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Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category

One of my favourite and most prolific categories in Project 101 is visiting places named in the 1066 Domesday Book; a survey undertaken by William the Conqueror after he invaded England and defeated King Harold and his forces during the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

The Norman Conquest (or the Conquest) was the 11th-century invasion and occupation of England by an army made up of Normans, Bretons, Flemish, and men from other French provinces, all led by the Duke of Normandy later styled William the Conqueror. Ref wikipedia

Usually I find that the towns and villages especially, have some way of advertising their links with 1066, either in the form of a village sign or remnants of their links are noted in a book or some historical objects.

Nettlestone, Isle of Wight

In the case of Stoke Gabriel, its a tree – a first! I initially noticed this on Google when I was researching the village prior to my visit a few months ago.

Domesday Book tree – alive before the 1066 Norman Invasion
Domesday Book tree, St Mary & St Gabriel Church, Stoke Gabriel
Domesday Book tree

Of course as soon as I could, I made haste to see this for myself. Its quite extraordinary to be in the same proximity as a living, breathing creature that was already well established before the invasion even took place nearly 1000 years ago.

How you might wonder is it that much a thing remains….so

Domesday Book tree

Why does every churchyard have a Yew tree? The answer has to be that the early Christians built their churches on the ancient Druid and Pagan sites of worship and the planting of yew trees in modern churchyards reflects the early assimilation of the old religions into the new religion.

I’m guessing that because they live in churchyards they’ve survived progress by living on sacred grounds. I found a fascinating article about yew trees that you might enjoy, and from which I noted the information above in italics : why does every churchyard have a yew tree Their contemporaries were not as lucky…and as usual were destroyed by progress….

The longbow (so called because it is 6’ in length) was the premier weapon of the middle ages and made from yew. The volume of yew wood needed for war archery from the early 13th to the late 16th century was far too great to be supplied by from trees grown in churchyards. After all of the yew stands in Britain and Ireland had been depleted, the English crown began to import yew wood from all over Europe including Austria, Poland and Russia.

Nevertheless, this marvellous creature remains to remind us of history and our mortality…whether it does or does not thrive on the bones of the dead is irrelevant, its here for us to enjoy and be amazed.

Domesday Book tree – arms spread wide
Domesday Book tree, thriving on the bones of the dead ☠☠

Some of the events this tree has lived through:

Domesday Book tree – it has seen historical events come and go

I followed the instructions, but unfortunately no-one was there to witness my endeavour

Walk ye backward round about me 7 times…

In fact the tree is even older than the church by a few centuries…

The interior of the church was no less interesting

Church of St Mary and St Gabriel, Stoke Gabriel
Beautiful carving on the pulpit
Church of St Mary and St Gabriel, Stoke Gabriel
Church of St Mary and St Gabriel, Stoke Gabriel, Devon

The church building was originally constructed in the early 13th century, of which only the Norman tower survives today. In 1268, Bishop Bronescombe of Exeter dedicated the church to St Gabriel, resulting in the name change of the parish from “Stoke” to the more distinctive “Stoke Gabriel”.

I often included the churchyard in my many daily walks around Stoke Gabriel and occassionally I forgot about adding kms to my virtual challenges and instead I just sat on one of the benches or under that glorious, ancient tree and enjoyed the peace and quiet.

And I shall once again include it in my walks when I return to SG later this month…

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I love visiting old churches and one of the first things I usually do having started a new booking is visit the local church; they are rich repositories of history.

You will inevitably find beautiful interiors, occassionally you will find remnants of prior Saxon or Norman churches and if you’re lucky enough there many even be enough to feast your eyes upon. The stained glass windows are always wonderful and sometimes you may be lucky enough to find remnants of painted glass windows.

There has been a church on this same site for more than 900 years. The first record of a church here dates from 1154 in the rolls of a tithe dispute. Apart from the tower, construction of which began in 1440, the present church building dates from the late Victorian period, having been rebuilt in 1880–1 by Sir Arthur Blomfield.

Thankfully the doors were open, so mask on, hands suitably sterilised I entered. There were only 2 people in the church; the minister and possibly a secretary.

I quietly went about my business and enjoyed the tranquil atmosphere. Here are some images of the exterior and interior of the church and a couple of the churchyard

All Saints Church, Fulham
Painted glass. The memorial on the left was for a 3 year-old 🥺🥺😪
The forget-me-nots are stunning this year

Don’t you think they’re the perfect flower for a graveyard? Forget me not.💙💙💙💚

Alms Houses, All Saints Church, Fulham
A heron fishing

I’m finishing off at this booking today and heading home for 10 days before I go back to the Devon booking for 2 weeks. I’m SOOOO looking forward to seeing my grandson and spending time with my daughter.

It’s a cold rainy day in greater London, so travelling is going to be challenging ☔☔☔☔🤪🤪

Have a fab day folks, catch you on the other side. Hopefully I’ll be able to get my Thames Path posts completed while I’m home, I’m making progress but time is limited.

