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Three years ago when we first moved to Broadstairs I had just a tiny inkling of the history of the area known as the Isle of Thanet.

The Isle of Thanet and the Wantsum Channel.

The Isle of Thanet and the Wantsum Channel.

Formed when sea-levels rose after the last glacial period (around 5000BC), with links to the Stone Age and Bronze Age, at the time of the Romans the Isle of Thanet was an actual island, separated from Kent by the Wantsum channel. This channel allowed ships to sail from the English Channel past Ebbsfleet and gain access to the river Great Stour as far as Canterbury. The Wantsum channel eventually silted up abut 200 years ago which prevented ships from entering it’s waters and eventually it was lost with the last ship sailing through the Channel in 1672; now long covered over and given over to motorways, housing estates, farmlands and wetlands.

isle of thanet, wantsum channel, ramsgate, braoadstairs, margate

I found this illustration at the Brading Roman fort on the Isle of Wight

However, the history of this fair isle has not been lost and recently links were found to Caesar’s invasion of Britain on a site not far from Ramsgate.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/julius-caesar-invasion-britain-uk-site-evidence-first-discovered-kent-a8081056.html

  • excavated a Roman fort covering up to 49 acres (20 ha) at Ebbsfleet, and dated it to around 55–50 BC

Besides Julius Caesar, and the Vikings, another historical figure; St Augustine, landed not far from this very site in AD597 and went on to establish Christianity and an Abbey at Canterbury.

There are a number of very historical towns on the Isle of Thanet, many of which can easily be visited from London. Three of the most notable are;

  1. Ramsgate – has the distinction of being the only Royal Harbour in the United Kingdom; decreed by George VI in 1821, Queen Victoria was a frequent visitor and first came to Ramsgate on 15 August 1823 at the age of four with her mother, the Duchess of Kent, the harbour was a chief embarkation point for the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940 aka ‘Operation Dynamo’, and the town is home to the Shrine of St Augustine.

    isle of thanet, wantsum channel, ramsgate, broadstairs, margate

    Ramsgate

  2. Broadstairs – aka the ‘jewel in Thanet’s crown, Broadstairs was orginally known as Bradstow(e), a chapel was built here in 1601 on an earlier religious site, here on 21 June 1815 the captured French Eagle Standard was delivered with the news of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon, Charles Dickens was a regular visitor and stayed at what is now known as ‘Bleak House, and beneath the town is a network of smuggler’s tunnels.

    isle of thanet, wantsum channel, ramsgate, broadstairs, margate

    Viking Bay, Broadstairs

  3. Margate – one of the first English seaside resorts, was a “limb” of Dover in the ancient confederation of the Cinque ports, and their accompanying bays –  Viking Bay, Stone Bay, Louisa Bay, Minnis Bay, Palm Bay, Botany Bay, Joss Bay, and Pegwell Bay, is home to oldest building in old ‘Meergate’, the old Tudor House, built in 1525, and the Shell Grotto; an ornate subterranean passageway covered in mosaics created entirely of 4.6 million seashells.

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    Mrs Booth; The Shell Lady of Margate

Villages on the Isle of Thanet are:

  1. Minster – once the “ancient capital of Thanet”, originally started as a monastic settlement in 670 AD, the first abbey in the village was founded by St. Domneva in the late 7th century.
  2. Cliffs End – on the cliff top above Pegwell Bay is a replica of the Viking longship Hugin, it is believed that St Augutine landed nearby at Ebbsfleet in AD597 (a cross in a field on the Way of St Augustine route marks the spot of his landing, on a clear day you can see the northern tip of the French Coast from the clifftop.
  3. St Nicholas-at- Wade – home to the 13th-century parish church of St Nicholas, after which the village and parish are named, the first rector is recorded as Adam de Brancestre in 1294.
  4. Sarre –  located at the point where the old ‘Island Road’ from Margate to Canterbury crossed the Wantsum channel, the late Roman or early Anglo-Saxon Sarre Brooch was found near the village, is home to the now defunct Sarre Windmill built in 1820.
  5. Birchington-on-Sea – first recorded in 1240 as Birchenton, its parish church, All Saints’, dates to the 13th century, the 19th-century Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti is buried in the churchyard of All Saints, Minnis Bay was once the site of an Iron Age settlement and the village coastline was frequented by 19th century smugglers, and the famous Quex Park and Manor are nearby.

There are of course today a great number of new settlements and villages on the Isle of Thanet, but those listed above are the most notable.

tudor house margate, isle of thanet, wantsum channel, ramsgate, broadstairs, margate

Tudor House, Margate

You can enjoy many wonderful walks along the cliff tops or vast open beaches along the coastline of the Isle of Thanet, and a walk from Pegwell Bay to Margate Harbour will take you past Ramsgate Harbour, Dumpton Bay, Louisa Bay, Viking Bay, Stone Bay, Joss Bay, Kingsgate Bay, Botany Bay, Palm Bay and Walpole Bay.

