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Archive for July, 2021

Stage 7 – Windsor to Maidenhead 12.06.2021 – 17.41 kms – 6 hours 05 minutes – 34,510 steps – elevation 40 meters

This stage was actually split into 2 really because I stayed for Trooping the Colour to see the Queen’s troops march past and of course my favourite the King’s Troops Royal Artillery…and I wasn’t disappointed. The whole affair was muted in comparison to previous years due to Covid-19 and we didn’t get to see The Queen or any of the Royal Family ride by in their carriages because the whole affair was held behind closed walls.

And so after a goodnight’s sleep I meandered down to the Long Walk and stopped to watch the procession of Troops. First The Queen’s Household Cavalry who looked absolutely splendid as always, then the Blues and Royals Cavalry who also looked absolutely splendid. The Footguards had already passed by the time I got there, and the Royal Artillery likewise. But I got to see them afterwards which is always a treat.

Trooping the Colour 2021
The Queen’s Household Cavalry
Trooping the Colour 2021
Blues and Royals Cavalry
Trooping the Colour 2021
King’s Troop Royal Artillery

We were also treated to a Red Arrows flypast which was well exciting, and I’m so glad I stayed for that…even though it was probably going to make me late for my evening train home!

Red Arrows flypast
Red Arrows flypast

Once the Red Arrows had gone I set off to find somewhere to recharge my phone coz the battery had pretty much depleted itself with all the photos and videos.

I ended up at the Three Store and before I knew what had happened I had upgraded to a new contract and obtained a new phone, a tablet and a speaker with alexa installed – how did that happen? It also took well over 2 hours to transfer all my media and phone information, so by the time I left Windsor, it was already 15:13….wayyy behind schedule now! And my backpack was a lot heavier than when I started the day due to having to stuff in all the equipment! I felt it.

So my km’s in Windsor amounted to 2.95km with 10,314 steps, and the actual walk itself was 14.46kms over 3hours 53 minutes and 24,196 steps (just to be specific). An easily manageable distance between bridges.

Setting off I made my way to the river and yes, I bought an ice-cream LOL It was already quite hot and I figured I may as well start the day off on a good footing – food wise. Anyway the ice-cream I had bought the day before was delicious, so I figured a repeat wouldn’t be a bad idea…the chocolate at least would give me energy.

From there I meandered upstream a short way and relaxed on a bench while enjoying my treat….it’s not like I wasn’t already well behind schedule… The swans gathered for a sample, but we agreed it wouldn’t suit their digestive systems, so I declined to give them any LOL

Gimme, gimme, gimme….no!

Windsor Bridge is at least an 800-year old crossing point, although the present bridge was only built in 1822, and the first arched bridge over the river. In 1736 is was possible to walk over alive for 2d, while being being carried in a coffin cost 6s 8d. Weird!!

Windsor Bridge

I eventually got myself moving, although I can tell you for sure, that I was not in the mood for walking…but needs must, so off I went – crossing Windsor bridge to Eton

Eton

I soon found the path and crossed a lovely wide open green space. Dozens of sun-worshippers dotted the grass, all very sensibly socially-distanced (technically we were still in lockdown, although you would never have guessed).

Socially-distanced – Windsor Castle in the background

The path soon reached a lovely shady stretch which was a relief since it was extremely hot that day.

Ahhhh shade!!

Just before I entered beneath the trees I stopped for one last glimpse of Windsor Castle. Windsor is derived from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Wyndesore’ meaning ‘winding shore’, which probably refers to the Thames’ twisting course. The castle began as a fortress by William the Conqueror, is The Queen’s main home and the resting place of many monarchs, including Henry VI.

I wound my way along the path, walking beneath shady trees, crossing small bridges over little inlets and creeks, passing under bridges and stopping to photograph the graffiti

Bridges
Graffiti on the underpass

and meandering alongside fields ripe with crops. The sky was a gorgeous blue with white fluffy clouds lazily puffing by and a gentle breeze worked hard to keep me cool.

Through fields of green
This little river was ever so tempting, how much I would have loved a swim

I was on the lookout for a specific spot, a riverside seat known as ‘Athens’. Athens was an Eton College bathing spot where rules required that ‘boys who are undressed must either get at once into the water or get behind screens when boats containing ladies come in sight’. Mentioned in the guide book I was keen to see this notorious spot, but if it hadn’t been for the fact that I saw a gentleman leaning over looking at it, I would have marched right past! I stopped for a wee chat and hoorah! I finally met someone who was also walking the Thames Path, albeit from a different direction. I am sure though that there were likely others, but I just hadn’t met them. After a brief swapping of notes he went on his way, I captured an image of the rather obscure looking bench and went on mine…onwards, upstream.

Athens

Before long I reached Boveney Lock, ever so pretty and stopped to read the information board. Boveney Lock is set within the ancient landscape of Dorney Common. A dispute ove an unpaid toll in 1375 is thought to be the first mention of a lock at this location. In 1780 there are suggestions of a pound lock, and in 1820 various plans for a replacement lock proposed cuts to the mouth of Clewer Mill Stream because of difficult navigation of the tight bends downstream. The present location was chosen with a timber lock built in 1838. There is an avenue of chestnut trees, planted in the 1800’s that lead to the lock known as ‘Conker Alley’. Mentioned in the Domesday Book, the Manor of Boveney was given to the nuns of Burnham Abbey in 1266.