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Finally after talking about it for years, and planning for the last few months, I started Walking the Thames Path – in honour of reaching my OAP status; I’m now officially a Pensioner!! Best part of that…free bus pass. Oh and my pension pay-outs, although I won’t be retiring anytime soon on that!! But it will be good to get some of my hard-earned money back from HMRC

As mentioned in a previous post, due to current Covid-19 lockdown restrictions I was unable to proceed with my original plans to walk the whole of the Thames Path over a period of 3 weeks. So instead I took Rishi’s advice and pivoted LOL. Not that I want to take advice from a CONservative government representative, but nonetheless, I had to re-plan my plans….so to that end I decided to walk the first 5 stages as day trips…

I will, going forward, write in detail and share images from each day’s walk but for now I thought I’d give you a progress report, showing where I started and ended and how far I walked each day. I did 5 stages and make super progress reaching my target of walking from Erith in Kent to Staines-Upon-Thames in Surrey.

I had the most superb weather on 4 days of 5 and had a wonderful time just walking and exploring. My distances are not accurate to the mile according to measured distances because I tend to go off-piste and explore a church or building I may spot along the way, I also head off the path to take photos of things I may see in the distance, and for the sake of my ‘boots on’ walking challenges, I start measuring my kms from the minute my feet hit the platform at the relevant station/s, as well as my walk from home to the station (1.25kms each way). I’d love to measure just how much walking I do in transit, but that would just get too complicated….suffice to say that the walk from the platform at St Pancras via the Victoria Line underground passage, would I’m sure, add another couple of kms.

The timings too are not at all related to anything you may find in a guide book or online, because firstly I’m a slow stroller (although my daughter would contest that!!), I stop frequently to take photos of things that may interest me or I wish to share, and I stop quite often to rest my feet for 10-15 minutes a time or even 30 minutes if the mood takes me and I don’t have a deadline to meet. Or it’s a sunny day and I feel like just lying in the sun.

Planning the day trips wasn’t necessarily the easiest way of doing this because I had to take account of train times so I could get home before midnight LOL and also calculate the cheapest way to do the walk….e.g. buy a return ticket from point A to B after morning peak time, and then work out to which station I had to buy a single ticket to fill the gap between point C and point B. This was not only for timings but budgets as well. Although I did originally budget to use the cheaper train routes, I decided by day 2 that speed of transport was more important than food, so I increased my travel budget and reduced my food budget, and took sandwiches plus nibbles and fruit and a flask of tea with me. There’s also the issue of battery life on my phone. It seems to reduce rather rapidly because of all the photos I take….and the highspeed train has charging points. Also I’m not a great ‘staring out the window’ traveller and prefer to actually ‘do something’ while I’m travelling. So I move photos to dropbox and edit those I want to share….

So, in all I did 5 stages starting at Erith on 17th and reached Staines on the 24th. I didn’t walk consecutive days but had a 2 day break in between to rest and take my grandson out, and a one day break to spend with the family to celebrate my birthday. We had awesome fun – went to The Old Bake House in Broadstairs for breakfast, then a ramble on the beach, and a game of mini-golf which was hilarious…my grandson went crazy with his stick, whacking the ball all over. This was followed by crepes and fruit juice. Delicious, and a fantastic day.

without further ado…

Stage 1 : Erith to Greenwich. 17.04.2021 – 27.08 kms – 6 hours 47 min – 41,812 steps – elevation: 46 meters

I had originally planned to walk as far as the Thames Barrier which is the official starting point of the long-distance Thames Path route, but it was a beautiful day and I was having such a good time that I decided to push on to Greenwich, and thereby shorten my next day’s walking. This section was new to me. Although I have in the past walked from the Thames Barrier to Greenwich, the path from Erith to the barrier was completely new ground. The original section from Erith to the barrier was not the most scenic and there are a lot of really ugly industrial buildings and a sewerage plant (yes it smelled), but the path was amazingly straightforward, albeit bloody boring concrete a lot of the way.

walking the thames path
Stage 1 – Erith to the Thames Barrier – Walking the Thames Path
walking the thames path
Stage 1 – Thames Barrier to Greenwich – Walking the Thames Path

Stage 2 : Greenwich to Battersea Park 18.04.2021 – 24.51 kms – 6 hours 20 min – 38,376 steps – elevation 102 meters

Again this day was longer than I originally planned, but I wanted to push through as far as possible and thereby get further along and also shorten a later day’s journey. I’ve walked this whole route dozens of times over the years, different sections at different times and absolutely love (almost) every inch of it. I did NOT like the diversions…..it’s so inconsiderate of developers to buy up property that runs alongside the river and build bloody apartments, thereby blocking people from walking along the riverside. This section also runs through the centre of London and has the most bridges, so I stopped a lot for photos. LOL Also in London’s past the riverside was very industrial as since the Thames is a marine hotbed, there are a lot of old buildings and wharves etc that hog the riverside. hmmm.

walking the thames path
Stage 2 – Greenwich to Battersea Park – Walking the Thames Path

Stage 3 : Battersea Park to Richmond 21.04.2021 – 27.02 kms – 6 hours 24 min – 40,316 steps – elevation 82 meters

This day nearly bloody killed me LOL. It was much further than I calculated, or perhaps it felt like it because I started off already tired, and had a deadline for my train back home. It was though, one of the best days, walking familiar paths and passing familiar places where I spent many a happy hour walking in the past, and I got to meet a friend from instagram for a brief hello in Richmond. And despite my plans, I missed my train at St Pancras by literally 1 minute…as I got to the ticket barriers, I heard the doors being locked – ho hum!! ‘Hold that train!’ LOL

walking the thames path
Stage 3 – Battersea Park to Richmond – Walking the Thames Path

Stage 4 : Richmond to Hampton Court 23.04.2021 – 18.14 kms – 4 hours 47 min – 28,390 steps – elevation 40 meters

