Day Two: Detours and a welcome “stop”
“Having partaken of the traditional pilgrim’s breakfast of smoked salmon bagels ” (H’s words!) we both set forth at eight thirty to get some mileage in before the heat took hold. Probably the fact that I forgot to wear my glasses to read the map resulted in an early mistake where we had to turn back to find the route. In fact the morning of this walk proved be a day of slightly difficult navigation for us and several detours. In particular, we probably added nearly a mile to a long day’s walk by missing a footpath turning before approaching Ropley. In Ropley itself a road was being resurfaced and again we had to take another longer route. However, rather like life, we were able to look back on these events in gratitude, particularly when we were “almost” lost once again and met a friendly chap also walking the same route who was able to direct us. If we had not made the earlier errors we would not have bumped into him.
Today’s walk was stunningly beautiful. We went into the Church at Bishop’s Sutton to stamp my pilgrims’ card and found a welcome surprise (spot the hand quickly grabbing a biscuit!)
When the walking got hard today we focussed our minds on the village of Four Marks. An internet search the night before had told us that there was a well-regarded café in a garden centre there and the thought of this kept us going for many miles. When we arrived there the “traditional pilgrims’ lunch” awaited.
OK, so we did not eat like pilgrims today but we walked step after step, mile after mile along the old trackways. Each step adding up to another yard, another mile. Although the weather was very hot we were fortunate in the areas of woodland we walked through. My friend, H had a lovely expression for the tunnels of trees which gave us shade – “nature’s avenues”. I won’t mention what she said about the stiles!
Towards the end of our route passed the Jane Austen museum at Chawton and gradually found ourselves adapting back into the real commercial world of Alton. We were both grateful to have arrived. Although the beautiful villages and countryside of the walk were spectacular there is also a bliss to be found in “stopping” and this was certainly something I experienced at the end of this challenging but rewarding day.
This idea of “stopping” also made me think about our pilgrimage throughout life. It is possible for us to “stop” and look, rest and also experience and recuperate if we let ourselves at certain times throughout the day or week or year or decade. If we do not we surely run the risk of life passing us by whilst we are caught up in the treadmill of everyday living. If we are not all in the fortunate position which I am in to take a two week pilgrimage we can try to make our own quiet times in our everyday lives.
A Pilgrim’s Clothing
After my inner battle about wearing make-up, I have also been considering what a traditional pilgrim would wear. The general image is of a pilgrim clad in a scalavein (tunic) with large sleeves, a leather belt, a “scrip” for money (this would be purposely small), maybe a rosary, a staff (to use both as a weapon and for support), a cross and a hat with scallop shells. Derek Bright of Walk Awhile handed me a scallop shell at the start of my pilgrimage (shown above) and I am wearing this, along with the St Christopher I was given. I also have a hand painted stick which I made at home from a stick I picked up whilst walking in my spiritual home of Dorset.
Today my wonderful friend, H completed her own marathon – having walked these first two days of the Pilgrims’ Way with me. Her enthusiasm for the walk and her company has been of great help to me in this early part of the pilgrimage and I am sure that I will be remembering the laughter and words we have shared in the rest of my walk. She has also been fundraising for the Mencap Summer Camp and for this I am also extremely grateful.
So tomorrow I will miss H and will walk solo the 15 mile route from Alton to Farnham. This is the last section of the St Swithun’s part of the Pilgrims’ Way and at Farnham I will join the North Downs Way.
Here is a full index of my post of my Gratitude Walk along the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury
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My book about my experiences along The Pilgrims’ Way, “The Woman Who Walked Through Fear” has now been published by Sitting Duck Press. I am also available to give talks about my experiences along The Pilgrims’ Way.