A circuitous route to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Stage One beginning in Munich, Germany ending in Jerusalem - traveling through Austria, Italy, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Israel. Second stage from Vienna, through Germany, Czech Republic, Holland, Belgium, France and Spain.
Final destination - Santiago!

Post Script: The changeable situation in Jerusalem has led to a change in plans. The Rome to Jerusalem leg of this journey has been changed to the 'End to End' in the UK, after which the journey will resume as above in Vienna.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Christmas in Gloucester ............

Well Christmas has come and gone, and though my food intake on the day was a bit different and somewhat scanty, I had a feast of music while in Gloucester.

Last year on my winter Camino in Spain my Christmas dinner consisted of bread and cheese, and tea was an omelette sandwich.  This year I continued on the bread and cheese theme with added meat, having just the one meal late in the afternoon.  I mentioned to the hotel that I was going to help myself to a bread roll to have for lunch, but they offered to do some cold meat and cheese for me.  I got a very pleasant surprise when I removed the foil, discovering a huge serve of cold ham, turkey, and cheeses, complete with cranberry sauce and mustard.  Very tasty, and I certainly didn't starve!

How did I spend Christmas?  I went to Church three times, hearing some wonderful music and one especially good Christmas morning sermon given by the Bishop of Tewkesbury.  I even had a chat to him after the service and it was only after someone addressed him as "your grace" that I realised maybe I should have been bowing and scaping, instead of treating him like the bloke next door!.  Oh well, you can't take these uncouth Australians anywhere!

Last year I went to midnight mass (Catholic) in a little chapel in the hotel, where I listened to a wheezy (harmonium) organ playing occasionally, and a nun coughing continually in between the sung responses.  This year at midnight mass (Anglican) the organ thundered, so loud I could feel it at times.  That service had the girls choir, whereas the earlier carol service, and the Christmas day service, had the treble choir.  The carol service was "sardine packed", and even though I got there nearly an hour early the only seat I could find was on a stone bench against the wall.  The music at all these services was splendid, and I especially enjoyed Rutter's Shepherds Pipe Carol, though I didn't appreciate quite so much the Messiaen organ work.
The tomb of King Edward II is in Gloucester Cathedral which was to become a pilgrimage site.    
Gloucester Cathedral basking in the Christmas Day sunshine.
 On Christmas Day the sun shone so brightly through the stained glass windows it threw jewel like light on all it touched, the people, the floor, and the magnificent Norman pillars.

Christmas day was crisp, cold and sunny.  I spent several hours wandering around the docks, stopping at the little Mariner's Church on the way.  This church was open and empty, as was the little upright piano, and so I spent a lovely half hour playing through the hymn book - the only music there.

Not many people were around, and the only accents I heard were Eastern European.  Boxing day though was different, people out for the sales, but also families out testing their presents - children on roller skates, skate boards, and cycles.
The little Mariners Church, Gloucester Dock's.

Gloucester has wonderful docks.  Most of the warehouses flanking the docks were once used by grain merchants.  After the repeal of the corn laws in the mid 1800,s these docks were a hive of activity, with sailors from many countries arriving on the vessels used for transporting the grain.
The wharehouse buildings at the docks have numerous small windows.  Originally they would have been open spaces, allowing for plenty of ventilation.  This whole area was once a hive of activity, and has undergone a transformation as a residential area and part of it as an outlet shopping precinct.

This gives a good idea of how close the docks are to the city centre.  The cathedral, in the distance, is about a 10 minute walk away.
An ornate half timbered building, now a bar and restaurant.
There are a number of old churches in the centre of Gloucester, this being one of them.
This tower marks "the cross", the centre of Gloucester.
The streets of Gloucester had festive decorations strung across them.
I stayed here while in Gloucester.  The New Inn (above & below) is a grade 1 heritage listed building and is the best preserved mediaeval courtyard Inn in Britain.  It was from the balcony of this Inn, in 1553, that Lady Jane Grey was declared Queen after the death of Edward VI.

I'm so glad that I made it to Gloucester for Christmas.  It is an easy city to get around, with so much history.  The biggest treat of all was to hear such wonderful music in the magnificent Cathedral.  

Friday, 26 December 2014

From Worcester

Worcester was an interesting time.  I visited the "Tudor house" where a lady regaled me with stories of characters and icons of the town.  When I think of Worcester my mind goes to the China.  I spent quite a few hours going through the Royal Worcester China museum, sounds boring I know, but was actually very interesting.  Sadly though, the China is now longer manufactured here, but has been outsourced to somewhere in Asia.

