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Posts Tagged ‘the Pilgrim’s Way’

After having to cut my pilgrimage from Winchester to Canterbury short due to an injury, I went home to rest & recuperate. However, I still had a booking in Canterbury that needed to be picked up. Unfortunately I couldn’t cancel the booking since I had already moved it once from 2017 to 2018….

But, staying in Canterbury is no hardship, so even though I was disappointed at not being able to arrive as a completing pilgrim, I still had my booking at the Falstaff to look forward to.

So on the afternoon of the 4th September, my daughter and I took the train to Canterbury. I checked in at the Falstaff and although it was disappointing to not be sleeping in a room in the older, more historic part of the hotel, to my delight I had the most amazing room you could imagine. It was huge!!!

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my room at The Falstaff Inn, Canterbury – can I just move in and stay?

My daughter and I immediately made ourselves comfortable on the bed LOL

We had tea and chatted about life, my short pilgrimage, Canterbury and the baby.

To my absolute joy, the baby was very active that day and for the first time I got to feel my grandchild kicking away. I could enjoy that every day!!! 🙂 It’s such an extraordinary feeling. I’m so excited to be a Granny.

After resting for a while we walked into the centre of the city and went shopping. We found a fantastic baby carrier and I bought a lovely little puzzle for the baby. I love puzzles, baby’s Daddy loves puzzles , so I guess this little bambino will be learning how to build puzzles as soon as old enough to be able to puzzle them out.

I also bought a baby grow 🙂 too cute

We had a lovely afternoon meandering about the city…it’s so beautiful, then popped in at our favourite eatery….Eleto Chocolate Café for pancakes and tea.

pancakes

this is one of the most heavenly pancakes I have ever tasted. clearly we do this fairly often LOL taken on another trip to Canterbury

After that I walked my daughter back to the station where we said our goodbyes…I felt sad at leaving her coz she was meant to have not only walked the last day of my pilgrimage with me, but was to stay the night in Canterbury. However, with her being pregnant and all, our plans changed.

I strolled back into the city centre, photographing things I have photographed many times before LOL….I can never resist. The cathedral grounds were open now and I walked around just enjoying the sheer beauty of such an extraordinary building. I hope to return sooner rather than later after completing my walk along The Pilgrim’s Way.

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As soon as it was too dark for photos. it was back to the room…time for a long hot shower, tea and biscuits and into bed to watch tv.

I had a wonderful sleep – The bed was so comfy I could have stayed there for a week. Bliss. After a lovely cup of tea and a lazy morning, I went down for breakfast and then packed up to leave……homeward bound.

And so ended my first attempt at walking The Pilgrim’s Way. I hope/plan to finish the walk in April 2019, but I am quite keen to actually just walk the whole length again from Winchester…..insanity!!! Have I forgotten Boxhill already???

In case you missed the start of my pilgrimage from Winchester to …….Oxted (as it turned out) – my journey started here:

Revisiting the City of Winchester

Exploring Southampton

Day 1 – Winchester to Alresford

Day 2 – Alresford to Four Marks

Day 3 – Alton to Farnham

Day 4 – Farnham to Guildford

Day 5 – Exploring Guildford

Day 6 – Guildford to Shere & Tanners Hatch

Day 7 – Tanners Hatch to Merstham

Day 8 – Merstham to Oxted

Day 9 – My journey endeth – Homeward bound

 

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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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Revisiting the City of Winchester pre-pilgrimage 19.08.2018.

I’ve been to Winchester many times, the first in 2003 not long after I arrived in the UK. It is quite one of my favourite cities and a revisit is never hard to do. Besides London it is the city I have visited most often in the 16 years I have lived in the UK. Since the Pilgrim’s Way starts in Winchester, it was imperative that I spent a day revisiting favourite places and especially following the King Alfred Walk, before starting on my walk the next week.

There’s so much I could tell you about Winchester, but that would require a very long blog…so instead I’ll stick with the more pertinent and juicy bits….

The area around Winchester had been inhabited since pre-historic times and there are 3 iron-age sites nearby.

Winchester, built around 70AD, was known as Venta Belgarum, “Venta of the Belgae” during Roman times and there are small remnants of Roman wall near the East Gate bridge. The 5th largest town in Roman Britain.

Winchester became known as Wintan-ceastre (“Fort Venta”) in Old English. In 648, King Cenwalh of Wessex erected the Church of St Peter and St Paul which was later known as the Old Minster. There are remnants of this that you can see in the grounds of the cathedral.

