Day 3 on the Pilgrims Way

After a day of rest to aid my knee recovery, I cautiously resumed the Pilgrims Way, armed with a makeshift walking stick. I boarded an early bus to Upper Froyle, near Alton, near where I had left off the previous day.
Pilgrims Way window
My first stop was the church in Upper Froyle, where I was greeted by the melodies from the organ. The church’s interior was adorned with vibrant stained glass windows and statues. A harvest display added to the charm. In the visitor’s book, I noticed an entry from a fellow pilgrim from Australia, who had also appreciated the organist’s music two days beforehand. The church also had a modern Pilgrim’s Way window showing Winchester and Canterbury Cathedrals.

Leaving the church, I meandered along a footpath that led to a long, tree-lined driveway, with a grand manor house behind. The path eventually opened into a field where some sort of excavation was underway.

The path continued towards a large house called Pax Hill, once the residence of Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout movement. Now a care home for the elderly, it had a bicycle adorned with autumnal flowers outside.

From Pax Hill, I followed a path that the guidebook identified as part of the original Pilgrim’s Way. It led to a wide-open field covered in a shoots of winter wheat. Walking slowly, aided by my stick, I found myself immersed in the present moment.
Yew trees
The path eventually arrived at the village of Bentley. With its narrow, winding lanes, I reached the village church, where ancient yew trees formed an archway. Inside, I sat quietly on a pew, enjoying the quiet.

Concerned about my knee and not thinking I could manage 11 miles, I decided to take a bus to Farnham. There, I walked back to the point where the Pilgrim’s Way entered the town and then headed towards Farnham Castle.

The castle, now under the care of English Heritage, was an impressive sight. I wandered around, admiring the ancient walls and trying to imagine its past glory. It had been a residence and fortress for the Bishop of Winchester.

Descending into Farnham town, I visited the church and then the town council’s information center, where I requested a stamp for my pilgrim’s passport. They obliged with an old-fashioned, chunky stamp, noting that I was the first person to ask for such a stamp. The lady told me that Farnham is in Surrey but is surrounded by Hampshire on three side. I asked if that is why they needed a castle.
Start of North Downs Way
Crossing a dual carriageway, I reached the next section of the Pilgrim’s Way, which is the start of the North Downs Way. A large sculpture marked the starting point. I walked for about a mile along the River Wey, but my knee started to twinge, so I decided to turn back.

At the bus stop, I saw Richard W, a former colleague, with his grandchild and family. I think he still lives near Abingdon so was surprised. I couldn’t greet him properly due to the crowd.

Back in Guildford, I bought a proper walking stick from Mountain Warehouse and also got a support bandage for my knee, hoping to protect it tomorrow. My B&B was booked before I knew of the days rest and is in Guildford so it will be easier to walk from here and return to Farnham later. I hope I don’t get too many sections need walking out of sequence.

Day 2 on the Pilgrims Way

I began the day with a full English breakfast. Then planned to catch the bus to rejoin the Pilgrim’s Way at Bishop Sutton.

While I was waiting, I explored St. John’s church, which is right behind my room. I had heard its bells ringing the night before, so I was curious to see it. It was lovely, with stained glass windows and interactive exhibits. It even had a stamp for my passport.

Pellegrino Water
I took the bus to Bishop Sutton and immediately visited another church. It looked old. Inside, there was a table for pilgrims with two bottles of Pellegrino sparkling water and some biscuits in a tin. I saw in the visitors’ book that someone named Kimbo Hoyton had been doing the pilgrimage just four days ahead of me.

I found out there was a carol called “Bethlehem Down” written by someone from that church who was buried in the churchyard. I listened to it on YouTube. Lovely!

A man came into the church to change the hymn numbers. He had a greyhound with him, and he commented on all the Harvest decorations that had been left around the church.

Ford and cows
From there, I walked down a little road, crossing a footbridge next to a ford with cattle watching. I continued cutting across the countryside on footpaths. At some stage, the footpath ended, and I had to go down a little road where I met two men who were looking for a place called “East Tiddly” or something similar. They had instruction sheets and Google Maps, but were completely lost.

They asked if I knew the way, and I showed them the map I had in my guidebook, but it only showed the Pilgrim’s Way and a little bit either side. At the time, I was also looking for a stile that the book said was difficult to find.

We walked in the same direction for a little while, and then I found the stile. I told them I was going that way. They weren’t sure whether to follow, but as I walked across the field, I saw that they followed some way behind me.

I arrived in Ropley and bought an orange and a banana at the village shop. People were sitting outside enjoying the sunshine. One lady came up to me when she saw me reading my Pilgrim’s Way guidebook and wished me the best of luck for the walk.

The church in Ropley had burned down in 2014, but got a new roof in 2022. Inside, it was restyled and reopened, but still has the original Norman walls. There was a historical event going on with different historical societies and people coming along to look at them and listen to talks.

