Day 4 – Hot! Hot! Hot! – Eynsford to Gravesend – 12.5 miles

May 28, 2018
Our morning started leisurely with a continental breakfast at the Castle Hotel where we were staying.


We had to wait for Jeff to pick up our luggage, when the car came and it was a new driver who lived closer to this area. He works for Jeff, his name is Yosef, but he told us we could call him Jeff 2. We knew Eynsford Castle was nearby and decided to see it on our way out of town as long as it was in the right direction, pacing ourselves for the day. Google led us to it, literally across the street from us, a five minute walk.

If you can, zoom in and read this information. This is a Norman Castle probably built between 1085-87. Significant in that it has not been altered.

Looking down from the top


We walked back towards our hotel to the main road out of town and began the most interesting experience as far as mapping that I have known. Brian was the hero of the day with his navigational skills and use of the GPS system on the on-line English Ordinance Survey maps. He was able to get us off every street and highway possible by finding the foot paths that would keep us going in the right direction. It is amazing here that you can walk across private land. Brian found foot paths through fields, pastures with horses, cows and sheep, parks, along a river, agriculture fields (my favorite was a strawberry field that looked like a dead end) and a bike path along the freeway. We would have never known this alternative route was possible; some of the footpaths practically hidden.

The day started very pleasant, even though we were twice warned that it was going to be a hot, hot, hot day. In fact during breakfast, the telly reported that this would be the hottest day of the year so far. I started the day in shorts, short-sleeved shirt with a thin long-sleeved shirt over it for the cooler morning air.

I see these everywhere but this was along the river.



So many trees and bushes that have blossoms they cover the underbrush. So many sweet smells.

Railway bridge

We walked through a quaint little mill town where the old mill had been turned into modern apartments or condos.


We walked on country roads where the bushes were prickly and the locals were friendly, waving to us as they passed, pushing us into thorns.

Then one of my favorite parts of the day. Brian found an alternative to running across the busy M25 (major thoroughfare).   The GPS led us to a large strawberry field.We entered the field and walked and walked straight toward the freeway not seeing anything but the field and the freeway at the end of it. It was getting hot and we needed a break. We kept walking hoping for some way to get us on the other side of M25. I was singing “Strawberry Fields Forever” as we trudged on the hot clumps of soil beneath our feet. But . . . At the end of the field that we could not see until we came upon it was a gate that lad to a bike/pedestrian path that ran right beside the thoroughfare.

M25

Next to the thoroughfare

It was noon and we had been walking for about an hour in the hot hot hot sun with a humidity that was unbearable. I was  beginning to slow to a pitter patter. We were looking for a pub or a place to rest. I wasn’t hungry but wanted some shelter from the sun; I’d seen no shade for over an hour. After walking along the freeway on the bike path, we crossed over to the north side and found a bike path. About 1:00 p.m. we both needed to sit down and rest; we found a bench along the bike path.

After a half of an hour break, we were back on the shadeless bike path looking for something to eat. It was 2:30 when we found a cafeteria-style restaurant. Now I was hot, too full and couldn’t breathe from the humidity. My legs felt like leg weights; I could barely pick them up and my calves were starting to cramp. But I just kept walking knowing we were less than three miles from our destination, afraid to slow down and rest, By 4:30 we reached our hotel, I thought I would cry I was so happy, We entered the lobby, literally soaking wet.

Along the bike path


It was a had day physically because of the heat, but I saw so much, and the navigation so unique that it was fun. I can’t wait for tomorrow to see what it will hold. Hopefully not another hot! Hot! Hot! Day.

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Day 3 – Seven Oaks (Halstead) to Eynsford – 6 miles

May 27, 2018

Because of getting Lee to the airport and me staying with the luggage at the 7 Hotel Diner, it was a late start. Brian escorted Lee to Gatwick to make sure she got behind security and safely on her way. We had a late breakfast at the diner in the hotel, a wanna-be American 50’s diner with all the rock and roll memorabilia, including an Elvis statue  and  the BEST ever American rock and roll music in the background . We started our short walk at noon again on a busy road (highway?), but when we turned off, we entered a quiet wooded area, though still on a country road, not a trail.


We walked through quiet rolling hills close to small farms and farm houses. The mercury and humidity were rising and the shade was most welcomed.

Our goal is to reach Eynsford by tonight, only five miles from Seven Oaks or Halstead:


 Shortly after this sign we saw what looked like a farm with a little shop, maybe refreshments and tables so we crossed over this little bridge and found the cutest shop where they were selling crafty things, like lavender soap made from the lavender they grow, baked goods, etc. We bought some cold apple juice made from their apples -delicious and so refreshing!


Back to the road within a few minutes from this little farm we saw what looked like a public park with “facilities.” To our surprise we saw picnic tables full of families eating and signs about a castle. We didn’t know anything about this so off we went exploring and spent a most delightful hour or so on a warm afternoon among the local families celebrating their banking holiday .

Just beyond these tables we walked along a little creek  where children were wading and cane upon a medieval fair at Luddington Castle and manor house.

The cannons were being fired.


