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Archive for the ‘long distance walks – solo’ Category

Getting off to a good start yesterday, today I left it a little late to start my walk so only got as far as Dumpton Gap before I headed back home. The weather has been so mild it’s almost difficult to believe its mid-winter. However there was a storm brewing across the channel and the sea was a completely different animal today with wild waves smashing up against the harbour wall and sending spray in every direction including over the gathering observers! It’s fascinating to see how these waves attract more and more people, it seems we cant resist a bit of wildness in our lives.

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super waves

As usual I was unable to resist and so before I set off for Dumpton Gap, I walked down to the harbour to watch and film the wave action. That sounds when the water hits the wall is so thrilling….a loud wwhump that sends shivers through the ground and up your spine.

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stormy weather

I spent ages just watching and filming, getting wet by a rouge wave that crept up from behind and splashed me with icy water. Not the first time and probably won’t be the last!

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waves smashing against the harbour wall

A brisk walk across the beach towards Louisa Bay and as the tide was coming in I had to walk along the concrete walkway rather than continue along the beach. I love this wild kind of weather, it’s so exhilarating and vibrant and energetic…make me feel so alive!

I find the chalk cliffs along the coastline to be endlessly fascinating. It’s incredible to think that these cliffs were once beneath the seas and formed from the skeletal remains of minute planktonic green algae that lived floating in the upper levels of the ocean. It’s sad to realise how quickly they are disintegrating and wearing away from sea erosion. The lumps of chalk left behind have hardened into rocks forming an alien landscape.

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chalk cliffs on the Isle of Thanet

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Dumpton Gap – the rocks from the worn away chalk cliffs look like an alien landscape

Coming back the clouds had moved on and the sky was a vibrant blue with puffy clouds here and there.

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reflections at Dumpton Gap, Isle of Thanet

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beautiful Broadstairs, a sight that always lifts my spirits

Once I got home, my daughter and I sat on the couch chatting about the baby and the different options she has now been left with since baby is presenting as breech. Little blighter….oh well. We’ll see.

Besides walking, I’ve been finishing off some of the little cardigans and matinee jackets I’ve been knitting for my grandson. His arrival is now well and truly imminent and we are waiting with bated breath for him to start his incredible journey, the first of many.

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a cardigan for Peanut

I’ve also been reading the 2nd of the books I bought for myself for Xmas: ‘Arabia’ – Levison Wood. It’s really hard going. Not from the reading aspect because he is a very descriptive author and it’s so interesting, but rather it’s the appalling history of the area and the terrible horrors perpetrated against the Syrians that I’m finding so hard to contemplate. I won’t go into too much detail here because I want to write a proper review, suffice to say it’s mind-numbing and shocking stuff.

Day 2 /365 – Broadstairs to Dumpton Gap : 4.68 kms, 8008 steps

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Viking bay to Dumpton Gap

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Thursday Day 10 – 30th August 2018 : Tonbridge to Broadstairs

Well here we are, Pepe, Gemini and I, on the train heading home.

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on my way home

My leg is no better and when I lifted Pepe onto my back this morning I experienced that kind of red hot pain that leaves you breathless. So yes, time to head home to recuperate. Damaged but not defeated. I’m already scheming ways of completing this walk in the not too distant future. 😉😁

Ironically my sleeping bag arrived home today too. It was in the stars. One thing for certain, I am going to repack Pepe and anything that I didn’t use last week is coming OUT!!! I’m a bit of a ‘just in case’ packer, but I don’t think it served me well on this walk. Learning curve, I guess. But, on the plus side, I met a lovely Carer at the house last night and I’m certain we’ll become good friends. We have a lot in common and had so much to talk about. 😊😊 So onwards.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my journey along The Pilgrim’s Way; from Winchester to Oxted – hopefully to complete the journey in 2019. I may even redo the section I’ve already walked LOL – or not!!! In case you missed my previous posts…..

Setting off on my pilgrimage

Revisiting the City of Winchester

Exploring Southampton

Day 1 – Winchester to Alresford

Keep your eye on this space……I’m planning (hoping) to finalise my pilgrimage in April 2019

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And so the inevitable has come to pass…. I’ve reached the end of the book. There is a certain sadness when you reach the last page of a story in which you’ve been, on a journey if you will, a journey you wish could continue for longer. But inevitably, no matter how long the book, you would finally reach the end of that too. When I first saw this book I got really excited about reading it because its one of my dreams to walk the length of my beloved River Thames and the River Severn, so to read this book became imperative and made a superb Xmas 🎄 gift from my son-in-law.

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I started reading it immediately and have barely been able to put it down…..I got so much more than I bargained for.

Being a long distance walker myself (albeit not on the scale of Levison’s walks by any means) it struck a chord and I had certain expectations of how the story would progress…it turned out to be completely different to what I expected…a journey through Africa’s turbulent history and meeting her people, as varied as what they are, and I have learnt much that is both intriguing and horrifying. I also remember many of the events that took place in recent history.

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such an interesting albeit scary book at times. a very good read

There is one sentence in the book that sums it up perfectly for me, a sentence I can so identify with since it is an emotion that has caught me out at the end of my walks, most especially when I finished the Camino de Santiago last year… “There was nowhere left to walk”. I remember feeling absolutely bereft when I realised that, as excited as I was to reach Santiago, it meant I was at the end of my journey…and there was nowhere left to walk. Of course the context is completely different and I could have walked on to Finisterre and Muxia, but for that particular time, it was the end.