Boveney Lock
Information boards enroute are so enjoyable to read

A short walk later and I reached the beautiful little 13th century church of St Mary Magdalene set back from the river in a field of green grasses. Built from chalk rubble, with a wood clad bell tower housing three bells, its only lighting; a candle (and sunlight). Its origins and history are something of a mystery, and in 1859 the churchyard was thick with gravestones, of which there is now no sign.

St Mary Magdalene

I stepped into the cool shady interior and stepped into another world. A calm air of simplicity enveloped me as I stepped through the door and honestly, I could have just sat there for hours…it was so beautiful and so peaceful.

I spotted the remnants of a medieval wall painting, the colours still quite rich.

Medieval Wall painting

It’s such a shame the purists managed to get their whitewash out, and literally destroyed thousands of these stunning wall paintings in hundreds of churches around the country. Fortunately modern technology has allowed for the recovery of some, but it’s costly and painstaking and not really affordable on the whole. I’ve visited quite a number of churches over the years where they have managed to recover/restore some of these works of art…a legacy we should be proud of.

Looking back

From Boveney Lock, the church is a very short walk upstream. The river was so calm and blue I was tempted to jump in for a swim LOL ….the cool green shady trees would have to suffice

Tranquility

A bit further upstream I spied a lovely building across the river but couldn’t discover what it was. Intriguing and annoying LOL A closer look at google maps tells me it might be Summer River House, but I can’t be sure.

I also spotted Oakley Court through the trees; (a riverside retreat with a golf course – tells you it’s most likely very expensive!!)…wow, it’s stunning. I shall have to go there some time by car. It’s very gothic looking with towers and gingerbread icing trimming and all. Uh yeah…I just had a look…£275 per night hahaha. In my dreams. The description on the website reads: Oakley Court is a Victorian Gothic Mansion House recently renovated and set in 35 acres overlooking the River Thames at Water Oakley in the county of Berkshire which features 118 bedrooms, 118 bedrooms just downstream from Windsor & Eton. Hah! Apparently Oakley Court was built in 1859 as a residence for an Englishman who hoped the Gothic Style would make his homesick French wife happy. General de Gaulle visited, and the building was used in the films: St Trinian’s, Half a Sixpence and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (my 2nd favourite film after Mary Poppins).

Oakley Court

The river wound it’s way lazily downstream and I wound my way sort of speedily upstream, although the river was likely a little bit faster I’m sure, passing through shady glades, alongside fields and islands, passing stunning houses and wondering just who can afford those mansions!!

I’m on the right path

The gravel paths are so much kinder on the feet than the metalled roads.

Without realising it I had walked right by Dorney Lake which featured in the 2012 Olympics and more recently the 2021 Oxford Cambridge Boat Race.

I passed a cycle route marker that told me I had 3 miles to Maidenhead – this was at 17:30 and I knew for sure that I was not going to make my ‘planned’ train at 18:30…oh well

Maidenhead 3kms

Looking across to Monkey Island I spotted a little gazebo through the trees and felt quite envious really…it looked so idyllic, and is apparently on the grounds of a rather grand B&B; Monkey Island Estate Luxury Hotel, and at £203p.n. not that much cheaper than the Gothic pile further downstream….but hey, it’s on an island. Monkey Island possibly means ‘monk’s island’ as it once belonged to Merton Priory on the River Wandle. In 1738 the Duke of Marlborough decorated the fishing lodge ceiling with monkeys!! A hotel since 1840, Edward VII and Queen Alexandra had tea on the lawn with 3 future sovereigns – George V, Edward VIII and George VI.

Looking across to Monkey Island

Passing through a private estate, once again I was overawed by the sumptious houses and the size of their gardens, mostly an array of resplendent colours; rose arbours, and creepers and flowers galore. Nice if you can afford it.

I could hear the hum and then roar of traffic ahead and looking at my map I realised I was soon to pass beneath the M4. Lockdown is essentially over really….we’re back to the business of polluting the air.

The next lock on the route, Bray Lock, soon hove into view and whizzed on by. I think they’re all so pretty and interesting.

Bray Lock – although it looks quiet and restful, the lock-keeper’s job is not – they are busy throughout the day.

Looking back I could see how the river split around the lock island and tumbled over the weir on the far side.

Looking back to Bray Lock

I was nearing Maidenhead now and I am definitely going to have to return to explore the opposite banks of the river…

The Thames Path

The Waterside Inn at Bray-on-Thames looked intriguing and their website tells me it’s: A unique riverside haven in a dreamy village setting, a revered restaurant with elegant quarters, just screams £££ – also very posh!! and a tad more expensive than the other two at £420 per night. Holy moley

The Waterside Inn

I could hear the traffic in the distance and all too soon I was walking beneath this beautiful red-brick railway bridge. Maidenhead Railway Bridge, completed by Brunel in 1839 carries the Paddington-Bristol railway line and appears in Turner’s 1844 painting Rain, Steam and Speed on the GWR

The Sounding Arch – Maidenhead Railway Bridge

A short walk later, passing some stunning houses

stunning houses and amazing gardens
how gorgeous is this house!!

and finally, quite exhausted from the heat and feeling the 2 days distance, I was crossing the river via Maidenhead Bridge.

