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Archive for January, 2018

One of the hardest aspects of my job is when the client has a pet that I get to love while looking after them.

I don’t often get to look after pets, and I very seldom form an attachment to them for obvious reasons.

But this wee cat, Charlie, has stolen my heart. He’s such a sassy little boy, and despite the fact that he bites and scratches, I love him to bits….he’s so cheeky and such a clever little fella. I don’t mind the biting and scratching because he’s still a toddler, although I do discourage him. “no Charlie!! Gently now!”

I absolutely love it in the morning when I go down to the kitchen to make my tea. As my slippers hit the linoleum floor I can hear him drop from his bed onto the floor in the room above, hear his feet padding hastily across the room, and down the stairs… Chirruping away “good morning good morning”. Of course what he’s really saying is “yayyyyyyyy food!!”

I pick him up for a cuddle and a love. He lies draped across my shoulder and with my head against his body so I can listen to the rumble of him purring, we stand quietly for a few minutes, then I get bitten and it’s time for ‘food please’.

Those are such precious moments in my day.

But as always, good things come to an end. I finished my assignment today, and as much as I’d love to take him home with me, it’s time to say goodbye. He curled himself up in suitcase last night and oh, how wonderful it would be to take him home with me.

I may never see him again, although I did tell my client he has to bequeath Charlie to me. 🙂

My heart aches with the probability that I won’t see him again. But, all being well, I’m scheduled to return in July.. So hopefully I’ll see him again.

In the meantime I’ll have to content myself with Elsie, my daughter’s cat who hisses and growls at me when I return home… “who tf are you?” LOL I do love her though, even if she is so rude.

Ahhh Elsie, such a short memory

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As mentioned in an earlier post I’ve been planning my summer pilgrimage from Winchester to Canterbury, prior to flying to Spain for the Camino Inglés. One of the best aspects of planning a pilgrimage is the research. I’ve uncovered so many wonderful places to see and visit; castles, Roman villas, ancient churches, Domesday villages. I’ll be walking along two ancient routes; St Swithun’s Way and the North Downs Way that combine to make The Pilgrim’s Way.

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I’m sure to see a few of these along the Pilgrim’s Way

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The chalk landscape along the Pilgrim’s Way in Surrey – North Downs

The Pilgrim’s Way, an ancient trackway, is an historical route followed by medieval and modern pilgrims from Winchester in Hampshire to the shrine of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent.

From medieval cathedral to medieval cathedral, winding its way through the English counties of Hampshire, Surrey and Kent, the track takes the pilgrim along both Roman and modern roads, through ancient towns and cities, taking in historical castles and ancient churches, Roman villas, past numerous ‘tumulus’, through fields and forests, over chalk hills that offer picturesque vistas of the English countryside, alongside and over flowing rivers.

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along the Pilgrim’s Way

With an archaeological age of between 600-450 BC dated by finds along the route, the course has been dictated by natural geological contours and causeways, and is now a culmination of various routes followed over the aeons from as far back as the Stone Age. Although I doubt the stone age dudes were on a pilgrimage!

The names of the towns, villages and cities roll off the tongue like a lesson in history; Winchester, Abbots Worthy, Martyr Worthy, Itchen Abbas, Bishops Sutton, Four Marks, Holybourne, Upper Froyle, Lower Froyle, Farnham, Seale, Puttenham, Guildford, Shere, Oxted, Limpsfield, Otford, Kemsing, Trottisford, Detling, Thurnham, Lenham, Boughton Lees, Old Wives Lees, Chilham and then hoorah…Canterbury.

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Limpsfield – Domesday Book village

The chalk landscape along the Pilgrim's Way in Surrey - North Downs

Tatsfield – Domesday Book village

Along the way I’ll pass places like Avington Park, Jane Austen’s house, Farnham Castle, Guildford Castle, the Silent Pool, Kit’s Coty House, the White Horse Stones and the Black Prince’s Well before reaching the historical walled city of Canterbury and thus to my ultimate destination; Canterbury Cathedral.