As a child we used to have what we called hot sauce, otherwise known as Lea and Perrin's Worcestershire sauce.  It wasn't till my visit here that the penny dropped that this is where it comes from!  The sauce is still shipped all around the world, and apparently there are only four people at the factory who know the recipe.  Worcester was also famed for its cloth and for glove making.
People reading this of a certain age  would know of Vesta Tilley and the Tilley girls (dancers).  She was born in Worcester.  We lived next door to one of the original Tilley girls when we lived in New Zealand, a tiny wee lady well into her nineties at that time.

Leaving Worcester I followed the River Severn and back lanes to Kempsey, only five miles down the road.  This short distance meant that I didn't have to make an early start and so I went to church, making an unintended grand entrance!  On the Friday evening I wangled my way into the carol service at the cathedral.  It was ticket (free) only, but I turned up announced that I was an Australian and had only just arrived and thus didn't have chance to get a ticket.  They let me in and I got a seat right down the front where I was able to see the choir and the conductor, and was treated to some beautiful Christmas music.  Thus on Sunday I decided to attend the only Methodist church in the city which turned out to be very similar to the central mission in Adelaide.

Unbeknownst to me the entrance to the church was at the front, and as I had got caught up with the wheelchair basketballers taking a selfie, which made me about 5 mins late, I made a very prominent entrance complete with my pack etc!  I had hoped I'd know the hymns, but apart from Silent Night that was not to be.  I didn't even know the Charles Wesley one!  Still, I was made very welcome and eventually hit the road at midday.

I started by following the River Severn, but when I got to the muddy part I decided to give it a miss and headed off on some back roads, taking the long way but the day was so pleasant I didn't mind.

I have become a great fan of the garden centres which I have passed along the way, for three reasons, none of which are connected to plants or gardens.   The first is that they are on the way and don't require me to detour to access them (mind you, it could be said that in many cases I'm already on a detour!), the second is access to toilet facilities, and the third is that they are generally a source of tasty, cheap food (and coffee).  They usually also have WiFi, and on several occasions I have been able to Skype family.  On this day I managed to get a Sunday Roast at the garden centre (I'm also a fan of the Sunday lunch, a roast - available at most pubs on Sundays, and as I discovered, even the garden centre's!).

The next day, just as I was feeling quite jaded, I came across another garden centre.  Coffee and a snack was the boost I needed for the last few kms into Tewkesbury, an absolutely delightful little town.  Apart from the lovely half timbered buildings peppering the village it's claim to fame is its magnificent abbey which was across the road from my very old hotel.

The night before the locals couldn't really help me with suggested paths to take, and so using google maps I wound my way along back lanes.  Having seen how muddy the Severn Way was I decided that, though it might be more direct, it would take considerably longer to slip and slide along this way.  I still had about six miles to get to Tewkesbury, when I came across a couple weeding a future Christmas tree patch.  They gave me directions to follow the footpath across the fields thereby cutting about two miles off my route.  I had to negotiate a couple of mud patches, growing several inches as it clung to my boots, but it was considerably shorter.

The nezt day I decided to follow a man's advice that I met in the pub and follow a little of the Severn Way.  Negotiating the mud at the beginning was fairly easy, and then the path kept pretty well to a sort of levee bank with fairly firm ground underfoot............. until a fence with a locked gate.  The only way through the fence was down by the river through a little pedestrian gate,  with the only access an ankle deep mud puddle!  Needless to say, after that I stuck to the back lanes heading into Gloucester, stopping at the beautiful saxon parish church of St Mary at Deerhurst, where I had a good sing!  The. River Severn is prone to flooding, and it is quite high a present.  Apparently last year it flooded with many buildings (including a pub I stopped in) being inundated.

I have enjoyed spending a few days rest here in Gloucester, but will tell you more of that in the next post.  I have done well over 1,500 kilometres, and now feel as if I am on the homeward stretch.

Worcester Cathedral (above photos)
Heading out of Worcester along the River Severn.  The tall spire on the right is all that remains of a church, and is known as "the glovers needle", in reference to the glove making industry that once flourished in this city.
Looking back at Worcester from the lock, and below at the bridge crossing the marina.

A foot bridge crossing the Severn.
The lovely hotel I stayed in at Tewkesbury.
Tewkesbury abbey interior (above and below).

A rather gorgeous Nativity Scene inside Tewkesbury Abbey.
These Gurney furnaces, now converted to gas, are found in many public buildings.
Tewkesbury Abbey exterior (above and below).