Winchester was once the capital of England, ruled by Alfred the Great, King of Wessex from 871 to 899.

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Winchester Coat of Arms

Starting at the cathedral I’ll take you on a circular tour of the city….

The fabulous medieval Winchester Cathedral, originally built in 1079; is one of the largest in Europe, and distinguished by having the longest nave and overall length of all the Gothic cathedrals in Europe. It’s architecture spans the 11th – 16th centuries.

The cathedral houses the Shrine of St Swithun (born in Winchester – died 863 AD); an Anglo-Saxon bishop of Winchester, he became the 19th bishop in 852 and subsequently patron saint of Winchester Cathedral.

Winchester is the start of St Swithun’s Way and The Pilgrim’s Way to Canterbury.

Take a look at the ruins of the Old Minster to the left of the west door, and be sure to visit Queen Eleanor’s garden , accessed through the cathedral.

Pilgrim’s Hall – situated in the Cathedral Close, and known as the Pilgrim’s Hall as it was used to accommodate pilgrims who visited St Swithun’s shrine. It’s the earliest hammer-beamed building still standing in England.

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The Pilgrim’s Hall

Two of the 5 city gates are still standing: Kings Gate and the West Gate.

Just before Priors Gate is the mid-15th century timber-framed Cheyney Court; once the Bishops Court House is a mid fifteenth-century timber-framed house.

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Cheyney Court, Winchester

Still within the precincts of the cathedral is the Priors Gate

St Swithun-upon-Kingsgate; located above the medieval Kings Gate, one of the principal entrances to the city. Built in the Middle Ages in the Early English style, the church is unusual in that it forms a part of the fabric of the old city walls, and first appears in 13th century records – mentioned in 1264. It is mentioned in Anthony Trollope’s novel The Warden under the fictional name of St Cuthberts.

Jane Austen lived in a house near the cathedral and died in Winchester on 18 July 1817. She is buried in the cathedral.

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the house where Jane Austen lived in Winchester – I was fortunate enough to visit her house in Chawton during my walk

Wolvesey Castle – these stunning ruins, standing on the site of an earlier Saxon structure, were once the Norman bishop’s palace, dating from 1110. Enhanced by Henry de Blois during the Anarchy of his brother King Stephen’s reign, he was besieged there for some days. In the 16th c, Queen Mary Tudor and King Philip II of Spain were guests just prior to their wedding in the Cathedral. The building now a ruin and maintained by English Heritage, its free to explore, the chapel was incorporated into the new palace built in the 1680s, only one wing of which survives today.

Roman city walls – a small section of the old Roman city walls can be seen opposite the The Weirs alongside the river near the bridge.

The River Itchen; flowing through the mill and beneath the old Eastgate bridge, is noted as one of the world’s premier chalk streams. Designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, it supports a range of protected species as well as watercress beds (I saw the watercress beds near Alresford on Day 1 of my walk). The settlement of Itchen Abbas on the river is given as Icene in the Domesday Book of 1086.

The Eastgate Bridge – although the gate is long gone, this pretty bridge crosses the river just before the mill. If you cross the bridge away from the city, just beyond the roundabout you’ll find…..Chesil Rectory.

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The Eastgate Bridge, Winchester

Chesil Rectory – is the oldest house in Winchester; the sign says it’s dated 1450. A link with Queen Mary I; along with the water mill, she gave the rectory to the City of Winchester as compensation for the expense of her wedding. It’s now a restaurant.

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Chesil Rectory, Winchester – built 1450

The Water Mill – this beautiful, working mill, is situated on the River Itchen in the centre of this ancient city; Winchester. Restored and now a Grade II listed building, it is managed by the National Trust. First recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, it was known as Eastgate Mill until 1554.

Sightings of otters passing through have been recorded by night-vision cameras.

Statue of King Alfred the Great – located just beyond the bridge, on the Broadway, this towering statue dominates the streets. He is one of only two English monarchs to be given the epithet “the Great”, the other being Cnut The Great. The statue was designed by Hamo Thornycroft, R.A., and erected in 1899 to mark one thousand years since Alfred’s death.

The fabulous Victorian Guildhall, built in the Gothic revival style, it looks very similar to St Pancras Station in London. The lovely tourist office is located at street level.

The High Street – Following his rise to power, Alfred obliterated the Roman streets and laid down the grid you can still see today; the High Street is the oldest known road in the world (this I gleaned from articles on the web).

