Archive for the ‘villages of the United Kingdom’ Category

Living in the south east of England, except for a brief visit to Durham a few years ago, the northeast feels quite remote, and although I wanted to visit Berwick Upon Tweed after connecting via twitter with someone who lived there, it may as well have been the moon for all the probability that I might visit.

However a number of factors arose over the years; my walking escapades with plans to walk Hadrian’s Wall and the two Saints Ways: St Cuthbert & St Oswald, and more lately the entire English Coast, suddenly it no longer seems quite so remote. Its 413 miles in fact from Ramsgate to Berwick Upon Tweed, so not as far as the moon after all.

As soon as I had decided to walk the Northumbrian coast instead of the saints ways, I started doing some research on the county. I had read a little bit about the history in a book by Neil Oliver that I read last year, and the history is amazing and intriguing.

So here goes, some facts and figures about Northumberland:

Northumberland has come out on top as being the quietest place in England! The county has a low population density with only 64 people per square kilometre, ranking as the 16th emptiest place in the whole of the UK.

Northumberland is a ceremonial county and historic county in North East England. It is bordered by the Scottish Borders to the north, Cumbria to the west, and both County Durham and Tyne and Wear to the south.

There are 7 castles in Northumberland, I will be visiting 5 during my walk

Northumberland is designated an AONB: area of natural beauty and has designated Dark Skies areas as well as which in some places you can, if you’re lucky, see the aroura borealis (fingers crossed) Northumberland is the best place to stargaze in the UK with 572 square miles of the county having been awarded Gold Tier status.

There are 70 castle sites in Northumberland, with 7 along the coast path, of which I will visit 5:

Berwick Castle – commissioned by the Scottish King David I in the 1120s

Lindisfarne – a 16th-century castle located on Holy Island, much altered by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1901

Bamburgh – originally the location of a Celtic Brittonic fort destroyed by Vikings in 993. The Normans later built a new castle on the site, which forms the core of the present one, now owned by the Armstrong family

Dunstanburgh – a 14th-century fortification on the coast built by Earl Thomas of Lancaster between 1313 and 1322

Warkworth – a ruined medieval castle, traditionally its construction has been ascribed to Prince Henry of Scotland, Earl of Northumbria, in the mid-12th C, but it may have been built by King Henry II of England when he took control of England’s northern counties

Islands: 3 of which I plan to visit 2

1. Holy Island of Lindisfarne – This place of worship, tranquillity and breath-taking beauty was the home of St Cuthbert, who allegedly held the power of spiritual healing.

2. Farne Islands – St Cuthbert lived on the island in a cell during his time on the island. The Inner Farne is the largest of the Farne islands group and is home to many of the breeding birds during the season, Puffins,Shags, Guillemots, Cormorants and Razor Bills : read more https://farneislandstours.co.uk/the-farne-islands/ I’ve booked my ticket for this.

Coquet Island – Every spring, Coquet Island becomes bustling with birdlife as some 35,000 seabirds cram onto this tiny island to breed. Most famously, puffins whose cute and clumsy mannerisms have earned them the nickname of the ‘clowns of the sea’, visit in their thousands. You can only visit by boat, so if I have time on that day, I’ll try take a trip

Northumberland borders east Cumbria, north County Durham and north Tyne and Wear.

Northumberland’s unique breed of cattle are rarer than giant pandas. This unique herd of wild cattle are believed to be the sole descendants of herds that once roamed the forests of ancient Britain. It is thought they have been living at Chillingham for more than 700 years.

Historical sites –

Newcastle Castle is a medieval fortification in Newcastle upon TyneEngland, built on the site of the fortress that gave the City of Newcastle its name.

A number of Battlefields, priories and iron age sites dot the Northumberland landscape. I’m not sure how many I’ll get to see on my way south, but I’ll be sure to look out for them! Other than that:

Hadrian’s Wall – I’ll be walking the wall from 11th – 21st Hadrian’s Wall starts in what is now Tyne & Wear, follows through Northumberland and ends in Cumbria.