Landmarks and places to see/visit along the way are St Augustine’s Cross near Cliffsend and the Hugin Viking Ship, St Augustine’s Church & The Grange (Augustine Pugin’s house), Ramsgate Royal Harbour, Ramsgate Tunnels, Bleak House and the Dickens Museum, North Foreland Lighthouse, Fort Kings Bay, Kings Bay sea-arch, the White cliffs, chalk stacks at Botany Bay, Turner Contemporary and the Antony Gormley sculpture, the Shell Grotto and the Tudor House.

Kings Bay sea-arch

Kings Bay sea-arch

You will find a number of places to eat or for afternoon tea along the way; my favourite in Ramsgate is Riley’s Cafe, there are a few independent clifftop or beach side cafes that mostly open in summer, and there are the more historic Bleak House and the Old Curiosity Shop in Broadstairs, the Captain Digby Pub in Kingsgate, and the Old Kent Market in Margate.

isle of thanet, wantsum channel, ramsgate, broadstairs, margate

Old Kent Market, Margate

as well as a number of smaller restaurants and cafes.

In summer dozens of colourful gaily painted and decorated beach huts line the esplanade along the beaches in Ramsgate, Viking Bay and Stone Bay

isle of thanet, wantsum channel, ramsgate, broadstairs, margate

Beach huts in Broadstairs

The Isle of Thanet is a treasure trove of history, interesting places to visit, and a large variety of restaurants to eat at.

Discover some of the many amazing walks on the Isle of Thanet

#100 – walks around the UK

The Way of St Augustine – Day 1

The Way of St Augustine – Day 2

The Way of St Augustine Ramsgate to Canterbury – history

 

 

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A few nights ago ITV aired “Britain’s Favourite Walks: Top 100”, as voted for by more than 8,000 walking enthusiasts. If seeing these walks didn’t convince you that the UK is a most stunning country with every kind of landscape and terrain you could wish for or imagine…then you weren’t watching 😉

I had initially tuned in to BBC1 to watch Winterwatch so only changed channels part of the way through; wow, what fantastic walks and the scenery is astounding and breath-taking. Watching snippets of all these fantastic places made me want to set off immediately with Pepe and Gemini and just walk….never mind walk 1000 miles, I could quite easily just walk forever.

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my trusty companions; Pepe (backpack) and Gemini (Nordic walking poles) – 10.166 km to Santiago

To my delight, after gasping with envy and drooling my way through the last 50 or so walks, after the programme ended I clicked through to one of the links provided on twitter and was astonished and delighted to note that #100 featured The Stacks near Margate….after closer investigation, I found that not only is this a walk I’ve done dozens of times, but the day before the show aired I had in fact walked from Broadstairs to Ramsgate and onto Cliffs End a couple of days before and I had walked from Broadstairs to Margate just the day before 🙂 http://theoutdoorguide.co.uk/britains-favourite-walks/ramsgate-to-margate-kent/

My first question is how did I miss them filming this? And why didn’t they just ask me? LOL I could have told them all about this walk…one of my favourites!!

I frequently use both those routes for my Camino practice walks, they’re manageable distances and the scenery is absolutely stunning; it never gets boring.

Starting off from Broadstairs Harbour, I either turn right and walk to Ramsgate and Cliffsend or left and walk to Margate.

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a winter’s sunrise – Viking Bay, Isle of Thanet

On a good day and if the tide is out, there is nothing better than striding along the beach from Viking Bay, past Louisa Bay, Dumpton Gap and onto Ramgate Royal Harbour. If the tide is in then I walk along the concrete promenade from Viking Bay to Dumpton Gap, then up to the cliff tops and walk through King George VI Memorial Park then down the steps leading to the promenade, past the Ramsgate Tunnels and onto Ramsgate Harbour.

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Dumpton Gap – clifftop walk when the tide is in

Sometimes I walk further onto Cliffsend where you can see the Hugin Viking Ship and from there it’s a short walk down to Pegwell Bay.

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Ramsgate to Cliffsend and Pegwell Bay

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The Hugin Viking Ship, Cliffsend

If I’m planning a walk to Cliffsend and Pegwell Bay, then I usually stop off at Rileys in Ramsgate first for a hot chocolate with lashings of cream and marshmallows for sustenance.