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The Silent Pool

It’s been really tricky trying to work out the most conducive distance between towns. I really don’t want to walk more than 20kms a day. Besides the distances, I have to consider whether or not I’ll find suitable accommodation. I’m seriously considering taking my sleeping bag along just in case there are some days I am without something suitable….I can always sleep on a church porch! Although there are a lot of venues listed on the Pilgrim’s Way UK website, many of them are in the region of £100+p.n. which frankly is ludicrous and I’m certainly not prepared to pay that much. Unlike the European Camino routes that have hostels or albergues in virtually every hamlet, village or town, the accommodation along the Pilgrim’s Way is sketchy to say the least. I’m sure there are loads of places to stay, but as mentioned earlier, the prices are exorbitant.

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I’ve ordered the guide book; ‘The Pilgrim’s Way To Canterbury from Winchester and London’ by Leigh Hatts, recommended on their site. I’m hoping it will be at home waiting for me when I return this weekend 🙂 Can’t wait to start digging into it. (*update! It’s arrived!! Happy dance.)

I’ve spent hours on their site reviewing the map, calculating distances, checking ‘places to see along the way’, reviewing the churches…I’m only looking at the churches that actually provide a pilgrim’s passport stamp. If I have time and happen across any others that look interesting, of course I’ll pop in, but I won’t be going out of my way.

 

When reviewing the map on their website I noticed I’ll be walking sections of the Pilgrim’s Way that I’ve walked in the past, so it will be quite exciting to walk those again.

I’m trying to decide what I should pack in Pepe (my rucksack). I’ll be leaving for Spain 2 days after I reach Canterbury, so won’t have much time to repack….I’m going to keep it as light as possible and of course I won’t be taking my flip flops LOL According to the weather website, the best months to travel in England are May, June, September and October. These months generally have the most pleasant temperatures and less rain. July and August are the warmest months, but are also the wettest…. which is not what I want to read!!!! Does this mean I’ll need my rain poncho? I hope my shoes can handle the mud LOL

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my walking poles will definitely be helping me along the Pilgrim’s Way

Thankfully I don’t have to buy the rucksack, shoes, walking poles and all the paraphernalia that I had to buy in 2016/17 for my Portuguese Camino. So hopefully it will be a lot less costly than that trip. However, I’ve been investigating the prices and boy, it’s not cheap to fly to Spain anymore. No surprise there I guess.

There’s quite a lot to be considered when planning these walks. I’m not one of those people that can just sling on a rucksack, head out and start walking….I like to plan things. If I decide to do something impulsive along the way, then that’s fine. But I like to know where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. So atm I’m researching, listing, checking venues, and deciding on dates et al.  Anyway, I just enjoy creating spreadsheets, and to the truth of that, my daughter would testify. LOL

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The Pilgrim’s Way Lenham – Domesday Book village

Onwards…….along The Pilgrim’s Way

 

 

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After months of reading up on other people’s facebook posts, reading blogs and posts on Camino forums, I finally narrowed down my Camino packing list.

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My Camino 2017 packing; I’ve made relevant adjustments for walking in the UK

Items that I removed from the final pack before leaving: top left image; gloves, sandals, and I changed my walking socks after testing the marvellous socks I found at Mountain Warehouse; double thick…

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some of the many articles I researched and a bit of a laugh

Admittedly I had bought a whole load of items while I was in South Africa in May 2016, but I realised over time that most of it wouldn’t really be needed/suitable for a Camino in September. I will however make good use of them when I start walking in the UK….we all know how changeable the weather can be here so no doubt the double fleece jacket, woollen beanie and thick woollen gloves will come in handy for those trips. So for now they shall remain at home.

One of the items I bought which will come in handy is the Glowstick which is of course packed.