If you enjoy long distance walking, adventure and reading, and even if you just enjoy a damn good story, I can recommend this book. I plan to read it again….albeit at a slower pace than normal 😂 😂 and no, I have no plans for #WalkingtheNile myself 🤔😉😂

 

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Wednesday 29th August 2018 – Day 9 : Oxted to Tonbridge by train

backpacking, long distance walks, walking the pilgrims way. the pilgrims way winchester to canterburyMy penultimate instagram post : Tonbridge: Homeward Bound – Sometimes sooner than expected. So, after a day of excruciating pain in my lower right leg, and totally hobbling around, I’ve had to make the executive decision to head home for recovery. I can’t afford to cause more damage since I still have to work next month. If I continue along The Pilgrim’s Way after my day in Tonbridge, the following 5 days of walking are all in excess of 20kms and the last is 12kms. I know for sure that I’ll do more damage if I continue regardless. I’m good at endurance but have to be sensible too. Clearly the fall I had on Sunday did more damage than I thought and I must have been favouring my hip and my right leg where I fell on Box Hill is really swollen and very painful. So, disappointing as it is, I’ve cancelled all my accommodation for the next week and will get back to The Pilgrim’s Way over a period of time. Unfortunately my dates going forward for the rest of 2018 are not conducive to completing the way in one go, so I’ll look at dates when I get home and plan it over 2/3 stages and probably plan shorter days.  The only night’s accommodation I can’t cancel is the Canterbury date, meant to be my last night, it’s really disappointing to not be arriving as a pilgrim completing the way. I’ll take it up anyway (not too difficult to spend a night in Canterbury 😉) and work the rest of the route around my work dates. Urgh. But, as the Gambler said “You gotta know when to hold out, and know when to quit”. OK so I used poetic license there… But, cest la vie. Homeward bound for now, and back to the pilgrimage in the future. I may even start in Canterbury and walk backwards (not literally 🙄🙄) to where I am now 😂 😂 😂 Other people walk from Canterbury to Winchester, so maybe I’ll mix it up a bit and do the same. One thing this trip has done is give me a whole new perspective on certain aspects of life. But that I’ll blog about that later on. Thanks to everyone for your lovely support and encouragement, and sharing my journey. I’m disappointed at having to stop, but being a pragmatic person, I’m more concerned for my health. I’ve had a wonderful time so far, albeit unpleasant at times and some really difficult days, but I’ve seen some amazing places and met many wonderful people along the way, and thats what its all about. It’s the journey, not the destination. Anyway, it’ll be something for me to look forward to 😂 😂 😂

My coddiwomple has come to an end….for now!!

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coddiwomple

And so it came to pass that I ended my pilgrim’s way in Hurst Green. When I woke in the morning, not only was it pouring with rain, but my leg was in agony. I could barely walk. So taking the easy way out I ordered a cab to take me to the station.

My training was in the afternoon in Tonbridge so I enjoyed a slow journey and once there I again took a cab to the Carer’s house which was conveniently also where the training was to be held. Settling into my room I had a short nap and put my legs up.

After the training I had a meal, a lovely hot shower and settled into watch some tv. Then to bed…..perchance to dream, but certainly to dream of the day when I can complete my walk along The Pilgrim’s Way backpacking, long distance walks, walking the pilgrims way. the pilgrims way winchester to canterbury

Did you perhaps miss the start of my journey….it starts here

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mapmywalk, the pilgrims way, walking the pilgrims way, long distance walks england, backpacking, women walking soloTuesday 28th August 2018 Day 8 – Merstham to Oxted : 20.75 kms / 45,608 steps    elevation 309 meters

My early morning instagram post: Merstham: Morning all. I’m still alive LOL Had a really good sleep, feeling refreshed. Atm I’m relaxing in bed with a cup of tea. My hosts at this AirBnB are/were amazing, they’ve even left breakfast for me 😊😊 These images are from when I was at Shere where I ended my journey on Sunday. We didn’t have network or WiFi at Tanners Hatch so couldn’t share. Shere is gorgeous and definitely bears a return visit on a sunny day. I had lunch at the Dabbling Duck which was lovely, albeit very busy and they initially forgot to take my order. Shere is a Domesday Book village. As you can see it was just raining. I lost about 12 kms of the route on that day. Not a lot, but enough to irk me. I’ll have to come back another day and walk that stage again and probably break it down into 2. And I definitely must have more time to explore Shere.

It amazes me how quickly my body recovers with a good nights rest and a hot shower. My leg and coccyx were however still rather tender, but I wasn’t about to let them stop my pilgrimage. While enjoying my lie-in and cuppa, after posting some photos from the day before, I consulted the guide to see what lay ahead of me for the day.  Apparently “the original route from Mertsham to the top of the North Downs has been changed by the arrival of two motorways and two railway lines“.  So my slight guilt at not following the guide yesterday was dispersed hah!!

But first…Quality Street; once the main road to Brighton, is named after JM Barries’s play Quality Street in 1902.

