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The big map o the Caminos de Santiago

The Pilgrims Way

Camino(s) past & future
Some but not all, and other routes too.
#1
Has anyone on the forum walked The Pilgrims Way Winchester to Canterbury? If so I'd like to converse with you via pm.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2000, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
#4
Hi Waka

Restating the following, which is from a separate post that I made on this forum last year, and hope that it might be useful. I highly recommend walking the Pilgrims Way !

Walking The Pilgrims Way

For me, there are an insufficient number of superlatives to describe the Pilgrims Way, which in places is stunningly beautiful and begins and ends at two of the world's most magnificent Cathedrals. It may be useful to commence by relating my 12 year old daughter's near indifference to my proposal of walking the Pilgrims Way. For her, a route that does not culminate at the Cathedral of Santiago to Compostela cannot be a proper pilgrimage. Previously, she had the same view for walking the Camino San Salvador, commencing in Leon and ending in Oviedo. In the end, following the completion of what was an extremely arduous walk, she capitulated and accepted that the Camino de San Salvador had been a worthwhile experience. Moving forward in time with the proposal of walking of the Pilgrims Way, it was as if her previous change of heart had been forgotten and once more she was about to end a walk far from the steps of the Cathedral of Santiago to Compostela, and was almost indifferent to the planned walk, as after all what sort of pilgrimage walk can that be which is not ending at Santiago ?
The solution was to first walk the Pilgrims Way and after that to walk the Camino Inglés, commencing at La Coruna and ending at Santiago de Compestela.

I write this as a prelude so as to convey my daughter's hesitation prior to our leaving for Salisbury. Only after we had fulfilled our objective of reaching Canterbury, would the young pellegrina announce her the view that this had been one of the most beautiful of the walks that we have shared.

For myself, I could not agree more. My extremely scant recollections from when I first walked the Pilgrims Way, which was many years previous, had not recalled just how beautiful the scenery and nature of this walk is, as well as how stunning each of the Cathedrals are. We were extremely fortunate to have a warm welcome at each of the Cathedrals, and privileged to have the experience of being at Evensong with their wonderful choirs. If we had walked a week later, the youngsters that form such an important part of each of the choirs would have been on their summer holidays. With our walk coinciding with the last week of the school year, the youngsters were still in attendance.

The blessings and highlights from our walk are numerous and very difficult to place any order to. The weather on each of the days that we walked was favourable, even if my daughter had a feeling somewhere that she needed to bring out her rain cape to give it an airing, the truth is that the sun was out for the great majority of the time. We walked along paths through some wonderful countryside,

A word of caution about our walk. For many different reasons we were undertaking the entire 'venture' in a total of 11 days, which included 2 days for getting to Salisbury and 1 day for the return from Canterbury. This was a personal planning error, as 9 days for the actual walk between Salisbury and Canterbury is woefully inadequate to fully appreciate all that there is between.

For the following, all figures are taken from the app on the phone, and the distance / steps / floors is for the whole day, and so will include any distance walked and recorded after having reached the destination of that day


So, to the actual walk :

Day 1 : Wednesday June 28th. Travel to Salisbury
The main 'objective' of the day was a visit to the Cathedral and attending Evensong. We had the first stamp placed in the Credencial del Pelegrino as well as in The Pilgrims Way passports that we were carrying, and additionally, while stood at the stunning font in the centre of the Cathedral received a personal benediction for our walk. Who could have possibly wanted more ?

Day 2 : Thursday June 29th. Salisbury to Kings Sombourne
Started walking at 7:08am arrival at 4:14pm
Recorded distance 25.5kms / steps walked 37488 / flights climbed 16
As we were staying in the centre of Salisbury, it was a very short walk before we were on our intended route and the relatively easy exit from the city. It is not long before the city is left behind and there is an impressive view back towards the soaring steeple of the Cathedral, the tallest steeple in the UK and the second tallest in Europe. At this stage we were not yet on The Pilgrims Way, which commences at Winchester Cathedral, but walking The Clarendon Way, which links the Cathedrals of Salisbury and Winchester, and largely follows the River Itchen. This was not a very demanding days walk, and we had time to stop for Thai lunch in a pub in Broughton. We reached our destination, which was our overnight accommodation in a shepherds hut slightly outside Kings Sombourne.

