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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.

way of st augustine

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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Since deciding to walk The Camino, I’ve read a wide range of blogs written by the vast array of people; both men and women of all ages that walk the different Camino routes – some blogs are documentary, some short, some long, many are very personal; walking the Camino and lessons learned.

different paths; different journeys

different paths; different journeys

I have learned a lot about how some folks behave on the pilgrim routes – which honestly has come as quite a surprise.

One of the most profound stories I’ve read so far relates to sunflowers;

It started when I really considered the sunflower plant. I often leave town in the early morning darkness. That’s when the sunflower has its head bowed low awaiting that first ray of sunlight. Then it perks up and turns its face toward the sun and absorbs sunlight and energy all day. Then, at evening, it again bows low and rests for the night. After a period of time, it starts to lose the beautiful yellow crown surrounding its seedy face. It becomes more difficult to raise its head toward the sun. At last, it dies. That is, the plant dies, but the seeds live on.

Another interesting blog I read, also spoke about sunflowers:

That is, I had never considered their significance until the life cycle of a sunflower was explained to me by a German opera singer named Anja.  As she explained it, just before sunflowers die, they give up their seeds from the brown part of the flower (the seed head).  Their last act, if you will, is to give of themselves to ensure that future sunflowers will grow in that area next season.

and continued with a story about keeping the peace; relating a situation with a man called Ted – a story I found to be both interesting and shocking. It described how this man would get drunk and behaved in a manner totally unacceptable in normal society, never mind on a pilgrims route; it never entered my head that people would behave like that on the Camino!!

What I found so interesting was how they both said the same thing: I had never considered.

Another fascinating journey that I am following on instagram is Walking for Peace. It’s been so interesting to follow Mony and Alberto and see the lessons they are learning; some of which have reduced me to tears, given me goosebumps. It’s marvellous that they are so aware of what is being learned. So often in life the lessons we are meant to learn present themselves again and again before we finally accept them.

Since I started my ‘journey’ and even though I haven’t yet walked even one step on ‘The Camino’, I feel as though my journey has already begun. I’ve been walking a lot (604.89 miles since 01/01/2017), practising with my backpack, feeling my way with how much I can or cannot cope with. I have enjoyed hours and hours of travelling, walking and exploration by myself. I am becoming more observant of my surroundings, something that would please my daughter who gets very frustrated with my usual lack of observation!! My usual answer when she says “did you see that Mom?” – and I’m like “What?” But it was right in front of you!!! LOL

I find that I am slowly learning how to ‘let go’, although that is still a really difficult and annoying part of my personality; replaying over and over and over in my mind after an incident that disturbs me: ‘I should have said this’ or ‘I should have done that’, the emotions of the moment churning and churning till I want to go mad.do not let the behaviour of others destroy your inner peace - dalai lama xiv

I am beginning to believe that this churning incidents over and over in my mind relates very much to my childhood, a long period of time when I found myself in bad situations, times when I felt completely helpless, unable to verbalise my fears, afraid of what might happen if I did speak up.

I’ve noticed a common thread among these pilgrim stories; the real Camino begins once a peregrino returns home.

And as my journey draws nearer, I do muse on what lessons The Camino will hold for me. It has certainly consumed pretty much my every waking thought in the meantime.

walking the camino and lessons learned

the many paths in life we get to choose…..

Do join me on my journey as I prepare for what is the 2nd most important journey of my life. Follow along on instagram as I travel around the country, working, walking, learning and discovering more about myself and the country I now call home.

Buen Camino.

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Many years ago, back in the days when I still actually ‘liked’ Facebook and set up my profile (2007), I filled in one of those ‘where have you been in the world’ online maps. At the time I was already living in the UK and had been for a few years, so had had the opportunity to travel to quite a few places.

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Map by andrewfahmy on Reddit

While I was pinning names I realised that not only had I visited quite a few countries, but I had also visited quite a few islands…wow, awesome. And so an idea was born; I would visit 100 islands before I die. Okay!! So since I’m not and wasn’t then, planning on dying in the near future, I set about compiling a list of islands I would still like to visit, and since the UK has 6,289 (LOL) I was spoiled for choice. However, since I also wanted to visit Europe, the scope for achieving my goal widened substantially. Did you know that Norway has 240,000 islands, islets, reefs, coral reefs and cays? Now that…would take me quite a few years then!!! As if!!
Jump forward a few years (almost a decade) and subsequent to my stay on the Isle of Wight in January this year where I discovered the Domesday Village of Nettlestone amongst others, an idea was born! Supported by a previous list of the many many villages and towns I’ve visited in the UK since 2007 in my capacity as a Carer for the Elderly, and of course all my holidays; in the UK and abroad, I started thinking……..
I realised that not only had I unknowingly visited many other Domesday villages, but I had during my travels visited a great number of castles, cathedrals, cities, most of the counties in England and Ireland, palaces, famous houses, a random selection of rivers, and to my surprise, a substantial number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites!!! Wow, I had not realised this.
Thus a new list was compiled and Project 101 was born….100 is so yesterday!! LOL.

I immediately set about updating the list with these new categories and updating the details of those I had already visited or been to – this is Project 101; to visit 101 in each of these categories before I die….whenever that may be. I have a separate list of places still to visit. Clearly some categories won’t cater to my 101 target, like the counties of England for instance…only 48, so not much chance there then, but combine them with Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and the numbers add up ;).

I’m planning (hoping) to write about each of these places, but this will take quite a while as I have to go back in time to find the photos, do some research and write the article….so to kick things off, I’ll start with my more recent travels which to my delight was Italy.

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I dreamed of Florence, and Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano and Lucca 😉 all listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites except with the possible exception of Lucca.