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Hot Chocolate with cream and marshmallows at Riley’s

If I decide to walk to Margate there are two options:

a) if the tide is out, from Viking Bay I walk along the beach to the far end of Stone Bay, up the steps to Stone Road, turn right and walk along the North Foreland Road to North Foreland Lighthouse, past the fields of crops to Joss Bay where I again descend to the beach and round the cliffs to Kingsgate Bay (you can walk along the beach but this particular area is very rocky and I don’t enjoy walking across this section). On the top of the cliffs at Kingsgate Bay is the Captain Digby Pub where I always stop for a pot of tea on the terrace. From there I head back down to the beach and walk through or around the Kingsbay Sea Arch and past the Stacks to Botany Bay, Palm Bay, Walpole Bay, and so to Margate Bay. Always be aware of the tidal times….the tides come in very fast along these stretches.

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Broadstairs to Margate

b) if the tide is in I walk along the promenade from Viking Bay to Stone Bay, up the steps to the cliff tops turn right and walk along the North Foreland Road to North Foreland Lighthouse, past the fields of crops to Joss Bay and instead of descending to the beach I follow the pedestrian path next to the golf course, then cross over the road where it ends and follow the road past the Kingsgate Castle complex and along the cliff top to the Captain Digby Pub, then follow the path across the cliff top alongside the golf course, past the folly ‘Fort Kings Bay’ to Botany Bay, and staying on the cliff tops I follow the pedestrian path past Botany Bay, Palm Bay, Walpole Bay, and so to Margate Bay. The views are fantastic and on a clear day up until Joss Bay you can right across the English Channel to Belgium, and once you round the corner and head north you can see across estuary of the River Thames to Essex. Once your’e in Margate you can see as far as Reculver, and if you time it right, you can see some of the most magnificent sunsets.

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Sunset at Margate

If you happen to walk along the beach as you near Margate, there is the Antony Gormley sculpture ‘Another Time’ which is located on the chalk bed of the shoreline in front of the Turner Contemporary. The sculpture invites the observer to “reflect upon the fundamental experience of being human, of inhabiting a human body… To bear witness to what it is like to be alive and alone in space and time”

100 walks, rileys ramsgate, walk 1000 miles, 100 walks uk, not just a granny, walk uk, broadstairs to ramsgate, england coast path

the Antony Gormley sculpture ‘Another Time’ which is located on the chalk bed of the shoreline in front of the Turner Contemporary. The sculpture invites the observer to “reflect upon the fundamental experience of being human, of inhabiting a human body… To bear witness to what it is like to be alive and alone in space and time”

Those are two of my favourite walks on the Isle of Thanet.

I’ve also walked to Sandwich during my Camino 2017 training

my camino; the journey so far

28.06.2016 Broadstairs to Sandwich

and completed the Way of St Augustine in July 2017

The Isle of Thanet and the Wantsum Channel.

The Isle of Thanet and the Wantsum Channel.

I travel quite comprehensively around the UK and make the most of my travels to walk in new areas…..follow me on instagram for images from around the UK.

For more about Britain’s favourite walks http://theoutdoorguide.co.uk/britains-favourite-walks/ramsgate-to-margate-kent/

and as they say on their website: Remember to prepare properly before heading out on any type of walk or outdoor activity. Tell people where you are going and what time you are expected back. As Wainwright says “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”.

 

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I recently wrote about the upcoming and impending pilgrimage along The Pilgrim’s Way from Winchester to Canterbury that I’m planning for summer/autumn 2018.

Well, now it’s getting real 🙂 I received my Pilgrim’s Passport in the mail today!! Hoorahh! Well actually my daughter opened the envelope for me since I’m still up in the north east of Wales, and sent me photos of it. The marvels of technology….whatsapp; geniiius 🙂

the pilgrims way winchester to canterbury, walking the pilgrims way, long distance walking in the uk, the pilgrims way, walk 1000 miles, baby boomersThe Pilgrim’s Way – how gorgeous is this passport

the pilgrims way winchester to canterbury, walking the pilgrims way, long distance walking in the uk, the pilgrims way, walk 1000 miles, baby boomers

OMG I can’t tell you how exciting it all is. I love the planning stages; finding places to stay, reading information about the route and receiving the passport is definitely high on the scale of excitement levels …

I’m really excited about having this passport filled with stamps along the way. I remember how fantastic it was to get my Camino passport stamped at the various places I stayed, the restaurants I ate at, and the many churches I visited….thrilling.

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In fact I’m so yearning to do another long distance walk I’m seriously contemplating walking the 1st half of The Pilgrim’s Way in April and then the 2nd half before I fly to Spain for the Camino Inglés. 🙂

Can I do a happy dance? All on my own! Do you think anyone would find me certifiably insane LOL

I’ve visited Winchester Cathedral a number of times in the past and of course I’ve visited Canterbury Cathedral quite a lot too, but now that I have my pilgrim’s passport, I can’t wait to go visit again.

Winchester is a fascinating city. Besides that it was once a walled city and you can still see some of the medieval walls and gates, there’s King Alfred’s walk around the city, the 13th century Great Hall with a replica of the Round Table; from the mythological tales of King Arthur and the Knight’s of the Round Table, an old mill, a medieval pilgrim’s chapel above one of the gates and so much else besides…. I’m planning on staying for 2 nights and giving myself a whole day of exploring a city I truly love.