Looking back across the river from whence I came
Looking downstream from Maidenhead Bridge towards the railway bridge

Hoorah! I had reached my destination for Stage 7…it was now 18:38, and with another 2 km to reach the station, I had definitely missed my 18:35 train, as well as the next 2 trains as it transpired… I was so exhausted by the time I reached Maidenhead that I simply could not walk any faster, and so I had to wait for the 19:35 train and got home at 22:45….

Enroute to the station I passed one of the 2012 Olympic Gold Post Boxes; painted to celebrate the Paralympic success of equestrian Sophie Christiansen….awesome that they still paint them gold.

Gold painted post box

This section of the river; Staines to Maidenhead is seriously gorgeous and I so enjoyed my two days of walking. Both days were super hot and I must admit I found it hard going at times, but the serenity of the shady copses, the extraordinary history and the sheer joy of just walking more than made up for it. Rural mixed with urban, land lubbers and canal boat dwellers, bridges and locks, historical sites and a castle made for a most interesting jaunt along the Thames. I am so looking forward to walking Stage 8 Maidenhead to Marlow & Stage 9 Marlow to Henley. Both easy distances, so I may jig them a wee bit and see if I can squeeze more kms out of the day and squeeze 3 into two and get as far as Reading.

Although Stage 7 wasn’t as laden with history as with the previous stages, particularly through London and Stage 6 to Windsor, it was still so interesting, and from what I have gleaned from the guide book, most of the history lies on the opposite bank from where the official path runs. It’s a bit like a switchback, the River Thames; an optical illusion where you think something is one side, but as you get closer you find it’s not.

Talking of the guidebook, all writing in italics is either from the guide book or google.

And that brings to a close the 7th stage of my Thames Path walk. I’m hoping to do another 2 stages before year end, but it’s looking tricky time wise…I’m still following the Saxon Shore Way and walking the English Coast Path from Dover to Rye in October, with my jaunt along the Northumbrian Coast and Hadrian’s Wall in September… so we shall see.

If you missed Stage 6; Staines to Windsor, click on the link to read more about it.

And if you really have the time and want to start at the beginning (a very fine place to start ) Stage 1a: Erith to the Thames Barrier

Wish you a fine day and happy walking….thanks for dropping by to read my lengthy jottings (definitely not on an envelope!) LOL

If you’d like to join me on instagram, you can find me @overthehillstilltravelling

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On Saturday my daughter, son-in-law and I took the BooBee (my grandson) for a Jurassic encouter with dinosaurs at Grovelands Park in Southgate. Albeit a long tiring journey by train and tube to get there it was a wonderful experience. In retrospect we figured it would have been easier and less tiring to travel up by car.

Despite the weather prognosis of thunder storms (that never happened), we packed for a day out and tickets in hand, off we went.

After a lengthy journey by train and tube we eventually arrived by which stage the BooBee had gone to sleep 💤😴 which was a good thing because then he was rested and happy to see the dinosaurs.

A long walk from the gates, as we neared the area we could hear fierce roars and screams emanating from the forest!! Finally we reached the dinosaur enclosure and set off on our adventure.

Whaaaaa!!! Got ya!

The dinosaurs 🦕 were really impressive and beautifully presented as with lifelike roars they swung their tails back and forth while moving their heads up and down…enormous teeth in massive jaws gaping ready to eat little people – no, not really, I’m just using artistic license to set the scene 😀😉

Mr T-Rex I presume!! Heading for the chip shop 🍟🍟

It was really cool to see them swinging their heads up and down as their jaws opened and closed, quite lifelike, although from what I could see, the majority of the kids were not phased as they climbed and clambered on the animals, my grandson amongst them, in as much as a tiddler can (of course he had an Anny to help 😉)

Who’s this tiddler climbing on my back??
Ride a small Dino to Jurassic Park…

He approached them all without fear and whacked and slapped their heads and faces about, copying all the misbehaving rug-rats around him 😂😂😂 while the 3 adults exhorted caution and ‘be gentle’, or ‘pat it carefully’ or ‘don’t bash it’ from the sidelines!! All of which mostly fell on deaf ears!! But to be fair, he did pat and stroke gently, and then went back to bashing and whacking and pushing and pulling. Kids eh!! 😂😂😂 the dinosaurs however, are tough, and survived the onslaught.

I think you need a pedicure…🤔🤔🤔
Hello Dino!!!
Regurgitating his last meal?? Meanwhile, under his belly the tiddler was jumping up and down, head bashing the belly 😂😂😂
Come with me said the tiddler to the dino
Want a snack??

The route wound it’s way through the trees and it all looked very authentic and impressive.

Daddy stopped to have words with one fella and the last we saw he was running through the trees….the dinosaur, not Daddy, although he too did a substantial amount of running after the tiddler, who should just enrol for the Olympics as a sprinter…he’d be bring home 🥇🥇🥇🥇🏅 Jeez, the kid is fast, and switches back and forth faster than a blade runner!!