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the famous Quality Street in Merstham

The famous tin of sweets, launched in 1936 by Mackintosh’s of Halifax to coincide with the release of the Quality Street film, had a bow-fronted shop on the lid similar to houses in the street, which include 17th and 18th century buildings. Merstham, is also, to my delight, a Domesday Book village of 1086 as Merstan; Its name was recorded in 947 as Mearsætham, which seems to be Anglo-Saxon Mearþ-sǣt-hām = “Homestead near a trap set for martens or weasels”. courtesy of wikipedia

I passed the Old Forge, a Grade II listed building, unfortunately partially blocked by a van, but nonethless quite awesome to see, as well as some other amazing houses.

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The Old Forge, Merstham

After crossing the motorway I reached St Katharine’s Church which dates from c. 1220 and replaced an earlier church built c. 1100, it is however believed that there has been a church of some form on the site since c. 675 AD. In the grounds I met 2 ladies from Germany who were walking the North Downs Way. Before progressing, I popped into the church for a visit. Quiet by accident I discovered some fabulous brasses cleverly concealed by carpets…hah! I have a nose for these things.

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The route crossed a motorway, took me through a suburb and then into thick undergrowth, beneath the motorway (not decorated like the one yesterday), through some open fields anddddd….up the first of the hills I was to encounter today! A notice urged me to please keep to the North Downs Way…my pleasure 🙂

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the only selfie I took on the whole 8 days LOL and I obeyed the request 🙂

my instagram post – Redhill: What was that they said about the way flattening out?? Just climbed 2 steep hills in quick succession. Urgh 🙄🙄 mind you the view is fantastic. So today I’ve packed the guide book away since the route from Merstham to Oxted follows the North Downs Way. Hoorah. Much better.

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North Downs Way

After reaching the crest of the hill, I met a lovely old gentleman and stopped for a wee chat, after which I stopped in a field for a few minutes of respite and then a lovely long lane beneath a tunnel of beautiful trees…..in the distance I could see the two ladies I had seen earlier at the church.

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going upppppp

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and uppppp

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goodbye friend 🙂 looking back downhill towards Merstham

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fellow pilgrims in the ditance

I had just reached a junction in the road when I looked to my left (for oncoming traffic) and saw to my delight a signboard for…….’Chaldon 1086′, whoo hoo.

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Chaldon AD 1086 – 🙂 a Domesday Book village

Another Domesday Book village. I had a quick look on mapmywalk to see how far the church/village was, and found to my dismay that it was a good long walk from The Pilgrim’s Way/NDW. But, since these villages are part of my Project 101, I decided to make the diversion (just on 1 mile away) and suck it up! LOL And boy am I glad I did. The church was FANTASTIC. I stepped through the door and found the breath-taking medieval painting; Ladder of Salvation, featuring a drunken naked pilgrim holding an empty wine bottle

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The Ladder of Salvation – a medieval painting in the church of Chaldon

– painted c. 1200, 30 years after the murder of Becket, when the church was in the care of Merton Abbey where the saint had been a pupil. On a pillar near the door there is a pilgrim mark in the shape of a T for Thomas.

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T – Thomas Becket – Parish Church of St Peter & St Paul, Chaldon

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As I walked around the church I thought to myself…”Oh I wonder if someone would be able to give me a lift to the top of the hill?” As I thought this 2 people entered the church. I said hello and carried on out the door. After strolling about the graveyard, I walked through the gate at just about the same time as the couple who arrived earlier. There was a blue van just in front of me…..the couple made for the van, and totally on impulse, the words popped out my mouth “any chance you could give me lift to the top of the hill?”…and what did they say?? Yes!!!! Oh my gosh. I was delighted. I hopped into the back of the van and sat on the floor amongst the detritus of a working man, grinning from ear to ear. The Universe delivered…big time LOL We had a lovely chat all the way up the hill, they were really interested in my journey. Wished me well & goodbye 🙂

My instagram post: Chaldon: Making good progress today . After climbing that hill earlier the way has indeed flattened out. I took a small diversion to visit Chaldon, a 1086 Domesday Book village and the parish church. Walking down the road I questioned my sanity…..going down usually means going back up again. Nonetheless, what an extraordinary church. The west end of Chaldon Church, dating from 1086, is covered with the Ladder of Salvation painted about 1200, thirty years after the murder of Thomas Becket, when the church was in the care of Merton Abbey, where Becket had been a student. While walking around the church, in my mind I was thinking “I hope someone with a vehicle visits while I’m here so I can ask for a lift back up the hill.” as I was leaving a couple in a van drew up, briefly popped in at the church (turns out they’re checking the lightening conductors in the county churches), so I asked them for a lift back to my route….. 😅😅😅 Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say. A charming couple, we chatted as we drove and they saved me the long walk back. My prayers were answered and thank you to the Universe 🌌 😍 Where I rejoined the route I saw the very first Pilgrim’s Way sign 👏👏👏 which I would have missed if I hadn’t made the diversion. atm I’m sitting at the Harrow Pub and just about to tuck into a huge baked potato. I’m enjoying today 😊

They dropped off one very grateful pilgrim back at the junction and I set off once again, well pleased that I had indeed made the diversion. As I set off I looked up and noticed the sign board…..PILGRIM’S WAY Hoorah. One of the very FEW markings for the route, I would have missed this if I hadn’t decided to visit the church.

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one of the very few route markers for the Pilgrim’s Way that I saw the whole 8 days

If nothing else the route is varied!!! I passed the house mentioned in the guide: After Hilltop (left with a clock and a view) the way is alongside woodland and fields where I met a lady and her dog….we commiserated with each other as we tried to navigate the mud….the ‘way’ is not always conducive to an easy walk.