This day I had planned in celebration of my birthday. We used to live in St Margarets near Richmond and as with the previous stage, I often walked along sections of the Thames Path at different times; and in every season, including in the snow from Twickenham Bridge to Kew… 🙂 I also wanted to reach Hampton Court Palace on my birthday because it is my absolute favourite palace in the world and although I wouldn’t have time to actually visit, just walking past would make me happy. It was a belting hot day, so I had 2 ice-creams on the way…one in Richmond as I started and one in Hampton Court as I finished. Just because. My daughter had given me £5 to buy a tea and cake along the way, but I felt ice-creams were more appropriate…also I could eat and walk!

walking the thames path
Stage 4 – Richmond to Hampton Court – Walking the Thames Path

Stage 5 : Hampton Court to Staines-Upon-Thames 24.04.2021 – 25.16 kms – 6 hours 47 min – 40,560 steps – elevation 43 meters

Staines is infamous for being the ‘hometown’ of Ali G (Sacha Cohen Baron for those who don’t know, who was actually born in Hammersmith). Again this was a long day and because I only had 6 hours to walk this stretch, I really had to push myself. I was also quite tired by then and found the final stretch between Shepperton and Staines really difficult. I was tempted to quit at Shepperton , but I loathe quitting and felt like I would be letting myself down if I did and it would mean either an extra day later on, or longer sections going forward. This section was new territory for me and I decided to take the guide book along…just in case – I didn’t need it. The path is well marked all the way from Erith. The stretch from Richmond to Staines is quite rural and if you didn’t know there were towns nearby, you’d think you were right out in the countryside. I missed my deadline by 47 minutes, but still managed to get an earlier train from STP

walking the thames path
Stage 5 – Hampton Court to Staines-Upon-Thames – Walking the Thames Path

What an amazing journey so far. The history of the River Thames is quite extraordinary and I discovered that the Vikings actually sailed right up the river as far as Chertsey, possibly further. We tend to think of them as coastal raiders and certainly they raided London a fair bit, but to my surprise they went as far as Chertsey…to raid the abbey. It was wonderful to revisit places I’d been before but not seen for years. Discovering new places and sections of my beloved river was a real treat. So even though I was really disappointed to not be able to walk The Thames Path in one go, in retrospect this is as good a way to ‘walk the walk’ as any. Frankly, I was quite exhausted by the 5th stage, and grateful I didn’t have to walk again for a while….how long that while will be is anyone’s guess. I have a few work bookings coming up, a few babysitting commitments and of course time with my grandson is more important than anything else and I try to spend as much time with him as possible between bookings…also I have 3 big walks planned for August/September that will take me away for nearly 6 weeks and those need to be saved up for. I have diarised another few days into my calendar to possibly do another 2 or maybe 3 day trips and then I’ll complete the rest of the walk in April 2022. Mostly because the accommodation is thin on the ground and VERY expensive. In comparison to accommodation on the Camino, it’s actually quite extortionate, but I’m guessing they don’t have that many guests and walkers staying over, so to charge £120 per night is reasonable – but WELL out of my price range. I’ll save the overnight excursions for out of season.

I will endeavour to write up and share images from these 5 stages as soon as possible.

Meanwhile I’ve planned dates to continue walking sections of the Saxon Shore Way so I can get that under my belt, and of course my epic ‘walking the whole English Coast’ – I have a few dates diarised to fit some more days in for that as well this year. I hope to complete the Kent and Sussex coastline by end of 2021. I’ll still do small sections of other counties where and when I get the opportunity with work travel. Talking of which, I really must get to write up about the section of the South West Coast Path I recently walked….from Berry Head to Paignton and Paignton to Torquay. Super awesome walk and soooo beautiful. More on that later….

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During my research of different pilgrimage routes in the UK and elsewhere, I came across this website http://www.greenpilgrimageeurope.net/ What interested me and encouraged me to read further was the mention of Canterbury.

Canterbury has been my final destination a number of times, it’s a fascinating city with an incredible history and I love visiting and exploring and especially passing beneath the West Gate at the end of my walks; Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the Way of St Augustine (In 597AD, St Augustine arrived on England’s Isle of Thanet upon the instructions of Pope Gregory to bring the good news of Christianity to Kent, as Queen Bertha was already a committed Christian) and The Pilgrim’s Way.

the west gate canterbury
the West Gate Canterbury

The 119-mile (192km) Pilgrim’s Way from Winchester to Canterbury has been trodden by pilgrims for more than a thousand years but the origins of the pathway date back much earlier, to 1800-1400BC. The route was probably used for trade but after the death of St Augustine of Canterbury in 604, pilgrims started coming to venerate his remains at the Great Abbey. Canterbury also became an important stop for pilgrims making the long journey to Rome; Via Francigena.

After Thomas Becket was canonised in 1173, his shrine at Canterbury Cathedral became the most important in the UK. According to Christopher John Wright, author of A Guide to the Pilgrims’ Way, Canterbury was ‘after Rome… the chief shrine in Christendom’, and drew pilgrims from far and wide. Henry II is also said to travelled this route – as part of his pilgrimage for atonement for the murder of Thomas Becket.

a choral evensong service to commemorate Becket’s martyrdom
a choral evensong service to commemorate Becket’s martyrdom 29.12.2018

Pilgrimage is one of the fastest growing movements in the world, with more than 330 million people going on pilgrimage every year.  The vision of Green Pilgrimage is that pilgrims leave a positive footprint on the earth, and that pilgrim places become models of care for the environment.

pilgrimage to canterbury
Pilgrims

Besides being the final destination for the walks I’ve mentioned above, Canterbury is often the starting point for those enroute to European Pilgrimage sites such as Santiago de Compostela in Spain and the Via Francigena to Rome.

