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.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Heading South, trying to avoid too many distractions!

At last I am heading, in as straight a line as I am able to, southwards.  Since my last post I have gone through the magnificent Lakes District, met some wonderfully friendly, generous, and helpful people and seen some very beautiful scenery, along with some historical sites.

Let me begin with the historical sites, or a couple of them at any rate, grave sites.  The first one was in the delightful village of Caldbeck where I visited the grave of John Peel.  John Peel must have been a bit of a character. He spent his days riding around the countryside hunting foxes with his hounds, leaving his poor wife at home looking after his 13 children!  He died in a hunting accident at the age of 78 and apparently thousands turned out for his funeral.  This was a full circle moment for me because at home I have a photo of the grave of John Graves, John Peel's friend and the writer of the lyrics of the song "D'ye ken John Peel", which I took last time I was in Hobart.  John Graves was a maker of the grey Herdwick wool fabric that John Peel's coat was made of ("in his coat so grey") but he left his wife and took off to Tasmania where he lived the life of a " ne'er do well".
 The grave of John Peel.
 William Wordsworth's grave along with many of his family.
Inside St. Oswald's church at Grasmere where the Wordsworth family worshipped.
Dove cottage, near the village of Grasmere, where Wordsworth lived with his sister Dorothy, and later his wife Mary and her sister.  They left for larger accommodation after their third child was born.

I left Carlisle in the sunshine, following the Cumbria Way along the River Caldew.  Leaving the city I was interested to see all the flood mitigation works - flood gates installed in numerous places, and at one point I saw an early warning system for floods.

The path followed the river most of the way to Caldbeck, though I jumped out to the road a few times for ease.  At about 5.00 pm I was giving myself a severe talking to for rejoining the path for the last 4kms as I slipped and slithered down a narrow, overgrown, muddy path - in the dark!  I consoled myself with the knowledge that the village was within a good "cooee" distance if I needed help, but fortunately didn't!
Leaving Carlisle the sun shone.
The Cumbria Way, along the River Caldew, also doubles at times as a cycle path.
The church in Dalston, where I had a sing.  So many of the churches have lych gates for shelter, but the buildings themselves don't have verandahs.
After Dalston the Cumbria Way went through farm land.......
.....and as I moved along the mountains of the Lake District got closer.
Looking back at the village of Caldbeck.

It was my plan to follow the Cumbria Way for another day, before turning off and picking up a series of back roads.  This second day was well and truly in the Lakes District, and the weather promised to be fine, with a touch of sun.  It began well.  I had climbed the mountain called High Pike so I could get fantastic views in all directions.  The trouble is, as I reached the summit so did the fog, and there were no views to be had.
The view from High Pike.  All that effort and all I could see was mist!
On the summit of High Pike, about to have a sugar boost!
Looking back at High Pike.  If you look carefully you can see the cairn and stool on the peak.  The mist cleared after I descended!
After Lingy Hut the path became increasindownhill.y / boggy.
Lingy Hut - now a bothy, where one can sleep, but was originally a shepherds hut.
The path down from Lingy hut was hard to pick through rocks, moss, and heather.  The directions were to follow the beck (stream), so at least the direction was straightforward as I headed downhill

After leaving Keswick, heading towards the village of Grasmere, I followed the quiet road going along the edge of Thirlmere, a reservoir.  As I got to the far end of the Lake I saw for the first time the very special Herdwick sheep of this region which are very adaptable to the mountains.  I used to buy and knit with Herdwick wool when I lived in New Zealand nearly forty years ago.  It has taken that long for the penny to drop that this was wool from a type of sheep - not a brand!

It was on this leg of the journey the my path crossed the renowned long distance path, Wainwright's Coast to Coast.
Looking back towards the village of Keswick, on the shores of Derwent water.
Lake Thirlmere (above & below)

Herdwick sheep.  From a distance these sheep look like they have overcoats on them, and look as if they are smiling!  The lambs are black when they are born, the grey fleece being an adult colour.

After leaving Keswick I followed the coffin trail, though once it was called the "corpse road".  This was a path running more or less parallel to to the road, slightly higher, and therfore a little more undulating.  It is called the coffin path because it was used to carry the coffins from the village of Ambleside to the consecrated ground of St. Oswald's Church in Grasmere.  This was not the only " corpse road" in the region, and as I walked I had all sorts of pictures in my mind, as there some quite steep little nips up and down!