With one trip I was able to visit 5 or 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 5 cathedral cities and by extension their cathedrals, 4 or 5 walled cities, famous gardens and a river.  I’ve done research on Lucca and in google searches it comes up, but when I go to the UNESCO site it’s not listed. Further research will be needed… Some places just make it easy; cathedral city/cathedral/UNESCO site(s)/famous house(s)/palace(s)/river……think London & Florence 😉 6 birds with one visit LOL.

Of course now that I have started this blessed list my mind is like……’hmmmm, should I add Roman cities to the Project’? Or maybe churches…..and then I remember just HOW MANY churches I have indeed visited in the last 15 years alone….and my head says NO NO NO!!! So for now (?) here are the categories I’ve settled on…for now 😉 I’ve haven’t listed any of the places in chronological order; that would just be too time consuming. So in no particular order….. these are the places I’ve already been to; looks like I have some catching up to do to visit 101 in each category….now where’s that campervan?!!

ISLANDS (17)
United Kingdom
Portsea Island – UK
Ireland
Arran Islands
Manhattan – USA
Long Island – USA
Sanibel – USA
Venice – Italy
Torcello – Italy
Burano – Italy
Murano – Italy
Providence – Bahamas
Île de la Cité – Paris
Bruges – Belgium
Isle of Skye – Scotland
Iceland
Isle of Wight – UK

COUNTRIES (14)
South Africa
Swaziland
England
Ireland
N.Ireland
Scotland
Wales
United States of America
Bahamas
Italy
France
Netherlands
Belgium
Gibraltar

U.K. COUNTIES
ENGLAND (29)
Greater London (I’ve lived in or visited 25 of the 33 boroughs, including City of London)
Hampshire
Surrey
Norfolk
Suffolk
Buckinghamshire
Cambridgeshire
Oxfordshire
Devon
Cornwall
Kent
Hertfordshire
Herefordshire
Lancashire
Warwickshire
Worcestershire
Bedfordshire
Berkshire
Dorset
Middlesex (now considered part of Greater London)
Shropshire
Somerset
Wiltshire
East Sussex
West Sussex
Essex
Gloucestershire
Bristol
Isle of Wight

SCOTLAND (5)
Edinburgh/Midlothian
Inverness
Moray
Fife
Ross and Cromarty

WALES (4)
Pembrokeshire
Cardiff
Swansea
Newport

N. IRELAND (3)
Armagh
Down
Antrim

Republic of IRELAND (14)
Dublin
Wicklow
Galway
Clare
Meath
Cork
Kilkenny
Waterford
Wexford
Kerry
Limerick
Tipperary
Mayo
Donegal

CATHEDRAL CITIES (27)
London
Westminster
Winchester
Dublin
Belfast
Edinburgh
Inverness
Brussels
Antwerp
Canterbury
Rijkavik
Chichester
Oxford
Worcester
St David’s
Venice
Verona
Salisbury
Exeter
Chichester
Wells
Pisa
Florence
San Gimignano
Siena
Lucca
Rochester

CATHEDRALS (27)
St Paul’s Cathedral – London
Southwark Cathedral – London
St George’s Cathedral – London
Westminster Cathedral – London
Worcester Cathedral – England
St David’s Cathedral – Wales
Inverness Cathedral – Scotland
St Patrick’s Cathedral – Dublin, Ireland
Christ Church Cathedral – Dublin, Ireland
Glendalough Cathedral – Co. Wicklow, Ireland
Exeter Cathedral – England
Winchester Cathedral – England
Chichester Cathedral – England
Christ Church, Oxford – Oxfordshire, England
Salisbury Cathedral – England
St Mark’s Basilica – Venice
Notre Dame Basilica – Paris
Canterbury Cathedral – Kent, England
Wells Cathedral – Somerset, England
Duomo Santa Maria Assunta – Pisa, Italy
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – Florence, Italy
Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta – Duomo di San Gimignano, Italy
Duomo di Siena – Italy
Duomo di Lucca, Cattedrale di San Martino – Italy
St Anne’s Cathedral – Belfast, N.Ireland
Rochester – Kent, England
The Cathedral Church of Our Lady and St Philip Howard – Arundel

ABBEYS (11)
Westminster Abbey – City of Westminster, London, England
Sherbourne Abbey – Dorset, England
Shaftesbury Abbey – Dorset, England
Bury St Edmunds – Suffolk, England
Great Malvern (Priory) – Worcestershire, England
St Mary’s – Trim, Ireland
Kylemore Abbey – Galway, Ireland
Quarr Abbey – Isle of Wight, England
Torre Abbey – Torquay, England
Buildwas Abbey – Shropshire, England
Abbey church of St Mary and St Helena – Elstow, Bedfordshire

I visited so many abbeys, priories, friaries and monasteries in Ireland that I’ve quite lost track…so if I can I will one day try to revisit as many as possible 🙂

DOMESDAY towns & villages (107) – Domesday Book is a manuscript record of the “Great Survey” of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror.  My list needs updating; research still being done LOL Admittedly when I compiled this list it surprised me that I had already been to so many!