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view of the High Street, Winchester – seen from the roof of the West Gate, looking towards the King Alfred statue on The Broadway

The City Cross aka the Buttercross, located on the High Street, and now a Scheduled Ancient Monument, has been dated to the 15th c, and features 12 statues of the Virgin Mary, saints and various other historical figures.

The West Gate – now a museum, is a must visit. One of two surviving fortified gateways in Winchester, the earliest surviving fabric is Anglo-Saxon.  Once a debtors’ prison you can see prisoners’ graffiti engraved on the inner walls. Amongst a fantastic collection of artefacts, the museum houses a unique collection of weights and measures and a Tudor ceiling from Winchester College. There are fab views of the city and the High Street from the Westgate roof. The museum is free to visit.

The Great Hall – all that remains of the 12th century castle, beyond a few underground passageways and walls, and one of my favourite buildings in Winchester, it houses the famous King Arthur’s Round Table, dating from the 13th century, which has hung in the hall from at least 1463. It was painted for Henry VIII in 1522 and features the names of the legendary Knights of the Round Table around the edge and surmounted by King Arthur seated on his throne.

The Peninsula Barracks – The barracks, originally known as the Upper Barracks, Winchester, were built in the early 20th c on the site of King’s House, an unfinished palace designed by Sir Christopher Wren for Charles II which was destroyed by fire in 1894. Some parts of the barracks remain Grade II listed buildings in their own right including the Green Jackets Headquarters and the Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum.

If you approach the Peninsula Barracks from St James’s Lane there is a short flight of steps leading up to the square, these mark the perimeter of the old city walls, of which there are a few remnants near the river on The Weirs.

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these steps mark the boundary of the city

and of a more quirky nature; located on Great Minster Street and The Square, there are 24 bollards – painted by The Colour Factory between 2005-2012 in the style of famous artists of the likes of David Hockney, Henri Rousseau, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Leonardo da Vinci. They are quite lovely.

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And this brings to you back to the cathedral precinct.  If you enquire at the Tourist Information Centre at the Guildhall, they will provide you with a self-guided tour of the city which pretty much covers the route I’ve taken you on, except it starts near the King Alfred statue statue and goes clockwise.

Further snippets:

The Book of Winchester was the Domesday Book compiled by officials of William the Conqueror on his orders and published c1086.

John Keats stayed in Winchester from mid-August to October 1819, and wrote “Isabella”, amongst other well-known works while there.

There is so much else to see in Winchester;

The Hospital of St Cross – somehow I missed visiting this place on my recent visit (I’ll have to go back 😉 ).  I’ve attached a link to the history of the church  http://hospitalofstcross.co.uk/history/

St Lawrence Church – probably of Norman origin, and said to have been the chapel of William the Conqueror’s palace (built 1069-70, destroyed 1141) it is now a Grade II listed building.

Near the Great Hall are the fascinating old passageways from the castle/palace and the Hampshire Jubilee sculpture which is really beautiful

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the castle passageways. not always open but pop in if they are

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Hampshire Jubilee Sculpture near the Great Hall

The site of Hyde Abbey : a medieval Benedictine monastery just outside the walls of Winchester, it was dissolved and demolished in 1539.

St Bartholomew’s Church : originally the parish church of Hyde, a villages outside the walls of Winchester, the church was est 1110 and dissolved and demolished in 1539. Now a Grade II listed building, it lies directly alongside the early part of The Pilgrim’s Way.

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St Bartholomew’s Church Winchester

I had a wonderful 5 hours walking around Winchester and of course a visit to the cathedral, after which I hopped on the train back to Southampton….delighted to have spent more time in this fabulous city. I was now getting really excited for my upcoming walk on Tuesday 21st August.

Once back in Southampton I stopped off for some dinner and now its time for London Pride at the appropriately named Spitfure Pub. Its been a very humid day, started off totally overcast, then blue skies after 2pm. I do love Winchester. The King Alfred walk takes you past so many fascinating places. I met 2 ladies who were just starting the Southdowns Way to Eastbourne….so cool.

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always time for London Pride

I did try to keep it short…I promise LOL Winchester is a treasure trove of history and a must visit…you’ll need at least a full day to get the most out of your visit.

references:

https://www.visitwinchester.co.uk/things-to-do/history-heritage/

http://www.localhistories.org/winchester.html

https://www.britainexpress.com/counties/hampshire/winchester/westgate.htm

wikipedia (of course 😉 )

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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 🙂

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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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