Not much further along, at a junction where I had to cross the road again, I spotted The Harrow pub and on impulse decided to stop for lunch. It was already 13.20 and I was HUNGRY!!! I ordered a baked potato with a peppery filling… it was delicious, albeit very spicy hot. wheww. My mouth was on fire. Oh and I had a beer 🙂

Refreshed and replenished I set off once again and passed a rather odd looking folly (probably why it’s called a ‘folly’). The way now took me along a tarmac road and along some lovely shady woodland paths.

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So beautiful. I didn’t see a soul for ages until just before 3pm when I met a young woman out walking her dog. We chatted briefly and then she went on ahead while I strolled along, just enjoying the peace and quiet.

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shady paths – a good place to rest for a while

The path once again was rustic, taking me through woodland and up hill and down dale…and then in a sheltered meadow I spotted a weathered wooden bench. Time for a rest me thinks. I offloaded Pepe and took off my socks and shoes, and lay down on the bench in the sun and just chilled. Bliss. Once again I hadn’t seen anyone for ages.

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a wonderfully peaceful place to rest

After a short rest I set off and shortly encountered the first set of steps (urgh).

The route took me through some beautiful woodland, England’s counties sure are pretty

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I love these benches; they offer stunning views of the countryside

and then…..I took to instagram again…Woldingham: And suddenly I’m on familiar territory. After lots of ups and downs and flats and twists and turns, I can see Oxted ☺️☺️ in the distance and to the left I can see the fields I used to walk along while training for last year’s Camino and briefly, for this years walk. Its been a hard day again, but thats mostly coz after 7 days of walking I’m now very tired, and not because it was just hell. Rest day tomorrow, albeit for End of Life training in Tonbridge. So, none too soon, I’m almost at the end of today’s stage. Show. Me. The. Bed!!! 😂😂😂

Just before heading down to the lower paths on the downs, I stopped off to rest on a bench I spotted about halfway down another flights of steps.

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I’ll be really glad to leave the steps behind. When I did reach the lower footpath I regretted my thoughts almost immediately….the path was very narrow and lined with scratchy prickly brambles.

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not a pleasant section of the route

The sun was beginning to sink behind the ridge and I needed to get a move on. From the guide book: “The path now goes downhill to a hidden kissing gate.” Hidden?? Hidden?? It’s bloody grown over with a thick bush of brambles. I had to bend over double just to get under the brambles. Getting through the gate, bent over double with a backpack on my back was not fun at all. I ended up with scratches all along my arms. Urgh.

Now I was on familiar territory. I had walked these oaths dozens of times before when working in Oxted. It was lovely to see these paths and fields again. I crossed the road leading into Oxted and then followed a familiar route up a short hill with the idea of sitting on the bench where I used to sit on my Camino practice walks. When I got to the top I was absolutely dismayed to discover that some vandals had destroyed it completely

It was so lovely to walk along paths I had so often walked along before. The fields are so lovely and I had seen them at different times of the year

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familiar fields….it felt so good to back walking this path

Oxted: Whoo hoo and hoorah. I’m standing on the Greenwich Meridian Line, ergo I’m just about to cross from the western hemisphere to the eastern hemisphere 😁😁😁👏👏

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crossing the Greenwich Meridian Line

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standing with one foot in the west and one foot in the east

I’m almost at my journey end, and now standing in the fields I could see in my earlier photo. I’m well ahead of time, so I’m going to walk part of Thursdays route just to save some time on that day, coz it’ll be a late start and nearly 20km day. – okay so this was not one of my brighter ideas. I followed the rutted road past Titsey Place

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walking past Titsey Estate – I’ve walked along here a number of times

and had to navigate a swamped area, passed under the M25 motorway and reached the B269. Under the best of times this is not a good road to walk along and I had in fact forgotten that this waited at the end of the route past Titsey Place. Nonetheless, there I was. It was busy. I spent the next 15 minutes dodging cars and trucks by jumping into the hedgerows lining the road. Finally, unscathed, I arrived in Limpsfield village

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Limpsfield, Surrey – a 1086 Domesday Book village

….my destination: St Peter’s Church.

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I love this little church and it holds fond memories…..it was the place where I got my very first Pilgrim’s stamp earlier in 2017 before my Camino along the Portugues Coastal Route to Santiago. I stopped off at the church to look around and stamp my passport and then walked back into Oxted. There are some stunning old houses in Detillens Lane.

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Limpsfield appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Limenesfeld

I soon reached Oxted Station and hopped on the next train to Hurst Green where I was to stay for the night at another AirBnb venue. After a short walk I reached the house, had a lovely cup of tea, some hot soup and bread, a long conversation with the host and then a shower and into bed. Hoorah.