Ashford – Kent
Ayot St Lawrence – Hertfordshire
Bath – Wiltshire
Battersea (London) – Surrey
Bermondsey (London) – Surrey
Brading – Isle of Wight
Bressingham – Norfolk
Blackford – Somerset
Bodiam – Sussex
Bosham – West Sussex
Bradford-on-Avon – Wiltshire
Brighton – Sussex
Bristol – Somerset
Bromley – Kent
Bury St Edmunds – Suffolk
Bushey – Hertfordshire
Cambridge – Cambridgeshire
Canterbury – Kent
Castle Cary – Somerset
Castle Combe – Wiltshire
Chippenham – Suffolk
Cottenham – Somerset
Deal – Kent
Dover – Kent
Eltham – London
Epsom – Surrey
Fishbourne – Sussex
Godalming – Surrey
Gravesend – Kent
Greenwich – London
Hastings – Kent
Hatfield – Herefordshire
Hawkhurst – Kent
Holborn (London) – Middlesex
Hythe – Kent
Ingatestone – Essex
Kennett – Somerset
Kingston – Surrey
Lambeth (London) – Surrey
Lavenham – Suffolk
Lenham – Kent
Limpsfield – Surrey
London – City of
Maidstone – Kent
Margate – Kent
Meon – Hampshire
Meopham – Kent
Mortlake – Surrey
Nettlestone – Isle of Wight
North Cadbury – Somerset
Norwich – Norfolk
Oxford – Oxfordshire
Oxted – Surrey
Pakenham – Suffolk
Petersham – Surrey
Puckpool – Isle of Wight
Queen Camel – Somerset
Rochester – Kent
Romney Marsh – Kent
Rye – Sussex
Sandown – Isle of Wight
Sandwich – Kent
Shanklin – Isle of Wight
Shaftesbury – Dorset
Sherbourne – Dorset
Sidmouth – Devon
South Cadbury – Somerset
Southwark (London) – Surrey
Sparkford – Somerset
St Albans – Hertfordshire
Stanmore – Middlesex
Stoke Newington (London) – Middlesex
Stoke Trister – Somerset
St Pancras (London) – Middlesex
Stratford-Upon-Avon – Warwickshire
Sundridge – Kent
Tatsfield – Surrey
Templecombe – Somerset
Thames Ditton – Surrey
Titsey – Surrey
Tonbridge – Kent
Trumpington – Cambridgeshire
Tudeley – Kent
Wells – Somerset
Weobley – Herefordshire
West Camel – Somerset
West Meon – Hampshire
Westerham – Surrey
Westminster (London) – Middlesex
Weybridge – Surrey
Whitstable – Kent
Wincanton – Somerset
Winchester – Hampshire
Windsor – Surrey
Woolston – Somerset
Worcester – Worcestershire
Headcorn – Kent
Chatham – Kent
Gillingham – Kent
Rainham – Kent
Newington – Kent
Teynham – Kent
Ospringe – Kent
Faversham – Kent
Arundel – West Sussex
Bromham – Bedfordshire
Elstow – Bedfordshire

CASTLES (39)
Cape Town – South Africa
Dublin – Ireland
Trim – Ireland
Blarney – Ireland
Clontarf – Ireland
Dalkey – Ireland
Howth – Ireland
Kilkenny Castle – Ireland
King John’s Castle – Ireland
Rock of Cashel – Ireland
Malahide – Ireland
Waterford – Ireland
Tower of London – England
Edinburgh – Scotland
Urquhart – Scotland
Eilean Donan – Scotland
Deal – England
Dover – England
Midhurst – England
Sherbourne – England
Rochester – England
Canterbury – Engalnd
Pembroke – Wales
Tonbridge – England
Hever – England
Warwick – England
Leeds – England
Bodiam – England
Oxford – England
Windsor – England
Hastings – England
Rye (Ypres Tower) – England
St Briavels – England
Carisbrooke – Isle of Wight
Rocca Scaligera – Sirmione, Italy
Castelvecchio – Verona, Italy
Dunluce – Antrim, N.Ireland
Belfast Castle – Belfast, N.Ireland
Arundel – West Sussex

PALACES (20)
Buckingham Palace – City of Westminster, Great London
Hampton Court Palace – Hampton Court, England
Kew Palace – Kew, London
Windsor Palace – Windsor, England
Burlington House – City of Westminster, London
Westminster Palace – City of Westminster, London
Banqueting House (remains of Whitehall Palace) – City of Westminster, London
St James’s Palace – City of Westminster, London
Richmond Palace – Richmond (now a private residence), Greater London
Lambeth Palace – Lambeth, London
Winchester Palace – Southwark, London
Tower of London – Tower Hamlets/City of London, London
Kensington Palace – City of Westminster, London
The Old Palace – Hatfield (home to Elizabeth I)
Eltham Palace – Royal Borough of Greenwich, Greater London
Palace of Versailles – France
The Doges Palace – Venice, Italy
Palazzo dei Cavalieri – Knights’ Square, Pisa, Italy
Palazzo Pitti – Florence, Italy
Palazzo Vecchio – Florence

FAMOUS HOUSES (19)
Jan Smuts House – Transvaal, South Africa
Anne Franks House – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Burlington House – City of Westminster, Greater London
Chartwell (Winston Churchill) – Kent, England
Ham House – Ham, Greater London
Strawberry Hill House (Horace Walpole) – Twickenham, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
Downe House (Charles Darwin) – Kent, England
Benjamin Franklin’s House – City of Westminster, Greater London
Marble Hill House (Henriette Howard) – Twickenham, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
The Queens House – Royal Borough of Greenwich, London
Bleak House (Charles Dickens) – Broadstairs, Kent
Turner House (JMW Turner) – Twickenham, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
Apsley House – (1st Duke of Wellington) – City of Westminster, Greater London
Kenwood House (William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield) – Hampstead, Greater London
Hatfield House (Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury) – Hertfordshire, England
Shakespeare’s House (William Shakespeare) – Stratford Upon Avon, England
Keats House (John Keats) – Hampstead, Greater London
Chiswick House (Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington) – Chiswick, Greater London
Darby Houses – Ironbridge, Shropshire

