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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.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

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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….following in the footsteps of Geoffrey Chaucer (c1340-1400), I embarked on the first leg of my pilgrim’s route. As mentioned in my previous blog, after discovering that Chaucer followed the Pilgrim’s route from Southwark to Canterbury, I have decided to as much as possible follow the route that he took.  It is my plan to follow the English route (or one of them anyway) from London to Santiago.  Once I reach Canterbury it will be a case of, do I go via Portugal (which I am inclined to do) or via Spain? A lot will hinge on whether or not I have my British Passport by that stage (means I don’t have to apply for a visa).

So to begin at the beginning, I set off  from London Bridge Station, Saturday 12th February at about 4.30pm to explore Southwark more fully and to visit the places that were around in Chaucers day.  In the Middle Ages the area hereabouts was known as the Liberty of the Clink and owned by the Bishops of Winchester.   After some research (google) I discovered that not only was

1) London Bridge around, but so was

london bridge

London Bridge - 1st bridge across the Thames as it is today

2) Southwark Cathedral (circa 606AD)

southwark cathedral and geoffrey chaucer

southwark Cathedral - a place of worship since 606AD

inside there is a beautiful stained glass window with the words ‘To the Glory of God and in honour of Geoffrey Chaucer’,

3) Winchester Palace (only a small section of which remains) – Great Hall of Winchester Palace, originally built in 1109, the residence of the powerful Bishops of Winchester.

winchester palace and the rose window

remains of Winchester Palace showing the famous Rose window

4) The Clink Prison (now a museum)

the clink prison museum london

The Clink Prison Museum - a debtor perhaps!!!

Although a prison was probably established within the palace in the 12th century, the first mention of the clink was in 1509. John Stow (1525 -1605) in his Survey of London (publ 1598), states that the prison was kept for those that broke the peace in the Bankside brothels.   In 1761 the prison was described as ‘a very dismal hole where debtors are sometimes confined’. It later burned down in the Gordon Riots of 1780.

and of course

5)  The George Inn (albeit restored after a fire)

the george inn london national trust

The George Inn - the last surviving galleried inn in London

 and I also discovered

6) St George the Martyr – a church that was in existence during the 14th Century and before.

st george the martyr london

St George the Martyr Church - Southwark

These buildings have all gone through different experiences and many are restored after fires that have raged through the area, so although they were about in Chaucer’s day, they were most likely in a slightly different form.  Although I have to say that the UK is very good at endeavouring to restore their ancient, heritage to what it was before any disaster that may have devestated the original.  There were also some remains of the Bermondsey palace, but I could not quite figure out where it was, so will leave that for another time.

I have listed these buildings or the remains of or the current form of those that were definitely around in Chaucer’s day.

I enjoyed a very happy 5 hours meandering the alleys, lanes and streets (*) of Southwark, starting off of course from London Bridge, I walked through the grounds of Southwark Cathedral past Winchester Palace along narrow, darkened lanes to The Clink Prison Museum (where I met the goaler man),

the clink prison museum

the goaler man at The Clink Prison (museum)

 back through Borough Market which looked bereft and kinda spooky, nothing like it does on market days when the market stalls are set up and there is the hustle and bustle of shoppers and marketers, thence along Borough High Street which being a route from Southwark, London to Dover was of course also a main thoroughfare in Chaucers day.  I visited St George the Martyr church and had a quick peek inside, then made my way back up to The George Inn for my evening meal.  The George Inn is the last remaining galleried inn in London and has gone through many changes, almost lost to fire at one stage and frequented by the likes of Dickens, Shakespeare and of course Chaucer and me! 🙂

the george inn london national trust

a new proprietor at The George Inn

So although he did not set out from this particular Inn I decided to have my ‘pilgrim’s’ meal and pretend that he did 🙂  I enjoyed a good old-fashioned plate of battered-fish and chips with mushy peas (that were a psychedelic green),

the george inn london national trust

my pilgrim's meal - battered fish, chips and psychedelic mushy peas

 washed down with a beverage that I am positive was not around in his day: Bailey’s Cream…..on ice 🙂  The Tabard Inn,  that Chaucer set off from has long since disappeared.