So at the final Countdown to my Camino, this is what I packed:

Osprey Mystic Magenta Tempest Talon 40 – my erstwhile backpack 1.08 kgs

Osprey Water Bladder 1.5liter                                                            0.700 grams

Sandals (walking sandals swopped for flip flops)                               0.120 grams

Fleece – lilac                                                                                      0.500 grams

Jumper – lilac                                                                                     0.220 grams

Hiking pants x 2 pairs – black (packed)                                              0.620 grams

Hiking pants 1 pair – black (to be worn)                                             0.310 grams

Quick drying T-shirts x 3 – magenta (packed)                                    0.360 grams

Quick Drying T-shirt to be worn                                                          0.120 grams

Panties x 7 (black) & pantie liners x 20                                              0.100 grams

Hiking socks – double thick x 5 (black)                                               0.250 grams

Hiking socks – double thick – worn                                                      0.050 grams

Wick away inner sock liners x 2                                                          0.050 grams

Bras x 2 (one on & one packed)                                                         0.050 grams

Night t-shirt (slogan: everything hurts – gift from my daughter)          0.210 grams

Towel – magenta (quick drying) & face cloth                                      0.230 grams

Rain poncho (now ditched in favour of a lightweight poncho – 20g)   0.395 grams

Extras:

LED Light (glowstick)                                                                          0.020 grams

Pale blue scarf with silver scallop shell pattern (gift from daughter)   0.040 grams

Pilgrim’s Scallop Shell                                                                         0.020 grams

Pilgrim’s Passports                                                                              0.030 grams

Orange Emergency Sheet                                                                   0.230 grams

Silver Emergency Foil Blanket                                                            0.010 grams

Various odds and ends (pack 1)                                                         0.180 grams

Various odds and ends (pack 2)                                                         0.310 grams

Various odds and ends (pack 3)                                                         0.110 grams

Phone charger and cord                                                                     0.050 grams

Emergency travel charger for my phone                                            0.220 grams

Teabags (vital and essential for my morning cuppa)                          0.030 grams

Toiletries                                                                                             0.800 grams

(shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, face cream, hand wash, dish-washing liquid, toothpaste, detergent gel, toothbrush, dental floss, comb, nail clippers, emery board, small scissors, shower gloves, incognito spray (100 grams), citronella oil, Epsom salts, rehydration salts, immodium, various vitamins)

Below are images of what I’ve packed for my next Camino – new additions would be the pink travel case (not yet sure it’s going to be useful), small day pack for those days I send Pepe ahead (it’s a marvellous little bag and folds away into itself and weighs next to nothing). The bits and bobs have been dramatically reduced, I did find the little velcro straps to be incredibly useful as well as the elasticated straps with clips…good for hanging socks to dry.packing for pilgrimage, long distance walks uk, packing for the camino,packing for pilgrimage, long distance walks uk, packing for the camino,packing for pilgrimage, long distance walks uk, packing for the camino,

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packing for my impending UK walk – my fabulous new puffer jacket and my wonderful Pepe; Osprey Mystic Magenta, packed and ready to go

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the noodles came in handy one night after a very long day. I used the tea bags 3 times and the mug never LOL

Some stuff you just don’t need. 😉 It’s really tricky packing for a long distance walk, especially in a foreign country. I took way too much of medical supplies like plasters and stuff (they are in plentiful supply in all the large towns and some of the villages you pass along the way).

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clearly took far too much stuff LOL

Admittedly, despite advice to the contrary, I took a load of stuff I really didn’t need – most of it came home with me. LOL

I’ll be rechecking my list before I start along The Pilgrim’s Way and hopefully I can ditch some more items before I start…..

Buen Camino

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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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Hoorah!!! I woke up this morning to the absolute quiet you get when it snows. It started sleeting quite early yesterday afternoon and before long we had heavy snow falling.

It stopped just before nightfall and I thought that would be it, but no, to my delight it had snowed during the night. I quickly donned my woolies, shoes and fleece, grabbed my poles and set out for the village green.snow in wales, winter weather, villages of wales, travel diariessnow in wales, winter weather, villages of wales, travel diaries

It looked enchanting. I love the snow and am never apologetic for just enjoying the picturesque views it offers. Long may it snow.

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enchanting

 

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Ever since I first visited this area last year I’ve wanted to take a walk to Chirbury across the border in Shropshire. It’s 3 miles to Chirbury and my normal walking pace is 5 miles in 2 hours. My break time is only 2 hours and I can’t leave my client alone for longer than that, so in all 3 visits to this area, I’ve not yet been able to get there and back…6 miles; just over my pace limit.