UNESCO World Heritage Sites (27)
Venice and it’s lagoon – Italy
City of Verona – Italy
Pinvellir National Park – Iceland
Historic Centre of Bruges – Belgium
Palace and Park of Versailles – France
Cathedral of Notre Dame – Paris, France
Paris; Banks of the Siene
17th century Canal Ring Area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht – Netherlands
City of Bath – England
Stonehenge – England
Palace of Westminster – London, England
Westminster Abbey – London, England
Canterbury Cathedral – England
Tower of London – London, England
Old and New Towns of – Scotland
Maritime Greenwich – London
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew London
Everglades National Park – Florida, USA
Piazza del Duomo – Pisa, Italy
Baboli Gardens & Palazzo Pitti – Florence, Italy
The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – Florence, Italy
Historic centre of Siena – Italy
Historic centre of Florence – Italy
Historic centre of San Gimignano – Italy
Historic city of Lucca – (although this is mentioned as a UNESCO site, I can’t find it listed)
Giant’s Causeway – Co. Antrim, N.Ireland
Ironbridge Gorge – Shropshire

WALLED CITIES (37)
Dublin – Ireland
Cashel – Ireland
Cork – Ireland
Galway – Ireland
Kilkenny – Ireland
Trim – Ireland
Waterford – Ireland
Wexford – Ireland
City of London – London
Exeter – England
Canterbury – England
Winchester – England
Chichester – England
Oxford – England
Rochester – England
Rye – England
Hastings – England
Salisbury – England
Warwick – England
Worcester – England
Bristol – England
Warwick – England
Worcester – England
Edinburgh – Scotland
St Andrews – Scotland
Pembroke – Wales
Verona – Italy
Amsterdam – Netherlands
Gouda – Netherlands
Paris – France
Gibraltar – British Overseas Territory
Brussels – Belgium
Pisa – Italy
Florence – Italy
San Gimignano – Italy
Siena – Italy
Lucca – Italy

RIVERS I’VE MET ALONG THE WAY (39)
Orange River – South Africa
Vaal River – South Africa
Great Kei River – South Africa
Storms River – South Africa
Sabie River – South Africa
Klip River – South Africa
Jukskei River – South Africa
Blyde River – South Africa
River Thames – London
Eden – England
Avon – England
Spey – Scotland
Ness – Scotland
Medway – England
Severn – England
Wye – England
Yealm – England
Lea – England
Exe – England
Wey – England
Stour – England
Cherwell – England
Cam – England
Itchen – England
Dart – England
Hudson River – USA
East River – USA
Tennessee – USA
Seine – Paris
Liffey – Dublin, Ireland
Suir – Co. Waterford, Ireland
Lee – Co. Cork, Ireland
Boyne – Co. Meath, Ireland
Shannon – Co. Clare, Ireland
Corrib – Galway, Ireland
Arno – Pisa and Florence – Italy
Lagan – Belfast, N.Ireland
River Bush – Bushmills, N.Ireland
River Arun – West Sussex
River Great Ouse – Bedfordshire

So, I’m guessing that if I ever get to visit 101 of each of the above categories, I’ll be able to consider myself; Well Travelled LOL

inspirational quotes

Die with memories, not dreams

UNUSUAL PLACES I’VE BEEN/THINGS I’VE DONE
Toured the HMS Eagle Aircraft Carrier in Durban Harbour – South Africa
Explored the Echo Caves – South Africa
Explored the Cango Caves – South Africa
Hot-Air Balloon ride – South Africa
Abseiled off a bridge – South Africa
Paragliding – South Africa
Rock wall climbing on a cruise ship – Bahamas
Parasailing – Bahamas
Wookey Hole – Somerset
Climbed the O2 – London
Helicopter Ride over London (my 60th birthday gift from my daughter)
Fire-walk – London
Stood on Greenwich Meridian Line – London
Sailed along Thames on a Tall Ship – London
Visited the Roman Amphitheatre – London
Kissed the Blarney Stone – Ireland
Climbed The Monument to the Great Fire of London 1666 – London
Followed the Gloriana in the Tudor Pull – London
Participated in the Green Man ceremony – London
Part of the Magna Carta flotilla – London
Stood on two of the earth’s geological plates at the same time; Eurasia & American in Iceland
Visited Stonehenge
Visited all the Cinque Ports in England; Sandwich, Dover, New Romney, Hastings, Hythe, Rye and Winchelsea
Walked along WW2 Tunnels at Ramsgate
Lived in a Gypsy Caravan on Eel Pie Island on the banks of the River Thames
Lived in a Castle in Scotland
Slept on The Mall in London for the Wedding of William and Kate 🙂
Bell ringing at Church of St Edward King and Martyr, Cambridge
Climbed Cave Hill, Belfast, N.Ireland

If you’ve read this far…bravo!!! Thank you, I appreciate that you did. I post photos of the various places I travel to on instagram and will be updating Project 101 as I go. My next trip is Ironbridge in June which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I’d love for you to join me on instagram …say hello if you do.

(I found the map at the top of this article on 40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World. Fascinating; worth a visit)

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The Spirit of The Camino and the spirits on The Camino.

When I first contemplated walking The Camino my head was filled with inspiring thoughts of happy, adventurous people all walking along; a merry band of comrades, climbing mountains and being amazing in their aspirations to reach Santiago. I had a somewhat romantic view of cosy alburgues, relaxing snoozes in the sun and the cameradie we saw in the movie ‘The Way’ (which, by the way, I must watch again before I go).  I had this notion of admiring locals who opened their homes and hearts to the ‘pilgrims’ who walked their way up mountains and down, along paths and through villages and towns, strolling into their chosen alburgue in the evening to find a cosy bed and a hot shower, of meals shared with laughter and fun.

And yes, this does in fact happen; the Spirit of the Camino.

I’ve read some extraordinary stories of people ‘rescued’ by kind-hearted locals who seeing their distress take said distressed person under their wing and guide them to a hostelaria/alburgue, or give them a hot meal, a lift in their car/truck/lorry to a place of safety. How pilgrims help each other out, lending money, clean clothes, toiletries, guidance and very often a shoulder to cry on. The Spirit of the Camino.

The Camino is also, by all accounts, tough!! Some people die. The spirits on the Camino.