Day 3 : Friday June 30th. Kings Sombourne to Winchester
Started walking at 6:35am arrival at 12:08pm
Recorded distance 31.8kms / steps walked 43906 / flights climbed 29
After retracing our route back to Kings Sombourne, we returned to the well marked Clarendon Way, passing the very curious Farley Mount monument to a horse named 'Beware Chalk Pit'. Perhaps because we missed a sign, our entry into Winchester had us a little disorientated, but we finally made it to our initial 'destination', the Hospital of St Cross, in the southern area of Winchester. This is a fascinating place, an alms house that dates back to 1132, and is the oldest charitable institution in the UK. We followed a tradition of asking for our 'Wayfarer's Dole', which is a small mug of beer along with some bread, served to us by one of 'The Brothers'. A wonderful tradition. We found our accommodation, left our backpacks behind and headed out to see what we could of Winchester, concentrating on the Cathedral, including Jane Austin's grave and the house where she spent the last of her days prior to her premature death and which is near the Cathedral. Once again, we had the great pleasure of being at Evensong, which was again followed by a personal benediction for our walk and the stamps being placed in our Credencial and Pilgrim Passport.

Day 4 : Saturday July 1st. Winchester to Alton
Started walking at 6:52am arrival at 5:44pm
Recorded distance 36.8kms / steps walked 52672 / flights climbed 16
With the completion the day before of The Clarendon Way, this was our first day walking on The Pilgrims Way. We did not have such an easy time of finding signage for The Pilgrims Way, though no problem with seeing plaques for other routes, and especially for St Swithun's Way, which largely follows that of The Pilgrims Way. While seeing a granite stone marking The Pilgrims Way set in the wall of the Church at Kings Worthy and another set in the pathway at St John's Church in Itchen Abbas, we saw very little that was indicating or marking the route, though plenty to mark other routes. This was another day that we unintentionally missed the route, and somehow went adrift. It was then that we had a surprise when asking for directions from locals ! "Never heard of The Pilgrims Way" was the response that we twice received from people who declared that they had lived in the area all their lives. Oh, help ! We eventually were reoriented, realising how accustomed we are to the yellow arrows and other indicators on the Caminos in Spain. We stopped for a sandwich lunch, eating this while sat listening to the pealing of the bells at St John's Church in New Alresford, which were being rung uninterrupted for 3 hours. Continuing, and as the day progressed and the heat from the sun increased it was a very welcome break that we had at the Church of St Nicholas in Bishops Sutton. Like St John's Church in the morning, this was open and with a stamp for the pilgrim passport as well as some light refreshments left for pilgrims. Stunning hospitality and very appreciated. Continuing, we passed through Chawton so as to see the house where Jane Austen lived, but lacked the energy to stop for long, so continued to find our accommodation in Alton. This had been a longer and more tiring day then envisaged, so the excellent supper and friendly 'host' at our AirBnb room was a welcome restorative, especially for the young pellegrina who finished off the day watching a Jane Austen film, which seemed very appropriate so close to where she lived.

Day 5 : Sunday July 2nd. Alton to Puttenham
Started walking at 6:58am arrival at 4:28pm
Recorded distance 35.6kms / steps walked 48751 / flights climbed 31
A good nights sleep allowed for us to feel refreshed as we left Alton, passed through the beautiful Upper and Lower Froyle. We looked in at the church near Froyle Park, and encouraged them to get a stamp for stamping the pilgrims passports ; this was not to be the only church along the way that we encouraged ! We stopped for mid-morning tea at the delightful Anchor Inn, before passing St Mary's Church in Bentley with its extraordinary yew tree in the churchyard. While the Church was open, there was no stamp ! All the while we are walking, we do not see signs for The Pilgrims Way, though plenty for the Watercress Way ! We avoid going into the centre of Farnham, and arrive at the beginning of the North Downs Way. This route significantly 'shadows' the route of The Pilgrims Way, but sadly waymarking for The Pilgrims Way is not in evidence. A beautiful walk took us to our destination that day of Puttenham. Our overnight stay was in a converted barn that is allegedly built over 200 years previously, and certainly felt like it ! The Church of St John the Baptist was almost next door, was open and had a stamp for the passport, so duly 'stamped-up' we continued to the pub for supper.