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However, the daughter came to visit for 2 days, so on Friday I grabbed my chance. The weather was good, no snow or frost, and bright and more or less sunny. I suggested she make lunch for her Dad and keep him company while I took a brisk walk to Chirbury. So that is what we did…..this also gave me a break from meal preparation, which after preparing 3 meals a day for 16 days on the trot, the ‘excitement’ begins to wear a bit thin LOL

Donning thermals and thick socks, my fleece on, but sans hat and gloves (urgh., I cant believe I decided to leave them at home this trip), I grabbed my poles and set off for the 3 miles to Chirbury.

 

The roads here are narrow…..very narrow and at sections there is not even a sliver of space to step safely off the tarmac when traffic whizzes by. The roads are also very winding with a lot of dips and slopes, so often, even though you can hear the traffic approaching, you can’t see it….ergo they can’t see me either. It’s a tad nerve-wracking, so I keep my ears well clear and when I hear traffic approaching I get myself as far off the road as possible and turn to face the oncoming cars/vans/trucks and ensure they can see that I can see them. I wave and sometimes they wave back. It always amuses me when they swing their cars right onto the opposite side of the road….a tad over the top (no pun intended). But they whizz by safely and I get to continue in one piece. I only had to clamber into a hedge once on the whole 2.5 hour walk and that was coz I had heard a car approaching from behind a small incline, so grabbed some branches and pulled myself into the shrub as far as possible till the car went by….except the sound of his engine drowned out the sound of a 2nd car not far behind and I had no sooner returned to the road that the 2nd vehicle came flying over the top….this require split-second action and I jumped into the bush and grabbed whatever came to hand…..which left my hand all bloody and scratched. No worse than when the cat grabs my hand, but unpleasant.

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Welcome to Shropshire – Offa’s Dyke

Other than that, the walk went without incident and I relished the sounds of the countryside; birds tweeting and shrilling, sheep baaing across the fields, the occasional sounds of a tractor chuffing about, a horse snorting from behind a hedge, and a herd of cows snuffing their surprise when my head popped up above the edge of their shed. LOL

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20 miles from Salop

They are gorgeous creatures, such big doleful eyes and pink snouts….especially gorgeous when there’s a wall between me and them 😉 Unfortunately I couldn’t get close enough for a photo; would have entailed trudging through mud and the farmers property…suffice to say they were pretty. Still young. I always feel sad though when I see them knowing what lies in their future.

Chirbury, situated in the Vale of Montgomery and just over the border from Wales, turned out to be a lot smaller than I anticipated.

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Chirbury, Shropshire, England

The landscape is dotted with farms, a few grain silos give a clue as to the crops, a 12th century church; St Michael’s, the ubiquitous pub, a shop and Post Office, a scattering of houses, a barn turned into a pottery and nothing much else.  Apparently, according to the 2001 census it has a population of 971!!! I have no idea where they’re all hiding. Although they do have a nursery and primary school, so I guess there must be more houses than was immediately apparent. It’s more like a hamlet really, right on the crossroads of some connecting byways; namely the A490 and B4386 routes, whilst roads and lanes from six directions converge on the village. I’m guessing that’s pretty much how it came into being…..a crossroads developed over time.

According to wikipedia: “The placename was recorded in 915 as Ċyriċbyrig in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and as Ċireberie in the Domesday Book of 1086, and means “the fort with a church”. Its Welsh name, Llanffynhonwen, means “the church of the white well” or “…of the holy well”. The fact that it’s a Domesday Book village is thrilling…now I can add another to the growing list on Project 101.

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Houses in Chirbury

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Black and White House in Chirbury

The only church in Chirbury, St Michael’s, a Grade 1 listed building, is dedicated to the Archangel Michael. Built on the site of an earlier Anglo-Saxon church (circa 915), the current building dates from the 12th century with an addition in 1330 & the 18th century and restoration during the 19th century.  I love exploring the old graveyards attached to these country churches, they are so full of history.

