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mapmywalk, the pilgrims way, walking the pilgrims way, long distance walks england, backpacking, women walking soloTuesday 21 August 2018 Day 1 Winchester to New Alresford : 11.94km / 40,690 steps elevation 114 meters

Sooooo excited today!! I feel quite boisterous LOL. I didn’t start off too well though….got myself ready real quietly so as to not disturb my host, checked to be sure I had everything packed, and that the room was clean and tidy…managed to get Pepe onto my back without knocking anything over, got my shoes on and crept quietly out the flat, dropped the key carefully through the letterbox slot, heard it land on the floor…turned around to start walking and…..whattttt????? noooooo!!!! I’d left my walking poles in the bedroom. OMG my heart!! sank right down into the tops of my shoes. Seriously Cindy WTaF?? My horror was unbounded. Now what? I stood there with the hair standing up on my neck and wondered “what to do, what to do?” Well, as much as I was totally reluctant to wake her, there was no option…..I rang and rang the doorbell till she woke up. The sight of her tousled hair and sleep-filled eyes made me feel like a complete idiot. Oh my lord, I felt absolutely mortified.

Poles in hand, apologies trailing behind me I finally set off and decided that if I left anything else anywhere I would just kiss it good bye LOL Taking a quick walk through the streets I hurried as best I could, now well behind schedule as I wanted to catch the 9am train to Winchester….I don’t hurry well with a backpack on!! Got to the station with literally 2 minutes to spare and a long queue for the ticket office. Cue regret for not buying my ticket the night before!!! Urgh. Anyway I pleaded with the woman in front of me who wasn’t catching the train that day and she let me in…got my ticket as the train pulled in to the station and then I ran…slipping on as the doors closed behind me. Whew! Made it 🙂

What a joy to arrive in Winchester again. Of course I had to take a quick walk past the Great Hall, the West Gate and 15th century The High Cross aka the City or Butter Cross, then I almost skipped to the cathedral I was so excited! Followed the avenue of trees and there it was, looking gorgeous. Excitedly I made my way to the ticket counter, pulled out my pilgrim’s passport and voila!! my first stamp as a pilgrim about to embark on my journey along The Pilgrim’s Way – Winchester to Canterbury.

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A lovely gentleman came over and gave me a short tour of the cathedral, took some photos, gave me a viewing of the medieval paintings in the 12th century Holy Sephulcre Chapel, and directed me to St Swithun’s Shrine where I sent a small prayer to the Universe for safe conduct and lots of adventure and discoveries. I visited the crypt (pretty awesome) then lit a candle in memory of my Mother (Marjorie), Mother-in-law (Dixie), and Father (Derrek), took a few last photos and on my way out, one of the Chaplains said a blessing and sent me on my way with lots of cheerful waves

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And I’m on my way, Winchester to Canterbury……with a final glance at the cathedral, I set off. First a quick visit to St Laurence Church then following the directions in the guide I made my way out of the city and along The Pilgrim’s Way. Whoo Hoo. My mood was exhilarated and excited and full of joy.

The route is unbelievably varied; initially following city streets and then through the suburbs, I passed the ancient site of Hyde Abbey (destroyed by Henry VIII)

hyde abbey, the pilgrims way, winchester to canterbury, walking the pilgrims way, long distance walking, solo walking for women

site of Hyde Abbey destroyed during the Reformation

St Bartholomew’s Church (I forgot to get a stamp grrr)

st bartholomews church winchester, hyde abbey, the pilgrims way, winchester to canterbury, walking the pilgrims way, long distance walking, solo walking for women

St Bartholomew’s Church, Winchester

and suddenly I was into countryside and a nature reserve. From here on the terrain was quite simply gorgeous.

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Passing through King’s Worthy, Abbot’s Worthy then Martyr Worthy I soon reached Itchen Abbas. Crossing the River Itchen I reached Avington Park where Nell Gwynne (that other Charles’s mistress) lived. I meandered up the drive (it’s very long) hoping to visit the house but didn’t see a soul about. The front doors were open so first I put my nose through the door, not a soul about, and before long (like maybe 10 seconds) my whole body was through the door and walking around. LOL I still didn’t see anyone…but on my word…the room wow!!! fabulous. I thought I might chance the stairs, but caution prevailed, and instead I walked around took a few photos and left. Before heading back to the pilgrim route I strolled across the lawns and enjoyed the green and shady trees.