My very first visit to Winchester was in 2002 shortly after I first started living in the UK. My visit was in honour of the song: Winchester Cathedral, one of the popular songs from my teenage years, so if course it was high on my list of places to go.

Winchester Cathedral https://g.co/kgs/vmC4DU

But I digress…. It’s the excitement I’m afraid *big grin* I think you’ll be hearing /reading a lot more about Winchester and Canterbury

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The weather in north east Wales has been pretty grim recently; much of what you’d expect mid-winter really…..but still hard to deal with LOL We’ve been pelted with rain, sleet, hail and even snow on the crest of the Berwyn’s. The problem with the rain is that it’s a bit like the April showers you get in Ireland…it showers down, clears, you get excited and think okay I can get out now, and by the time you put your shoes on, it starts raining again. I’ve given up and decided just to get on with planning my September pilgrimages. and writing this blog.

Even though I haven’t been out much, I have managed to slip in a couple of walks, one of which caught me out; the skies had cleared, bright blue so I quickly put my shoes on, grabbed my poles and set off. Whilst stopped at the post office for envelopes it started to rain again URGH!! So cutting the walk short, instead I popped into St Nicholas Church; always worth a visit.

st nicholas church montgomery, welsh countryside, war memorial montgomery, places to see in wales,

St Nicholas Church, Montgomery, Powys, Wales from October 2017

A Grade 1 listed 13th century (circa 1227) Norman Church with additions from the 15th and 19th centuries, the church contains an example of a pre-reformation rood screen brought from Chirbury Priory together with the rood-loft and the stalls with their misericords after the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

st nicholas church montgomery, welsh countryside, war memorial montgomery, places to see in wales,

Pre-reformation Rood screen St Nicholas Church, Montgomery, Powys, Wales

Within the church is the ornate tomb of Richard Herbert (d. 1593). Herbert was the lord of Montgomery Castle, and father of the poet and cleric George Herbert. Also buried here is Richard, 2nd Baron of Chirbury, who died in 1655, the last of the Herbert family to live at the castle. The tomb is rather extravagant as they mostly were and the effigies are ornate and quite lifelike, the features of the encumbents clearly detailed.

st nicholas church montgomery, welsh countryside, war memorial montgomery, places to see in wales,

Memorial tomb of Richard Herbert and wife at St Nicholas Church, Montgomery, Powys, Wales

At the foot of the tomb are the effigies of 2 knights. Quite marvellous. I haven’t been able to find much information about these effigies.

st nicholas church montgomery, welsh countryside, war memorial montgomery, places to see in wales,

Knight effigies in St Nicholas Church, Montgomery, Powys, Wales

The stained glass windows are absolutely beautiful. I love visiting old churches, they contain ever so much history.

The 2nd walk I manage to get in without getting too wet was just before the new band of weather hit us. I was intent on reaching the castle but on impulse I decided to walk up to the War Memorial on Town Hill that I had been urged to go and see…apparently the views from there are stupendous.

welsh countryside, war memorial montgomery, places to see in wales,

half way up; fabulous views across the Welsh countryside looking east towards Shropshire

So turning off the road I slipped through the kissing gate just before the castle entrance and headed up the steep incline , steps provided by knotted tree roots and stones. Thankfully this was before the rain, but even so the ground was muddy and mucky and my shoes squelched noisily as I plodded uphill. I finally reached the road (muddy track) that takes you right to the top of the hill…elevation 1050 feet above sea-level, as I discovered when I got there. I walked and walked for ages, not having realised just how far it was from the road….funny how folks don’t tend to tell you those kind of details….”Oh, it’s just up the hill from the castle”. Hmmm. As I climbed and climbed two ladies jogged past…I was astounded…the slope was very steep and the ground totally squelchy. How do they not slip and fall. I just take my eye off the ground for a second and I’m over. As always I was ever so grateful for my walking poles. The description on the website I located says:

  • Going: Medium difficulty. Climbs steeply to a high local hilltop. Slippy in damp conditions.