Turnips

After leaving, there was a little bit of rain. I crossed through a large field full of sheep and then a grassy field. Then I had to cut through the middle of a field with a tiny track through lots of enormous turnips.

After that, I came to a wood. The guidebook suggested taking the main path, but the way I went in didn’t seem to have any main path. So, I went back a bit and found a way that did seem to have a more main path.

I walked through under the trees, past a tree that some children had decorated with little doors, painted stones, and a sign that said “Be kind.” After that, I came to a crossroads and saw a Saint Swithun’s Way marker pointing straight on.

Out of the wood, I came out into the sunshine and could see a rainbow. I thought it was a good sign for the walk.

For a while I walked wide grassy paths. These were followed by narrow fenced-in paths until I came out near a garden center.

My left knee had been hurting quite a bit, and I was a bit worried about what might happen if I pushed myself too hard, so I decided to hop on a bus for a mile or so.

I got off at Chawton, but after getting off, my knee started hurting really badly, and I was hobbling. I could hardly walk.

Jane Austen's House
I tried to walk to the church but needed to rest and then turned back.  I sat across from Jane Austen’s old house, now a museum, and watched the last visitors leave. I’d wanted to do the Pilgrims Way for a long time and was only 2 days into the walk. I could not walk to Alton as planned but hobbled back to the bus stop. I will rest tomorrow, Sunday, and see how I feel on Monday.

Day 1 on the Pilgrims’ Way

Pilgrims Passport
I started my journey in Winchester, where I picked up a Pilgrim’s passport at the cathedral. I received free admission to the cathedral as a pilgrim.

Inside the cathedral, I was struck by the monument near the former shrine to Saint Swithun, which had a tapestry of a leaves birds and raindrops on one side and a beaming sun landscape on the other. I think this is a fitting start for the Pilgrims’ Way, which is a journey in all weathers through the beauty of nature.

I left the cathedral and set out through some town streets before coming across the ruins of Hyde Abbey. Like Abingdon Abbey there is still a gatehouse. I also passed by a pub called the King Alfred, where I could have got my first passport stamp, but I didn’t realise it at the time.

I continued on my way, following a path by a stream. I stopped to study my guidebook on a bench, and then I walked on and realised after a couple of minutes that I had lost both guidebook and passport. I hurried back to find it on the bench.

After that, I continued on the path and crossed under the A34 and the M3 motorway. Graffiti in the tunnel, showed lots of colourful eyes combined with colourful patterns.

The first church with a passport stamp I came to was St Mary’s Church in Kingsworthy. I made a mess of that stamp. But the church was a peaceful and welcoming place.

After leaving the church, I walked through fields that looked down on the River Itchin. The scenery was beautiful, and I was enjoying the peace and quiet.

I came to the next village, Martyr Worthy, and visited the church there. I met two other people at the church. I left my guidebook and passport again and on returning they suggested, I tie my guidebook around my neck so that I wouldn’t forget it again.

The path next took me through a field of cows. I was careful to avoid the young calves, as I didn’t want to upset the cows who I had to walk through.

The next place I came to was Itchen Abbas, where there was another church. I got my third stamp there. It had started to rain and I put on my coat under an ancient yew where the last person to be hung for stealing a horse is buried.

After leaving the church, I followed a path that crossed the River Itchin and went by Avington Park, which has a beautiful avenue of trees. By now it was raining hard.

After a few more fields and some up and down roads, I was starting to feel tired. The scenery was lovely as the path passed between the clear River Itchin and a smaller stream in which grew watercress and swans nibbled water weeds.

I knew I had gone about a mile out of my way when I came out by a church in the village of Itchin Stoke. Luckily, there was a bus from there to New Alresford where I could stay. So I went back and looked round that unusual church to pass the next fifty minutes. It was shaped and had patterned windows including a rose window at the back like a Paris church I’d once seen.

I’m looking forward to continuing my journey tomorrow. It is making sure I don’t overdo it at this early stage and get an injury.

2 days to go

Tent in Garden
Having finished my course with the OU, I plan to set off on a pilgrimage from Winchester to Canterbury along the Pilgrim Way. This journey will start on Friday, the 13th of October and, if all goes well, end on Thursday, the 26th of October. I have work that evening so need to be back.

Today, I bought a Bobcat 1-person tent from Millets for the sum of £64. This seemed good value. I erected the tent in my garden in order to test it out and will try sleeping out this evening. I intend to alternate between camping and staying in inexpensive hotels or hostels.

My main concern is whether my legs will be able to withstand the daily average of a 10 mile walk. So, something going wrong could cut short the pilgrimage walk and force me to bus instead, or return home.

