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I finished my latest booking today, so from 3.30pm my time is once again my own – for 6 days πŸ€ͺ

When I got home, after unpacking my suitcase I had a quick sleep and then I popped Pepe onto my back and took us for a practice walk.

We need to start becoming seriously reacquainted now coz it’s less than 3 weeks till we do some serious walking. It’s good from a few aspects; I test all the pressure points from the weight, I test the pressure points of my feet…where does it hurt? What needs strapping up – like my little dislocated toe on my right foot…I’ll have to strap that. Where on my heels? Etc. And testing my distance vs time.

I walked via the harbour, then up the hill…immensely pleased to not even break stride, or huff and puff.

Ramsgate Royal Harbour

Pushing myself the last 16 days has paid off big time πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ From there I walked along the clifftop past the fairy woods where I saw an orange egg with feathers and a funny face, to my favourite sunset spot overlooking Pegwell Bay.

Fairy woods
English Coast Path above Pegwell Bay

I was too early for the fireworks, but it was still beautiful.

Pegwell Bay
Looking back towards Pegwell Bay

Then back down via the harbour again and past ASDA where I bought myself a packet of my favourite crisps…which I haven’t had for 16 days and I think after all my hard work I deserve it 😁😁

I just got home and my stats are 7.83kms 2 hours 4 minutes at just over 13 minutes per km. I’m on track πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Pressure points: right hip – on checking Pepe I found one of the smaller shoulder straps had worked loose, so the backpack was unbalanced (note to self…check the straps every morning before walking).

Left foot – I have very high arches, and the top of my foot on the bony area is painful from rubbing against the tongue and laces of my shoe, so that needs looking at, albeit not a new problem, walking for 26 kms is going to make it a real problem, so I must sort that before I go.

The little dislocated toe is not happy. So that will definitely need looking at.

Other than that, just my right knee was complaining, but I think that’s from the pressure of the unbalanced backpack pressing on my hip.

I’ll go out for another test run tomorrow night and see if the tightened strap makes any difference.

The bonus is that I’m still very comfortable with my gorgeous ‘Osprey Mystic Magenta Tempest 40’, and it’s like we’ve never been parted…it’s so comfortable on my back that I forget it’s there.

I’m walking another section of the Saxon Shore Way on Monday from Rainham to Rochester; approximately 16-20 kms, so that will be another good test.

Tomorrow I’m taking my grandson out for the day, and on Sunday it’s my daughter’s birthday so we’ll be going out for an early supper.

Onwards…the seagull says I did good 😁😁

And now I’m off to bed. Already missing the peace and quiet of the countryside…

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So my lovelies, the time is almost nigh!! At 10:07 on 1st September; 3 weeks from today (whoop whoop), I’ll be on the train heading North. Destination Berwick Upon Tweed.

I start walking the Northumberland coast path that same night, albeit staying in Berwick for 3 nights…I’ll explain later.

Then in exactly 1 month from today, I start my official walk along Hadrian’s Wall. 4 years to the day from when I started my Portuguese Camino 😊😊

So bloody excited. I can’t tell you πŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒ = my happy dance.

So wow, suddenly it’s only 3 weeks to go and I’m on my way.

The dates have been identified, there and back travel tickets booked, all accommodation is booked, Airbnb hosts contacted and confirmed, the routes identified, daily kilometres from here to there measured (repeatedly πŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺ), what to see noted, where to go planned, what to do listed, ferry trip booked, where to get my passports stamped noted.

Pepe is packed, Gemini and I have been practicing like mad – getting fit, which shoes to wear decided on, budgets calculated and as much planning as I can possibly do, done!!!

And just because, after weeks of planning and noting the route each day on the Northumberland Coast Path with the relevant distances, yesterday I only decided to rejig days 4-7 and fiddled about with the distances. But now it is a lot smoother, with one day shorter and another longer.

I confirmed yesterday that I can use my senior bus pass on all the bus routes that I need to use between end of day’s destination and return the next day. I’m going to be doing quite a bit of bouncing back and forth due to accommodation on the NCP.

I’m copying everything into an old-fashioned method of keeping records – a notebook 😁😁

Northumberland Coast Path here’s looking at you, and finally 🀞🀞 after a whole year of waiting Hadrian’s Wall…I see you!!

Now it’s a waiting game; 21 days and counting.

As for you Covid-19 with all your variants…..you know what you can do…πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

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When I bought the Kruger National Park challenge in March I had it in mind to honour the memory of my brother Arnold, who should have been 66 years old today; 08/08/21. He died in his mid-20s nearly 40 years ago under very sad circumstances.