I love what they say about the 7 stages of pilgrimage

Number 7 definitely resonates with me; although I’m not a religious or even pious person and believe in evolution rather than creation, I relish the challenges I face and find that yes, in ways that I sometimes don’t even notice immediately, I am always a different person at the end of each walk.

For me it’s the journey as well as the destination, and my stages of pilgrimage are:

1. Discovering a new pilgrimage that venerates a Saint I usually have never heard of and then learning more about them.

2. Researching and planning the route; usually gives me a series of headaches LOL but it is definitely enlightening.

3. Since I usually travel solo, my interactions are invariably brief and with strangers, yet each brings their own little story and memories of so many of these interactions linger for years, and I still think of certain people I met.

4. Understanding the story is usually where I am totally honest; I walk these routes because I love walking, adventure and discovering new places. If I’m not walking for a religious reason, does that make me less of a pilgrim?

5. For me this was about finding my ‘Camino’ eyes. A weird term until you realise it’s about suddenly realising you ‘see’ the signs along the way without having to search for them. This I have found on all my walks.

6. I definitely resonate with this; there is nothing I enjoy more than just looking around me and taking it all in – hence the number of photographs I take, and why my kms are way more than the stated distance – I have to explore.

7. I’m not so sure about the ‘should‘ recognise, but I definitely do recognise the differences. Sometimes they are emotional, or mental, but without doubt they include physical. With each walk that I do, along with the challenges they bring, I find I am more courageous and less fearful of what difficulties I may find along ‘the way’. I have overcome, and will continue to overcome the challenges.

There are so many different pilgrimages around the UK and Rep. of Ireland as well as Europe, and farther afield in Japan that I would love to do. I have added them to my vision board….and sent a telegram to the Universe.

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I guess my previous Walking the River Thames post would count as Stage 1 since that’s when I did more research on the river and the route itself….

In which case, getting it down on paper (so to speak) would be the next stage; Stage 2…and that I have done! Hoorah. I spent nearly all my free time yesterday setting up the spreadsheet, doing further research on the actual walk itself and planning my distances. It’s a good thing it was raining heavily so I didn’t feel guilty about not getting out to walk.

I found 3 amazing websites by people who have walked the Thames Path and written about it, and conveniently also posted images of the walk. The usefulness varies in as much as they say how far they walked each day, approximately how long it took, transport links, but not where they stayed. I also found 2 official websites; the Thames Path is one of 16 National Trails in the UK – they note the trail can be walked over 16 days, so I’m happy with my 19, 1 of which includes the section from Erith to the Thames Barrier.

Planning the distance and number of days has proved to be quite tricky because a lot depends on accommodation available. And it is NOT cheap. So far my estimates are £1300 for 19 days. I could do 2 caminos in Spain for that!! The accommodation is outrageously expensive and I am going to have to do some further research. I did find some nice places on booking.com and what’s useful about that is you have a decent amount of time, for a small price increase, to cancel if needs be. I’m ever so pragmatic about things like having to cancel trips…because you know… Covid and things like that.

One of the most useful aspects though of walking in the UK is the transport links. Albeit very pricey, if you have any accidents it’s easy enough to get home. Also there are numerous little towns along the route, so I won’t have to carry my weight in water…LOL I remember in Spain the constant daily fear of running out of water… although it only happened once and I managed to convey my need for “aqua por favor” to a delightful little old Spanish couple, who reprimanded me soundly…although I didn’t understand a word they said, their tone and expressions made it very clear 🙂 But they filled up my bottle. It was one of those days when it was scorching hot and I sent my water bladder ahead with my backpack by accident…

So the spreadsheet is up, the dates/days are estimated, the travel costs are determined, the food costs will be like I did on the camino….I existed on fruit and sandwiches and occasional bowls of soup or omelettes, and the accommodation has been identified and priced (ouch) and 75% booked. I’ve mostly booked all the places I found via booking.com and then do a further search on airbnb. Either way, I have to make a final decision before month end on dates etc.

Also, besides the 1st stage from Erith to the Thames Barrier planned for 21/03, I’m also going to do stages 2 & 3 on separate days; namely 15/04 & 18/04 and travel back home. It will be cheaper than overnight stays and means I can take a few days break between each stage before the big push which will begin from Hampton Court on 24th. I’m also planning on spending the day in Hampton Court and hopefully meeting up with my family and visiting the palace on the 23rd.

Of course, like all plans, it is subject to change, but once I make the bookings, that’s it…..Cindy travels again. I’m really excited about this walk and also a little trepidatious because my body is 2 years older since I finished the Pilgrim’s Way (talking of which, I really need to finish those posts!!) and not as robust as it was 4 years ago when I walked the Camino. I haven’t hoisted my backpack onto my back for nearly 2 years!!! I think I’m going to travel light!! LOL

Be that as it may, I shall keep walking as long as I have life in me old legs. So I’ve listed the websites below that I discovered in the event they are of interest to you dear reader.