Lullingstone Castle and its 120 acres is one of England’s oldest family estates, built in1497 and still in the same family. King Henry VIII and Queen Anne were often visitors here, Close to the manor house is St. Boltolp’s Church of Lullingstone. It is of Norman origin and some of the oldest stained glass in England.

If you look up this church you can find some interesting stories and explanations of the windows.

https://www.britainexpress.com/counties/kent/churches/lullingstone.htm

And if that wasn’t enough on this unexpected visit, on the other side of the church is the “World Garden of Lullingstone” with  over 8,000 species from around the world.

And what was my favorite? California poppies!

Back on the road, up a steep hill in the heat of the day, throwing our bodies in the bushes as the cars approached. My arms and legs are slightly scratched from the berry bushes. Soon we entered Eynsford, a quaint and lovely village and on to our accommodations at the Castle Hotel.

Cell phone generation.


Our waitress in Westerham told us Monday (tomorrow) was going to be a hot, hot, hot day so after the chaotic morning and short but interesting walk, we want to rest up for our 11 mile walk in hot, hot, hot weather,

Day 2 – Change of Plans – Westerham to Seven Oaks 8.5 miles 

May 26, 2018

The day started with a complimentary breakfast in our hotel, as the hotel itself was preparing for a wedding to take overly there cute little hotel for the day. We left with the excitement that we would be going to Winston Churchill’s retirement home “on our way out of town.” However once we realized it was two miles the wrong way out of town, we decided we would stay with the plan to see if we could make it all the way to our next destination without having to call Jeff to rescue us.

We walked through the charming streets filled with shops and pubs for a very short time before the road opened up to us. For several miles we would be walking along a busy highway. I am learning this may often be the norm for how we will be doing things. There is no place for pedestrians and cars were coming very close to us. When we backed away from the cars we were pushed up against bushes or brambles that poked at us. On this banking holiday there plenty of cars on the road whizzing by. Even with all of this, we were surrounded by the lush emerald green beauty of the landscape.

Before long we were off the busier highway and on a less traveled one-lane country road. We walked for over an hour sharing the road with cyclists and cars with friendly drivers that slowed for us and waved as they passed.

Ohhhhh . . . . The open road

A public path through private land very common here

Tall shrubs above us


And then there is the hill . . . We need at least one a day.

It doesn’t look so steep here, well it seemed so and it was long.


And at the top of the hill we were in a residential neighborhood on our way to a pub we had found on our route, Three Horseshoes Inn.


Another great meal at the pub . . . . I had vegetarian curry . . .


It was at this lovely pub, being served this delicious meal by such a friendly staff that we learned Lee had an emergency at home and after thinking about all her options, the only choice for her was to leave us, our adventure that she initiated and fly back to America. Brian was okay with staying with just me and I was willing to continue on. The next 18 hours were stressful with logistics and planning and the realization that our adventure was changing. A change of plans.

Day 1 Slow Start – Reigate to Westerham – 8.5 miles walked

May 25, 2018

Lee and Brian by the first sign we saw that said “North Downs Way.

We knew from the very beginning that this adventure, pilgrimage would have many unknowns. Early in our planning we were confused about mapping the trail, or path of the medieval pilgrims. We also had wanted to transport our back pack rather than carry them. After we were encouraged by several hotel reservation clerks months ago that this could be arranged for about ten pounds for all three of our bags, it was decided we wouldn’t even bother with back packs but bring suitcases and walk with day packs. When we arrived at our hotel Thursday night the receptionist knew nothing about “The Pilgrim Way” or taxis transporting luggage. She handed me some phone numbers of taxi drivers, Brian and I managed to figure out how to use our new go-phone and I talked to Atif who said he would do it for $30 pounds – after dragging our luggage around London for a few days we didn’t care and he said he would pick them up at 8:30 the next day.
By the next day insecurity and suspicion had set in, having no assurance that this was a common practice along the Pilgrims’ Way. We decided we would accompany our bags with this stranger to our accommodations for the night and ask him to bring us back close to where he picked us up to begin our journey. After meeting Atif our suspicions took a back seat to taking a risk. As he drove us to our destination we talked to him- just friendly conversation, he told us to call him Jeff and offered to transport our luggage every day all the way to Canterbury. A big challenge causing us all tension was solved! 
We walked through the little village of Merstham and Brian got us to the trailhead.  We were so pleased to see the sign. The trail did exist! After a slow start we were walking by 10:15 a.m. 


I was not prepared for the lush beauty of the Kent hillsides. Let me also emphasize, HILLsides. This is a land of rolling hills. No, not mountains, but we got some steep inclines right away as the “North Downs Way” trail left the villages and the highways and floated into paths and lanes of spring time abundance. The honey suckle was so fragrant, and there were wild flowers everywhere. It was a cool misty morning, with a hint of humidity.

We walked for an hour seeing no one, just the mist and the rolling expanse of green occasionally crossing over a highway until we came upon a church, St. Katharine’s, in an isolated clearing. There we met a group of about 10 hikers. St. Katharine’s dates from the 12th Century.

A rug being woven in the church?

Bringing the threads down from the ceiling to weave the rug.


