Which path to take?
Well I made a prophetic statement in yesterday’s post on Day 4 of walking the Pilgrims’ Way! Today I found myself at a crossroads (metaphorically, if not literally). The hot weather finally broke last night with a violent thunderstorm. Checking the local forecast it said that another thunderstorm was due for around midday today. I am used to walking in heavy rain but I was not happy about being out on the Downs on my own in a thunderstorm. So I had to make a decision – whether to take a fifteen minute train journey to avoid the worst of the projected weather or to stick with my pride and put myself in what I thought maybe a dangerous situation. Would the train journey be “cheating”? A fault of mine is to be obstinate and maybe too scrupulous, so, I concluded that this challenge had been presented to me for my growth and I went with the train journey. As it happened the thunderstorm did not take place where I was but I still think I did the right thing. I am sure that the pilgrims, drovers and other backpackers would chose their route and mode of transport according to the circumstances.
On walking in town
My walking today has been in and around Dorking. I still wore my walking clothes, rucksack and scallop shell – they seem second nature to me now. Walking around a commercial environment I did feel somewhat removed. One difference in walking in a town is the uneven rhythm. Out in the countryside I soon settle to a good walking pace – the sort of pace that seems to fit in well with singing certain songs. Around the streets one has to avoid bumping into people. They do not make eye contact and say “hello” the way in which people in the rural environment do. I feel subversive, set apart, like I do not belong to this world at present. If I was to exchange greetings with them in the street, I am sure they would think I was mad. But then, I’m not really sure how much that matters at present! When really in the rhythm of walking social conventions do not seem to matter. My status and secular responsibilities have gone for a while.
The Old Road
Arriving at my hotel earlier today has also given me time to dip into some of the books my tour agent from Walk Awhile has kindly lent me. I really feel quite humbled to be holding in my hand a copy of Belloc’s “The Old Road“, first published in 1904. Many have said that it is the earliest account of the Pilgrims’ Way although he calls it the Pilgrims’ Road or The Way. But nine years before him a Mrs Ady (Julia Cartwright) wrote of the old trackway from Winchester to Canterbury. I also have a copy of her book to explore. The copy of the Belloc book has a stamp inside saying “Holy Trinity Girls’ School” (1921).
I have been reading where Belloc writes about the route around this Dorking area. He discusses losing the track at Dorking Lime Works and then it’s reappearance, “clearly enough marked, along the lower slope of Box Hill” (the way I will take tomorrow). After his discussion he says “This we left for the dawn of the next day; and so went down into Dorking to sleep” – and so will I! I am in a super hotel, “The White Horse”. An Eighteenth Century coaching Inn with beams and nooks and crannies – where I am sure that many, many travellers have spent the night.
I am glad that I spent the time in a town today because it has made me realise how after only a few days pilgrimage I have changed.
Am I a pilgrim yet? As with most things it depends upon the definition of the word. I am certainly a pilgrim in my mind. I have switched off from day to day concerns. I know the Everton result from the other night and am starting to think that maybe Lukaku may have been worth the money and I check the weather but other than that do not really know what has been going on in the world. I am almost a third of the way on my journey. Lao Tzu said “the further you go, the less you know”. I wonder.
How air conditioning fans can be used to dry clothes; trains; the ability to be flexible and alter plans; books; my reliable luggage transfer; the power of nature as evidenced in the lightening storm; shelter in a safe place; my laptop and wifi (so actually I am not that removed from the modern world yet); my physical health; lovely supportive texts from friends and T (I am so blessed); comments on my blog; my waterproof trousers that I bought on a market in Ryde ten years ago are still waterproof; a bath tonight; licorice allsorts; serenity.
Tomorrow – Day 6 of Walking the Pilgrims’ Way
A special friend of mine is making the trip down here to walk with me tomorrow – I am so looking forward to it
And, music for tonight………………. It just had to be done really……….. (and my feet certainly DO fit in my bed!)
Here is a full index of my post of my Gratitude Walk along the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury
Please add your e mail address in the box at the foot of this page to receive further posts about my walks in Beds, Herts and Bucks; my ongoing Birthday Pilgrimage along the Hertfordshire Way; walking in Dorset and my trek along The Ridgeway National Trail.
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.