  1. I enjoyed reading about Jason’s journey, although he started at the source, and I was excited to discover someone else who had walked the Saxon Shore Way https://www.macadder.net/walking/thames_path/stage01.html
    He also mentions Offa’s Dyke and The Fosse Way, both of which I’m interested in. Jason does mention the distance walked and his figures more or less correlate to mine…whew! I’m looking forward to reading all his other days; 13 in all. I was well impressed to note that he has done 28 walks!! That’s quite extraordinary. A couple of them are familiar to me, and a few piqued my interest. I guess I’ll just have to add them to the list LOL I mean who wouldn’t want to do the 1066 Country Walk, or St Swithun’s Way, St Michael’s Way or the Strawberry Line Path (I so love this one) – anyone say ‘cheese’?

2. Then there’s Brian’s Walks – he appears to have walked the same direction as which I am going to; from sea to source. http://www.brians-walks.co.uk/thames-path-cricklade-to-kemble.html Brian did this walk over 9 days so I suspect he put in some serious distances each day; as in roughly 35kms…which I do not plan to do. My maximum distance before it gets unbearable is 28kms, and I only have 2 days when I will walk that distance. His blog is amazing in that he lists his daily statistics (of which I shall make careful note).

3. With this site I was unable to find a name (perhaps as I read further I may discover it) but I loved the name of the blog http://www.tamesis-fluvius.co.uk/index.php I was highly amused by his comment “During the course of the two weeks, I took well in excess of two thousand photographs and a selection of them are included on each page“. Oh my goddess, if that doesn’t sound like a kindred spirit then I don’t know what does. 🤣🤣🤣 I am a demon when it comes to taking photos and I invariably only share possibly 5% of the photos I take on each walk. They did the walk over 15 days, so my already 19 days is not too bad.

I also stumbled upon what appears to be an ‘official’ website. https://www.thames-path.org.uk/thames_cricklade_source.html I found quite a lot of useful information here as well as transport links….especially for the upper reaches of the Thames near the source.

The National Trail website lists all trails in the UK and if I had enough time and money, I’d do them all…don’t you just love what they have to say about the Thames Path – it sounds so romantic…

“The Thames Path is a long distance walking trail, following England’s best known river for 184 miles (294 Km) as it meanders from its source in the Cotswolds through several rural counties and on into the heart of London. On its way the Trail passes peaceful water meadows rich in wildlife, historic towns and cities and many lovely villages, finishing at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich just a few miles from the sea”.

Can I go now please ☺☺☺

I’ll be following the Cabot Trail virtual challenge while walking the Thames Path coz its very conveniently 299.4kms which is almost the same distance…although I’m sure my kms will be more than what they suggest it is…294kms.

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I’ve been endlessly fascinated by the history of London ever since I first arrived in 2002.

One of my ultimate favourite museums is the Museum of London and I have spent hours and hours visiting numerous times over the years.

I subscribe to their email and follow their Facebook page to keep up with latest discoveries, of which there have been many over the years. To be a MoL Archaeologist must be one of the best jobs in the world. My daughter and I once participated in an archaeological dig in east London once many years ago. It was awesome, digging up history from the 1950s and prior. We had to hand all our finds in, but they allowed us to keep a few small pieces.

I just saw this article pop up on Facebook and found it do fascinating that I had to share it.

Reading between the lines: women on Roman tomb monuments

So many different stories…so many people…

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I noticed earlier on my weather app that tomorrow and Thursday were going to be rainy days, so since today was simply gorgeous I had a look on Google maps to see where else I could walk to besides Lloyd Park and spotted a windmill.

Post Mill Windmill is located in an area called Shirley and on the other side of Coombe Park from where I am currently located.

So just after 2pm I set off to find a windmill. And I was not disappointed. Its beautiful, and even though Google erroneously says its open, it was in fact closed – which I expected.

It was quite a walk at 30 minutes and OMG, asphalt does kill my feet 🥴🥴🥺🥺 but worth it to find this beauty.

I also spotted these beauties in one of the gardens on my route back

crocuses in spring
lilac crocuses in spring

When I got back to the house I did a bit of research and with thanks to wikipedia: The post mill is the earliest type of European windmill. Its defining feature is that the whole body of the mill that houses the machinery is mounted on a single vertical post, around which it can be turned to bring the sails into the wind. All post mills have an arm projecting from them on the side opposite the sails and reaching down to near ground level. With some, as at Saxtead Green, the arm carries a fantail to turn the mill automatically. With the others the arm serves to rotate the mill into the wind by hand. The earliest post mills in England are thought to have been built in the 12th century.

Then I had a look on Google to find out more about the Post Mill windmill in Shirley and find that they have a dedicated website and are open for visits at various times of the year…just not today 🤪 https://www.shirleywindmill.org.uk/

I’ve discovered and visited many a windmill over the last 13 years and when I was up in Nottingham a few years ago, I bought some freshly milled flour for my son-in-law who bakes delicious cakes.

One of the prettiest windmills I visited was in Bembridge on the Isle of Wight managed by the National Trust

bembridge windmill isle of wight
Bembridge windmill Isle of Wight

and in Rye, East Sussex (converted into a gorgeous but pricey B&B)

rye windmill
Rye Windmill

I love visiting windmills and find them absolutely fascinating, and no matter if I’ve visited numerous windmills already, I still enjoy another visit to the next discovery. I guess that I shall have to plan a visit out this way again sometime in summer and see if I can visit this one.