Kruger National Park virtual challenge
Kruger National Park virtual challenge – starter bib

So I figured I would hold it till 1 August before starting the challenge and try to walk 66 kms by his birthday. As well as which, I was born in South Africa and one of my most enduring childhood memories was a visit to the Kruger National Park when we were teenagers…probably about 13 or 14 at the time. My Dad, his 2nd wife, me (the eldest) my brother (6 months younger than me – adopted by my Dad when he remarried), my sister 3.5 years younger than me and my much younger brother who was a baby at the time.

As we drove along the very long narrow dusty road heading towards the gates of the camp, after a long day of driving, my little brother threw up all over my older brother…I was wearing a very fancy patterned two piece pant-suit; a mini-skirt length top and bell-bottoms at the time, blue with coloured squares (I think I wrote about this some time back under a different context)…anyway, my brother had on a bright orange shirt and khaki trousers, which now had vomit all over them. A quick stop at the side of the road and we progressed with everyone affected cleaned up and my brother wearing the pants of my suit and looking both sheepish and colourful.

I can’t recall the name of the camp, but I do remember that we had a fantastic view of a massive waterhole from the dining room. We had a fantastic time and managed to see a lot of game on our drives, as well as in the compound when the animals from outside the fence decided to join the animals inside the fence!!! But of all the exciting things we saw, that episode with the clothes and the eggs we had for breakfast are my best memories.

And so I kicked off on 1 August and got my first postcard

Once again, the amount of information they provide with each postcard is amazing, and so fascinating. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have

On the southeast coast of South Africa and bordered by Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique is the province of Kwazulu-Natal.  Known for its beaches, mountainous region and large savannahs with big game, this province is also home to the Zulu nation.  Kwazulu-Natal is made up of two separate provinces, KwaZulu and Natal, that merged in 1994.  KwaZulu was a semi-independent area intended as a homeland for the Zulu people whose ancestors were part of the Zulu Kingdom.

The Zulu Kingdom was a monarchy from 1816-1897 which grew to prominence under the leadership of Shaka Zulu, the illegitimate son of Senzangakhona, the Chief of the Zulu clan.  Senzangakhona had 14 sons, 4 of them ruled as kings.  Although Shaka was the oldest, due to his illegitimacy he did not have any claim as successor to his father.  When Senzangakhona died in 1816, his legitimate heir Sigujana took over but his rule was short-lived as Shaka had him assassinated and became king.  He in turn was killed 12 years later by another brother, Dingane who 12 years later was overthrown by his brother Mpande, who ruled for the next 32 years.  Mpande’s son, Cetshwayo, succeeded him in 1873 for the next five years.  

Cetshwayo was the leader during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.  Fought over several bloody battles between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom, the war lasted less than six months.  The first significant battle was at Isandlwana in January 1879 where 20,000 Zulu warriors attacked the British forces of less than 2,000 soldiers.  Defeating the British, a contingent of Zulu warriors broke off from the main force and proceeded towards Rorke’s Drift, which would become the second main battle on the same day.  Having been pre-warned of the Zulu advances, the British were prepared for the assault.  Vastly outnumbered with guns blazing, the British held their position.  After 12 hours of fighting, the Zulu warriors retreated.  Several more battles were fought over the coming months until the British moved into the royal village where they inflicted the final defeat.  By August, Cetshwayo was captured, deposed and exiled.  He was the last king of an independent Zulu nation.  Today Cetshwayo’s descendant Goodwill Zwelithini is the 8th reigning monarch of the Zulu nation.

My journey begins in the town of Hluhluwe.  Located in the north of Kwazulu-Natal between iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park, this small town is known for its big game, national parks and production of 95% of South Africa’s pineapples.  It has a population of less than 4,000 residents, yet it is considered a travel hub for Kwazulu-Natal. 

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is a major attraction for the big 5 game: elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard.  Located southwest of Hluhluwe, the park is the oldest nature reserve in Africa consisting of 96,000 hectares.  Established in 1895 as a park, the area was originally a royal hunting ground for the Zulu Kingdom.  The reserve was setup to protect the endangered white rhinoceroses and now has the largest population in the world (approx. 1000).  The park is also the only one in Kwazulu-Natal where all five big game animals can be found.