We spent several hours walking in isolation, up steep hills, on tiny shaded paths  filled with thick foliage on both sides, by farms and nice homes, on rain slicked small stones all the time enjoying the misty green beauty. We kept waiting to pass through a town or village to have lunch, By 1:00 we knew we would have to get off the trail and find something to eat.

We went off trail and found a pub in the village of Godstone.

I felt it was an appropriate name of a town to rescue us. By 2:30 we were eating at the pub and by 3:30 we were calling our personal driver, Jeff, to come and rescue us and get us to our hotel in Westerham. We did 8.5 miles of a scheduled 13 mile day.

What will tomorrow hold?

Day 0 Moving

5/24/2018

Trains, taxis and the Underground. Our Thursday in London was all about moving from one place another, sometimes slowly, sometimes hastily on busy, crowded urban streets. But among the rush and speed and the logistics was the beautiful and peaceful Southwark Cathedral.

Many pilgrimages to Canterbury Cathedral to honor the murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket began here, Chaucer’s own Diocese.

I contemplate my own pilgrimage and walk with my friends as I leave London on a south-bound train.

Southwark Cathedral

A couple of days late and a few dollars short


We are a few days late for the Royal Wedding, and our dollars are short of the pound and are neatly tucked away for another day, 
We have traveled, slowly, leisurely and flawlessly for two days from San Diego to London. Planes, trains and automobiles. Monday, May 21 we left San Diego on a train to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. From Union Station we took the LAX Flyaway shuttle to LAX. It was relatively easy to find where to catch it and the shuttles leave every 30 min. The employees at the Union Station were all courteous and helpful. The shuttle driver dropped us off at Terminal 1 to catch a different shuttle to our hotel near the airport. Our hotel was spacious and we threw down our luggage to enjoy a relaxing dinner in their restaurant. 

Tues morning we checked out of our hotel at 11 am and took the hotel shuttle back to LAX where we discovered our airline could not take our luggage until 3:30 pm. We had a lovely day of hanging out at the international terminal eating and talking and I got in over 10,000 steps. We checked in with our airlines at 3:30 pm, went through security without a flaw, waited a few more hours and began boarding our plane at 6:30 pm for a 7:30 departure. Ten hours later we unfolded our dehydrated crunched folded-up bodies found our legs again as we left the plane. We went through passport control and Customs at Gatwick Airport without a hitch and somehow our foggy brains found the correct platform (it took two tries) to take a train to Victoria Station in London. 

Dragging our luggage through Victoria Station we managed to find the exit sign outside to the taxis where a big jolly driver weaved around the congested traffic as if it were a stroll on a beach. All I could think of was how glad I was that I wasn’t  driving as cars squeezed into traffic open spaces causing my heart to jump and brakes to squeal, He deposited us a few blocks from our hotel. After dumping out our luggage in our room we hit the streets and discovered a pub that served us a dinner of delicious cheeses  and finger foods. Tomorrow we leave London on a train for Reigate where we hope to begin our walk to Canterbury on Friday. I have been enjoying everything along the way so far. As I said: planes, trains and automobiles.

Canterbury Tales

The-Canterbury-Tales-00

Hello friends!

The last time many of you heard from me was when I returned from the Camino de Santiago in 2016. I have been living a lovely retired life in San Diego, but I haven’t been blogging.

I am about to set out on another little journey and might be blogging again. I will be traveling on the medieval pilgrimage called the Pilgrim Way between Winchester and Canterbury in England in a few days with my friends that joined me at the end of the Camino, Lee Fullbright and Brian Ellsworth. If you are not interested in continuing to follow me, now is the time to “unfollow me.” If you are interested in this adventure, you might be hearing from me again in a few days.

One of the reason I haven’t been blogging is Facebook. It seems sharing my daily adventures, travels and photos has substituted for blogging and most of my friends are on Facebook anyway. However, I know some of you are not and that is why I am writing now.

I will be leaving tomorrow mid-day with Brian and Lee by train to Union Station in Los Angeles. We will spend the night in L.A. and leave the next day for England. Wednesday we will arrive in London, spend the night, take a train to Reigate and begin our walking on Thursday, May 24th. Reigate is about 55-60 miles east of Winchester Cathedral, the traditional beginning of the pilgrimage. We couldn’t begin our walk in  Winchester because of time constraints so we will be walking eastward toward Canterbury. If you drive in a car the distance is only sixty miles, but the Pilgrims Way does not take a direct route and how much we will be walk is yet to be discovered. The historic Pilgrims Way has not been as well-preserved and is not as heavily traveled as the Camino de Santiago. We’re not sure if we will actually be always following it, but we have reservations in hotels (not hostels) and will make it somehow between each accommodation as we traverse the English countryside, villages, castles, churches, and towns.

Each day that I blog I can share our adventures of the day, how far we have walked and some photos. For me this will be less of a spiritual pilgrimage like the Camino and more of an adventure in the English countryside with my friends. There are a lot of unknowns, but the three of us will face them together and have our own Canterbury Tale to tell.

(If you are not friends with me on Facebook you can find me as Geri Blevins Wilson at fgeri2@sbcglobal.net)