Vindolanda Roman Fort : a Roman auxiliary fort just south of Hadrian’s Wall which it originally pre-dated. Archaeological excavations of the site show it was under Roman occupation from roughly 85 AD to 370 AD. Ref Wikipedia

Chester’s Roman Fort : The cavalry fort, known to the Romans as Cilurnum, was built in about AD 124. It housed some 500 cavalrymen and was occupied until the Romans left Britain in the 5th century. Ref English Heritage

Temple of Mithras : The temple was probably built by soldiers at the fort at Carrawburgh around AD 200 and destroyed about AD 350. Three altars found here (replicas stand in the temple) were dedicated by commanding officers of the unit stationed here, the First Cohort of Batavians from the Rhineland. ref English Heritage

Housesteads Roman Fort :  built in stone around AD 124, soon after the construction of the wall began in AD 122

Corbridge Roman Fort : Corbridge was once a bustling town and supply base where Romans and civilians would pick up food and provisions. It remained a vibrant community right up until the end of Roman Britain in the early years of the 5th century. Ref English Heritage

UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

Hadrian’s Wall is a UNESCO World Heritage site, starts in Newcastle, Tyne & Wear, runs through Northumberland and ends in Cumbria.

The historic county town is Alnwick. And the biggest town is Blyth.

Earl Grey tea originated in Northumberland.

Northumberland was once the largest kingdom in the British Isles

Over a thousand years before Northumberland was affectionately known as ‘the last hidden kingdom’, it was known as the Kingdom of Northumbria.

Lancelot Capability Brown was born in the hamlet of Kirkharle.

Northumbrian (Old English: Norþanhymbrisċ) was a dialect of Old English spoken in the Anglian Kingdom of Northumbria. Together with Mercian, Kentish and West Saxon, it forms one of the sub-categories of Old English devised and employed by modern scholars.

At nearly 580sq miles, the dark sky zone, known as Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, is the largest Gold Tier Dark Sky Park area of protected night sky in Europe.

The famous detective programme ‘Vera’ featuring Brenda Blethyn, is filmed in various places in Northumberland and Newcastle Upon Tyne.

During my ‘research’ I’ve found so many interesting places, many of which are too far off the wall route for me to visit, but I guess I can always visit again someday.

And that’s it for now. There’s much else of course, but….

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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’m not sure if I mentioned this before 🤔🤔 but I’m walking the Thames Path for my birthday…its a milestone birthday in as much as according to the government I can officially retire!!!  🤪🤪🤪 if only.

Initially I really wanted to walk from source to sea, but have not been able to find a good relevant guide book. The Cicerone books are excellent but they only had a sea to source guide, which has been irritating me.
So I’ve been pondering how I can turn this around so I can enjoy the walk instead of feeling like I’m doing it the wrong way around…

And I just had an idea 💡 ping the old  🧠 woke up….I shall pretend I’m an explorer 😁🕵️‍♀️🕵️‍♀️🚶🏻‍♀️🚶🏻‍♀️ who has just stumbled upon this great river, and now I have to follow it to find the mysterious source hidden in the jungle….in reality it’s in a barren field and the stream is mostly dry,🤦🏼‍♀️🤦🏼‍♀️ but who’s checking 🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️ this is my adventure and if I say it’s a jungle, then it’s a jungle 🐒🐒🐒🐆🐅🦏🐘🦒🐊🤪🤪

Sometimes it helps to be on the verge of senility, you can make up all sorts of 💩🤣🤣🤣

Thames Path…I shall 👀👉 in April well that’s the plan anyway…the PM may scupper those plans once again, unless I go incognito.

Walking the Thames Path has been a dream of mine ever since we lived in London, and I’m actually quite excited that finally I can bring my dream to fruition 😃😃 Hoorah

The O2
City of London – Commemorating the 1666 Great Fire of London in 2016
Richmond lock
The Great River Race 2016 Richmond
The Gloriana processing along The Thames during the Tudor Pull near Teddington
Teddington Lock (during my 3 Days in London days)

Over the years I’ve walked sections of the Thames Path from Gravesend to Hampton Court and I initially toyed with the idea of skipping this section, which will take me 3 days of solid walking at approximately 20/5 kms per day, BUT I know myself too well…I won’t feel as if I’ve ‘actually’ walked the whole Thames Path unless I walk the whole route.