My growl is louder than your growl…no it isn’t, yes it is!!!
Running for the trees….

We did the whole family outing thing and bought chocolate covered donuts, a Teddy dinosaur and a balloon 🎈(which made it home safely without floating off to kill any birds or frighten horses). I am absolutely paranoid about balloons and their environmental impact, so we were ultra careful to not let it loose.

Mummy entertaining the tiddler with the help of Teddy dinosaur
Learning to be an archaeologist and digging up bones 😁

The same cannot be said about the tiddler, and Daddy and Anny had a fine old time taking turns chasing after him at the dinosaur enclosure and later at the diner by the station. His route included a foray into M&S much to the amusement of the guards and bemusement of the shoppers, and a quick (read very quick) race around the gondolas and shelves stacked with bottles of perfume and make up in Boots which didn’t endear us to the store – we were met with disapproving grunts and stares from the staff and shoppers alike as he ran round and round the shelves, and I pretended that I couldn’t catch him!! 😂😂😂

Yes, we’ve become one of those …you know, the ones that people (like me 😁) always raise their eyebrows at as they tut tut and comment on the bad behaviour 😆 of the child, while the adult tries desperately to catch the offending creature before they knock anything over….yip, I’m now in that category, and boy it was fun!!

My daughter tut tuts a lot when we’re out “Anny!! What are you teaching this child?” Me? 😇😇😇 nothing!!

After a scrumptious meal at a diner (a wetherspoons to my dismay – ugh) and much tiddler chasing, we hopped aboard the train with a minute to spare and headed for home. The tiddler kept us entertained along with a few of the passengers…so much so that 1 of them missed their stop altogether and had to alight at the next station in order to return to their station, and another who very nearly missed her stop and managed to gather her bags and all, and hop off just in time.

But oh my gosh, this child is ever so cute, and is so gorgeous and adorable that he just enchants people wherever he goes. He says ‘hi’ to anyone who even looks at him and even those who don’t, a ‘hi’ that invites a response from the lucky recipient. He’s curious (and nosy), funny and sweet and is a ball of energy…wanting to know what’s going on all around him. He licks the windows (ugh – we have to wipe them down before and after ) climbs over the seats (my fault), stands on the tables (also my fault), makes cute faces on command, asks millions of questions and jabbers away at the speed of light, the words falling off his tongue before the next one crowds it out… and is generally just adorable. His smile could light a dark moonless night – Yes, I’m besotted.

Back to the dinosaurs. I thought the exhibition was really good. The dinosaurs were so lifelike and we debated which ones would be likely to kill us if they were encountered on a deserted island, listened to blood-curdling roars, and generally admired the craftsmanship that goes into making these extraordinary animatronics. How lucky we are to live in an age where they can make these things. And may I ask “what is it with kids and dinosaurs these days?”. I don’t remember dinosaurs being so popular when I was a kid! Yeah sure we learned about them in school, but kids these days of a variety of ages are totally dino mad. Dinosaur toys, clothes, magazines, treats and sweet…why? BTW did you know that there were 700 species of dinosaur, and pterodactyls are a species of reptile and not a dinosaur. Interesting snippet of information via my son-in-law, and the information board. Amazingly, the tiddler was able to name each dinosaur as we encountered them. What’s that one BooBee? “It’s a …….” and he would rattle the name off, no problem. They all look the same to me and I can probably name about 3!!

Are you a lizard or a dinosaur? Or just a big bird!!

The only gripe I have about the whole affair is that the organisers could have had a few direction markers showing the way from the station. Along with us, there were at least 3 or 4 other groups of people trying to find the place via google maps, that kept directing us into the grounds of the Priory Hospital….you know….that Priory. Anyway, we eventually figured it out and all trooped along at pace to the gates.

I must also mention Grovelands Park. Wow, totally gorgeous. I never knew there was such a huge and stunning park out that way. It has everything really, a cafe / ice-cream stand at the entrance (most important), a playground, a massive lake with a huge variety of birds, woodlands, paths and huge swathes of grass for picnicking on. Absolutely lovely. If it wasn’t quite so far away, it’s the type of place I’d love to take the BooBee for a day out. Although we do have some fabulous places out our way, Grovelands Park was really amazing.

In all a wonderful family day out, I treasure these times especially because they don’t happen very often. I do get to spend time with the BooBee between work bookings, and take him to gymnastics and soft play, to the beach or the park and occasionally I get to babysit overnight and get a precious little ‘hi’ and a cuddle at 6am 🥰🥰💙

just two kids having a slide…
his ability at gymnastics has increased exponentially over the last 6 months and he is a tear-about
swingball with a difference LOL
Come Anny….so Anny goes…where the kid goes, I follow….and am usually exhausted after 15 minutes of clambering through tiddler sized holes, along ropes and up obstacle courses, sliding along on my belly, or down bumpy slides…being careful not to knock myself out. But it’s so much fun and he loves it.

He’s a charm. I’m so enjoying being a granny.

The Jurassic Encounter was good fun and I am sure he loved it….

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Well that didn’t take long…I guess I can now be classed as a seasoned backpack packer! Hoorah!