Day 6 : Monday July 3rd. Puttenham to Reigate
Started walking at 5:32am arrival at 7:56pm
Recorded distance 39.7kms / steps walked 58372 / flights climbed 156
We had known that this was going to be a long day, hence the early start, but had not imagined that it was going to be this long, nor that the climb up over the Hog's Back was going to be quite such a demand on the lungs ! It was, however, another day of walking through stunning scenery. The early part of the day took us past the Church of St Martha on the Hill, though the church was sadly closed. Quite stunning views and within the graveyard are the graves of Bernard Freyberg and his son Paul. The name of the father may be familiar - look it up for the story of an incredible account of one of the most decorated of men. We were more fortunate when passing St Barnabas, a church built by the Cubitt family to a design by Sir George Gilbert Scott, with a wealth of different stone and finishes. A very interesting church, but no stamp for the passport ! As the day advanced and we had had the fun of the stone crossing of the River Mole at the foot of Box Hill, we then had some real exercise to do. We negotiated our way up Box Hill, soon to be followed by the Buckland Hills, Colley Hill and Reigate Hill, and with our energy really flagging, it seemed to take forever before we arrived at our accommodation for the night, located on the outskirts of Reigate.

Day 7 : Tuesday July 4th. Reigate to Wrotham
Started walking at 7:28am arrival at 7:14pm
Recorded distance 35.9kms / steps walked 51099 / flights climbed 115
While knowing that today was going to be another 'monster day', we set out later then would have been best, but with a substantial breakfast consumed. This was another day walking through stunning landscapes - indeed walking through Nut Wood there are a number of frames set on posts that invite the person passing to look at the landscape through the frame, as if thinking of a Constable scene without the canvas. In Gatton Park we passed the impressive - at least for me - 'Millenium Stones' by Richard Kindersley. The rather splendid looking St Katharine's Church in Merstham was, sadly, closed so we continued on our path through the beautiful north Surrey countryside. We once again became adrift from The Pilgrims Way just after Titsey Place and walked the North Downs Way, and consequently missed passing Chevening Park. It also added quite a distance to what we walked, and it was quite late by the time we arrived at Wrotham and the place that we were staying for the night, which was an old coaching inn dating from the 14th century, though fortunately updated to the 21st century, so we headed straight for a shower before an excellent supper and finally heads on the pillow.

Day 8 : Wednesday July 5th. Wrotham to Aylesford
Started walking at 8:07am arrival at 4:04pm
Recorded distance 29.2kms / steps walked 42031 / flights climbed 70
While where we stayed was just a few steps from St George's Church, the church was sadly solidly closed, so we continued and yet once more, came adrift from The Pilgrims Way and followed the North Down Way, with our necessity to make the crossing of the River Medway, but did this at Rochester and not at Snodland, and by doing so I suspect that we once again walked a few extra kms. The destination for the day was The Friars in Aylesford, a wonderful and peaceful Carmelite priory dating from the mid-13th Century. It is an extraordinary place and one where I have a desire to return to one day, as a single overnight stay felt quite inadequate. Although the food offering was rather basic, it nonetheless felt wonderful to be having our supper in the magnificent Pilgrims Hall.

Day 9 : Thursday July 6th. Aylesford to Wye
Started walking at 5:30am arrival at 5:00pm
Recorded distance 43.3kms / steps walked 57372 / flights climbed 28
Once again, knowing that we had quite a distance to cover, we left early. With much of the mornings walk passing along road that takes its name from the walk - 'Pilgrims Way' - we did not go adrift. There were even a couple of old road signs where the scallop shell featured along with the 'Pilgrims Way'. We also found another church, All Saints in Hollingbourne that was open and which had a stamp for the passport, before stopping for tea and ice-cream at a delightful pub on the green at Boughton Lees, a necessary stop on what was possibly the hottest day of our walk. From there it was not too far to Wye, which is where we spent our final night before Canterbury. A very pleasant town, we hardly slept during the night due to the high temperature, and we clearly were not the only guests in need of taking cool showers during the middle of the night.