There is also the dark side, a little of which we saw in The Way. People die on the Camino. People start walking and never reach their goal; their journey cut short by the grim reaper. The reasons are many: heart failure, complications from surgery, falling off a mountain, falling off their bikes (those who cycle) and some die from traffic accidents; knocked over by trucks or cars. Some people start the walk in the hopes that they will reach Santiago, but knowing that they likely won’t. It’s their final walk. Some people have reached the steps of the cathedral only to drop down dead right there at the last step.

And then there those that are murdered. Wow, I can tell you when I discovered that last year…. it came as one hell of a shock to me. The prospect of dying on the Camino had never entered my head!! I learned about this quite by accident last year when I first joined the Camino forum on Facebook. It literally took the wind out of my sails. Just a simple post to say that she, the person who made the update, had laid a stone on the cairn for Denise Theim, an Arizona lass who had disappeared while walking.  If you have the stomach for it you can read about it here.

I immediately set about investigating the story and that lead me to the reports of her disappearance, death and the eventual discovery of her body. The perpetrator as per the above article has since been captured and tried, soon to be incarcerated.

But what startled me most of all was reading the many stories of people who have died on The Camino. I often see photos on the facebook groups of memorials to people from across the world, both young and old who never left The Way; the spirits on The Camino.

I often think about these people now as I prepare for my Camino in September and of course the thought crosses my mind. Will I die while walking? Of course I have no idea, that is, as they say, and depending on which religious or spiritual belief your follow, determined by fate or the book of life…..your death predetermined before you are even born. Not sure I believe that notion, but there it is.

I have to say that it does bother me a lot. The f.e.a.r. presents itself in many ways, and I am in constant conflict with the emotions that arise from these thoughts. My daughter is getting married next year and I will be walking her down the aisle, guiding her to the man she loves, watching as she and he join their hands and lives in marriage and walk into a new future. I would be devastated if by dying on the Camino I caused her any pain and spoiled her special day by not being there. Although I’m sure she would kick my ass for saying that!! 😉  Mind you, she’s already advised me that she would be seriously pissed off with me if I die while walking. LOL We have discussions about this from time to time. About the reality of death.

I’ve questioned myself over and over. Am I being selfish? Am I not putting her happiness first instead of my selfish desire for adventure? Should I have waited till after the wedding…? I did contemplate that.

See what I mean? FEAR – false evidence appearing real. It manifests on a daily basis and gives me palpitations – and I haven’t even started yet!!!

But after many talks and encouragement from her I went ahead and booked my ticket. Not because we are fatalistic in any way, not because we discussed it in depth and not because I have a flippant answer “it won’t happen to me” (I don’t believe in making promises like that!), but because life is life. I could just as easily step off a pavement in my day to day life and get run over by a car or bus…. I could get knocked over on the many walks I take in my day to day life, some of which are along narrow country roads where cars whizz by at 80 kms p.h. leaving dust and a shivering wreck of a walker in their wake. Or I could contract one of hundreds of diseases that abound and die anyway.

So should I not go on this walk? Should I allow the fears to win? Or should I grasp life and go anyway. Well since I’ve already booked my ticket, obviously so far, that is what I will be doing.

But it still doesn’t stop me from thinking about the people who do die. I’m sure it must be absolutely devastating for their families. I can’t imagine what it must be like for them to receive the news. I have read of one Mother whose daughter died before they started their Camino. She will be taking her daughter’s ashes along with her to distribute at special places along The Way. God, I can’t even imagine how hard that would be.

I was doing some research this morning and found this blog https://gabrielschirm.com/2016/08/22/deaths-on-the-camino-de-santiago/

Gabriel gives a number breakdown of the more recent deaths on the Camino. It’s not a macabre list, just a matter of fact observation that yes, people do die while walking the Camino.

I also found this amazing blog; a beautifully compiled memorial to Camino pilgrims who have died on the way – some on their first day, others as they completed their walk.

http://amawalker.blogspot.ie/2016/12/memorials-to-pilgrims-who-died-on-camino.html

It makes a sobering read. The spirits on the Camino.

So again it brings me back to the age-old question! Should I or should I not? F.E.A.R. But as mentioned earlier I’ve already booked my plane ticket for this year, booked and paid for some of the accommodation, bought the backpack, the badges, the clothes and equipment, the books…..and so on. And with my daughter’s blessing, I will walk the Portuguese Coastal Route in September.  I certainly plan to discover the Spirit of the Camino; but I have no plans to become a spirit on the Camino. And yes, despite the fear, I am excited 🙂

 

 

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‘Pilgrimage’ What an evocative word. When you hear the word pilgrimage it has so many meanings and connotations, different meanings for each person. You can go on a religious pilgrimage, a spiritual pilgrimage, you can take a pilgrimage to a previous home or favourite place. A pilgrimage can be something you go on or aspire to.

Since medieval times, the main connotation of the word pilgrimage has been in relation to monks or religious persons making a journey to one place of worship or another, either as a desire to gain more knowledge or in penance. Most of these pilgrim ways have followed main route of transportation; routes well-worn and familiar, travelled by many – creating routes of pilgrimage; corridors towards a shrine.

As with the thousands of people who traversed these routes, the paths used, varied over time – always flexible, always changing to accommodate one change or another. Perhaps a muddy field needed to be avoided in one particular year of bad weather and so ‘pilgrims’ found a ‘way’ around it and formed a new path. Towns sprung up along these ‘ways’ to accommodate the pilgrims who were needing shelter and food or rest; albergues and hospitals were opened, relics were discovered and distributed to tiny churches along the way and so a path was beaten to that door.