Packing for hiking

I remember when I packed for the Camino in 2017, I weighed every single item, no matter how small and carefully calculated exactly what I desperately needed and thought I should have in my backpack…some of it ‘just in case’. Much of it unused. I packed, unpacked, and repacked countless times rearranging everything over and over to get the optimum balance …but now have a place for everything, and everything in its place 🙌😁😁

Fortunately I have since learned just how much I can manage without, and I’ve scaled it down drastically. Carrying the backpack in Spain and then again on the first half of the Pilgrim’s Way, gave me a fair idea of just how heavy it gets after 4 or 5 hours, never mind 8!! When I packed for the Camino, the weight came in just over 11 kgs, which in reality was more than the recommended 10% of body weight by a few kgs, and lugging Pepe across England on the Pilgrim’s Way in the heat of summer in 2018 has taught me more than I care to know.

So with that in mind I unpacked EVERYTHING I had and I laid it out on the bed. I then went through the less obvious items and removed at least 1kg, but this is an extra cull after the one I did subsequent to the 2nd half of the Pilgrim’s Way in 2020. So now, I have the bare minimum (I think) and at least 5 items on the list will be on my body each day instead of in the bag. I’ve even cut down on the shampoo and conditioner because I’m going to have my hair cropped as short as I can before I leave in September, and I’m sure the AirBnb hosts and the hotels will have what I need. You know how those ‘few’ 100 gram items add up!!

Keeping in mind that not only is there an average of 8 days of rain in September in Northumberland and it will, knowing my fate, rain on at least some of the days I’m walking….(but I might be lucky…who knows), I’ve added the waterproof over trousers and gaiters. And then of course there is Hadrian’s Wall and I know for sure from the many images I have seen of other walkers that it rains quite a lot and quite heavily along the wall…

So without further ado….here is my list:

Emergency Items: Waterproof Backpack Cover with reflective chevrons. Orange emergency survival bag (plastic) with a copy of my passport folded up inside and a list of I.C.E. numbers. Silver foil emergency sheet. 1 LED emergency flashlight. A reflective safety vest. A flashing reflector light for my fanny-pack. These are items I take on every walk.

Rain gear: 1 bright yellow waterproof (I hope 🌧🌧) poncho. Waterproof breathable over-trousers. a pair of gaiters.

Cold weather clothes: ultra light Puffer jacket with hood. Pair of gloves. 1 long-sleeved jumper. 1 long-sleeved lightweight vest.

Outer gear: 2 pairs lightweight, quick-drying hiking trousers. 3 lightweight, quick-drying breathable hiking t-shirts. I should probably get myself a hat??

Underwear: 5 pairs double thick hiking socks (love these socks). 4 pairs inner wick-away socks. 2 pairs night-time underwear. 4 pairs netting pants for day wear. 2 bras. (No night-time gear – I will wear the next day’s t-shirt to sleep in).

Toiletries: SPF 50+ sunscreen (in case I remember to use it 🤪). Aloe Vera facewash. Bamboo toothbrush. Small tube toothpaste. incognito anti-mosquito (100% natural ingredients and no poisons). Tiny bottle incognito citronella oil. Hotel acquired tubes of shampoo & conditioner. Small bottle shower gel. small comb. Emery board to keep toe nails under control. Aloe Vera Heat Lotion for tired feet pre and after walking (works a treat). Lip-Ice. Hand sanitiser. Eye mask (my eyes are light sensitive and I sleep better in the dark). Sound blockers for nighttime. Prescribed Medications.

Health: a pack of paracetamol pre and after walk pain killers (my feet appreciate the thought!) Various small items for cuts, grazes and as yet no blisters. Covid Masks, surgical gloves, small plastic waste bags, plasters, vitamins (I boost my body daily when hiking to repair any damage done), gel toe guards, braces/velcro loops for hanging wet items off the backpack to dry while walking.

2 litre Hydration pack. 1.5 litre water-bottle.

To be added prior to departure: Phone charger. Emergency charger. Guide book & passport. Small travel double adapter.

Fanny pack with my Camino shell attached. Purse with passport, drivers licence, cash in case my bank card doesn’t work, driver’s license. Small note book with route places noted, AirBnb addresses and a list of ‘things to see’. My train ticket (collected yesterday hoorah!). And of course my reading and long-distance glasses…can’t leave those behind.

My Conqueror Medal for Hadrian’s Wall. I figured that since I’ve walked it virtually and will now be walking it for real, and after seeing someone on the Conqueror community group do the same, I’m going to wear mine as I walk 🙂

And that’s it! Anything I’ve forgotten? Seeing it listed, it still seems quite a lot…

Even though the reflective backpack cover is meant to be waterproof, I usually pack all my clothes into resealable plastic bags in case of a downpour since Pepe is not waterproof and rain tends to creep in anywhere it can find a gap.

I’ve removed my night t-shirt and leggings, a torch that’s quite heavy albeit small, towel and face cloth, various duplicated toiletries and relevant toiletry bag.

37 days and counting…..