So, according to the guide, the path starts at the Thames Barrier, so that’s where I shall start my adventure…

The Thames Barrier

Did you know that the River Thames, a tidal river, is considered to be part of the English Coast right up until Teddington Lock ….

All I need now is for everyone to 🤞🤞🤞 that we don’t go into another lockdown before 20th April…thank you 😉

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I can’t tell you how often we get weather reports that predict snow, and it all just fizzles out in a flurry.

So when I heard on Friday that we should expect the Beast from the East and 20 cms of snow, I was like “yeah, yeah…whatever “. They never get it right…

We hah! I got it wrong. When I woke up this morning it was raining, as it had been since the afternoon before. Have you ever heard of rain preceding snow? No. It always come afterwards. So I looked out the window at 7am, and instead of the predicted 2am sleet⁸⁸ and snow, I saw rain.

And hour later and it was a ‘whiteout’. Blimey, the snow arrived on the back of the beast and it hasn’t stopped since. Even as I write its blowing a bloody gale outside and the snow is piling up!!! And up!!

Now, I love snow, and I always get really excited when it snows, but this is just seriously bad timing. My booking ends tomorrow and by looks of things, I am not going to be able to get out….😱😱😱🥺🥺

The incoming Carer decided to come this afternoon coz there’s no trains tomorrow, so at least she’s here, but blimey…it looks like I may get stuck here for another day. Meanwhile….

….because I am slightly daft, and because I really wanted some photos of the snow before I (hopefully) leave this booking tomorrow, I decided at 3pm to go for a walk….I didn’t get very far, only 750 meters up the road before returning to the house blinded by freezing snow whipped up by the wind, covered from head to toe in snow, and frozen to the bone 🥶🥶🥶 – okay, not really frozen to the bone, but close enough 🤪🤪🤪 and I got my photos 😁😁😁

The wind has continued to blow for the rest of the day, the snow continues to pile up and the electricity keeps going off!!! It looks like I may well end up getting stuck here for another day…oh well. At least the incoming Carer is here, so I won’t have to work 😉 so for your viewing pleasure, some snow pics

I put seeds out for the birds..the blackbird and robin found them despite the snow
The food is in the freezer in the garage – I have to go out in the pitch dark with a torch to get it…🥶🥶
Icicles above the back door 🥴🥴🥴

It’s so beautiful 😍😍😍

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A tiny hamlet in the Faversham area of Kent, Thorley Forstal is literally just a scattering of pretty little houses amongst humongous fields of agriculture or animal husbandry…hence the long, long roads and vast distances I have to walk.

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.

I have yet to see a river or a stream, but perhaps I haven’t yet walked far enough…..there are however plenty of flooded roads, especially atm with all the rain 🤪🤪

For the word ‘Forstal’, various descriptions are found ; a small opening in a lane too small to be called a common, a green before a house, a paddock near a farmhouse.

In the case of ‘Throwley Forstal’, all 3 options could apply since there are a few small lanes, two fairly decent greens, and a farm looks out onto the green.

The houses are mostly white clapboard and so pretty. Many of the houses and barns in the area are listed and circa 15th, 16th and 17th century.

Throwley Forstal
Forge Farm – literally right out of Beatrix Potter – did you spot the puddleducks? 😄😄

A pretty little place, there’s literally nothing more than a scattering of houses and a church. If you need supplies, it’s a 15 minute drive to Faversham.