Meanwhile I got in another 6.1kms towards my 2021 virtual challenge of 2,600kms and another stretch of the Ring Road Iceland (1332.5kms) under my belt…or should I say feet 🚶🏻‍♀️🚶🏻‍♀️👣👣 which are not very happy atm. I think I’ll have a shorter walk tomorrow – weather dependant. But on the plus side, I’ve completed 474.2kms since January 1st on the 2021 challenge, and 56km of the Ring Road Iceland challenge…only 1,276.5kms to go 😄😄😄

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Right then, after years and years of thinking about it, I’m now in the actual planning stages of walking the Thames Path – from sea to source.

Edit: 09/03 – I realized I should have titled this post as ‘Walking the Thames Path’, not river…I don’t have the right shoes for walking the river 😉

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was keen to walk it for my birthday; that comes up in April. So since the government have decreed (at this juncture), that from 12th April: UK domestic holidays away from home permitted….I’m off!! I’m also grateful to note that hairdressers will be opening too….I really need to chop my hair off, it’s working on my nerves, mostly because it has no style due to the fact that I HAVE been chopping it off for the last 15 months!! LOL

Anyway, back to the Thames Path. When I finally decided to do this walk, I bought the book and immediately started reading. Unfortunately the guide takes us from sea (almost) to source and not the other way around. So to that end (as mentioned in said earlier post), I have decided that I shall temporarily, purely to suit the occasion, reinvent myself as an adventurer who has stumbled across this great big river and want to find the source….a bit like Levison Wood except in reverse…and he of course explored the Nile….at 6,650kms, that’s a different kettle of fish (no pun intended). The Thames’ 346kms is just a Sunday stroll in comparison.

So, what is the River Thames!? According to Britannica: “River Thames, ancient Tamesis or Tamesa, also called (in Oxford, England) River Isis, chief river of southern England. Rising in the Cotswold Hills, its basin covers an area of approximately 5,500 square miles (14,250 square km). The traditional source at Thames Head, which is dry for much of the year, is marked by a stone in a field 356 feet (108.5 metres) above sea level and 3 miles (5 km) southwest of the town of Cirencester.

However, there is some dispute, and apparently, “some think a tributary, the River Churn, has a better claim to being the source; it rises near the village of Seven Springs (700 feet [213 metres] above sea level), just south of Cheltenham”.

Seven Springs features in the long-running argument over the true source of the River Thames. Two plaques at the site read “Hic tuus o Tamesine Pater septemgeminus fons” (Latin for “Here, O Father Thames, is your sevenfold spring”). Seven Springs is further from the mouth of the Thames than the medieval-preferred source at Thames Head near Kemble. In 2012 Coberley Parish Council posted a notice, on site, that “Seven Springs is certainly one of the sources of the River Thames and is held by many to be the ultimate source.” ref wikipedia

So, I guess I shall have to visit both…or shall I walk there? Hmmm. I think I’ll decide closer to the time depending on how footsore and weary I am after walking for 14 days – with a backpack. It’s an extra 33+kms which will add an extra 2 days to my journey, and the River Churn on google maps looks quite small, but after visiting google earth last night I determined that there are pathways pretty much along the whole length, barring a few farmers fields, some roads and a the odd house that appears to border the river….If I decide at the time to walk that extra 33kms (20.6 miles), then I’ll just go and deal with whatever confronts me when I get there – pretty much like I do on all my walks….just go! Of course that sometimes requires detours etc, but it’s the journey…

Meanwhile, I’m putting in loads of walking by following my Conqueror Challenges, and reading up on the route. There are loads of fantastic villages and towns along the route, some of which I have already visited and of course as mentioned in that article I have walked a large section of the Thames Path, the tidal section between Gravesend and Teddington Lock and further afield to Hampton Court.

I’ve kinda toyed with the idea of ‘maybe’ skipping out the tidal section since I’ve ‘been there, done that’, but it doesn’t feel right somehow…so I guess I shall just have to plan to walk the whole thing. I often read about people who do some walks, like the French Camino, in sections over the years, but I just know that’s no good for me…I likely won’t get back to finish off. There’s always something else to do. Mind you having said that, I did finally manage to complete The Pilgrim’s Way, but only because I made a spur of the moment decision to just do it….or else it would still be outstanding….which is was… outstanding that is 😁

So a little more about the River Thames:

The River Thames is England’s longest river at 346 kms (216.25 miles) – (albeit disputed coz of the tributary) the River Severn at 354km is the longest in the United Kingdom. So if they did add the River Churn’s 33kms (20.62miles), the Thames would indeed be the longest.

The River Thames flows from the source at Thames Head near the hamlet of Kemble in an easterly direction and after 366.4 kms (229 miles) it flows into the North Sea into the Thames Estuary near Southend-on-Sea. Now, kindly note that I am not about to walk from Southend-on-Sea as this adds on an extra 20km which would require ANOTHER 2 days….and I don’t have all the time in the world. I’ll simply add that section to when I walk the Essex coast (which as a matter of interest is 560 kms (350 miles).

The River Thames flows through 8 counties: Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Essex, and Kent.

Besides all the smaller towns, the River Thames flows through or alongside: Lechlade (where you can find the famous Father Thames sculpture), Oxford, Reading, Henley-on-Thames (famous for the annual regatta), Maidenhead, Windsor (where the Queen sometimes lives) and Eton (famous for it’s posh totty school), Molesey (near Hampton Court). Including the smaller towns and villages…26 in all.