Located northeast to Hluhluwe is the 1,270sq mi (3,280km2) iSimangaliso Wetland Park.  The park is rich in fauna and flora due to the β€œdifferent ecosystems within the park, ranging from coral reefs and sandy beaches to subtropical dune forests, savannahs, and wetlands”.  A wonderful array of animals co-habitate here both on land and in the ocean such as: elephant, leopard, rhino, buffalo, hippos, whales, dolphins, leatherback and loggerhead turtles and crocodiles. The park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

The park also contains the 140sq mi (350km2) estuarine Lake St Lucia.  It was named in 1575 on the day of the feast of Saint Lucy.  Nearly 2,200 plant species have been identified in the lake’s system such as the Sausage-tree, bearing sausage-like fruits 1-2ft long (30-60cm) and purplish-green flowers. It is also an ideal environment for mangrove trees, six different species have been recorded.  Other delightful flora are the Prickly Tree Hibiscus with its yellow flowers, Maputaland Cycad with its red flowers, Impala-lily with its delicate pink flowers and the Cape honeysuckle.

And so, over a period of 7 days I managed to achieve my goal of walking 66kms; 1 for each year that he would have been…had he lived.

I miss my brother, and although we were not blood relatives I adored him and he me. We got up to a lot of mischief as children and one of the few photos I have of him is when there were just the 5 of us; my cousin Yvonne, me, my cousin Brian, my brother Arnold and my sister Susanne. My family expanded a lot after this photo was taken, what with remarriages and another 4 sisters and 1 brother.

family and relationships
me, my brother, my sister, and cousins

The rest of the challenge will be completed during my jaunt along the Northumberland Coast Path and Hadrian’s Wall, both of which are long enough to ‘possibly’ allow me to complete this challenge before I return home. Although I have to say that the temptation to buy a 2nd Hadrian’s Wall challenge and complete the virtual walk whilst walking the actual wall is VERY strong!! LOL… I’ll decide by the 09th of September before I start my actual walk…it will all depend on how many km’s I manage to complete before then since the Kruger challenge has to be finished by 30/09/21 because the organisers changed the medal and made the route shorter. But I want the original medal, so…onwards into the breech dear friends, onwards!

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for me, I’m kicking up dust in the Kruger National Park… πŸ™‚

Here are some of the scenes from my 7 walks

walking the kruger national park
Day 1 Sunday 01.08.2021
walking the kruger national park
Day 2 Monday 02.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 3 Wednesday 04.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 4 Thursday 05.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 5 Friday 06.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 6 Saturday 07.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 7 Sunday 08.08.21

Day 3 I ended up hip deep in a ditch sky-high with brambles…still not sure how I got out, there’s a long story behind the cows on day 4 and there’s one particular scene that I just love and photograph it every day when I walk that route. The houses in this area are stunning…and I get house envy when I see some of them, and I love that quote from Day 1.

The above scenes are round and about the farmlands of Faversham. They recently harvested one of the fields nearby, hence the tractor and the harvester.

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You start dying slowly
when you kill your self-esteem,
when you do not let others help you.

You start dying slowly
if you become a slave of your habits,
walking every day on the same paths,
if you do not change your routine,
If you do not wear different colours
or you do not speak to those you don’t know.

You start dying slowly
if you avoid feeling passion
and its turbulent emotions,
those which make your eyes glisten
and your heart beat fast.

You start dying slowly
if you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain
if you do not go after a dream
if you do not allow yourself
at least once in your lifetime
to run away from sensible advice.

Don’t let yourself die slowly . . . ~ Pablo Neruda

Sculpture by Lene Kilda

I saw this poem on a friend’s timeline recently. It really spoke to me and I find it quite beautiful and so profound. It’s been mulling around in my mind as I grapple with the implications and the meaning…

It reminds me of many of my clients, the majority of whom are in the twilight years of their lives…basically ‘waiting for God’ as the saying goes (also the title of a TV comedy series).

Most of my clients have lived well past their 3 score and ten as suggested by the Bible, and their final years are reduced to what can be mind-numbing routine, but is often like a security blanket. They know exactly where they are, especially when they are afflicted by dementia…routine is paramount for security.