Noooo kidding!!!! After 15 minutes of climbing, by which stage I was beginning to get out of breath, I finally saw the monument.

welsh countryside, war memorial montgomery, places to see in wales,

War Memorial Montgomery, Powys, Wales and an ordnance survey triangulation station

It’s enormous and wayyyyy bigger than I anticipated. But finally I was there, and the views were as spectacular as I had been told. There’s a viewpoint stone with a disc on the top and directional markings showing where and how far places are from that point. It reminded me of the marker I saw on the Malverns I climbed …oh gosh…..ages ago.

welsh countryside, war memorial montgomery, places to see in wales,

War Memorial Montgomery, Powys, Wales and distance marker – 1050 feet above sea-level

Although the weather was overcast and cloudy I could still see for miles and miles. The distant mountain peaks various shades of blue and grey, as they disappeared into the distance, the hovering clouds tinged pink by the setting sun.

welsh countryside, war memorial montgomery, places to see in wales,

fabulous views across the Welsh countryside looking west

From down the valley I could hear sheep bleating and the occasional roar of a car rushing by on the Kerry Road. Thankfully I didn’t meet any cows. It was fairly breezy and with scant vegetation or trees to break the flow of wind it got quite blustery, but not so much that it spoilt my visit. The crest of the hill is bereft of much else besides a massive expanse of grass and a couple of small stands of wind-blown trees.

The memorial is quite enormous and I wonder why they felt the need to plant it so high up. I’m sure it must be visible from miles away. The neighbour across the road very kindly showed me a newspaper cutting of the unveiling on 23.04.23….it’s been up there for 95 years,can you imagine that!!! Weirdly my birth day and month (but not year…. DUH!!)

War Memorial Montgomery, Powys, Wales, welsh countryside, war memorial montgomery, places to see in wales,

War Memorial Montgomery, Powys, Wales,

Apparently it’s made of Portland stone and was transported to Montgomery by train and then taken up to the crest by horse cart. My heart aches for the poor horses…that stone is big and heavy. It’s also quite weird to look at the photo and realise that all the people in the image are dead by now. We are all so transient and yet these memorials we raise are still there and last way longer than we do. You have to be dead to be remembered.

There are not many more trees now than then. In all I walked 4.09 kms/2.56  miles with an elevation gain of 139 meters…

I look forward to the weather clearing a bit before I leave next week…I’d like to walk another section of Offa’s Dyke and possibly walk as far as the river – which I still haven’t seen.

For more about Montgomery’s War Memorial, I located this website which offers further information on how to get there and what you can see.

 

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After completing my first Camino de Santiago in September 2017, I realised that the camino ‘bug’ had well and truly bitten…..at the time I was sorely tempted to cancel my flight and head off to start another route instead of returning home…. I didn’t of course but oh my, how I would have loved to be able to do just that. Prior to this, as mentioned in my previous blog I had completed 2 ‘caminos’ in the UK; Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales route from Southwark to Canterbury and The Way of St Augustine from Ramsgate to Canterbury…both of which I can highly recommend, although be warned the Chaucer route is mostly now on busy traffic routes, so not as scenic or tranquil as the St Augustine route which is mainly through fields and alongside rivers, and taking in quaint English villages till you reach the outskirts of Canterbury.

the way of st augustine

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

Camino meaning: way, path, journey, good way.

I love walking (also mentioned before 😉 ), and although I’m not in any way religious, the idea of ‘pilgrimage’ appeals to me greatly. I’m happy to take random training walks, especially when I’m working and have limited time, but there is nothing quite like having a specific destination in mind. There are hundreds of fantastic walks in the UK and I plan to walk as many of them as possible, but it’s the long-distance pilgrimages/walks that appeal to me most. I love the idea of the routes linked to saints….they all have a fascinating link with history and since I find the history of the UK absolutely fascinating 😉 these are the routes I’ll focus on first.

Since I’ve decided to walk at least 1 new route of the Camino de Santiago every year for the next 6 years (or more). Researching the different routes has been fascinating. My planned route for September 2018 is the Camino Inglés, frequented by pilgrims from northern Europe, Ireland and the UK as a short easy route to Santiago. I’m also planning to do at least 1 long-distance pilgrimage/walk in the UK each year. So since there is a link between the UK and the Camino Inglés, I’ve decided to precede that walk by following the Pilgrim’s Way from Winchester to Canterbury…many roads lead to Canterbury 😉

Winchester

Winchester

The Camino Inglés. “Sometimes called in Spanish the Antiguo Camino Real, the Camino Inglés provided a short, direct route from Ferrol or A Coruña to Santiago and was therefore used by pilgrims of various nationalities from northern Europe, who had travelled to Galicia by sea”. Ref Confraternity of St James

The Pilgrims’ Way is the historical route taken by pilgrims from Winchester in Hampshire, to the shrine of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent.