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my bed…..hoorah

As soon as I was in bed I headed over to instagram for my update: Hurst Green: After 7 days of walking, here is my pilgrim’s passport and the stamps I have managed to obtain. Its very different to the Camino where just about every establishment, restaurant, cafe and refreshments stall (even ice-cream stands) have a ‘sello’. Most of the churches I visited along The Pilgrim’s Way don’t have pilgrim passport stamps. I left a message in their visitor books saying how nice it would be to find one when visiting. Most businesses don’t have them either…I guess email has made them obsolete. However, I’m happy with what I have so far 😊😊😊 a record of my journey

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My Pilgrim’s Passport – Day 1 – Day 8 🙂 Sadly not all the churches I visited had pilgrim stamps

From Merstham to Oxted along The Pilgrim’s Way. A good day. I met some lovely people along the route and enjoyed a number of interesting albeit short conversations. At the church in Limpsfield I saw in the visitors book that a lady from Greenwich passed this way on the 19th, also following the Pilgrim’s Way. 🙂 How cool is that!! That’s the 2nd person whose details I’ve seen in the visitors book in a church. And at journey’s end, a lovely host, good conversation, a cup of tea , a hot shower and a comfy bed….what more could I ask for? A leg that wasn’t absolutely aching, would be a start….urgh. I think that pushing that last few km’s along the Pilgrim’s Way past Titsey Place and onto St Peter’s Church was 4 kms too many. My leg was in agony and very swollen. I applied loads of my aloe vera heat lotion and took 2 paracetamol. With my leg raised against the wall, I lay back on the bed and contemplated just how far I had come.

I felt really good at how much ground I had covered, how many obstacles I had overcome, at the number of steps I climbed at Box Hill (for the record = 275 steps!!!) felt more like 27500!!! LOL I was looking forward to the training at head office the next day in Tonbridge, and a day off from lengthy walking and most especially from the bloody guide book. Other than that, I felt good. So glad to be walking the Pilgrim’s Way…a long held dream.

Goodnight.

read about Day 7 of my pilgrimage along The Pilgrim’s Way click here
I made a short video you may enjoy

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mapmywalk, the pilgrims way, walking the pilgrims way, long distance walks england, backpacking, women walking soloMonday 27th August 2018 Day 7 – Tanners Hatch to Mertsham : 18.90 kms / 43,317 steps elevation 374 meters.

Even though it’s a hostel, with all the accompanying irritations like snoring, switching lights on in the middle of the night, early risers repacking their bags, I do enjoy sleeping at the YHA. Tanners Hatch YHA was a delight.

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see that bed….bottom left…that was my bed 🙂 perfect – (pic captured off their website)

By morning I was even more determined to book another stay. In the light of morning, sans rain, I had a chance to explore a little more fully….the setting is beautiful, and quite enchanting.

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A couple staying at the YHA offered me a lift to my starting point for today; Box Hill & Westhumble Station. I gratefully accepted as were seriously wayyyy off the Pilgrim’s route. I made myself a quick breakfast of plain pasta and a cup of herbal tea. I was rather hungry by then. Fortunately my trainers had dried out in front of the fire and my clothes too were dry.

A longggg walk later, we finally reached the car park. Note to self….if I do book to stay again, it’s a long walk to the location….don’t take too much stuff. LOL

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Box Hill & Westhumble Station, the starting point for the section to Merstham

By 09:32 I was on my way. I passed the Stepping Stones pub and made a mental note to eat there (next trip??) LOL I loved the house across from the pub.

Within 10 minutes I crossed beneath the motorway….I stopped to admire the beautiful mural before continuing.

Page 78 of the guide: “Walk south along the road with the traffic to the right. At the bus stop go left into a wide entrance. Keep forward past a car park”. Car park?? Uhmmm nope. This I did, except if you go forward you end up on private property. What the guide could have said was ” At the 2nd bus stop go left ….”. This was one of many inconsistent/obscure instructions in the guide book. There were a few more still to come.

My instagram post later that morning: “Box Hill viewpoint: I’m beginning to hate this guide book 😞😞😓 After saying goodbye to the ever so delightful Tanners Hatch YHA, I started off from the Westhumble and Box Hill Station. Not long and the guide doesn’t give sufficient information and once again a local had to direct me. Safely traversed the Stepping Stones across the River Mole and started up Box Hill. Now if you’ve never climbed Box Hill..seriously give it a miss, its a bastard and very HIGH with HUNDREDS of very steep steps. The guide says at the start of the 3rd set of steps go right into the trees which I did, and the field is on the right, but it wasn’t it was on the left, so I climbed back up to the steps, carried on climbing, but no further turning to the right and now I’m at the top of the bloody hill, and if I’ve come too far up (no other paths to be seen), then that means I have to go back DOWN these horrible steps and go back along the path I took originally.. I’ve already fallen coming up the slippery slope. No damage but I’m fed up now with the guide. Either way I guess I’ll have to just crack on“.

Box Hill Stepping Stones. Of all the route I had seen or read about along the Pilgrim’s Way, this was what I was most afraid of. The Stepping Stones. My sense of balance is not good and I was wary of crossing them, but I took it slowly, delighted to reach the opposite bank without falling in. 😂😁😁

Ahead of me was Box Hill. Little did I know that this was going to be the biggest challenge of the whole walk, and also the beginning of the end….

As per the guide: “At the start of the 3rd flight of steps go right, on a narrow path into the trees. The way, which bears slightly left, can in season be sometimes indistinct“. hmmmm

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Box Hill steps….this was not fun!!

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what do you mean I have to go up there?

At what appeared to be the 3rd flight of stairs (the guide doesn’t say how many steps are in the 2nd flight) I turned off and followed the path. “Later it climbs a little and soon is near a field (right)“. Again…hmmmm??? Nope, the field was to my left?? I checked mapmywalk and saw that I was headed very close to the river, closer than indicated on the map in the guide. So I walked back up the way I had come and started climbing the next flight of steps….and climbed and climbed and climbed. All the way I kept looking for this narrow path the guide talks about…and I couldn’t find anything. Further along in the guide he mentions “The path, running ahead and with pylons to the right, is on the line of the PW….” Well, no matter which way I looked at it, I could not find a path that would put the pylons on my right! Unless it was this one? Which was a National Trust nature trail?