By now it was getting kinda late but since I was in no hurry I made my way back to London Bridge and set off along the Queen’s Walk which makes up part of the Thames Path that follows the whole of the 215miles of the Thames from source to sea, with a few diversions.  What a delight.  It was interesting to see London Bridge all lit up in red (fire!!!)

london bridge

London Bridge lit up at night

 and a bit further along I discovered Cotton’s Centre which is a monstrous glass edifice and just marvellous, I also re-discovered Hays’ Galleria and on venturing inside the huge cavern found a most amazing and fantastical water-fountain!  A metal boat like something out of the movie ‘A League of Extraordinary Men’.  All I can say is that if you have not seen it yet…..treat yourself, it is fantastic.

the navigators a water fountain in hays galleria

'The Navigators' by sculptor David Kemp, 1987

From there I meandered along the bankside passing HMS Belfast on the way, admiring all the new and beautiful modern buildings that have grown up along that side of the river till I reached Potters Field, City Hall and The Scoop and thence to Tower Bridge.  The night was perfect, and the river sparkeled and shone with the lights from the buildings lining her banks, their reflections dancing on the swirls and eddies of the tide.

I tarried a while and gazed, entranced at the beauty of the evening. The Tower of London, sitting squat and ominous, her turrets and towers underlit with spotlights, seemed to glow in the night with an eerie, and ghostly life of their own.

the tower of london

The Tower of London

Tower Bridge; an amazing spectacle of colour at night, with light shining out so bright I am sure it could be seen from space.

tower bridge london

Tower Bridge lit up at night

Around me citizens strolled arm in arm, pushed buggys or walked in groups along the path, bursts of laughter echoed across the water and the shrieks of children rushing through the fountains that decorate the square filled the night with sound.

water glass and light

water glass and light at More London Riverside

Eventually, mindful of my intended early start the next day for my walk from Southwark to Greenwich, I strolled back via More London Riverside through this vast concrete jungle, towering giants of glass, steel and concrete; alien space-ships on ancient land.

I once heard someone say that they always thought of London as being grey!!!! Well, never could you be so wrong.  London is a vibrant collage of colours….just take a walk along the banks of the Thames at night and you will see what I mean.

More London Riverside by night

I also wondered what it must have been like in Chaucer’s day when the lanes and alleys were frequented by the likes of tars, thieves, prostitutes and pirates…..a dark and dangerous place indeed.

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….ok, so not quite yet, but certainly in the future! I had such a brilliant time on Saturday night and Sunday that despite my initial wtf am I doing……? I had a brilliant time. So my thanks to Geoffrey Chaucer for following the pilgrims route and to my employer for the London Walks cards via which I stumbled across this fact during my research for the pilgrims route for which I have to thank my Dad (this is beginning to sound like I have won an award at the BAFTA’S or something!) hahaha 🙂

So where to start……..? I saw and did so much that I could probably write a book (ok, ok family!!! I will…in time 🙂 ). Meanwhile, here is what was the penultimate experience I had on the journey!  Standing on the meridian line.  I cannot tell you what a thrill I get each time I get to stand on the meridian line, that I am seriously thinking how awesome it would be to live in Greenwich in a house that has the 0 degrees 0′ 0″ line running through it.

greenwich and the meridian line

0 degrees 0' 0" the meridian line

I could wake up in the morning, get out of bed on the east side (makes sense, doesn’t it), have breakfast in the kitchen which will also be in the east and then walk to the sitting room or my office in the west! at night I would go back to bed and climb in via the west side. 🙂

greenwich and the meridian line

standing on the meridian line...where east meets west

……..the rest will follow in due course.  Am writing a number of guest blogs for other travel sites at the mo and have a tall order from my daughter who has something up her sleeve: she wants 4 x 700 word blogs and 8 x 350 word blogs on London!! and photos to go with them.  I am dying to know why? But, thankfully, coz I have already produced hundreds of blogs on London I have loads of material, so am currently editing those I have chosen and will be back to my Canterbury Tales in due course.

btw, did I ever mention just how fantastically brilliant London is.  I cannot even begin to tell you what a treasure trove it is. As a taster of what’s to come……..I passed the 1620 Mayflower Inn (orig. the Shippe) and the church of St Mary’s in Rotherhithe (c14 rebuilt 1715) with links to the captain of the Mayflower Capt. Christopher Jones.

the mayflower and christopher jones

Capt. Christopher Jones of the Mayflower. (this sculpture is in the churchyard)

  “From a Rotherhithe quayside, near a pub called the Shippe, the Mayflower set sail for America.”

More to follow……..and now since my break is almost over and I am back to work in 1.5 hours, it’s time for me to go!

Oh! and p.s. another wee gem to whet your appetite….I also made the acquaintance of Peter the Great 🙂 and sat on this throne!

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