To that end, planning my pilgrimage has begun. Google has as always been a trove of information and I found this fantastic website; pilgrims way uk, that not only gives you lots of information about the route, but has a fantastic map highlighting accommodation options, restaurants and shops, points of interest like memorials, historical sites/ruins, monuments and statues and points of interest, but most importantly it highlights churches along the way where you can get your passport stamped. This is VIP!!

canterbury cathedral way of st augustine

Finally through the city walls and so to Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury, Kent

Canterbury, Kent

From there I’ll leave the next day for A Coruña in Spain and make my way to Ferrol for the start of the Camino Inglés to Santiago de Compostela. I had planned on taking the ferry from Plymouth where they have a ‘pilgrims start’ to Santander and then make my way to Ferrol over a few days, but when I did the pricing it was over £300 for the trip…so that’s off the list….I guess I’ll just have to stick with flying. A shame really as I wanted to make the trip as authentic as possible.

pilgrimage to santiago de compostela, the way of st james,

the body of James being taken by sea to Padron in Galicia Spain before being taken to Santiago

It has been widely accepted that over the centuries ‘the way’, whether here in the UK or indeed even in Europe, has undergone numerous alterations, diversions and even obliteration, depending on the era and which king was on the throne…think Henry VIII who was incredibly destructive. So in effect there is no ‘absolutely real’ pilgrim’s way, but rather an extension or addition of routes that over time have become ‘the way’. There are of course the ‘purists’ who are hell bent on ‘proving’ that one way or the other is the ‘correct way’ but even they, the learned scholars of pilgrimage, cannot agree on which was the ‘original’ way…regardless of the route (someone I knew from a few years ago springs to mind….his arrogance in his ‘certainty’ of the real route was breathtaking…in fact I cut him out of my life due to his bullishness. And he wasn’t even an expert but rather someone who dabbled in the history). Even as I write, the Camino Inglés has undergone a reroute to accommodate the pilgrims who don’t want to follow the previous route over some mountains on day 2…because they have to exert themselves. So ‘the way’ is really dependent on which country you’re in, where you start and your intentions whilst walking. In centuries past, most pilgrims, especially in Europe simply stepped out their front doors and walked to Santiago. When I walked my Camino in September 2017 I followed the Portugues route as marked by the yellow arrows and markers, but since much of the way in Portugal, from Porto to Caminha, is now along recently built boardwalks above the beach, you can be sure that was not the original way.

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Keep the ocean on your left and head north…

The Pilgrims’ Way is the historic route apparently taken by pilgrims from Winchester to the shrine of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent. The route closely follows a pre-existing ancient track-way generally dated by archaeological finds to around 500–450 BC. The prehistoric route followed a “natural causeway” east to west on the southern slopes of the North Downs, probably in existence since the stone age.

along the pilgrims way north downs

along the Pilgrim’s Way on the North Downs near Oxted

I loved my Camino, I enjoyed every single day despite the pain and exhaustion I endured on some days, but in all honesty, planning the walk is the part I most enjoy. The research unearths some fascinating and often surprising information and of course anything to do with the Roman and earlier eras piques my interest no end and I end up following links across the internet…it’s almost a journey of its own. The frustrating aspect of this research is that I am not able to follow through on much of what I learn and have to bypass the places I discover. If not, I’d be walking forever….the history linked to the various routes is extraordinary, and I’m hard put to not get too enthusiastic about following links. I also get really frustrated because of course I’d like to see it all….but time does not allow.

I was sorting through my possessions in December, in the process of downsizing, and found a book; The Pilgrim’s Way – Nellie Kirkham (published 1948), that I acquired somewhere along the way (sorry for the pun 😉 ). I immediately started reading it and was soon totally absorbed, my desire to walk the route now becoming urgent rather than just a desire. So many fascinating places to see enroute. I wonder how much will have changed since she walked.

After I discovered the Pilgrim’s Way UK website, I immediately set about planning my days. There are so many amazing places and points of interest. Although I’ve been to both Winchester and Guildford a couple of times, I’m pretty keen to explore them again in my capacity of a pilgrim….I’ll have to try find out more about places that pilgrim’s of old would have known….like the castle ruins in Guildford and of course the cathedral in Winchester…which by the way is an amazing place to visit if you’re ever thinking of heading that way.

Meanwhile the route planning continues and next on the list is packing for pilgrimage in the UK, and the route in Spain.

Here are a couple of websites you may find interesting.

http://www.pilgrimswaycanterbury.org/history-of-the-pilgrims-way/

https://www.csj.org.uk/planning-your-pilgrimage/routes-to-santiago/routes-in-spain/the-camino-ingles/

Have you walked any of the Camino routes or pilgrimage routes in the UK? I’d love to hear from you; if you have, please do leave a comment. 🙂

In case you missed the Camino 2017 blog posts; the start of my camino Porto to Vila do Conde

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After a number of overcast, wintry days, yesterday dawned bright and sunny and no frost… Perfect for an adventure. Our neighbour loaned me his map of the Montgomery area showing various walks (yellow publications), and suggested a local walk that would take in a section of Offa’s Dyke; (Offa, the Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia from 757 until his death in July 796 – had a great dyke built between Wales and Mercia from sea to sea). This border between Wales and England was built to prevent the Welsh from infiltrating the country. Not sure why they thought it was a good idea, but on closer research it may well have been a defensive wall.