In the village of Ambleside there are THIRTEEN outdoor stores, and it was in one of those that I decided to buy a new pack.  My Aarn pack had straps that were wearing through and was no longer comfortable.  The new pack is working a treat.
This is not just an ordinary stone.  It is in fact a "coffin stone" or a "resting stone", one of a number placed  along the way on which the coffin was placed as the bearers rested.

An interesting "bridge" at Ambleside.
Lake Windermere (above and below) is perhaps one of the most well known of the lakes in the Lake District.  Very beautiful, but even in the off season still busy with tourists.

I have met many kind and generous people in recent days.  Coming off High pike and Lingy hut I realised that I would not be able to make it into Keswick in daylight.  Walking in the dark doesn't bother me if it is along roads or paths where there is a defined track, but if I have a choice I don't like walking on indistinct paths out in fields or on mountains in the dark, which is what would have happened if I'd continued that day.  Instead I walked out to the car park near the road and got a lift with a lady her went out of her way to take me around the mountain.  The next day another vehicle stopped in a parking area as I was clinging to the walls of a very dangerous road (but here there was no alternative).  She too had gone out of her way by turning around and coming back to me to see if I wanted a lift about a mile down the road into Grasmere.  Was I glad to get into her car and off that road!

My third angel/s in as many days was Heather and her husband Alan.  Heather designed the Pacer Poles which I use.  They invited me to stay at their place, collected me from Windermere, fed me and shared their home with me, and helped me plan the next few days on quiet back roads.  Heather came out with me the next day to check my pacer pole technique, and set me on the right path.  It was so nice to meet the designer of such a special bit of equipment, and a lovely interlude.
Heather and I heading off, with Lake Windermere in the background.

After leaving Lake Windermere I headed towards, and walked down the Lyth Valley to Gilpin Bridge.  From there I headed onwards towards Lancaster, joining, and walking the towpath of the Lancaster Canal at Carnforth.  I stop at pubs on the way for a coffee or something to eat, and while there I chat to the locals about the best way to move onwards.  At the Cross Keys pub in Milnthorpe I met Liz and Rupert who live not far from London.  I spent a delightful couple of hours chatting to them, and it turned out that for some months, years ago, Liz had actually stayed in Stirling (South Australia - not Scotland!).  Small world.
Leaving Gilpin Bridge.

Walking towards Lancaster I passed Levens Hall, famous for its topiary garden.  Unfortunately it was hidden behind a high wall.  I actually stayed in Lancaster an extra day, caught the bus back to Levens Hall to see the gardens, open for free.  Unfortunately, it was not the topiary garden, though I did look over the wall from the top of the double decker bus.  Walking along the Lancaster canal made for easy walking, which is just as well as the last three miles were in the dark!


Levens Hall, and a glimpse of some of the topiary, much of which is hundreds of years old.

I stayed the last night before Lancaster in a gorgeous village of Beetham.  I'm now in limestone territory, and the buildings here were of grey limestone.  The special thing for me was that my room looked out on the church, its clock chiming every quarter hour, and striking the hour, all through the night, somewhat muted compared to places in France and Spain, but it made me feel quite at home!
 The Wheatsheaf Hotel, my place of abode in Beetham.
Looking across the valley on the way to Carnforth.
The Lancaster Canal (above and below).

Friday, 21 November 2014

Hadrian's Wall.

Over a week has gone by since my last post, a week in which I began, and have finished, walking Hadrian's Wall Path from Newcastle on the east of England to Carlisle, in the west.

Of course this path is absolutely steeped in history, following what remains of a wall almost 2,000 years old.  It is a wall begun by the Roman Emporer, Hadrian, built to keep out the "barbarians" of the north.  It went from the coast east of Newcastle to the west Coast beyond Carlisle, though I only walked from city to city, and not coast to coast.

The wall was built on a natural barrier called the Whin Sill, a formidable series of "crags" of hard igneous dolorite rock, with their sheer, near vertical, drops.  The wall is 80 Roman miles long which equates to around 135kms.  It bagan life near Carlisle as a turf wall, but with parts of it being eroded quite quickly, it was changed to stone.  The stone wall was around 3 metres wide and up to 5 - 6 metres high.  Some parts of the wall that survive are 3 metres high.  Sadly, there are great swathes of wall that no longer exist, or are now at ground level.  This is partly due to the plundering of the beautifully uniform squared stones for making other buildings and the dry stone walls marching across the paddocks, oops I mean fields!  Furthermore, the stones were also plundered and ground for road surfacing.