I remember my delight on discovering a Pilgrim’s ‘hospital’ on one of the many visits my daughter and I have made to Canterbury.

pilgrimage

The Pilgrims Hospital in Canterbury, Geoffrey Chaucer and the River Stour through Canterbury

Perhaps some hardy monk or another decided he needed to test his mettle and climbed higher than before and so a new path was created.  Perhaps a pilgrim grew old and tired on his journey and so sought an easier way around the hills and mountains; found obstacles in his way and so created another new path……

And yet, despite these many paths, both old and traditional or new, some still to be forged, the pilgrims always found their way to where they were headed. In this case the road to Santiago – also known as The Way of St James.

I love the idea of this, different paths for different folks; isn’t this true of life as well? Traditional is great, but one thing I’ve learned in life is that we each walk our own path. We can create new traditions. Nothing is original. If we went back in time to when St James first walked and preached the gospels in Spain, the paths he travelled along then are probably very different to what they are now. And after he died and was buried, then found and his relics installed at the Cathedral in Santiago, and eventually pilgrims first started walking to Santiago, even the ‘original’ paths, of which there are many, would be vastly different to what they are today. Certainly more well trod!!

And let us not forget one of the most famous of all pilgrims; Geoffrey Chaucer

pilgrimage, geoffrey chaucer, canterbury tales

Geoffrey Chaucer; author of The Canterbury Tales – a pilgrimage (journey) to Canterbury

In September of this year I’ll be walking the Portuguese Coastal Route to Santiago de Compostela, and I’m planning on following my own path with an eye on the general direction towards Santiago. From Tui I expect I’ll be following more traditional routes, but I’m not going to stress too much about the exact route, after all, it’s the journey that’s important and what we learn along ‘The Way’.

pilgrimage the way to santiago

finding my way to Santiago

Santiago de Compostela is the capital of northwest Spain’s Galicia region. It’s known as the culmination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, and the alleged burial site of the Biblical apostle St. James. His remains reputedly lie within the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, consecrated in 1211, whose elaborately carved stone facades open onto grand plazas within the medieval walls of the old town.

I follow the blogs, instagram profiles and facebook updates of a number of people who are either currently walking or have walked one or another of the many many routes to Santiago, and I often read how they got lost, lost the path or were misdirected and again you can so easily relate this to life.

I travel a lot with my job and I love to travel in my off time between jobs, and when I lived in London in particular, people asked ” aren’t you afraid of getting lost?”. My answer is always the same…..you can never be lost, you are just in a place you are unfamiliar with and it’s not where you had planned to be. Jump on a bus or a train, look at a map, you will find you are not lost at all. I remember when I first lived in London back in 2002/2003, I had a conversation with my Father about how big London was and how much it terrified me to travel around that vast city. He replied: “just think of London as many small villages all linked together by the network of the tube/underground system. You are never more than a few meters from either a train or a bus, you can never get lost.” It changed my perception of London completely and from then on I was never afraid to go out and explore the many ‘villages’ of London; often getting ‘lost’.

As I walk the Camino in September, I will have my handy wee app ‘mapmywalk’ switched on, and with an eye on the east to my right and the west to my left I will follow my own path north till I reach the Minho river that separates the north of Portugal from the south of Spain. From there; at Caminha, I will head inland with the sun in my eyes in the morning and at my back in the evening till I reach Valença and finally cross over into Spain to Tui.

looking east

Looking east at Broadstairs; sunrise

looking west

Looking west at Florence; sunset

From Tui I will follow the more traditional routes as I traverse the final 100 kms to Santiago so that I too may gain my ‘compostela’. A pilgrim.

Footnote:

The Minho divides the Spanish Tui and Portuguese Valença do Minho, towns that guarded an important bridge for road and rail. Both towns preserve fortifications and are national monuments.

Addendum: you can even go on a pilgrimage to a famous place to see the final resting place of a King; Richard III (thanks Beth 😉 your facebook update was most timeous).

http://leicestercathedral.org/about-us/richard-iii/richard-iii-tomb-burial/

a pilgrimage to visit the tomb of Richard II at Leicester cathedral

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One of the first things I did last year when I had first made serious plans for walking the Camino was to find out what equipment I needed and what I should wear. I confess I did go on a mad spending spree while in South Africa last year in May and bought a whole load of clothes and things at the duty free store LOL!!! I’m sure they saw me coming with my bushy tail, bright eyes and Rands (£’s) to spend!! I also went a little bit mad last year when I got home and I’m sure my purchases increased the profit margin of Mountain Warehouse quite substantially. Since then I calmed down a bit and did the sensible thing: research!! I found a fab link that I downloaded immediately

Printable Packing List

a most sensible list

So, in light of all this excitement, and especially since I have now booked my plane ticket, and the journey is real, I have set up various spreadsheets and done loads of research;

Equipment – what do I need, what’s useful and what can I realistically leave behind?

2016-05-31-17-09-27-1262409555510161159_231798962

Lookie looook!!! 🙂 Some of my #Camino2016 gear has arrived!! In keeping with the colour of my jacket and rucksack, I’ve bought as much as I can in purple…can’t help myself; colour coding LOL. So in this pile is a Summit 250 sleeping bag, an emergency foil blanket, survival bag, waterproof pouch (for carrying stuff with easy access), poncho, BPA free water bottle, IsoCool t-shirts, microfibre travel towel, travel bottle set. All of which will be useful for future walking trips and camping too.

I bought a lot of equipment/accessories while I was in South Africa, and so far the tops and pants I bought are going with. The jacket has been converted from two layers to one; the fleece will go with me, the outer rain-jacket will stay at home (too bulky). The gloves will go with, as will the woolly cap. Not sure I will actually need them, but I don’t want to spoil my experience by freezing. The khaki bush-veld sun-hat I bought, although totally unflattering 😉 will go with me. Trainers I bought in SA are totally not suitable and hurt my feet like blazes, so they have been traded in for a different pair, which so far, although quite comfortable, will also not be going with me…not quite right. So the search for suitable walking shoes is still on, although the sandals I bought are amazing. I foresee lots of walking along the beaches of Portugal in those!! Pants; found the ideal type, only problem is that they are men’s. Why don’t they make women’s pants with the same accessories….like leg pockets on both legs??? You have no idea how useful those pockets are for accessibility and storage. Oh well.