In Greater London the Thames passes Hampton Court Palace, Surbiton, Kingston Upon Thames, Teddington (where the tidal Thames ends at the lock), Richmond, Kew, Chiswick, Barnes, Hammersmith, Fulham, Putney, Wandsworth, Battersea (where my paternal grandfather was born) and Chelsea.

Continuing through central London: Pimlico, Lambeth, Vauxhall, it then passes the Palace of Westminster and the London Eye amongst many other landmarks of the City of Westminster, then between The City of London and Southwark till it reaches the world-famous Tower of London.

Into the lower reaches: the river passes through some of the most historic areas: Bermondsey, Wapping, Shadwell, Limehouse, Rotherhithe (from whence the Mayflower carrying pilgrims to the New World set sail), Millwall, Deptford, Royal Greenwich (where Henry VIII was born – the Palace of Placentia as were his daughters Mary & Elizabeth, while his son was born at Hampton Court Palace) and home of the Prime Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time, then Blackwall, Charlton and Silvertown and finally through the Thames Barrier – which is where the Guidebook starts the journey, and onto the the sea. The Thames Barrier is the largest moveable flood barrier in the world.

The River Thames is crossed by over 200 bridges, 27 tunnels, six public ferries, one cable car link, and one ford. There are 30 bridges from Tower Bridge to Teddington Lock – arguably the most famous of those being London Bridge (the first bridge to cross the Thames built by the Romans in 50 AD which was a wooden structure), and Tower Bridge (often misnamed as London Bridge).

There are around 180 islands altogether on the Thames, 45 of which are inhabited – some of the islands have animal, bird or food names; Monkey Island, Frog Island, Lower Horse Island, Buck Island, Swan Island, Heron Island, Raven’s Ait, Ham Island, Eel Pie Island (I briefly lived in a gypsy caravan on Eel Pie Island in Richmond in 2011), there’s even a Pharoah’s Island and Queen’s Eyot, and the famous Magna Carta Island.

The Thames has frozen over at least 23 times between 1309 and 1814, and on five occasions the ice was strong enough to hold a fair on the river, the first known ‘frost fair’ on the River Thames was in AD 695. There are a few famous paintings depicting the frost fairs on the Thames in London from the 17th century.

The River Thames is also known as the River Isis in Oxford.

Many species make the River Thames their home; birds, fish, eels, seals (Thames estuary)and even dolphins

A number of famous painters have depicted the Thames in their paintings: Turner, Monet, Canaletto and Whistler, amongst others.

The River Thames began its life in the Jurassic Period – between 170 and 140 million years ago, has changed it’s course over millenia and once flowed into the River Rhine in Germany. Courtesy of wikipedia: For most of the Early Pleistocene the Ancestral Thames was the main river with, at its maximum extent, a catchment area that extended into Wales alongside the Chiltern Hills, through southern East Anglia and finally into Doggerland (now the North Sea), where it joined the ancestral Rhine.

I’m still dithering about whether to start my journey at The Thames Barrier or from Gravesend. If I do start from Gravesend it will mean adding on an extra 2 days, whereas I could rather add on those 2 days at the end to follow the River Churn to Seven Springs. I’ve already walked from Southwark to Gravesend when following Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales route to Canterbury…..so, I need to make a decision and soon… my start date is 19th April!!

I’m really looking forward to discovering more about the places along the river from Hampton Court onwards to the source.

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And finally…I did actually push myself today and managed to finish this challenge

On the border of Nepal and Tibet (autonomous region of China), standing proudly at 29,032ft (8,848m) is Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world and crown jewel of the Himalayas. First summitted in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, Everest has since been summitted by over 5,700 people a staggering 10,000+ times. Of course like any high risk activity, accidents and deaths do occur and in the last century just over 300 people have lost their lives on Everest. Although Everest has 17 different routes to the summit, only two of them are primarily used: the North Ridge route from Tibet and Southeast Ridge from Nepal.

As the air continued to thin the remainder of the climb was done with supplemental oxygen, using a full face mask with a rubber tube that connected my mask to a metal cylinder that held the oxygen tucked inside my backpack. The cylinder had a regulator on top that controlled the flow of oxygen.

Heading out from Camp 3 at sunrise I made my way up steep terrain for about 500ft (150m), traversed to a strip of limestone known as Yellow Band, across a stratified (layered) rock-ledge and up a 200ft (60m) at 40 degree angle stepped rock cresting the Geneva Spur. Following a rocky path I arrived at South Col (Camp 4) and had my first view of Everest’s peak. The true summit wasn’t visible from here but I could see most of the route to the South Summit (the secondary summit).

South Col was a waypoint for the final stretch at an elevation of 26,000ft (7,925m). Here I ate what little I could ingest as my appetite waned (a common problem at high altitude as the body no longer metabolises food efficiently), rested and waited for the night to roll in. Most climbers will depart for the summit between 10pm and 2am and take anywhere between 8 to 12 hours to reach the summit.

Wanting to catch the sunrise just before 5am, I checked my gear, put my headlamp on and headed across a broad plateau before ascending the steep 40 degree Triangular Face to the Balcony, a resting platform at 27,500ft (8,380m). Many of the early climbing teams including Edmund Hillary, put in a higher camp here in order to give them a shorter time to the summit and more time to climb in the warmth of the sun. Nowadays it’s rarely used. I took the opportunity to change my oxygen bottle, rest, eat and hydrate.