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was this the way? it didn’t look like it. it did however look a lot like the path I fell down yesterday

So instead I just kept climbing and after about the 1000th step, steps that are in places so high that I had to lift my legs up individually under the knee with my hands …..and then.. I fell UP a step. A very hard fall that smashed my right shin, left me flat on my face and unable to get up – I just did not have the energy to lift myself up with the backpack on. Fortunately I didn’t fall BACKWARDS, and there was someone on hand to help me up. Seriously, I was exhausted by that stage. I simply couldn’t bear the thought of climbing anymore steps, but I had no choice….all I could do was just to continue going UP and up and up. There were some lovely trees to see….as a bonus LOL

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one of the benefits walking through the countryside…lots of beautiful old trees

More steps….

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more steps…..the gravel between was treacherously slippery

Finally after what felt like hours of climbing more steps that I ever want to see in front of me ever again. I reached the Box Hill viewpoint.

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what a view 🙂

Referring back to my instagram post: “Box Hill viewpoint: I’m beginning to hate this guide book.

I saw that the North Downs Way, which is so well marked, was in my vicinity. So I packed the guide book in my backpack,  and carried on walking….I figured that since most of the Pilgrim’s Way is largely a ‘made up’ route and much of it follows the North Downs Way which is well marked, whereas the Pilgrim’s Way isn’t marked at all….

After walking for a while I reached Salomon’s Memorial where I stopped to take a few photos and then carried on walking along some seriously tricky terrain I came out of the trees to a welcome sight before me…a restaurant!! Hoorah. It was 11:46 and the restaurant; Smith & Western opened at 12noon….I figured it would be a good idea to wait and have some proper food….I hadn’t had a proper solid meal for a couple of days. Good move. I had the MOST delicious veggie fajita, a pot of tea and a lovely cold coke. I don’t usually drink coke, but I was in dire need of sugar. After relishing my meal and resting my feet, after an hour I set off once again. Although to be honest, I have no idea how I actually ended up at this place….but boy am I glad I did.

Diving into the gloom of the trees, with the guide still packed away (?) I discovered that the terrain was really difficult with lots of tree roots, and steps…..more steps!!! Jeezuz. I was sick to death of climbing steps whether up or down. In all I was not a happy bunny. This day was turning out to be a nightmare.

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This last section was a true test of endurance. I’m still not sure how I managed….but I did. Trudging on I followed the markers crossing Reigate Hill

and passed the ‘Flying Fortress’ B17 WW2 memorial,

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This clearing in the trees was created at 5.42pm on 19 March 1945 when a B17 (G) aircraft, a ‘Flying Fortress’ creashed into the side of Reigate Hill, killing all 9 crew members on board

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the two wooden sculptures reflect the wing tips of the B17 that crashed

then Reigate Fort, which I briefly explored,

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crossed the Reigate Hill Footbridge and finally Gatton Park where I  stopped at the refreshment booth for an ice-cream and a drink, had a rest, a quick pit stop to the loo and after taking a photo of the views and the sundial I picked up what was now the Pilgrim’s Way again and set off towards Merstham and my bed for the night.

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what a fantastic view

Its been a day of sheer unadulterated endurance. But I’m nearly at my destination. Hoorah

Gatton Park is really beautiful and I so enjoyed walking along what was now fairly flat terrain.

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hoorah….no steps

On the way down the hill I passed the Millennium Stones; these awesome stones, built to resemble a megolithic stone circle, were created by Richard Kindersley during 1998 to 1999 to mark the double millennium from AD1 to AD2000. The first stone in the series is inscribed with the words from St John’s Gospel, “in the beginning the word was …”. The subsequent nine stones are carved with quotations contemporary with each 200 year segment, ending with the words of T S Eliot.

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Millenium Stones

After examining the circle and reading some of the inscriptions, I left the stones behind me and after crossing one last green field, I soon reached a more suburban area….nearly there 🙂

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at the end of this field was my destination…Merstham

Finally I was in Merstham. It was exactly 7pm and I was so ready for bed.

Thankfully the AirBnb wasn’t too far from where the path ended so in no time at all I found the venue and was greeted by two of the loveliest hosts I have ever met. They were so welcoming, made me a lovely mug of tea and provided some hot food. We had a lovely conversation and then with my eyes barely held open, I made my way upstairs, had a hot hot shower and hopped into bed. Bliss

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my wonderful bed at the Merstham AirBnb

My instagram post: Merstham: Well. All I can say is that today’s lesson was about not giving up despite the pain, the exhaustion, the frustration and climbing more steep steps than I ever expected or wanted or ever plan to do again 😂 😂 😂 Frankly I even amazed myself today at my capacity for endurance. But I can say for sure that I did not enjoy today’s walk. I am shattered, and walked so slowly that I’m surprised 🤨 🤨 that I actually got to Merstham at the time I did. My right hip was exceptionally painful today after yesterday’s fall and falling on the steps at Box Hill today didn’t help matters much. Getting to the top of the hills; Box Hill and Reigate, was excruciating but oh my gosh, the views… Stunning. I dosed myself up on 2000 mg of paracetamol over the day and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. However, arrive I did. My Airbnb hosts are absolutely lovely and we had a wonderful chat over a hot cuppa, I’ve wallowed in a scalding hot shower and now I’m horizontal on that fantastic bed. The route was meant to be 15.6 kms, I walked 18.9 kms which included about retracing my steps 3 times. I left Westhumble Station at 9.15 am and arrived at Merstham at 7pm with an hour for lunch and 3 short breaks. The guide book suggests it should take 3.5 hours  😂 😂 😂 😂 😂 on another planet maybe 🙄🙄🙄