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My latest assignment has not taken me too far afield this time and I find myself in the depths of Kent. Not too far from where I’m located are villages familiar to me; Charing for instance….I stayed there on my pilgrimage to Canterbury in September. 🙂 so that’s been a fun discovery. I am of course familiar with Faversham having stayed there in 2017 during my Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales walk from Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral, as well as which I finished my latest stretch of the English coast there last Saturday – from Whitstable to Faversham. The Sun Inn; 14th century inn, was the perfect place to stay and I’d love to stay there again sometime.

the sun inn faversham
The Sun Inn, Faversham – 14th century inn with the best room and bath ever

However, the house where I’m working is toooo far from Faversham for me to do any proper exploring, but I have a few country roads I can follow and so far I’ve had 2 good days to get out and about. Of the 5.5 days I’ve been here so far, 1,5 produced rain and 2 produced fog…so I’ve only managed 2 proper walks since arriving on Monday 4th. The sun looks like its burning through the fog so hopefully tomorrow will be a good day for walking.

foggy day in kent
a foggy day in Kent

In the meantime the two walks have unveiled some gems as far as churches are concerned and some amazing houses…..some of which date back to the 15th century. In fact the house I’m working in was built in 1435!!! It’s pretty awesome with some fabulous beams and a huge fireplace. The floors are really wonky and sink in the middle and without heating, its VERY cold!!! I’ll let the photos do the talking

country walking
the long and winding road…..
first world war throwley airfield
Throwley Airfield 1917-1919
the old school house
The Old School 1873-1935
houses at Throwley Forstal

Although I haven’t been able to get out that much, I have walked far and wide, clocking up 16.3 kms over 2 days. Its something of a challenge to find different routes when you’re limited to long stretches of road and a 2 hour break. If I had longer, I’d walk to Faversham for sure. It’s only 5 miles away but would take 1hour 35 minutes to walk there and no time to return before my 2 hours is up!!

I have though seen 2 beautiful sunsets and enjoyed the lengthening shadows of the graveyard. Hopefully tomorrow will bring fine weather so I can get out again…

p.s. there may be a problem with the photo galleries…..if there is I will fix them later…..they look fine via my computer, but on my phone there seems to be an issue….sorry for that.

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I started a new assignment today and the house…well cottage actually is a 15th century abode.

It’s got a massive fire place, wonky floors that slope down in the middle, low door frames and tricky stairs.

The ceilings are held up by fantastic wooden beams older than methusela, and the walls are held together by more fantastic wooden beams.

There’s a working well in the garden and we’re so remote that I can hear and see absolutely nothing….makes a change from the b&b I was staying at the last 12 days.

The food freezer is in the garage and I have to use a torch to navigate.

As luck would have it the heating has failed in a few of the radiators and its absolutely freezing in some rooms of the house.

My room is upstairs and all I have between my head and the sky is a thin sloping roof through which I can hear scuttling…I’m guessing its mice. Now and then I hear the thud of a bird landing…

The room is lovely and I have a small sitting room nook with a tv which is a luxury, but the mattress is probably older than Noah’s ark 😝😝 and sinks in the middle. I’m guessing my back is not going to be too happy.

The client has lived in the house for 50+ years and I can’t even imagine what that must be like. The longest I’ve ever lived in one place is 3.5 years.

So tonight our feckless PM put the country into lockdown again and of course it’s the fault of everyone/everything except himself for not listening and acting on the advice of the sciences.

I read in the papers that

“…..even takeaway services are shuttered in an attempt to beat the new Covid variant.

More than 550,000 business will be forced to close in England as of tomorrow, according to real estate adviser Altus Group, which includes 401,690 non-essential shops, 64,537 pubs or restaurants, 20,703 personal care facilities and 7,051 gyms or leisure centres”.

This is going to absolutely devastate commerce. Who knows what sort of country we’re going to be left with after this.

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Sweete Themmes, runne softly, till I end my song. (Edmund Spenser, 1596) One of the things I’ve missed most in this time of lockdown is being able to walk along the banks of the River Thames. I’ve whiled away many an hour of my retirement strolling along the river, mostly stretches between London Bridge to […]

A Thames Journey: (1) From the Source to Cricklade

I’ve just discovered this fantastic article and felt I really had to share it. Firstly the writer has a wonderful way with words, some terrific photos and he’s writing about my favourite river…the Thames. Its been a dream of mine for years now to walk the Thames from source to sea….just the very words ‘source to sea’ conjures a feeling of excitement and adventure and has certainly captured my imagination. I love that the writer and his companions started this walk in midwinter and his description of the early morning evokes a sense of wonder….and I could feel myself transported to the very moment of that crispy ground underfoot.