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And so the time has come 😃😃😃 With just 37!!! days (😱) till I set off on my big adventure, Pepe needs a repack. I’ll be away working for 24 of those 37 days, so now is the time!! It’s both thrilling and terrifying…this will be my longest walk/s by far. The most I’ve walked continuously in the past has been 11 days on the Camino.

Pepe looking pretty in yellow 💛 and the colour matched poncho I bought yesterday 🤭🤭🤭

This walk will be 23 days. Naturally of course, 6 of those 23 days will be devoted to exploring the areas I’m in; Berwick Upon Tweed, Lindisfarne, Bamburgh, Newcastle, Carlisle and Glasgow, but that all involves walking 🚶‍♀️🚶‍♀️🚶‍♀️

So whewww, I’m ready, but I’m almost certain that my feet are not at all as excited – they’ll be doing most of the work, poor old 👣👣🥾🥾 #notjustagranny  #overthehillstilltravelling

I’m going to be packing as light as possible, even lighter than the Camino, and very definitely, I am planning on using baggage forwarding wherever possible and feasible. As I have said in the past, I’m not into self-flaggelation, and walking for me is an enjoyable pastime not a penance for past sins!! Camino or not!! 😂😂😂

Tomorrow after I’ve returned the tiddler to his parental unit, I’m going shopping for new walking shoes. The asics I purchased a few months ago are not quite doing it for me, and weirdly the Salomons I tried on last week felt more like mini coffins than comfy trainers, which is toats weird since I wore a brilliant pair on my Camino. Shoulda bought 2 pairs!! 🙄🙄🙄

Let the packing commence…🤨🤨

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After a few weeks of intensive planning and calculating distances and studying the terrain via Google satellite maps, I am almost ready to rock and roll along the Northumbrian coast as I walk the Northumberland Coast Path from Berwick Upon Tweed to Cresswell – the official route.

Of course, because I’m just that way 🙄 I’ve decided to tweak the route and add on a few kms!! After all, why not? It’s only 100 kms, I’ve done way more than that on other walks, so yeah….I’ve planned my route to include the stretch from the border of Scotland at Marshall Meadows to Berwick Upon Tweed and since I’m going that way anyway, I’ll keep walking from Cresswell to Newcastle….not all on one day mind!!!

So whew, I’m now VERY familiar with the Northumbrian coast…I know just about every town on the route and the distances between – slight exaggeration of course, but it sure feels like it.

What’s not an exaggeration is how much time I’ve invested in searching for suitable places to stay that are not too far apart and not going to cost me a month’s salary for 1 night!! Exaggeration of course but some of those places do charge more than I earn in a day…

Google maps, Booking.com, Airbnb and I have all worked overtime since I decided on impulse to leave St Oswald’s Way and St Cuthbert’s Way for 2022 when I do the Two Saints Way (different saints), and instead walk the NCP as part of my quest to walk the whole of the English Coast – since I’m up that way anyway for my other big walk.

My train ticket is booked, my accommodation is now finally booked, I’ve identified bus routes for getting to and from stop/start points, and I’ve identified some of the must see sights.

There are a lot of castles and rivers and a few islands. Plus the coastline is a UNESCO heritage site (I think???) I’m sure I read somewhere that it was, but for the life of me I haven’t been able to find where I read it, so may just have to let that go, but it looks like I’ll be adding quite a few places to Project 101.

In the interim I got my official guidebook and passport 😃😃👏👏👏 and that was well exciting.

It’s been really tedious working this plan. You’d think that with the sea to my left and heading from north to south it would be a breeze to plan my days, but no!!

Accommodation has been a huge stumbling block. I figured I would aim for approximately 20kms a day or as close as possible, but because I couldn’t find affordable accommodation in some places, a few of my days are a bit of a yo-yo.

But yesterday I finally nailed it. Hoorah!!!

So 3 nights in Berwick Upon Tweed with 2 day trips: 1 to Lindisfarne and 1 to Bamburgh Castle and some walking to cover that part of the coast inbetween, then on day 4 I hit the road, so to speak.

I’ll be adding my kms to the Kruger Park Virtual Challenge since I need to complete that by the end of September.

I’ll pop up another post in a few days with more details, but for now…

…..all I have to do is keep my fingers crossed that we don’t go into another lockdown…

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Although it was a dream of mine to sail into Venice on a cruise ship after watching them sail into Venice from the sidelines, I’m really glad they’re taking this action. The damage caused is shocking and we really must take more care of the heritage of this fabulous place.

As from 1 August cruise ships will be banned from the city.

What are your thoughts on this action? Have you sailed into Venice on a cruise ship? Should cities like Venice be taking similar action to prevent further damage caused?

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Wow, what an amazing milestone to reach.

I’d like to extend a massive, humongous, enormous 😊😊😊 thank you to every single person who has stopped to read what I have to say. You are all very much appreciated.

When I first started blogging nearly 12 years ago, I had no idea what to write about and no idea of the journey I would go on.

It’s been fits and starts with massive gaps inbetween where I just didn’t get to write, and other times when I’m able to write every day.