Both the best and most challenging of days. Once again I had to dig deep to carry on, tried to ignore the pain of the 2 falls, enjoyed the views, appreciated good food and climbed more stairs that I ever want to EVER again LOL. But now I’m in a deliciously comfy bed, clean and refreshed….Goodnight…..

p.s. that bottle of water on the bed-stand….remained unopened.

In case you missed Day 6 of my pilgrimage from Winchester click here

Today video of scenes from Day 7

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mapmywalk, the pilgrims way, walking the pilgrims way, long distance walks england, backpacking, women walking soloSunday 26th August 2018 Day 6 – Guildford to Tanners Hatch : 9.73 kms / 21155 steps    elevation 216

after a fairly good night’s sleep I started off fairly early after a solid breakfast. Walking along the main road, I was wishing it wasn’t Sunday so I could take the bus back to St Catherine’s village LOL

I reached Ye Olde Ship Inn fairly quickly. First stop was St Catherine’s Chapel;

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St Catherine’s Chapel, Guildford

built around 1317 as a chapel of ease for St Nicholas Church in Guildford, the building was abandoned during the reformation. A lovely little kitty visited me for a chat while I was exploring. The views from the hill were amazing.

Trotting back the first of MANY a downhill over the day, I walked along Ferry Lane passing some super houses towards the River Wey where I discovered this lovely little poem alongside the stream.

I crossed the bridge over the river and walked through a really beautiful nature reserve.

I reached a large green; Shalford Park and following the guide crossed the road and into one of the very few references to the Pilgrims Way I saw along the whole way. Not all roads are pretty.

Passing a pretty cottage that looks like it has the best location ever,

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my ideal location

I followed the sandy lane and soon entered Chantry Wood….now this is more like it. Dappled sunlight shone through the leafy trees, with a breath-taking view across the fields. I stopped for a short while for food etc and watched the world go by…everyone and their uncle cycled past! Weird.

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Chantry Wood, the Pilgrim’s Way

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fantastic views across Surrey

Just after I pulled my backpack on and started walking again, it started to rain and that’s where my troubles began…the ground is very rutted and very sandy in some areas, and walking in the rain along slippy gravel roads was no fun at all, albeit very beautiful. I had by now lost one of the feet off Gemini (my walking poles) and was walking with only one pole, so it was quite tricky to keep my balance. Beside that I couldn’t walk with a pole and carry a guide book in my hand at the same time LOL

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The Pilgrim’s Way

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The Pilgrim’s Way – many feet have passed this way…

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my ideal environment, along the Pilgrim’s Way – flat!!!

I eventually reached St Martha’s Hill about an hour and half after leaving St Catherine’s Chapel and set about climbing and climbing and climbing. Jeepers….I knew from the guide that it was a hill, but holy moly, it’s one thing seeing a hill on a map to actually climbing it with a heavy backpack in the rain. But twas sooo well worth the effort for the views.

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Sometimes called Martyr’s Hill after Thomas Becket, the hill rises 570 feet above sea level giving a view of 7 counties…on a clear day. Today was NOT a clear day, but the view was still amazing. The church; Church of St Martha on the Hill, dating from about 1100, is the church the old man that I met had mentioned the day before near Seale.

The church stands at 573 feet above sea-level and the views are extraordinary. It’s traditionally believed that the original name of the hill was Saints and Martyrs Hill, the martyr being St Thomas of Canterbury.  It is the only church in Surrey to be right on the Pilgrims’ Way.  I stepped through the door to explore and managed a few minutes visit before the morning service began. The Verger kindly signed my pilgrim’s passport and showed me around, pointing out a few of the more significant features. There’s a stained glass window featuring St Thomas Becket.

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I left the church and set off downhill as per the guide. It was raining quite solidly by now and the ground was very wet and slippery. I went down down down and down some more…hanging onto the roots of trees and anything else I could get my hands onto, I slipped and slid down a very steep and most unpleasant pathway; almost vertical. A few people passed me going up..possibly to the church. As I walked I kept referring to the guide for the landmarks, but wasn’t seeing them. I was becoming a tad concerned that I may well be going the wrong way. Suddenly and without any warning I slipped and fell….really hard, onto my bottom. It took the wind out of my sails. I decided to check my walking app and yes, I was definitely not going in the right direction….now, in pain, and slipping on the wet sand, I had to climb back up this blasted hill. It turns out I had been heading downhill towards Chilworth Manor….which was not my destination. urgh.

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going the wrong way… downhill

Finally I got myself back up, reached the crest of the hill and tried to decipher the instructions in the guide, and after much head scratching I realised where I had gone wrong. “Walk through the churchyard and on the far side follow the sandy path which soon veers slightly to the right to go downhill”. Which is what I had done in the first place. What he doesn’t say is that the correct side is directly behind the church (going east) and not to the side (going south). While doing my research on the history of the church, I noticed this information: (The knoll is crossed east-to-west by the Pilgrims’ Way, which is otherwise on the North Downs.) Now THAT would have been useful information in the guide!!!