It’s a lovely read, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. I’m off now to read some more, and the book is on my Christmas wishlist 🤶🏻🎄

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The very best thing to come out of this current situation is that the earth; nature, is getting a chance to breathe.

Every morning now I listen to birdsong outside my window and I can hear even the tiniest of birds.

I can hear them at noon when I’m out walking and I can hear them settling at night.

I found this poem on Google, it seems quite apt

Miranda Renea May 2016

Birdsong Have you ever heard the birds sing?
Everyone is always listening to
Lifeless steel hanging at their side;
It follows as they switch their hip
And walk on by. Sometimes, I wonder,
Why haven’t you heard the birdsong?

No cars rushing by, no trucks or vans….just the gentle breeze and birdsong. Long may it last.

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mapmywalk, the pilgrims way, walking the pilgrims way, long distance walks england, backpacking, women walking soloMonday 27th August 2018 Day 7 – Tanners Hatch to Mertsham : 18.90 kms / 43,317 steps elevation 374 meters.

Even though it’s a hostel, with all the accompanying irritations like snoring, switching lights on in the middle of the night, early risers repacking their bags, I do enjoy sleeping at the YHA. Tanners Hatch YHA was a delight.

tanners hatch yha the pilgrims way, walking the pilgrims way, winchester to canterbury along the pilgrims way,long distance walks england, women walking solo

see that bed….bottom left…that was my bed 🙂 perfect – (pic captured off their website)

By morning I was even more determined to book another stay. In the light of morning, sans rain, I had a chance to explore a little more fully….the setting is beautiful, and quite enchanting.

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A couple staying at the YHA offered me a lift to my starting point for today; Box Hill & Westhumble Station. I gratefully accepted as were seriously wayyyy off the Pilgrim’s route. I made myself a quick breakfast of plain pasta and a cup of herbal tea. I was rather hungry by then. Fortunately my trainers had dried out in front of the fire and my clothes too were dry.

A longggg walk later, we finally reached the car park. Note to self….if I do book to stay again, it’s a long walk to the location….don’t take too much stuff. LOL

box hill and westhumble station, yha tanners hatch, walking the pilgrims way, the pilgrims way winchester to canterbury, long distance walks england, women walking solo

Box Hill & Westhumble Station, the starting point for the section to Merstham

By 09:32 I was on my way. I passed the Stepping Stones pub and made a mental note to eat there (next trip??) LOL I loved the house across from the pub.

Within 10 minutes I crossed beneath the motorway….I stopped to admire the beautiful mural before continuing.

Page 78 of the guide: “Walk south along the road with the traffic to the right. At the bus stop go left into a wide entrance. Keep forward past a car park”. Car park?? Uhmmm nope. This I did, except if you go forward you end up on private property. What the guide could have said was ” At the 2nd bus stop go left ….”. This was one of many inconsistent/obscure instructions in the guide book. There were a few more still to come.

My instagram post later that morning: “Box Hill viewpoint: I’m beginning to hate this guide book 😞😞😓 After saying goodbye to the ever so delightful Tanners Hatch YHA, I started off from the Westhumble and Box Hill Station. Not long and the guide doesn’t give sufficient information and once again a local had to direct me. Safely traversed the Stepping Stones across the River Mole and started up Box Hill. Now if you’ve never climbed Box Hill..seriously give it a miss, its a bastard and very HIGH with HUNDREDS of very steep steps. The guide says at the start of the 3rd set of steps go right into the trees which I did, and the field is on the right, but it wasn’t it was on the left, so I climbed back up to the steps, carried on climbing, but no further turning to the right and now I’m at the top of the bloody hill, and if I’ve come too far up (no other paths to be seen), then that means I have to go back DOWN these horrible steps and go back along the path I took originally.. I’ve already fallen coming up the slippery slope. No damage but I’m fed up now with the guide. Either way I guess I’ll have to just crack on“.