However, their self-esteem is often ‘killed’ by having a stranger (the carer) enter their home and having to resign themselves to the indignity of personal care, which often involves really ‘personal’ care, and if we’re not careful, their lives are reduced to discussions or discourse on how regular their bowels are, the colour of their urine, how much fluid they drink during the day, the number of creams that have to be massaged in on private areas, being cleaned and washed by a stranger, and their daily medications – most often a smorgasbord of different tablets keeping them alive; one to do this, one to do that, another to offset the effects of the first, another to reduce the impact of the 2nd…and ultimately becoming what I normally call a ‘mind fudge’…excuse the ‘french’. They have to psyche themselves up to swallow what sometimes amounts to 20 tablets a day (seriously) for years on end, most of which are invariably unnecessary as has been proved in the past…

For the carer, the constant sameness of every day, sometimes for weeks on end, can be like a slow dying…every day is so exactly the same that in order to preserve your sanity, you try to mix it up a little…like hoovering on a Saturday instead of Thursday LOL – yes, even something as small as that can be a help. A change of routine.

A large part of looking after my own mental health has in fact come in the form of my walking excursions, and yes those daft challenges πŸ˜‰ – you know the ones I mean LOL When I’m at a booking I try to walk as many different routes as I possibly can, taking dozens of photos as I go…I love to investigate the history of the area – like finding out if it’s a Domesday town/village, or the provenance of the name…many of which are descended from Viking and Saxon times, some from the original inhabitants of these fair isles; the Celts, names that are corrupted over the years to be spelled and sound completely different to how they started.

Often the names relate to a particular industry, or husbandry, or simply the name of the patch of grass at a road junction. For example Throwley Forstal: The name is recorded in the Doomsday Book as Trevelai, which corresponds with a Brittonic origin, where “Trev” means a settlement or farm house and “Elai” typically relates to a fast moving river or stream. And the term forstal means the land in front of a farm and farmyard. Which in this instance is very accurate since the whole area is farmland with a number of divine farmhouses that make me envious.

Or perhaps Sheldwich Lees, which we visited yesterday: In ancient charters it was called ‘Schyldwic’. In 784, it was given this name by Ealhmund of Kent, to Abbot Wetrede and his convent of ‘Raculf Cestre’, or Reculver. During King Edward I’s reign (1239–1307), it passed to the family of Atte-Lese, which included the Manor of Sheldwich. This then became the Manor of Leescourt due to the name of the Atte-lese family mansion. A bit complicated if you ask me!!

So back to the poem; I try to not become a ‘slave’ of my habits, and I certainly talk to many I don’t know – give me half a chance and I’ll tell you my life story!! LOL Although the area I’m currently working in is enormous in terms of the farmlands, the hamlet consists of about 30 or so houses, so there are not many people about when I set off on my excursions, but every now and then I pass someone who also walks regularly and we exchange “hellos” and “nice day isn’t it” – usually a safe subject LOL Occasionally I meet dog walkers and I comment on how cute or lovely they (the dogs) are, but mostly I don’t see a soul except for the drivers who whizz past while I hug the hedgerows LOL

But my client always asks which route I took, and so I describe to him where I went, what I saw, how many people I may or may not have passed and he then tells me the history of certain places. It’s a win win for both of us…his dull routine is disrupted by tales of my jaunts and I get to relate what I find interesting – a break in routine. Actually on the subject of my current client (92) – he’s super intelligent and so we have some amazing conversations about religion and politics, about travel and places we’ve been. In his youth and up until about 10 years ago he and his wife were keen walkers/hikers and have been to some amazing places. So I encourage him to tell me the tales of his youth.

And in conclusion; I certainly have no chance of dying slowly because
if you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain (I do that regularly)
if you do not go after a dream (at every chance – planning walking trips here and there)
if you do not allow yourself
at least once in your lifetime
to run away from sensible advice
. (a frequent pastime!!)

Don’t let yourself die slowly….wise words indeed.

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Four years ago I read in the news about this young lad, Alex Ellis-Roswell from Canterbury What an extraordinary venture; a 9,500 mile, 3-year walk around the UK coast, including N.Ireland, from Minnis Bay to Minnis Bay, raising funds for and visiting more than 200 RNLI stations along the way, and raising more than Β£65,000 for the life-saving charity. Astounding. I had not heard of anyone walking the entire UK coast, and didn’t realise it was even a thing.

At the time I was not long back from walking the Camino Portuguese from Porto to Santiago, 174 miles, and my efforts felt quite piddling in comparison. I was totally awed at his efforts.

I’ve always loved walking, and walked a lot in my early 20s when I lived in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, but from when I had my baby and acquired a car and a husband in 1980, I didn’t do much by way of walking at all. Life went by, I had a car, and although we travelled a lot around South Africa walking was just part of a day or an outing and not the focus of the outing.

