope to see you there and if you happen to see me along the way….say hello 🙂

And so to Canterbury……..

southwark to canterbury in the footsteps of chaucer

This plaque on Titsey Hill on the North Downs shows various routes and distances to faraway places….one of which is Canterbury…53 miles from the Titsey Estate

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.

On using water bottled in life-threatening poisonous plastic. Recycling isn’t cutting it anymore….  I’m not sure why people panic over nuclear bombardment or terrorists when they have something far more destructive in their hands; that pernicious time-bomb, the plastic water bottle.

“There are calls for towns and cities across the UK to install water fountains, in a bid to crack down on the millions of plastic bottles making their way into our rivers and oceans every year.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/28/a-million-a-minute-worlds-plastic-bottle-binge-as-dangerous-as-climate-change
A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute – ergo a MILLION PLASTIC BOTTLES A MINUTE  are entering our water systems, water we depend upon to survive, and creating massive tracts of landfill. Think about that!! Read it again!! Its horrifying. Its terrifying!!

<Exclusive: Annual consumption of plastic bottles is set to top half a trillion by 2021, far outstripping recycling efforts and jeopardising oceans, coastlines and other environments.>
With all the clear cut evidence of the billions of tons of plastic waste already polluting the planet, the fact that plastic takes 450 years to break down and that every single piece of plastic ever made still exists and will continue to exist for centuries, that it’s polluting and poisoning our oceans and killing the creatures that live there, never mind the millions of birds that are dying from ingesting plastic, that it’s entering the food chain via the fish we eat and will be poisoning future generations (your children and grand-children and theirs for generations to come), you’d think that more people would be less selfish and at least make an effort to stop buying water in plastic bottles….just think how much plastic wouldn’t pollute our planet if everyone just gave up using plastic bottled water. Is that too much to ask?

Whether you believe in climate change or not is irrelevant right now. But what is glaringly obvious is that we humans are destroying our planet one day at a time…very quickly.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/28/a-million-a-minute-worlds-plastic-bottle-binge-as-dangerous-as-climate-change
We are the architects of our own destruction. I’m not sure why people panic over nuclear bombardment or terrorists when they have something far more destructive in their hands; that pernicious time-bomb, the plastic water bottle.

http://news.sky.com/story/amp/bid-to-bring-back-water-fountains-to-cut-down-on-plastic-waste-10933966

I truly hope that besides just reintroducing water fountains, our Government becomes a world leader and bans bottled water altogether. It’s a complete fallacy that bottled water is safer to drink. It’s a blatant, corporate manipulation to make more money out of ignorant consumers. We had an excuse for not knowing better up until about 10 years ago…now there is no excuse to plead ignorance. Unless you live in deepest darkest Africa or the middle of the Amazon, you should know better!! 

And while you’re at it…consider using paper straws instead of plastic. The large corporations love how dumbed down the population have become; they can sell you any lie and you’ll buy it. In other words, they’re making money off of your gullibility.

With just 73 days to go till I start walking the Camino I’m now getting impatient, I feel ready, both mentally and physically.

Titsey Hill

I’ve no doubt that once I start I’ll be tested like never before, regardless of how ready I feel…is anyone ever 100% ready? 

I had some extra time off today so took myself off for a final push for June, adding to my total for the #walk1000miles challenge. I got in 13.30kms/8.31 miles meandering around Titsey Hill, which brings my total walked to 658 boots on miles since 01/01/17.

 I managed quite well with the extra weight of the backpack; now at 6.35 kgs, although my knees and toes are not happy. With my upcoming 60+ mile walk from Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral in just over a week’s time,

Geoffrey Chaucer’s route to Canterbury

 I’m guessing I’ll be finding out just what it’s like to walk for 6-8 hours (approximately 20 kms) a day for 4 days in a row with a fully loaded backpack.

Some of my gear…

I’m really grateful for this opportunity as it will give me a peek into what to expect for September. It’ll also give me an idea of how my feet cope and whether or not I need to consider new shoes.
I’ve bought a good supply of the FLP MSM with glucosamine & chondroitin drink which I’ll be quaffing in substantial quantities from next week till I leave for Portugal as well as their amazing Heat Lotion that works absolute wonders on my achy feet.

I thoroughly enjoyed my walk about on Titsey Hill today, mostly in my own, I only saw 2 people in 3.5 hours.