Box Hill Stepping Stones. Of all the route I had seen or read about along the Pilgrim’s Way, this was what I was most afraid of. The Stepping Stones. My sense of balance is not good and I was wary of crossing them, but I took it slowly, delighted to reach the opposite bank without falling in. 😂😁😁

Ahead of me was Box Hill. Little did I know that this was going to be the biggest challenge of the whole walk, and also the beginning of the end….

As per the guide: “At the start of the 3rd flight of steps go right, on a narrow path into the trees. The way, which bears slightly left, can in season be sometimes indistinct“. hmmmm

stepping stones box hill, the national trust, box hill, walking the pilgrims way, the pilgrims way winchester to canterbury, long distance walks england, women walking solo

Box Hill steps….this was not fun!!

stepping stones box hill, the national trust, box hill, walking the pilgrims way, the pilgrims way winchester to canterbury, long distance walks england, women walking solo

what do you mean I have to go up there?

At what appeared to be the 3rd flight of stairs (the guide doesn’t say how many steps are in the 2nd flight) I turned off and followed the path. “Later it climbs a little and soon is near a field (right)“. Again…hmmmm??? Nope, the field was to my left?? I checked mapmywalk and saw that I was headed very close to the river, closer than indicated on the map in the guide. So I walked back up the way I had come and started climbing the next flight of steps….and climbed and climbed and climbed. All the way I kept looking for this narrow path the guide talks about…and I couldn’t find anything. Further along in the guide he mentions “The path, running ahead and with pylons to the right, is on the line of the PW….” Well, no matter which way I looked at it, I could not find a path that would put the pylons on my right! Unless it was this one? Which was a National Trust nature trail?

box hill, national trust, walking the pilgrims way, the pilgrims way winchester to canterbury, long distance walks england, women walking solo

was this the way? it didn’t look like it. it did however look a lot like the path I fell down yesterday

So instead I just kept climbing and after about the 1000th step, steps that are in places so high that I had to lift my legs up individually under the knee with my hands …..and then.. I fell UP a step. A very hard fall that smashed my right shin, left me flat on my face and unable to get up – I just did not have the energy to lift myself up with the backpack on. Fortunately I didn’t fall BACKWARDS, and there was someone on hand to help me up. Seriously, I was exhausted by that stage. I simply couldn’t bear the thought of climbing anymore steps, but I had no choice….all I could do was just to continue going UP and up and up. There were some lovely trees to see….as a bonus LOL

stepping stones box hill, the national trust, box hill, walking the pilgrims way, the pilgrims way winchester to canterbury, long distance walks england, women walking solo

one of the benefits walking through the countryside…lots of beautiful old trees

More steps….

box hill, national trust, walking the pilgrims way, the pilgrims way winchester to canterbury, long distance walks england, women walking solo

more steps…..the gravel between was treacherously slippery

Finally after what felt like hours of climbing more steps that I ever want to see in front of me ever again. I reached the Box Hill viewpoint.

long distance walks england, walking the pilgrims way, the pilgrims way winchester to canterbury, women walking solo

what a view 🙂

Referring back to my instagram post: “Box Hill viewpoint: I’m beginning to hate this guide book.

I saw that the North Downs Way, which is so well marked, was in my vicinity. So I packed the guide book in my backpack,  and carried on walking….I figured that since most of the Pilgrim’s Way is largely a ‘made up’ route and much of it follows the North Downs Way which is well marked, whereas the Pilgrim’s Way isn’t marked at all….

After walking for a while I reached Salomon’s Memorial where I stopped to take a few photos and then carried on walking along some seriously tricky terrain I came out of the trees to a welcome sight before me…a restaurant!! Hoorah. It was 11:46 and the restaurant; Smith & Western opened at 12noon….I figured it would be a good idea to wait and have some proper food….I hadn’t had a proper solid meal for a couple of days. Good move. I had the MOST delicious veggie fajita, a pot of tea and a lovely cold coke. I don’t usually drink coke, but I was in dire need of sugar. After relishing my meal and resting my feet, after an hour I set off once again. Although to be honest, I have no idea how I actually ended up at this place….but boy am I glad I did.