Day 10 : Friday July 7th. Wye to Canterbury
Started walking at 8:04am arrival at 2:21pm
Recorded distance 28.1kms / steps walked 38347 / flights climbed 30
After a very satisfactory breakfast, we set out for the final day towards Canterbury. We were soon passing through Godmersham Park, with its historic connection with Jane Austen, adding to the other obvious Jane Austen connections that we had had in Hampshire. We then passed through the magnificent village of Chilham, with its impressive Chilham Castle. We stopped for a while at the Church, where they were raising money by way of a coffee and cake offering, and we willingly obliged. There is a curious sculpture in the town, titled 'Pilgrims Milestone' about which I had mixed views. There were no mixed views about the town, which possibly ranks as one of the prettiest in Kent. After Chilham we passed through Chartham Hatch, but deviated at that point to join the path along the Stour River, which seemed refreshing to us on another warm day. It is a beautiful walk on the river bank, and eventually the tower of Canterbury Cathedral came into view. It would still be a little while before we were within the town and at the Cathedral Gate and passing through to the precincts. There are generally a range of personal feelings that arise at the culmination of any pilgrimage, and this was no exception. We had covered the distance from Salisbury in a relatively short time, and certainly a lot faster then I would recommend. We had had many positive experiences, passed through stunning countryside, seen many magnificent trees - Cathedrals to nature as a good friend has titled such magnificent trees, been blessed with stunning weather and arrived at Canterbury Cathedral as originally planned. What we had not been aware of was just how tremendously warm our reception would be. We were the very honoured 'guests' on what is quite a special day in the Canterbury Cathedral calendar, as we had arrived on the day that celebrates the enshrinement/translation of St Thomas Becket. This feast of the translation of St Thomas Becket commemorates the translation of the martyr’s relics on 7th July 1220, when they were moved from the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral to a new shrine at the East end of the Cathedral. Many years later the shrine and the remains were destroyed by Henry VIII, and today the place of the former shrine is marked by a permanently lit candle. Today the 7th July is recognised with a special evensong culminating in the assembled congregation moving to the place of the Martyrdom and the former shrine. It was a very moving service, which was followed by a personal blessing being given to us, for our safe arrival at Canterbury and for our planned continued walk to Santiago de Compestela.

The final detail of the day was our overnight stay at the Cathedral Gate Hotel, where I had booked our room some time previously when planning the walk, and had reserved the bedroom with views that face straight on to the Cathedral. We lay on the bed looking out of the open window on to one of the most splendid Cathedrals in the world and felt truly blessed.

It seems superfluous to write about the walk from La Coruña to Santiago de Compestela that we undertook following our completing The Pilgrims Way, but it was a contrast in many ways. I was not that impressed by much of the more recently built La Coruña, a town that I had not visited previously, although the old part of the town is charming and the Igrexa de Santiago (Church of Santiago) in La Coruña is delightful. We had a relatively easy hop, skip and a jump to cover the distance between La Coruña and Santiago de Compestela, and had another of our 'privileged' moments, being able to participate at evening mass at the small chapel which is just beyond the albergue at Bruma (Hospital de Bruma). This may not seem that big a deal, except that mass is apparently celebrated in the chapel on only one evening each month. And finally, in the same way as it is for many, cannot believe that I will ever tire of arriving and being at beautiful and uplifting Santiago de Compestela.

Overall, a wonderful experience walking The Pilgrims Way, though a total mystery to me as to why there are so few who do it. Poor signage ? No albergues for accommodation ? Would personally love for this amazing pilgrimage route to be receiving a lot more attention and devotees, as it merits far greater numbers.
 
#5
Hi there Waka

I set off from Winchester in winter 2006 amidst flurries of snow. It was a grand experience all round. I carried copies of Venerable Bede's Historia Bk1 and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in my pockets wearing winter woolies and rain gear for physical comfort. Arriving in Canterbury there was so much to see: the Cathedral; Thomas à Becket's shrine; The Canterury Tales Museum and also the museum of the French Hugenots who sought refuge in Canterbury before sailing to the New World. After a day or two in Canterbury I continued on to Dover and explored Dover castle and the secret wartime tunnels.

Enjoy!
 

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