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leaving St Martha on the Hill church through the EAST gate, not the south LOL

I was totally unimpressed and in quite a lot of pain by now.  But I pulled up my big girl panties and made my way down what was a very sandy path, but a lot less steep and somewhat easier to navigate. the writer may want to rethink his description for this section (amongst others). I now saw the landmarks mentioned in the guide…hoorah! I was on the right track, albeit still very steep and very slippery and it was still raining. I was getting more and more wet, despite the rain poncho, and wasn’t very happy.

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although I’m on the right track, this was almost as bad as the wrong track..slippery and wet

The promised landmarks were now visible and accounted for….

I trudged on but somehow I was totally off course and ended up walking along the very busy A25 motorway, with cars rushing past. I managed to criss-cross the duel carriageway according to where it was safe to walk, and eventually I reached The Silent Pool just on 12.40. Beyond arriving at The Silent Pool I really had no idea which way I was meant to go. I had packed the guide away because it was getting soaked in the rain and besides which I couldn’t see through my misted up glasses.

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The Silent Pool…..a really beautiful place….and it’s still raining

My planned accommodation for the night was YHA Tanners Hatch on Ranmore Common which was well off the Pilgrim’s Way route. Since I had no idea where I was in relation to the YHA, was soaking wet and totally dispirited and totally so not in the mood for any further walking, I made the difficult decision to quit for the day. However, being a Sunday, none of the taxis would come out for less than £20, so since I did have to continue on to Shere…only another 2 miles they said, I continued walking. 😦

My instagram post revealed just how dispirited I was feeling : “The Dabbling Duck, Shere: Well I’ve had to concede defeat and quit for today. Its been raining since 10.15, I’m soaked to the skin, I can’t see out my glasses to read the guide book, which is a moot point since the book is so wet I cant see the words. 😢😢😢 I’ve stopped in a village called Shere which is roughly halfway, having lunch of lovely hot tomato soup and a pot of tea. I’ve organised a cab to pick me up and take me to my accommodation for tonight. The paths are treacherous and slippery or just puddles of water and I’ve already had a fall walking THE WRONG way down a virtually vertical path down St Martha’s Hill, nothing damaged except my dignity. Except I then had to climb back up again, at which point I surveyed the landscape more thoroughly and found the right way. One of those slightly obscure instructions again. By the bottom of the hill I abandoned the guide book and put my glasses in my pouch and followed my nose, finally arriving by luck at Silent Pool. From there they guided me to Shere where my walking for today must end. From here its on to my accommodation for tonight, a hot shower and bed. I believe tomorrow will be better weather. Hmm 🙄🙄🙄😜😜 So onwards.

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The Dabbling Duck; a hot bowl of red pepper soup and rustic bread. delicious

Shere…oh my gosh…what a stunning village. Despite the rain, I was enchanted by the architecture. One of those villages that you wish you could live in; Shere is your quintessential English village with picturesque ancient houses, quaint beyond words. It’s featured in Bridget Jones’s Diary amongst other films. I am definitely going to visit again. Delighted to discover that Shere is mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book 🙂

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By now, being wet and very cold and as mentioned before (LOL), I had to sit in a tiny corner of the restaurant to avoid dripping water all over the place. I was absolutely not in the mood for walking. So I gave up and arranged for a cab to take me the final distance to the YHA. I enjoyed the soup at the Dabbling Duck and the tea warmed me up. It was a very good idea to have a meal since there was nothing at the YHA and I didn’t have any food on me besides dried pasta (which I had for breakfast the next day).

My final instagram post for the day – Tanners Hatch: Just about the time that I was starting to despair, after having walked another 4 kms in the rain (after my cab dropped me at the post code but not the location  which is seriously remote and off the grid 🙄) I popped in at a farm for directions. I could see the YHA on my Google maps but not how to get there. 😢😢 Anyways eventually I found the place after stumbling about and almost caving in to despair, and after checking in, I have a bed for the night, a dry towel, dry clothes and a cup of lovely hot herbal tea. Atm I’m sitting in the lounge of the hostel and knitting the 2nd bootee of a pair while chatting to the other occupants.

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bootees for Peanut – I’m hoping these bootees will encourage my grandchild to be adventurous

There’s a marvellous fire burning brightly in the grate and its lovely and cosy. I’m almost dry and nearly warm 😊😊 So glad I decided to use my contingency fund towards a cab and get here earlier, I would never have found this place in the dark.😖😖 So this is me, signing out till tomorrow.

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our YHA host; Dave got a lovely hot raoring fire going…just the ticket

The area around the YHA is stunning, trees everywhere you look and so many shades of green. Although it was very wet, it was so beautiful I wished I could stay a few days. I’ll definitely have to go back.

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tucked away amongst the trees; YHA Tanners Hatch

After chatting to the other hostelers over tea and the delicious warmth of the fire, I said goodnight and went to bed at about 9pm. Oh gosh I was soooo tired. Too many hills, too much rain, too cold and too hungry. Oh well….onwards LOL

For more about the history of St Martha’s Church http://www.parishofchilworth.org.uk/history/st-marthas/full-history/

In case you missed Day 5 of my walk along The Pilgrim’s Way – click here

A short video of the walk; scenes of the route

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