To climb, or not to climb…that was the question…I didn’t 😉

Here’s to my #Camino2017 as the days race by!!! 73 days and counting…

 👏👏👏💃💃💃👣👣👣 I took this photo on my birthday in San Gimignano. Can’t believe that was over 2 months ago!!! 💖💖 

If you’d like to follow along on instagram; @notjustagranny – these are some of the hashtags I’ll be using. #PostcardsfromPortugal #walk1000miles #caminoportuguese #PortugueseCoastalRoute #SantiagodeCompostela #SouthwarktoCanterbury #inthefootstepsofChaucer #practicewalk #pilgrimsway #traveldiaries #ospreypacks #MysticMagenta 

One of the more unfortunate aspects of walking as a solo woman on the Camino is the perception that you’re easy game. I’ve read recently on the Facebook forums that I follow of women being harassed by men; naked men who chase after these women whilst masturbating, men waiting under secluded bridges till a woman comes along then yanks his pants down to expose himself. Men follow along behind the pilgrims and make lewd comments, or just hang around making a general pest of themselves.

Many of the women quite understandably get quite frightened, or as in one case was so badly upset by the whole thing that she packed up and went home. It’s a real issue and seems to be escalating somewhat. There are often discussions about how to deal with these incidents with some folks suggesting pepper spray which is banned in Spain, or whistles, and various other suggestions, none of which are really acceptable and could lead to further problems.

I recently read an interesting article about the escalating harassment of women in the Middle East regions, that although not specifically about the Camino, does talk about the harassment of women in middle east countries. Interesting, although unfortunately they don’t mention the biggest factor in these countries; women are viewed as 2nd class citizens…ergo men can do what they like coz they’re superior. Perhaps they should look at the cultural issues from the cradle up….men treat their wives in an appalling fashion, often abusive. Boys witness this and think its okay to be abusive towards women. Its pretty much the same in every patriarchal society. It won’t change till parents teach their kids about respect.  Reading this article I get the distinct impression that the author/researcher is making excuses for why boys harass girls. These young men “have high aspirations for themselves and aren’t able to meet them,” he says. “So they [harass women] to put them in their place. They feel like the world owes them.”

Harassing women is not a new phenomena in the Western world; its as bad and has been for decades in our society where morals are loose and again, men are disrespectful towards their wives. Frankly those men’s magazines and light pornographic magazines, sexually explicit films, advertisements with half naked women spread across cars et al, all play a part in the sexual harassment of women. I remember with clarity, as a young girl developing breasts and having to start wearing a bra, the boys, would come up behind me or my school mates and snap our bra-straps or try to undo the hooks – behaviour they STILL indulge in 50 years later. We were always, without fail told to ‘just ignore it’. In fact I recall very clearly telling my daughter much the same thing 25 years later….either that or wallop the boy in question….which of course would then lead to her being punished for ‘assaulting’ the little shit.

However, there has been as is a shift being made in this area. I recently read where a Mother was called into the Headmaster’s office because her daughter had punched the boy who snapped her bra-strap. The Headmaster and the parents of the boy tried to make an issue of it, but the Mother neatly turned the tables by reminding them that what he had done is actually sexual harassment and that she would be happy to call the Police and lay a charge. Problem solved. Frankly I wish I had done that for my daughter, how much more empowering it would have been.

But, and here’s the thing…..it is sexual harassment, and the problem begins at home. Until all of society begins to see women as equals and deserving of respect, until parents unanimously teach their sons about the boundaries and how to treat a woman with respect, women will continue to be harassed on the streets….no matter which country we live in. I, however, am not holding my breath.

And if any man, young or otherwise even attempts to give me grief while I’m walking the Camino, he will live to regret it.

This is a must read. 

http://wp.me/p5bdEu-i7

And so here we are, once again at the polls, voting for our hopes and dreams and passions. Hoping whoever gets in doesn’t make a complete hash of things, dreaming of a better future for our children and grandchildren, and from some of the Facebook shares and Twitter tweets I’ve seen, many people are really passionate (vicious) about their given party.

It’s a nightmare quite frankly and I’ve been having sleepless nights over ‘who to vote for?’  I’ve been living in this country now for nigh on 16 years and have seen the UK swing from a Labour Government (trashed by the media and the Tories), to a Tory/Lib Dem Coalition Government (trashed by the media and Labour) to a Tory Government…likewise trashed by Labour & the media. So it seems that no matter what party you are affiliated to, you’re going to have some passionate opinions, as well as some really nasty ones.