Once I crossed over 26,246ft (8,000m), I was technically in what is known as the “Death Zone”, where the oxygen is so thin that it is unable to sustain human life. Up here the oxygen level is 33% of what is available at sea level. At this altitude the body uses up its oxygen stores faster than it can replenish and without supplemental oxygen the body deteriorates and shuts down. That is not to say that experienced climbers haven’t succeeded in reaching the summit without supplemental oxygen. In 1978, Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler were the first climbers to summit without bottled oxygen. A mere 0.02% have succeeded to summit without oxygen since.

From the Balcony the route took a slight left on gentle terrain till the route moved north and I was met with a 200ft (60m) slab of steep rock and snow terrain. Clipped into my fixed line, I pulled myself up using a jumar (ascending device) and in some exceptional steep sections my crampon points were precariously placed on jutting rock, strongly hoping they wouldn’t slip. It didn’t end here. When I made it above the slab, I was met with an even steeper section with a 60 degrees incline but thankfully it was shorter at around 100ft (30m).

Cresting the South Summit, I stopped for a short hydration break and a snack. From here the next section was a 20ft (6m) vertical drop, followed by the Cornice Traverse, a knife edge-like ridge-crossing to what was once known as Hillary Step. The Step was a nearly vertical rock face of 39ft (12m) and a technically difficult climb but it was destroyed when the region was struck by an earthquake in 2015. What was left were snow steps at 45 degree angles. It was debatable whether this was an easier way to climb but the real loss was the “Hillary Step monument”, a testament to Hillary and Tenzing’s success as the first summiteers.

With the end in sight, it took a further 20minutes to reach the pinnacle of the world. Adorned in prayer flags the summit at 29,032ft (8,848m) was a breathtaking 360 degree view of mountain peaks, glaciers and valleys. I watched the sun rise, casting an orange-red hue across the diminishing night sky as I reflected at the magnitude of this journey.

In Edmund Hillary’s words: “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

And on that note, I’m reminded that for me its about the adventures I have with my walking and over the last 4 years, I have truly conquered quite a lot, albeit not Mt. Everest, I’ve climbed my fair share of mountains – both actual and metaphorical.

Done and dusted

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Mt. Everest, and even though it sounds absolutely amazing, I’m still not in the least interested in actually climbing Mt. Everest…I’ll leave that to someone else 😉🧗‍♀️🧗‍♀️🧗‍♀️

Onwards.

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In the real world, on 22nd of February I was traipsing through the meadows and fields of Salisbury, marginally warmer I’m sure, and a heck of a lot easier 😁😁

With the Himalayas towering on either side of the trail, I trudged on and I say trudged because as you may well imagine fatigue, high altitude, low oxygen level and the constantly changing terrain was having an impact but as you may also imagine the desire to climb Everest was even greater and gave me the impetus to carry on.

The terrain morphed from tundra with low level shrubs to rocks and boulders. It was rugged, remote and massive. Rounding the bend at Dughla, a small hamlet and resting point, I was confronted by a pile of rising rubble where high up on the hill at 16,100ft (4,900m) is the terminus of the Khumbu Glacier, the highest glacier in the world. To the right I could see the glacial meltwater as it was making its way down the hill into the Lobujya River flowing southward as the Imja River and into the Dhudh Kosi.

The next hour’s climb was a steep 656ft (200m) trek to Chukpi Lhara. Set atop a large plateau, Chukpi Lhara is Everest’s memorial ground. Monuments made of stone or cement, some covered in prayer flags were built to honour climbers and Sherpas who lost their lives on Everest. It was a sobering and reflective moment.

Located at the foot of the Khumbu Glacier to the east and the soaring peak of Mount Lobuche East to the west sits the seasonally busy village of Lobuche. The village is the second-last stop for overnight lodging before base camp. Mount Lobuche has two peaks and is differentiated by calling it East and West. Permits are required to climb the mountain with East (20,075ft/6,119m) being classed as a trekking peak, whereas West (20,160ft/6,145m) being classed as an expedition peak. The two peaks are connected by a long and deeply notched ridge with sheer drops on either side making the West peak inaccessible from the East but it can be climbed via the southern shoulder.

I didn’t stop in Lobuche, I pressed on to Gorak Shep the absolutely last place to stay in a lodging. The village was buzzing with trekkers and climbers either coming or going. At an elevation of 16,942ft (5,164m), Gorak Shep was located at the base of Mount Pumo Ri on the edge of a frozen lakebed covered with sand with Khumbu Glacier to the east and Changri Shar Glacier to the west.

The village was completely barren and devoid of vegetation but the peaks were ever-present from every angle. The summit of Kala Patthar on the south ridge of Pumo Ri was a major landmark for any trekker who wanted a clear view of Everest and Nuptse’s peaks. Because of Everest’s structure view of its summit from base camp is blocked by Nuptse. Climbing Kala Patthar was another great way to acclimatise. With an elevation gain of 1,270ft (390m) it was a short-two hour return trip. After a hearty lunch of curry potato and paratha bread for dipping, I was ready for the last trek of the day.

And here I thought I did good climbing halfway up Mt. Snowdon!!! And no, I still can’t do a decent selfie 🤪🤪

November 2017, Mt. Snowdon. My hair was still pink after my Camino in September 🤪🤪🤫

It all sounds absolutely amazing, and the curry potato sounds yummy, but as for the rest of it, I get tired just reading about it and once again I’m ever so glad this is not something I ever have to do 🥶🥶🥶😰😰 it just sounds exhausting.

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