I first started this blog on 21 October 2009, my sister’s birthday as it happens, although the coincidence has no relevance, it was just the date I started.

https://notjustagranny.co.uk/2009/10/21/hello-world/

I had another blog before this one, but I really can’t remember what happened to it 😅😕

Over the years I’ve developed a passion for walking, so of course those adventures have become my main theme. Travel too, and there are loads of posts about my travels over the years. I also, unbelievably, have 143 posts in draft 🤔🤔🤔 Most of which are probably quite irrelevant by now.

Some of my posts have passed under the net unnoticed and unread, but others have garnered a substantial number of views.

The all time favourite seems to have been Twickenham on a hot summer day written on 11 July 2010, and still gets views all these years later. Weird.

The most popular day was 26.12.2012, and I still have no idea why!! I’ve written 956 posts 😮😮 some verbose, others just a brief jot, and 52,000 people have visited my site…quite accidentally I’m sure 😁😁 and headed out quicker than a jack rabbit. But many have stayed, read a while and left comments (which I totally love ❤❤) and I thank you for that. I’ve also had to block quite a few nuisance callers, and once I installed akismet, it reduced the huge volume of spam comments I used to get 😱😱😱

Although I’ve learned a lot in the interim, I still haven’t quite come to grips with keywords, key phrases and ranking. Possibly because my posts are mostly so random with no real theme, order or organisation. My biggest beef is the developers that keep ‘improving’ their programmes and when they do that, I’m left back at square one trying to relearn everything. Drives me mad. I’m not a fan of the current upgrade, and a few choice words fall like pearls from my lips from time to time 😁😁😁

Since I started the blog I’ve become a granny, seen my daughter married to an amazing man, moved to the coast, travelled extensively around the UK, both for my job and my personal desires, been to a royal wedding, become a British citizen, met new friends, become an aunt to 7 kiddies, attended the 2012 London Olympics and lived through the insanity that was/is Brexit, flown in a helicopter and a Spitfire, attended the 2016 400th anniversary of the Great Fire of London and the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, amongst much else. But those are the highlights.

My passions are the same, I’m 12 years older, albeit not much wiser…and my bones creak at lot more than they did back then!

Thank you all for dropping by and visiting, I appreciate you one and all. 😊😊

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This is a very short post (hoorah I hear you shout 😁😁🤪) but I just saw this on Facebook and I found it SO powerful that I simply have to share it.

The words are absolutely spot on and I wonder why it is that we feel the need to control time.

I follow the Regenerative Conciousness Community on Facebook and they often post some really thought-provoking and powerful messages.

And as I think about the words above and feel them, I get quite panicky at how restrictive our need to control time actually is. I understand the fundamental need to do so, but it is quite restrictive.

When I was involved in the personal development environment 14 years ago, I remember working through a process during which we identified our highest value/s. Mine was freedom. So I guess that’s why those words have induced a feeling of panic.

And now I’m going to shut up 😂😂😂 this is turning into one of those posts where I go off on a tangent.

I wonder what your thoughts are on the above quote?

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I saw this image in one of the pages I follow on Facebook and it brought back memories of my teenage years.

That’s how short I used to wear my dresses 👗😅🤭🤭🤭

I sent it onto my daughter and sisters, with the following memory; none of them would remember me in mini skirts! It caused a fair amount of hilarity, so I thought I should share it with you too 😁😁😉

I was about 19 years old, and remember one day walking to work from Hillbrow into Central Johannesburg – I had on a very short, beautiful pale blue/turquoise dress with a white edging pattern & a little bolero jacket to match, with a teeny tiny lacy blue & white petticoat (maximum 6 inches length) & the highest platform shoes (blue – a fiend for colour coordination 🙄🙄).

As I was walking, obviously attracting a lot of attention (I was very skinny in those days), I felt something tickling the tops of my thighs. I felt around but couldn’t identify what it was. This went on for a few minutes as I walked. Suddenly I realised that it was my petticoat sliding down. The waist elastic had snapped 😂😂🤪

So I stopped, wriggled the offending article down to my ankles (I didn’t dare bend over with my extremely high shoes – would have been a faceplant). When the ‘slip’ reached the ground, I daintily stepped out of it, crouched down very carefully, picked it up, stuffed it in my bag & haughtily walked on 😁 head held high!!

The incident attracted a lot of attention.

At least my underwear was colour coordinated. My Mother used to say: “always wear clean underwear, you never know when you might get hit by a bus, you at least want clean underwear “. You might be dead, but at least your panties are clean 😂😂😂I went one step further and colour coordinated 😁😁😁

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Last year, 2020, inbetween lockdowns, and somewhere between Sandwich and Deal, on a practice walk for my now started Thames Path jaunt, and having just finished reading The Salt Path, by Raynor Winn, I was inspired to attempt to walk the WHOLE of the English Coast….in stages – you know how I love my stages 😉🚶‍♀️🚶‍♀️

I have already walked from Broadstairs (when we still lived there) to Sandwich, and to Margate – countless times when preparing for my Portuguese Camino in 2016/2017.

Due to my job I also get to work in a variety of locations, and occasionally it’s at the seaside…so I’ve already walked a few sections of the English Coast Path accidentally. But of course, now I’ll have to walk them again, this time with purpose, and that won’t be any hardship.

I reckon it’ll take about 10 years at my current rate, and because I’m still working and following a multitude of other routes!