Clothes and accessories – again, how much do I realistically have to have.

Fortunately I have a sister and brother-in-law who do a lot of hiking and camping out, so they have given me some advice. Of course being a woman, my inclination is to take enough for every eventuality, but common sense is struggling to prevail and I am already mentally discarding this, that and the next thing. The Facebook pages I joined have been very useful as experienced Camigas have posted updates on what they took and what they discarded as the days went by and the pack got heavier (funny how that happens!!). One thing I have decided on is that I will cut my hair very short before setting out. Save on carrying shampoo and conditioner, and also for ease of wear. I tried on a monk’s outfit at Torre Abbey In Torque earlier this year! Perfect!! I’m seriously considering…..

Backpack – I have taken to accosting people at airports and train stations when I see a backpack that looks like it might fit the bill.

camino luggage

some ideas for the equipment

LOL The wearers have so far been very accommodating and happy to answer my many questions. So many aspects to consider….who knew??? But so far, the backpack I was going to borrow from my daughter last year has been found wanting, my backpack has been found wanting, and after much research and 5 columns on the spreadsheet to compare features, and the many I have seen on the Camino forums, it seems that Osprey will fit the bill – now to decide on which one. It’s a toss-up between two models: Osprey Sirrus 50 L or Osprey Tempest 40 L – urgh. Decisions, decisions.

the portuguese route to santiago

A map showing Portuguese Routes to Santiago

Distances – how far can I walk each day to accommodate my time allowance without killing myself!! My average speed/gait that I walk normally, is 4 km’s per hour. That means I can comfortably walk 24km’s in 6 hours. However, there is the backpack to consider, the heat to consider, the terrain to consider, and my durability to consider. The towns where I have decided to overnight (this is open to change) are all within 20-26 km’s apart with only 1 day being 32kms; Tui to Redondela. I am therefore staying in Valenca for 2 nights and a day to recover/prepare for the next stage. So far the total route is either 260 km’s or 285 km’s depending on which site you read. I’ve done a google distance calculation from town to town, added on a km to each and hoping for the best. Except for the last 100 km’s which you have to do consecutively in order to qualify for the certificate; Compostela, I can if necessary use the occasional bus or train. But I feel this would spoil it somehow so hoping to manage to walk the whole way.

Walking!!! Yes this raises all sorts of issues: care of feet, the correct shoes, types of terrain and poles!

Gosh, who knew that poles could be such a contentious issue? I posted an update just the other day to say that I had bought a paid of Nordic walking poles and had anyone on the group any comment? Yes, they did. 90% were positive but one or two were quite patronising and scathing. LOL. Anyway the concensus is that they are a good thing to have, now I just have to learn how to use them properly…there is apparently a special way of walking with them for maximum benefits. If they save my knees and ankles, then baby I am there!! Besides the training, it seems you need the rubber tips for cobbles and spikes for beach. Hmmm, who knew? I’ve also found a fab site, Camino Ways, and although I haven’t booked any tours with them, their foot care advice has been most useful. http://caminoways.com/footcare-when-walking

Accommodation – where to sleep each night?

sculpture of a pilgrim in dublin

I saw this truly evocative sculpture at Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin

The obvious choice would be alburgues, but from what I’ve seen on the various forums, this is a bit tricky. They are cheap and highly sought after and in many instance ‘pilgrims’ jump ahead by using taxis to get to the next town early and secure the accommodation before the ‘walkers’ get there. Seems a bit ludicrous really and not at all in the spirit of the Camino. To each his own hey! So I think I shall take a mix of AirBnB, hotels and the pilgrims alburgues. The AirBnb would give me the benefit of a private room, a place to prepare a proper meal, a comfortable bed and a dedicated shower LOL. Hotels likewise except for the meals, but mostly they include a continental breakfast….the alburgues are very basic, communal facilities and bedrooms with bunks, but mostly with kitchens where meals can be prepared, so I shall balance the 3 to both enjoy the experience and stick with the pilgrim aspect. From what I’ve seen on the forums, except for the purists, this mix appears to be the norm.

Food – what to eat?

I recently spent 10 days in Italy between Pisa and Florence and as usual was so busy exploring and tramping the streets trying to see as much as possible, I didn’t get to eat much…as a result of which I have suffered terrible cramps in my feet and legs since getting back home. Obviously my body couldn’t cope with the burning up of nutrients without being topped up!!! Lesson learned. I asked on Facebook and got some useful advice that I shall follow. Meanwhile I’m beefing up on protein. Being vegetarian this is a bit tricky but research has given me some fab food groups to incorporate into my diet. Nutrition is going to be key for a healthy Camino. So lots of fruit and vegetable protein will be on the menu. I’ll have to do some research on what’s available for my very spoilt British palate. We have way too much variety and choice in this country!!

Locations – this is the best part for me. I adore history, so my research on the different locations along the route have provided hours of pleasurable reading. Oh my word! So much extraordinary history. It’s almost unbearable. I wish I had twice the time I have allocated so that I could spend 2 nights and a day in each location. But I have chosen the highlights and of course; my favourite venues – the churches and cathedrals, anything Roman and of course amazing architecture.  Some snippets:Portugal is a country I have wanted to visit for some years and although not top of my dream list so to speak, it’s history has intrigued me and of course there’s the stunning scenery. I’m also intrigued by the fact that they are such a small country, surrounded by sea and Spain, and have yet maintained their independence through thick and thin.