Diving into the gloom of the trees, with the guide still packed away (?) I discovered that the terrain was really difficult with lots of tree roots, and steps…..more steps!!! Jeezuz. I was sick to death of climbing steps whether up or down. In all I was not a happy bunny. This day was turning out to be a nightmare.

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This last section was a true test of endurance. I’m still not sure how I managed….but I did. Trudging on I followed the markers crossing Reigate Hill

and passed the ‘Flying Fortress’ B17 WW2 memorial,

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This clearing in the trees was created at 5.42pm on 19 March 1945 when a B17 (G) aircraft, a ‘Flying Fortress’ creashed into the side of Reigate Hill, killing all 9 crew members on board

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the two wooden sculptures reflect the wing tips of the B17 that crashed

then Reigate Fort, which I briefly explored,

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crossed the Reigate Hill Footbridge and finally Gatton Park where I  stopped at the refreshment booth for an ice-cream and a drink, had a rest, a quick pit stop to the loo and after taking a photo of the views and the sundial I picked up what was now the Pilgrim’s Way again and set off towards Merstham and my bed for the night.

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what a fantastic view

Its been a day of sheer unadulterated endurance. But I’m nearly at my destination. Hoorah

Gatton Park is really beautiful and I so enjoyed walking along what was now fairly flat terrain.

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hoorah….no steps

On the way down the hill I passed the Millennium Stones; these awesome stones, built to resemble a megolithic stone circle, were created by Richard Kindersley during 1998 to 1999 to mark the double millennium from AD1 to AD2000. The first stone in the series is inscribed with the words from St John’s Gospel, “in the beginning the word was …”. The subsequent nine stones are carved with quotations contemporary with each 200 year segment, ending with the words of T S Eliot.

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Millenium Stones

After examining the circle and reading some of the inscriptions, I left the stones behind me and after crossing one last green field, I soon reached a more suburban area….nearly there 🙂

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at the end of this field was my destination…Merstham

Finally I was in Merstham. It was exactly 7pm and I was so ready for bed.

Thankfully the AirBnb wasn’t too far from where the path ended so in no time at all I found the venue and was greeted by two of the loveliest hosts I have ever met. They were so welcoming, made me a lovely mug of tea and provided some hot food. We had a lovely conversation and then with my eyes barely held open, I made my way upstairs, had a hot hot shower and hopped into bed. Bliss

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my wonderful bed at the Merstham AirBnb

My instagram post: Merstham: Well. All I can say is that today’s lesson was about not giving up despite the pain, the exhaustion, the frustration and climbing more steep steps than I ever expected or wanted or ever plan to do again 😂 😂 😂 Frankly I even amazed myself today at my capacity for endurance. But I can say for sure that I did not enjoy today’s walk. I am shattered, and walked so slowly that I’m surprised 🤨 🤨 that I actually got to Merstham at the time I did. My right hip was exceptionally painful today after yesterday’s fall and falling on the steps at Box Hill today didn’t help matters much. Getting to the top of the hills; Box Hill and Reigate, was excruciating but oh my gosh, the views… Stunning. I dosed myself up on 2000 mg of paracetamol over the day and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. However, arrive I did. My Airbnb hosts are absolutely lovely and we had a wonderful chat over a hot cuppa, I’ve wallowed in a scalding hot shower and now I’m horizontal on that fantastic bed. The route was meant to be 15.6 kms, I walked 18.9 kms which included about retracing my steps 3 times. I left Westhumble Station at 9.15 am and arrived at Merstham at 7pm with an hour for lunch and 3 short breaks. The guide book suggests it should take 3.5 hours  😂 😂 😂 😂 😂 on another planet maybe 🙄🙄🙄

Both the best and most challenging of days. Once again I had to dig deep to carry on, tried to ignore the pain of the 2 falls, enjoyed the views, appreciated good food and climbed more stairs that I ever want to EVER again LOL. But now I’m in a deliciously comfy bed, clean and refreshed….Goodnight…..

p.s. that bottle of water on the bed-stand….remained unopened.

In case you missed Day 6 of my pilgrimage from Winchester

Today video of scenes from Day 7

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