In 2001 I had the absolute joy and good fortune to spend 6 months in the Rep. of Ireland with my younger sister and her hubby. While there, my love of walking was rekindled and played a part in my decision to return to the UK full time…which I duly did in April 2002, albeit to Ireland first for 4 months till September. During my time in Ireland; 2001 and 2002, we walked everywhere, weekend jaunts across country, along the east coast in mid-winter (mostly because there wasn’t anything else to do LOL) and wonderful walks in historic Glendalough National Park in County Wicklow, and my midnight returns to home after an evening in Dublin.

When I relocated to the UK in September 2002, before starting work, I did a 6 week housesit; a penthouse in Hampstead Village with a rooftop view of London, lots of walking opportunities with Hampstead Heath nearby and the historic village of Hampstead.

When we, my daughter and I, eventually settled in Richmond in 2010 I started walking the Thames Path in various directions as well as many many walks in the City of London (eventually covering 95% of all the roads, lanes and alleyways) and City of Westminster, with occasional sojourns to other areas. I even started up a business (now defunct): 3 Days in London which involved guided tours (only a few because I really did not enjoy guiding people around the city LOL).

In 2011 I had the bright idea of following Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales route from Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral and in 2014 we moved to Broadstairs, where my coastal path jaunts began. Along the many ‘ways’ during the years from when I first arrived in the UK, the Camino de Santiago seeped into my consciousness from varying angles; my Dad and a couple of siblings cycled the French route (at different times), I met a lady who had walked the French route and loved it (she gave me my 1st scallop shell), I saw the film with Martin Sheen and books on the Camino started to make themselves known. And so my ‘dream’ of walking the Camino germinated. Initially I thought I’d walk it in 2016, having decided on the Portuguese coastal route as my preferred ‘way’, and to that end I started practising by taking lengthy walks along the coast to Margate or Ramsgate and further afield to Sandwich. Finally in 2017 I felt ready and walked the Portuguese Coastal Route to Santiago in September of that year.

Since then I’ve completed a number of long distance walks and my reading matter has turned to books about people who have done amazing walks. Shortly after reading ‘The Salt Path’ by Raynor Winn, I was inspired to set myself the challenge of walking the entire English Coast Path; coincidentally whilst I was walking between Sandwich and Walmer one day last year. And so the idea was born, and now that I have a specific target, I’ve started walking sections with purpose (I will write up about those stages in due course).

During the preceding years I’ve been inspired by epic adventures embarked upon by people like Steven Fabes who cycled 6 continents and covered 80,000 km on his bike. And Ben Fogle’s many adventures with ‘New Lives in the Wild’ TV shows, Steve Backsall’s many epic adventures (not that I envy any of his adventures thank you!!), Michael Palin’s many wonderful travels around the world, Michael Portillo’s ‘Great British Railway Journeys’, and Julia Bradbury’s many amazing walking adventures in the UK.

Way back in my South African past, a boyfriend at the time gave me the book ‘Full Tilt: From Dublin to Delhi’ by Dervla Murphy, which I devoured at the time, never imagining that I would one day actually live in Dublin! I loved her story and I think it probably ignited a small flame that was later nourished to become a passion; travel.

During lockdown in 2020, for 7 weeks between March and April, I was lucky enough to be working and living in a tiny village in Somerset; Nether Stowey, where I was able to indulge my walking escapades despite lockdown because there was hardly anyone around and I seldom encountered a soul during my 2 hourly breaks from working.

My daughter introduced me to the ‘addictive’ Conqueror Challenges in April of 2020 and working towards those goals has kept me motivated.

that’s me! The Conqueror – conquering the world, walk by walk LOL

I also started looking to find more people who were walking the UK coast and somewhere along the line, via Facebook I found and started following Chris Walks the UK. At the time he was safely ensconced on a remote and unoccupied Scottish island where he stayed for much of lockdown. Following his journey both then and now, I’m totally inspired by his fortitude and strength. Having started the journey in the midst of depression 5 years ago (apparently Sunday was his 5th anniversary, so I’ve added the link to reflect that), a former Veteran of the Armed Forces, he was then and still is raising funds for SSAFA and has met the 2 loves of his life along the way; 1st Jet, a beautiful greyhound, and then Kate a beautiful young woman who popped over one day to say hello and never left. I love their daily posts and am in so much admiration for how they cope with obstacles.