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can’t complain about that view

Kitted out with shoes and poles I set off with determination. To reach the section where I planned to walk was a fair trot from the village and my initial terrain was a good solid tarmac road. The route goes through Lymore Park and farmland. All went well, I passed the Lower Pond and a farm, crossing multiple cattle grids and eventually reached the border between Montgomeryshire and Shropshire where I encountered #4 cattle grid (urgh, they are horrible to walk across), and a field of dozy sheep. They are such silly creatures.

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dozy sheep. Offa’s Dyke path

Starting off along the path, I was sceptical as to how good an idea this was going to be…the path was a slushy, muddy morass…mostly churned up by previous walkers and a few horses, and I considered retracing my steps and leaving it for another day. But my philosophy in life is: do it while you are here, it may be the only opportunity you have.

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along the dyke….the walking was not pleasant…although the scenery was lovely

So with that in mind, I started walking along the path… Mud, mud not so glorious mud. Slushy, mushy, slimy, grimy mud. The first 3 sections were just bloody awful and I spent a lot of time trying to find stable spots to place my shoes without slipping or getting too dirty. Sloshing through craftily hidden pooled water, standing on tussocks that were not as stable as they looked, slipping and sliding as I attempted to get from one spot to another and accompanied with lots of laughter, cussing and wtf am I doing, I later forded a small rushing stream; a very tricky section that was a sheer, unadulterated quagmire. Creeping gingerly beneath overhanging branches, my poles planted firmly before advancing, I made it safely and relatively dry, albeit a tad more muddy, across the wee bridge, but after walking some distance further I realised /discovered I’d gone off course, so had to back-track and ford the stream once again. OMG!! Seriously.

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this is where I went wrong…

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going back….fording a stream…the ground on the other side of the stile was a quagmire

I didn’t escape unscathed this time around. After crossing back over the bridge and stile, I surveyed the immediate terrain and spotted what looked like a stable spot. Alas it was not so…instead, as I trod down my foot sank ankle deep into mud that sucked at my shoe, reluctant to let it go 😱😱  After a bit of a tussle, hanging onto my walking poles for dear life trying to stay upright, I won….The mud finally released my shoe with a sucky slurk. However my shoe was now completely covered in thick mucky mud.

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I won the tussle 🙂

Onwards…. I found the track once again (thank you mapmywalk), and from thereon the terrain was fairly stable and a lot less muddy albeit still churned up in places..and those hidden pools. Sigh.

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Offa’s Dyke as I thought it would be….how gorgeous is that stream

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Offa’s Dyke; now that’s more like it

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Offa’s Dyke – a long distance walk on the border between England and Wales

6.53 kms and 1.55 hours later and my shoes and walking pants were in the washing machine. 🤔🤔🤔🤔 That was a quite insane walk.

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map my walk

Well worth it though, the countryside here is astoundingly beautiful. As with most of the UK, Wales and the bordering English county of Shropshire are stunning. Much of the land here is given over to farming and raising sheep or horses. Dotted across green fields are huge trees, now bereft of their summer greenery, but nonetheless absolutely stunning. I actually prefer to see trees without their leaves; far more interesting.

And as weird and exhausting as it was, I felt it was good practice for any UK walks I have planned… It rains a lot in this country (duh!! who’d have guessed?) and there’s no way I’ll enjoy the kind of weather I had in Portugal and Spain in September 2017.

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I loved walking alongside the ocean. I stopped off in this area to rest and just enjoy the scenery

It’s given me pause for thought in terms of my shoes. I may/will have to invest in something more hardy. I was just glad I didn’t have my backpack on when my shoe got stuck in the mud… That could have caused a different outcome in my tussle for possession. and once again I had occasion to be thankful for my walking poles. Truly, I will never walk any long distances without them ever again. They have saved my ass so many times; on the Camino and certainly on the many walks I have undertaken in the UK; my Canterbury Tales & Way of St Augustine

More about Offa’s Dyke: ref wikipedia

Offa’s Dyke (Welsh: Clawdd Offa) is a large linear earthwork that roughly follows the current border between England and Wales. The structure is named after Offa, the Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia from AD 757 until 796, who is traditionally believed to have ordered its construction. Although its precise original purpose is debated, it delineated the border between Anglian Mercia and the Welsh kingdom of Powys.

The Dyke, which was up to 65 feet (20 m) wide (including its flanking ditch) and 8 feet (2.4 m) high, traversed low ground, hills and rivers. Today the earthwork is protected as a scheduled monument. Some of its route is followed by the Offa’s Dyke Path; a 176-mile (283 km) long-distance footpath that runs between Liverpool Bay in the north and the Severn Estuary in the south.

scheduled monument is a “nationally important” archaeological site or historic building, given protection against unauthorised change.