7 days to go

One week from now, I will set off on a pilgrimage from Winchester to Canterbury. I have had this in the diary for almost a year but have not done much planning. Every year in October, I take a walk around the village where I grew up. This year, since that village is near the Pilgrim Way, I have decided to undertake a longer walk and may drop in at the village along the way. I will keep this blog along the way. But here is the route:

Day 1: Winchester to Alresford 13/10/2023. Visit Cathedral and get Pilgrims passbook. probably camp
Day 2: Alresford to Alton 14/10/2023, probably camp
Day 3: Alton to Farnham 15/10/2023, probably camp
Day 4: Farnham to Guildford 16/10/2023, probably camp
Day 5: Guildford to Box Hill 17/10/2023 cheap hotel booked use bus to go there and back
Day 6: Box Hill to Merstham 18/10/2023 cheap hotel booked use bus to reach
Day 7: Merstham to Oxted 19/10/2023 cheap hotel booked use bus to reach. Visit old village?
Day 8: Oxted to Otford 20/10/2023 ? or visit old village?
Day 9: Otford to Vigo 21/10/2023 ?
Day 10: Vigo to Aylesford 22/10/2023 ?
Day 11: Aylesford to Harrietsham 23/10/2023 ?
Day 12: Harrietsham to Boughton Lees 24/10/2023 ?
Day 13: Boughton Lees to Canterbury 25/10/2023 ?
Day 14: Visit Cathedral and return home to Abingdon for work

J-Fest 2022


This year’s J-FEST was in a field a few miles from Abingdon. Organisers had laid tracks across and around the side of the field to help wheelchairs.

On the main stage were some excellent local bands. In addition, there were signers to translate the lyrics and dance out the rhythm.

There was a wheelchair dancing stage nearby.

The J-Fest is a music festival accessible to all. There were lots of stalls, and activities, including people painting murals. Many people there knew Jodi, and Jodi’s mum and friends organised the festival in Jodi’s memory.

Leeds United 1972

Gary Sprake 03.04.1945 † 19.10.2016
Jackie Charlton 08.05.1935 † 10.07.2020
Terry Cooper 12.07.1944 † 31.07.2021
Norman Hunter 29.10.1943 † 17.04.2020.
Paul Madeley 20.09.1944 † 23.07.2018
Paul Reaney 22.10.1944
Billy Bremner 09.12.1942 † 07.12.1997
Johnny Giles 06.11.1940
Eddie Gray 17.01.1948
Alan Clarke 31.07.1946
Mick Jones 24.04.1945
Peter Lorimer 14.12.1946 † 20.03.2021

Catching a Virus

We catch it through direct contact,
through a go between like a mosquito;
through defence mechanisms such as:
vomiting, coughing, sneezing, diarrhoea.
We catch it by not washing our hands,
by touching a door handle then our mouth
by breathing the air close to someone infected
by being bitten, kissing, from drinking water …

It has a heart of nucleic acid,
within a lipid envelope, spiked with protein
that hook onto our cells, injects nucleic acid –
hijacks our cells, and replicates.
We send out gobbling white blood cells
and run a fever and end up feeling
wretched, until we decode the spike,
and make antibodies.

It is not calculating.
It mutates and jumps from another species
and becomes a strain that can attack our cells.
It mutates, and produces a new variant
that moves easily between us.
It mutates and disguises its spike
and becomes immune to a stored antibody.
It mutates and keeps us apart.

(Written for share a poem in Feb 2021 where the theme is Science.)

Train ploughs into flock of sheep at Nutfield


That winter brought strange interlopers –
Sussex, Dorset or Leicester Sheep –
Replacing Surrey’s homebred cows
Upon their hoof moiled beat.

Then one sheep teased a barb wire fence,
Reinforced with chicken wire,
That kept them from a richer diet
Than faded grass and briar.

Swarming tightly through the gap
Heads bobbing as they barged –
Like an army unrestrained,
Over the top they charged.

Among the rows of leeks and cabbage
Began their marauding spread
‘Til they saw a man approach
And a stalking canine head.

The shambling flock took formation
And led by one sheep’s eyes –
Sped by fear, they smashed the fence
Back to their home side.

As torn white flags marked the fences,
The lame and injured numbers grew –
The dash-eyed many from behind
Drove on the curious few.

A foggy night in January
They climbed up to the railway line –
Eleven were slain by a train
Upon the Tonbridge Line.

(Written for share a poem in November 2020 when the theme was Remembrance)

On a Visit to the Lake District

Rain rides the wind and darkens the rockface
Towering over the heather and peat.
The pulse quickens beneath vegetation
And the bleary forms of Herdwick sheep.

From the swollen earth racing like children
Becks cascade, tumble, and crash,
Down the sheer curve of the mountain.
They gather as one and conquer the pass.

A veil of water flows over pebbles
Then comes to rest in a wide bellied tarn,
Where a strobing stepping-stone cadence
Ripples the shadows and deepens the calm.

(Written for Share a Poem group on the theme Autumn in October 2020)