Slowly, during my travels, I stumbled across other walks; the Two Saints Way, St Cuthbert’s Way and St Oswald’s Way, Great Glen Way, The West Highland Way, Hadrian’s Wall, and as I came to learn about more and more walks, I started buying the Cicerone Guide Books. Now, with a whole long list of walks I now want to do, I joined the UK Long Distance Hiking page on facebook, to get ideas and advice, occasionally discover new routes to walk (oh my lord! Like I need any more!), and while scrolling through the posts a couple of days ago I stumbled across Tracey Elizabeth Hannam, an amazing woman with an interesting story who is currently walking the UK coast. I saw one of her posts; a poem that she wrote and it resonated so strongly that I asked her if I could share it here…..and she has agreed.

Here is the link to her facebook page and the poem that caught at my soul

.. Thoughts..a poem

What am I thinking is my life shrinking I need to get out,
Where am I going am I happy knowing as I start to shout,
I’m feeling quite trapped being part of the rat race as they call it..
I’m trying to fit in but I can’t begin as I simply deplore it,
As I try to escape, suffocated in this place I know I must go,
To the sand and the sea I feel it beckoning me and now that I know,
I must be out in the wild like a inquisitive child seeing new things each day,,
Sleep on the earth in a tent, many happy days spent loving the way,
How my new life has changed simply been rearranged by thoughts in my head,
Of times I couldn’t breathe, there was a hidden need to be out here instead,
My eyes now open to see this new happy me away from the grind,
Of a regimented past life, sometimes trouble and strife but now cleared from my mind,
Medicine not in a pill but walking up a hill is healing my soul,
Prescribed by Dr. me as I began to see I needed a new goal,
And I’ll never look back to that old beaten track that stopped me from growing,
I’ll look right ahead never to dread this new me I’m knowing,
Leading the way not afraid to say to others too,
Don’t settle for less cause you are the best ..refresh and renewβ€¦πŸ’œβ€

Copyright: Tracey Hannam .. 31/7/21

Tracey Hannam – Long Distance Hiker, so inspiring

During my research into other long distance UK coastal walkers I came across this fantastic website https://www.britishwalks.org/walks/Named/CoastWalk/Links.php an amazing resource listing the many people who have already walked the coast or are currently walking.

There is something quite extraordinary about a person who decides, for such a variety of reasons, to up sticks and walk for thousands of kms/miles, sometimes for years on end. Carrying the bare minimum, yet loaded with a lot of stuff to carry, they put one foot in front of the other, enduring pain and discomfort, all the weather types you can imagine, blisters, scrapes and falls, a lack of home comforts, facing some of the hardest days anyone could imagine – and yet, they just keep on going, loving that life despite the hardships, and rejoicing in the beauty of new places.

I find it so inspiring and totally awesome.

For me it’s the sheer freedom of the path, of the unknown, of starting at one place and ending at another that leads me on….

English Coast Path

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Stage 7 – Windsor to Maidenhead 12.06.2021 β€“ 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…Β£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 Β£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 Β£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 πŸ’€πŸ˜΄ 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 πŸ¦• 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 πŸ˜€πŸ˜‰

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 πŸ˜‰)

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 πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ 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!! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ the dinosaurs however, are tough, and survived the onslaught.

I think you need a pedicure…πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€”
Hello Dino!!!
Regurgitating his last meal?? Meanwhile, under his belly the tiddler was jumping up and down, head bashing the belly πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚
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 πŸ₯‡πŸ₯‡πŸ₯‡πŸ₯‡πŸ… 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!! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

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 πŸ˜† 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? πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‡ 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 πŸ₯°πŸ₯°πŸ’™

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 πŸ™ŒπŸ˜πŸ˜

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 πŸ€ͺ). 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ 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 πŸ’› 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 πŸšΆβ€β™€οΈπŸšΆβ€β™€οΈπŸšΆβ€β™€οΈ

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 πŸ‘£πŸ‘£πŸ₯ΎπŸ₯Ύ #notjustagrannyΒ  #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!! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

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!! πŸ™„πŸ™„πŸ™„

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 πŸ™„ 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 πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒπŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ 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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The Lawsons on the Loose

Philip & Heather are making memories through travelling. How lucky are we?

John Wreford Photographer

Words and Pictures from the Middle East & Balkans

Roadtirement

"Traveling and Retired"

Fergy's Rambles.

Travelling while I still could (pre-virus obviously).

Webb Blogs/ Ocd and Me

Life With OCD, Anxiety, Panic Attacks, And Recovering from Addiction.