Yesterday I responded to a Facebook share, and made the comment that ‘she isn’t cutting it atm or is Corbyn using strategy?’ apropos of his replacing Diane Abbott in her post subsequent to a few really bad T.V. interviews. And then I read the blog that I shared earlier today and…….

I’m sharing this and eating humble pie right now and quite embarrassed I didn’t do more research before being critical of her performance on t.v. besides the bulldog approach of the political interviewers, I can’t imagine the relentless horror of the abuse this woman has suffered on twitter (have a read, you’ll be shocked), and most likely in her real life too. Diane Abbott has been in politics, against massive odds, twice as long as what I’ve even been in the country. Besides that, the writer of this article is quite right, I’m certainly not in any way even remotely as qualified as what she is. This is one of the reasons that despite loving social media, I also really loathe it. We get our news in sound bites these days. We read the headlines, very often just click-bait, don’t read/research the full article and forget the twisted, self-serving bias of the paper barons who have their own agenda. Clearly I must avoid mainstream media since they can no longer be trusted. Other than that I retract the comment I made in response to an article shared by one of my friends, in which I suggested the Jeremy Corbyn made the right decision by replacing her since Diane Abbott wasn’t cutting it anymore.

I have really become to hate the politics in this country and how it brings out a really really nasty streak in some people. I said to my daughter just a few weeks ago that I loathe how angry I get whenever I’m on Facebook for too long.

If it’s not Trump that I’m raging at, it’s our Government for the chaos that is the NHS right now, for the lack of sufficient policing in our neighbourhoods, at the nasty bigotry and racism I see every day about one culture that’s not white or another. I get enraged about the terrible situation in Syria and the thousands of needless deaths, at the fact that Britain is now the 2nd biggest arms dealer in the world??? wtf!!! Seriously!!

“Since 2010 Britain has also sold arms to 39 of the 51 countries ranked “not free” on the Freedom House “Freedom in the world” report, and 22 of the 30 countries on the UK Government’s own human rights watch list.” ref independent.

I have to ask: What the hell are they doing? And then we have the terrorist attacks on Manchester, London; Westminster Bridge recently and just this last weekend on London Bridge. Besides that we’ve had numerous terrorist attacks on other countries and cities; Nice, Berlin, Paris, Stockholm, Brussels, Afghanistan, Libya, and then there’s Syria with an almost daily bombardment. Sometimes we don’t even get to hear about them except on social media.

Since the start of 2017, there have been 535 attacks, with 3,635 fatalities (at the time of writing) across the globe.

And then there’s the very real fact that we can NO LONGER trust the newspapers or the media. They all have their own agenda, they support whoever’s the flavour of the month, or whoever cuts them favours….and you read one angle/bias in one paper and another angle/bias in some other…but so very seldom does truth ever come into it.

I try to log off and stay off Facebook, but it’s like an addiction…I log off and after a few days feel compelled to log back in. I try to read only positive stuff, but the negative pulls me back in again and before I know it, I’m ranting and getting angry. So I guess it’s time for me to bow out once again.

Meanwhile I hope you read this article. I also hope that someday politics can be less nasty and aggressive and our so-called leaders can set a better example for the population and stop slandering each other.  I absolutely despair of listening to their campaign slander. It seems like decency goes right out the window and anything nasty can be thrown at whoever they feel like trashing atm.

How on earth are we a) supposed to respect these people b) how can we trust our leaders when we know they lie about just about everything to suit their own agenda c) who do we look to for leadership? The very real fact of the matter is that no which party gets in, they all make mistakes, they all have their own agenda, they all lie and make promises they have no intention of keeping, they say things that inflame the electorate and then expect us all to settle down in our little boxes in front of the smaller boxes in the lounge and suck it up. And when the shit hits the fan and we have terrorist attacks or MP’s murdered on their doorstep…they say ‘sorry’. Really? You’re sorry.

I’ve pretty much had it. I’m tired, I can’t bear to see any more mutilated children, battered wives, abused animals, trump’s atrocities/smug face, our Government’s failures and feel fearful, for the first time in nigh on 16 years about my future in the U.K. The country I was so proud to become a citizen of just last year 😦 My heart aches.

Maybe like Rip Van Winkle, I’ll wake up in 100 years time and it will all be over….or we’ll have been blown to smithereens by our feckless world leaders.

Meanwhile, my sincere apologies to Diane Abbott for being critical of her mistakes, I certainly am not perfect and actually have no right to judge.

I’m going back to Instagram to post my photos and dream of all the lovely places I want to see and travel to before it all disintegrates.