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Reaching the road again, I headed up towards the golf course where I saw one of the most welcome signs you can imagine: Walkers Welcome 🙂 yayy, just in time for 4pm tea. I stopped off to use the facilities, had a cup of refreshing tea, a piece of delicious cake, by now I was really feeling the heat, and the shade of a tree was most welcome.

Although it was a truly beautiful day, and made for some fabulous photos, it was very hot and personally I would have enjoyed a light rain. 😂 😂 😂 😂 (be careful of what you wish for! sometimes the Universe gives you what you want…not necessarily at a convenient time or day!!)

Oh my word….England is soooo quaint. I passed some of the most gorgeous houses…total house envy!! The route today was fabulous, mostly very flat for which I was grateful.

Scenes from today’s walk along The Pilgrim’s Way:

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Church interiors- I visited 6 churches in total, some had a pilgrim stamp, others not – all without doubt amazing:

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Finally I got to say “I’ve arrived at tonight’s destination after a very long and hot walk, then stroll and finally a stagger along The Pilgrim’s Way”. I’d visited some amazing churches, met loads of people along the route, had some interesting conversations and seen some beautiful places. I met up with the lady who was to open up the Church Hall for me, and oh my word…I was blown away. She very kindly gave me a sleep mat, an air mattress, a pillow and a towel. I could have cried with gratitude. I then sat out under the trees, enjoying the peace of the graveyard and the colours of the setting sun, and enjoyed my dinner of fish and chips and mushy peas.

New Alresford: I’ve dined in some interesting places, but not yet in a graveyard 😜😜

take your pick......The Pilgrim's Way, The Watercress Way, Allan King Way, St Swithun's way, The Itchen Way, walling the pilgrims way, winchester to canterbury, long distance walks uk, solo walking for women, quintessential england

a first for me …..eating dinner in a graveyard – First time for everything 😂 😂

I was so amazed at the varying terrain of the route….

churches along the pilgrims way, winchester to alresford, walking the pilgrims way, walkers welcome, winchester to canterbury

take your pick……The Pilgrim’s Way, The Watercress Way, Allan King Way, St Swithun’s Way, The Itchen Way

The route along the first few days is a mix of 5 different ways; St Swithun’s Way, Itchen Way, Watercress Way and the Pilgrim’s Way, along asphalt, gravel paths, woodland, narrow winding paths through copses of trees, crossing the Itchen River a few times, and fighting my way through an overgrown tangle of scrub, shrub and weeds. Roughly 12-14 kms. Its a lot harder than the start of the Camino last year. But I’ve made it. Hoorah. Thankfully tomorrow is a shorter day (or so I thought).

My bed 😂😂😂 I slept in the church hall at Alresford and they kindly loaned me a mat and air mattress and a pillow…oh the luxury of a pillow.

take your pick......The Pilgrim's Way, The Watercress Way, Allan King Way, St Swithun's way, The Itchen Way, walling the pilgrims way, winchester to canterbury, long distance walks uk, solo walking for women, quintessential england

my bed for the night

I was quite comfy. The church is beautiful and I had my passport stamped. Mostly the stamp was attached to the wall with an ink pad nearby and you just stamped your own passport. As I did last year on the Camino, I left a small donation at each church.

take your pick......The Pilgrim's Way, The Watercress Way, Allan King Way, St Swithun's way, The Itchen Way, walling the pilgrims way, winchester to canterbury, long distance walks uk, solo walking for women, quintessential england

my Pilgrim’s Passport – Winchester Cathedral 21 August 2018 (the chap made a mistake and dated it 12th 🙂 urgh

End of Day 1 on The Pilgrim’s Way – totally amazing.

A short video of my journey from Winchester to Alresford

In case you missed my prelude to my walk along The Pilgrim’s Way – click for

Prelude – Day 1 Revisiting the City of  Winchester

Prelude Day 2 Exploring Southampton

Visit again next week Thursday for Day 2 of my walk along the Pilgrim’s Way

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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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