My Camino de Santiago will start in September from Porto:

Porto, a coastal city in northwest Portugal, is Portugal’s 2nd largest city and known for its stately bridges and port wine production. In the medieval Ribeira (riverside) district, narrow cobbled streets wind past merchants’ houses and cafes, and is also a UNESCO world heritage Site. São Francisco Church is known for its lavish baroque interior with ornate gilded carvings. The palatial 19th-century Palácio de Bolsa, formerly a stock market, was built to impress potential European investors.

I cross over into Spain from Valenca and so to Tui; from there will complete my final 100 kms to qualify for the Compostela (Certificate).

The gateway through which the Portuguese Way passes into Galicia was, and continues to be, Tui.

I am currently working on a project called ‘Project 101’. Many of these locations will fulfil some of my objectives and to my delight I have discovered some UNESCO World Heritage Sites and some fantastic cathedrals and Roman towns on the route. I’m planning on spending 3 days in Porto before I start walking, to acclimatise and of course, most importantly to explore the city. It too is a UNESCO heritage site and last night I discovered that the town of Coimbra (which is a place I’ve wanted to visit) is only an hour by train from Porto, the University is a UNESCO World Heritage Site…so that too is now on my Project 101 list, and a must visit while I’m in Porto. Gosh will I have enough time to do it all??

So yes, time, like me, is marching on and I’m reading up on as many blogs, doing loads of research, watching videos, learning how to use my Nordic walking poles, and walking walking walking…… And exactly 4 months from today, I will have started walking…..my Camino 2017. I should have made inroads (pun intended 😉 ) on my 2nd 500 miles by then and I hope that I might just complete the full 1000 miles while I’m there…that would be awesome!!! #walk1000miles

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” ~Lao Tzu

walk 500 miles

Becoming a Proclaimer 🙂

You can follow my journey on instagram

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Back in 2010 my interest was piqued by a conversation I had with the niece of a lady I was caring for at the time. I mentioned to her that I was thinking of walking ‘The Camino’……and it turned out that she had already walked the route!! 🙂 A woman. Solo. On her own! Hmmm…….since then of course I’ve discovered that thousands of women walk solo every year; from teens to octogenarians. Pretty damn awesome!!

Prior to that I had heard of the Camino de Santiago in an obscure sort of way; I can’t recall exactly when I was first aware of it, probably in one of the many books I read, and of course my father had already cycled some of the routes. My father was in London one year (I think it was 2007) and we met up to watch the Tour de France pass through the city. We chatted about the Camino and made tenuous plans to ‘do it’ together….but he wanted to cycle whilst I want to walk…so it was probably never going to happen.

camino de santiago

My father in his latter years, shortly before he died at the grand old age of 85.

But the seed was planted and after the conversation I had in 2010, the idea took root: I would actually walk it myself, by myself. And of course there was the movie ‘The Way’ with Martin and Charlie Sheen that was released in 2010. It’s taken some 7 years, but I have finally put my money where my mouth is and booked my plane ticket!!! On 19 April 2017 I posted this on our family’s ‘WhatsApp’ news feed:

*Breaking news*  Yes!! Its done …I’ve just booked my flights for #Camino2017
I Fly to Porto in Portugal on 7 September for 3 Days in Porto  then start walking 285 (260?) kms to Santiago de Compostela on 11 September along the coastal route to Caminha, then inland to Valenca for my last night in Portugal, then crossing the Minha River to Tui the next day for the final 100 kms to Santiago de Compostela. I’ll spend 3 days in Santiago and then fly to Barcelona for 3 days and back to UK on 28 September. Too exciting for words!!

I cannot tell you how terrifying and yet exciting it was to finally make the decision and when I posted this to the family news feed and then made a Facebook update it was with a huge sense of trepidation; am I doing the right thing?

I actually wanted to walk the Camino in 2016 but due to one thing and another, namely; reasons and excuses, I didn’t take the final step of booking my flight! I had started training earlier in the year in preparation since I didn’t want the pilgrimage to be spoilt by lack of fitness and too much pain, but even so, I realised by September of 2016 that in fact, despite my desire to go and love of walking I wasn’t anywhere near fit enough. Reasons and excuses.

At the beginning of this year I joined a Facebook group #walk1000miles and that has given me a massive incentive to get out and walk; almost every day. While working my time is usually limited to 2 hours per day (my break), but I manage to do 5 miles in that time and have loved every minute. Besides that when I’m home, I take long walks along the coast to Margate, Ramsgate, Cliffsend and have even walked to Sandwich (26 kms) on one memorable day 🙂

Due to my job, I travel all over the country and so have had the pleasure of walking in different locations, with different challenges and landscape – this country is so beautiful. I am lucky. All these walks have added to my fitness levels. From the Isle of Thanet to the Isle of Wight, I’ve also walked in Ireland and along the North Downs, the Malverns, Worcester and Oxted amongst other areas. I’m truly fortunate.

camino practice walks 2017

I’ve had some wonderful walks all over the country

camino practice walks 2017

walks on the Isle of Wight

camino walks

walks on the Isle of Thanet, Ireland, the Malverns and Italy

Since 01/01/2017 I have walked  500 #bootson miles. If I had to include my ‘at work/on duty’ mileage I’m certain it would be well in excess of 1000 miles….but for purposes of training I have only added my actual ‘training’ time where I set out specifically to ‘walk’! As of today, in Ireland, I became a ‘Proclaimer’ LOL I will walk 500 miles, and I will walk 500 more…..

walk 1000 miles

I have walked 500 miles 🙂 and I will walk 500 more

Meanwhile, and as mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have, with heart in my mouth, and a mix of excitement/ terror/trepidation/joy picked up the phone and booked my ticket…..no going back now!!!!

I’m finally going on my Camino. 🙂 hooray!

And exactly 4 months from tomorrow, I shall start walking…..my Camino 2017.

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