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As mentioned in yesterday’s post I didn’t get out till 3rd January to start my #walk1000miles challenge for 2018. Mostly due to the mooky weather. I’ve been in North East Wales since the evening of the 3rd and yesterday was only the 2nd day I’ve managed to get a decent walk in.

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a mooky day

The day dawned bright, clear and stunningly beautiful. We have the most amazing view from the barn across the fields and valleys to the Berwyns and as usual I was enchanted by the colours of the sunrise. We had a thick covering of frost in the morning and because the village is in a groove between the mountain and the hill the sun doesn’t really make much of an impact as how it’s so far back on it’s winter trajectory.

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a frosty day

I started out at 2pm during my break time and initially I had planned to walk up to the castle but at the point where the road curves up the hill and becomes really steep, I had barely made 6 steps up the road when I started to slide back downhill. Thankfully I had my walking poles or I would have fallen over for sure. I then decided to go downhill along a more traffic frequented road and made my way across the fields using a shortcut utilised by horse riders, joggers and walkers alike and to my delight I happened upon the lake; Lower Pool, that I had seen from the castle so many times.  I initially thought it was the River Severn but on closer inspection using Google maps I saw it was merely a lake, albeit a rather large one.

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Lower Pool, Montgomery

It was truly beautiful and a bevy of swans have made their home on a wee island in the middle…..too far for photos but I could see them quite easily.

The ground was totally sodden and before long my feet started to get wet so I headed back to the road where I met a lovely lady by the name of Suzanne. We chatted all the way back to the village and swapped walking stories. I told her about my 3 pilgrimages and she was inspired to learn more about the Camino 🙂

I slipped a fair number of times heading back through the village. I had wanted to reach the crest of the hill on the other side of the village I had seen from the castle.

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view from the Kerry Road – in the distance is Corndon Hill

Again I slipped and slid most alarmingly and again my poles saved the day. I can assure you that I will never walk any distances again without them. I was though really puzzled as to why I was slipping about so much. When I got home I checked the bottom of my walking shoes and noticed that the treads  have worn down substantially, so it was no wonder I spent a lot of time slipping and sliding on the roads…thankfully I had my walking poles which averted any tumbles, but it was most unpleasant…although the weather was wonderful.

I have another 2.5 weeks here in Wales so I must try to get to the river at least once. The other walk I mentioned was the day after I arrived….the morning was muggy and dismal but by 2pm it had cleared up quite a lot so I set off for my favourite place; Montgomery Castle. The view from there is quite sumptuous; right across the valley of the River Camlad (forms part of the border between Wales and England in places) and Montgomery Ford, a vital crossing of the River Severn towards the Berwyn Mountains. Known as the ‘The Key to the Kingdom’, a Norman castle, Montgomery Castle was built at the order of Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, sometime between 1071 and 1074.

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Key to the Kingdom; Montgomery, Wales

As with most castles in Britain it underwent a number of changes and changed hands a number of times and was substantially developed during the reign of Henry III. In 1227 Montgomery was granted a Royal Charter by the king, making it the oldest borough in Wales. I love to sit on the walls and visualise the deer hunting that must have taken place in the surrounding forests and the sight of soldiers marching across the valley.

It was very windy that day and I was hard put to remain stead on my feet whilst positing myself on the walls to take photos. I’m surprised they weren’t all blurred. I eventually gave up and staggered downhill with a blustery wind at my back. Reminded me a bit of my walk along the beaches on the Isle of Thanet the day before.

On the way back to the house I called in at the Dragon Hotel (must stay there sometime) and enquired about the swimming pool. It seems we can book an hour for £3.50. Hmmm. Glad I brought my swimsuit. I just loved the wee cottages leaning up against the hotel.

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the Dragon Hotel, Montgomery, Wales

As I meandered through the graveyard I spotted a gorgeous rainbow emanating from within the castle walls and touching ground in the valley below….

if I could just get there in time I may have found that pot of gold they’re always talking about!!! LOL

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oh to be free to walk and walk and walk

Walked 01.01.2018 – 07.01.2018 : 12.88 kms / Miles 8.05 – 991.95 miles to go ….hmmm.

I’ve been told that the Offa’s Dyke walk is accessible from the road I had walked along earlier so as soon as the weather warms up enough to not be leaving frosty roads I shall head along and try walk as much of it as I can. However I believe that it’s 177 miles /285 kms; a tad more than I can fit into a 2 hour break.  I’d love to walk the whole route though, but that will have to wait for another year…if I am ever up this way in 2019 I’ll try add it to the ever growing list of walks I want to undertake.

One of my walking plans for 2018 is along the cliffs from Broadstairs to Sandwich, Deal, Walmer, Dover and onto Folkestone as well as the Pilgrim’s Way from Winchester to Canterbury and the Camino Inglés from Ferrol to Santiago. I hope I can squeeze them all in. Not that I’m complaining or anything, but work does rather get in the way of my walking dreams LOL.

 

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