Actually, I recently had the good fortune to have a booking in Nether Stowey and planned a couple of days in Paignton during which time I walked from Berryhead to Torquay via Brixham over 2 days ✅✅ and I also walked as far as Dover last year. (I will eventually get to write about these walks – the scenery is just stunning, and of course the east coast is awash with history – forgive the pun!).

Although I have a penchant for just going on my walks ‘on impulse’, mostly a fair amount of planning has already gone into the ‘idea’ 😁😁 and its usually impulse meets opportunity, and off I go.

I’m walking Hadrian’s Wall in September, so decided to walk the Northumberland coast path from the border with Scotland and part of the Tyne and Wear coastal path. Since I’m up that way….

To that end I’ve ordered the Northumberland Coast Path guidebook and passport (yes!!! To my delight, I discovered that there is a passport to go with it yayyyy 🙃🙃).

The Northumberland Coast Path

And so planning has begun. Originally (2020) I had planned on walking St Cuthbert’s Way and St Oswald’s Way, both of which are in Northumberland/Scotland, but there are 2 other Saints walks I want to do, and since I have the St Francis’s Way Conqueror Challenge still waiting in the wings, I’m going to try plan those for 2022, and put the mileage towards that challenge. 😀

I better plan a trip soon…I joined this challenge in December 2020!!

Part of the enjoyment of these walks is the planning. I love to set up the spreadsheet, decide on suitable dates, identify the distance and then start my research : transport, accommodation, weather, food stops, and of course affordability. I usually budget for £100 a day all told because accommodation costs are quite expensive. There’s a HUGE difference between the UK prices and Portugal/Spain. Its wayyyy cheaper to travel the Camino than plan a walk in the UK, unless you wild camp, which I have not yet had the courage to do.

First I had to identify all the main towns along the route, which is 100kms +- from Berwick Upon Tweed to Cresswell, and onto Newcastle. Identified and noted – spreadsheet updated.

Then I broke the distance down into ideally 20km walking days to see the how long and where to stay places. Towns/places noted. Some days will be longer than other!!!

Next up: transport. Hmmm. There’s a railway line but it appears to goes direct from Berwick to Newcastle 🤔🤔🤔 and buses? Also a direct route, and no stops from what I can see (on closer inspection I found a few stops 🙄). So possibly basing myself in one place and hopping back and forth like I’m doing with the Thames Path and Saxon Shore Way! Tricky!

Next up: accommodation! I had a look on Airbnb and Booking.com. I nearly had heartfailure at the prices!! Even the YHA in Berwick Upon Tweed are charging £99 for 1 night! Restyled as a Hilton then?? Jeez. A more indepth search is required.

What I found during my searches is that accommodation is in short supply, and few and far between, and if available – very expensive!! Gosh, I hope the guide book is waiting for me when I get home!!

So I contemplated the possibility of ‘wild camping’ 🏕 🥴🥴 I’ve seen loads of people who do this on their long distance walks, but tbh I can’t even consider the idea of carrying a tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag!! I carried a sleeping bag on my first day of the Pilgrim’s Way and the extra weight nearly destroyed my will to live.

I’ve been toying with the idea of just roughing it and sleeping with my jacket on under my emergency blanket…but I asked myself “what if it rains?” and of course there is this: Wild camping is not allowed in England, so please do not pitch your tent unless you have sought the permission of the landowner. What if I don’t have a tent? LOL

But ‘just in case’ I decided to check the weather patterns for September on the Northumbrian coast… very encouraging. Of course those 8 days, could coincide with my 6 days 😂😂😂😂 so perish the thought!!

I hope my trip coincides with those 22 days…
Q. Weather Northumberland September?
A. On average, it is maximum 16° in september in Northumberland and at least around 10° degrees. In september there are 8 days of rainfall with a total of 8 mm and then it will be dry 22 days this month in Northumberland’.

Not sure which year this was, but I hope it rings true for 2021 too!! Loving the average temperature!!

Sitting here on Saturday morning waiting for my client to wake up and scrolling despondently through the World Wide Web 🌐🕸 I had the bright idea to ask the community on the Long Distance Hiking page on Facebook 😁😁

Voila…I’ve had some lovely responses so far, but not much about accommodation. So, patience being a virtue, I’m keeping my fingers crossed 🤞 and hoping someone has relevant information.

If not, then I’ll have to just wait for the guidebook and hope for the best….other than that, I’ll just wing it. I have a limited amount of time to book my advance rail ticket…

So that was in the morning…. meanwhile I’ve had a few people respond with more information about accommodation and bus routes that I did not find during my searches – change the keywords and success! It seems there are indeed local bus services that ply the coast between towns (of course 🙄🙄 silly me, I had wondered how people get around).

I then had the bright idea (yes, I do wake up occasionally) of going back to the Northumberland Coast Path site from which I ordered my guide book, and hey presto! Guess what??? They have a whole section dedicated to the different stages and surprise surprise….accommodation options. However, on closer inspection some of the accommodation listed is well beyond my price range and when there are no prices listed….don’t even bother going there!

So back to the drawing board and fingers crossed by tomorrow I’ll have my route sorted and accommodation identified and booked.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted 😉🙃

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