Because of this plundering of the stone, the gaps in the wall mean that those following the line of what was the wall now have numerous obstacles to overcome.  As walkers we are not allowed to walk along the top of the wall because this would damage the historic monument.  However, this rule does not apply to cows and sheep, and so, although steps have been taken to protect the path with such things as massive flagstones to walk on, stock also uses them too.  This means they are slippery and messy, but worse still, at the end of the flags there is inevitably a massive puddle of slurry, needing skill, time, and patience to negotiate if one doesn't want to sink past the ankles in it!  Despite using patience trying to weave a path through the quagmires though, there were times, inevitably, when one took speed as the easiest way to negotiate the mess, hoping that a quick sprint through meant there was no time to sink too deep!

Despite the slurry, the ladder stiles, the slippery flagstones, and the very slippery rock stiles over walls though, seeing the ruins along the path was well worth it.  There were the ruins of turrets, mile castles, and forts.  The forts are massive, and the explanations along the way extensive and informative.  Like Roman roads, this wall went more or less in a straight line, which of course means that it went up and down, sometimes steeply, across the countryside, though never really high, 345 metres being the highest point.

Mud, slurry, fog, and rain not withstanding, this was an enjoyable way, seeing part of history which I only had a little knowledge of.  This wall was an incredible accomplishment, and I'm glad I've seen it almost in its entirety.

From here I am heading South towards the Lake District, though I am only going to skirt across the top corner of it.  I will now try and go in more or less a straight line - enough of the meandering back and forth across the country.  More soon!
One of the numerous bridges crossing the Tyne at Newcastle, with the millennium dome on the opposite bank.
Travelling along the Tyne the signs of previous industries are very evident.
The path on day one from Newcastle.
This statue is entitled "Yesterday, today and tomorrow", the children on the pit pony representing the future, the miner, the past.
The one remaining glass making cone at Lemington.  Glass making was a thriving industry here once, and there were four cones.
The former pumping station where George Stephenson was in charge from 1798 to 1801.
After the industry of the River Tyne, day 2 is much more rural, if foggy!
There is a photo point just past the sign, but it was hard to see much more than 50 metres ahead.
This photo shows where the path goes, and how one needs to concentrate to stick on it.  This part of the path is heading to the wall in the top right corner.
Day Three, and another foggy one.  The bridge at Chollerford.
Chesters, just outside of Chollerford is a Roman fort, with an extremely well preserved bath house.  This is the latrines at the bath houses.
The path, in the fog.
Housesteads is the next Roman fort on the path, and on the way up to the fort I passed these two Jackdaws.
This is the grain store at Housesteads.
The Hadrian's Wall Path coincides with the Pennine Way for a couple of miles and here it turns off.  Note one of the numerous stiles in the centre of the picture. 

One of the "crags" along the way.
Sycamore Gap.  Note the stone steps going down, and at the top of the hill you will see a cow which you can see in the photo below.
The tree at Sycamore Gap is known as "Robin Hood's tree" as it featured in one of the Robin Hood movies.
The path heads to the distant crags.
Here you can see the steepness of the Whin Sil crags.
Looking back towards a place called Steel Rigg.
A feathered friend along the way.
The view at the highest point of the path, and a poignant memorial to a soldier who lost his life in Afghanistan.
The wall stretches on, in the sun for a change.
My boots are actually black, not brown, and you can see the mud up the legs of  my over trousers.
A mile castle, and the wall beyond.
On this stretch of the path, the wall was destroyed by quarrying of the Whin Sill, considered ideal for road making.
The last of the hilly section of the wall path.
The ruins of Thirkwell Castle.  I met Jeremy and David here (walking up to investigate), and then had a pleasant evening with them later.

The last section of wall before Carlisle.......
.......and on this day it is a relief to have more gates than stiles......
.......though more slippery steps to descend!
This foot bridge was lifted into place by helicopter because of the archeological sensitivity of the area.
Heading to the town of Walton......
......followed by some wooly friends.
The last day, heading into Carlisle had sunshine, but care was still needed on these flagstones!
The path for the last few miles into Carlisle more or less followed the River Eden.
Carlisle Cathedral.