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St Michael’s Church Chirbury

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I popped over to the pub; The Herbert Arms just in time for them to have closed up to go shopping! *sigh* I was looking forward to a nice hot cuppa and a scone with jam and cream before heading back. Oh well, no afternoon tea then.

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the Yorkshireman and his Wife

Instead I dropped in at the Post Office, bought a chocolate, used the facilities and made haste on my return to Montgomery. I got wet a couple of times, but managed the home journey without too much stress. I crossed over a couple of streams on the way and the River Camlad running east and north through the parish.

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River Camlad

“CHIRBURY, or Cherbury, a village and a parish in Salop; and a sub-district in Salop and Montgomery. The village stands in a fine vale, near the Welsh boundary, Offa’s dyke”

It was fab to see the border; Offa’s Dyke, between the two countries of Wales and England. I love that although there is a border on paper, the countryside doesn’t have any indication and just flows across hill and dale without a care.

By the time I got back, the light had faded and it was getting quite dark, the sun had disappeared behind a foggy cloud and I pondered the probability of carrying my visibility vest in future.

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welcome to Wales

In all a fantastic walk of 9.70kms/6.06 miles added to my January total of 36.9 kms / 23.06 miles – ergo 976.94 miles to go till 31.12.2018 LOL

Today my joints were quite achy and my feet felt really sore from pounding along the tarmac. Tarmac really is not kind to the old body.

I’m so glad I managed to get to Chirbury.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!)

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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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Yesterday’s Camino 2018 practice walk took me up to Montgomery Castle. I hadn’t been up for a fair while; snow and frost. Well mostly frost, since the snow was so last year 😉 and I have actually been up once since I arrived here on the 3rd…

I’m trying to get in at least an hour of walking every day now. I remember training most days for at least 2 hours over 18 month for my previous Camino, but I’m hoping some of that fitness still lingers and that 9 months of training will be sufficient this year. It’s not a far distance, but it is all uphill and that final stretch sure stretches my lungs LOL My legs too complain loudly by the time I reach the ridge.

Although not as substantial as some of the castles we get in Wales and the rest of the UK, Montgomery Castle is stupendous, albeit just ruins and a fraction of what it used to be. I love the history attached and wish the walls could talk. The English considered it to be the Key to the Kingdom; the kingdom being Wales, since the border with England (Shropshire) is just a stones throw away and easily accessible with a fair walk.

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Key to the Kingdom; Montgomery, Wales

Built more as a defensive position than a luxurious palace, it played a key role in many turning point dates in the history of the UK…from Offa’s day till the 17th century, when in 1643 the castle was surrendered to Parliamentary troops in the Civil war by Edward Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Chirchury.

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The Battle of Montgomery 1644 – map my walk

Originally a motte and bailey (a fortification with a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised earthwork called a motte and accompanied by an enclosed courtyard or bailey), it was eventually rebuilt in stone. Rebuilding commenced in the late summer of 1223; the 16th birthday of Henry III of England. The castle was eventually reduced to a backwater prison and later demolished by order of Parliament.

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Montgomery Castle, Powys Wales

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Montgomery Castle, Powys Wales; the ruined gatehouse to the inner ward seen from the south

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Montgomery Castle, Powys Wales; imposing walls built of stone

One of my favourite things to do when I get up to the castle is to sit on the ruined walls and just enjoy the quiet and the stupendous views. I can clearly see Offa’s Dyke from there as well as the Berwyns (range of Welsh Mountains). I believe there are number of Roman camps and mottes dotted about the country and it’s really frustrating to not be able to get to see them. I shall have to include a visit to this area when I have my motor home. A misty kind of day, in the distance you can see the promised cold front approaching.

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fantastic views across Wales and Shropshire from Montgomery Castle

Before leaving I took a walk right around the perimeter of the castle – looking up at the rocks on which the castle is built I am awed at the workmanship that went into this imposing edifice.

Distance walked: 1.86 miles (2.98 kms) – not much as far as distance goes and certainly not anywhere near the distances I covered during my breaks last year, but it’s building. At the moment I have quite a few projects I’m working on so have to split my 2 hour break between walking and working 🙂

 

 

 

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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.

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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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