Along the Severn Way.........
..........with some mud to negotiate at the beginning of this stretch.

The way then follows across what is basically the flood plain, but along here it is quite firm........ 
....... but here the river had risen to such an extent that getting through this mud puddle was quite tricky!
Here I walked into Deerhurst (you can just see the church in the trees in the background), and follow back lanes the rest of the way.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Walking through Shropshire

Since my last post it has been quite a week.  It has been a week of walking through the very beautiful countryside of Shropshire, a week where I was privileged to have the company of Charlotte for a few days, and a week that saw my birthday come and go.

Charlotte caught the train from her home in Stirling (in Scotland) and met me in the village of Craven Arms.  For three days the two of us, both from Stirling, but from different countries, walked the back lanes and hills of Shropshire.
Christmas decorations are everywhere.  This post box with a hat on was at Bishops Castle.......
......and we spotted this garden ornament dressed for the festive season as we were leaving Ludlow.
Christmas markets are in many villages and in Ludlow this lovely lady was buying mistletoe (£3 a "bunch").  She hangs mistletoe in her house every year because her grandmother told her that by doing that good fortune would follow the householder!
Even the food is festive.  A brace of pheasants was £1.50 from this butcher in Craven Arms.  Charlotte was wishing she could carry them home at that price.

For the three days that Charlotte walked with me we followed the back lanes that showed on "Mr Google".  However, this first day we had about a mile of walking on a busier main road, before heading down the lanes.  At the end of the first lane we came to the little hamlet of Onibury, complete with some thatched roofed houses, and the very old church of St Michael.
A thatched cottage in Onibury.........
.......and outside the church, next to the Lych gate, and sheltered by a giant tree, this simple little Nativity scene stood.
I was intrigued by the aged and weather beaten timber at the entrance to the porch of the church.

The village of Ludlow was a delight.  From to the old Victorian grandstand at the race course to the even older half timbered houses in the village itself.  Because it was such a short day of walking we had time to browse the town, though we didn't go into the castle.  
The Victorian grandstand at the race course.
This man was using willow to make baskets, a traditional craft of this region.
Ludlow castle.
We stayed at The Feathers hotel in Ludlow.  A lovely place to mark my birthday!

We spent a leisurely morning wandering around Ludlow, before following the flat back lanes to the village of Tenbury Wells.  Again, we arrived with lots of time to spare and enjoyed wandering the streets.   Our hotel was the Ship Inn, with the innkeeper being an 85 yr old gent.

This is hop growing territory and along the way we have seen quite a few fields with hop frames.  I was surprised at how high the hops must grow.  The frames are really quite high, and we saw vast paddocks (oops - fields) of them on one stretch.

On the third day of this section we followed a lane running more or less parallel to the river.  We had the bonus of no traffic as road works were in progress and so we had the road to ourselves until we got to Rochford, where the occasional vehicle started to come past us, including a trailer towed by a tractor laden with young farmers out on a shoot.  From then on our journey was punctuated by the percussion of gunfire.  Then, further on, there was even more percussion sound effects as we passed another larger group heading into the fields for a shoot.
The pump house at Tenbury Wells.  They tried to turn this into a spa town at one point, and this stylish pump house is a legacy of that.
I loved the openness of this part of Shropshire, while Charlotte on the other hand appreciated the hills we walked through the following day.
Hop frames.
The sun really highlighted the green in the fields.
The 12th century St Michael's Church, Rochford.
A tree laden with mistletoe.
The shoot.

We stopped at a farm shop to have a refreshment break before heading up the hill to catch a bus to Worcester.  Fortunately we allowed plenty of time to go the one and a half miles, because after we had been going for a long time I checked the map, and we were on the wrong road.  We motored up that hill, breaking into the occasional jog, and made it to the bus stop with about five minutes to spare!

Why was I catching a bus you ask?  I had studied the maps the previous night and was unable to find an appropriate place to stop where there was available accommodation.  It was therefore simpler to go into Worcester for the night and then head back and walk from where we had stopped the previous day.  This meant that Charlotte could have a shower in my room before catching her train home, and we were able to go to the Cathedral together and have a look around.

The next day I walked the bit I missed, following the River Severn along the muddy, slippery Severn Way for some of it, before heading back to Worcester for a rest day - but more of that later.
It was after this bridge that we missed a crucial turn, and followed the wrong road.  The bonus was that I had a shorter day the next day.
Worcester Cathedral lit at night.
 Following the River Severn, along the Severn Way (above and below)

The view across to the hills, where we made our mistake yesterday.