Archives for category: Countryside

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With just a couple of days to go before I start my camino in Le Puy on the 7th April, the time has come to start packing up everything I’ll need for the walk – and no more!  Of course, I’m sure my final ‘list’ of items will change quite a bit throughout the course of my journey, depending on what turns out to be useful, and what the weather is like.  I thought it would be quite fun, therefore, to show you what I’m bringing to start with and why, and I’ll be sure to let you know whether I was on the right track with my preparation in a couple of months’ time!

So here goes:

First of all: THE BIG STUFF

  • Rucksack: Osprey Women’s Kyte 36 Rucksack (my Christmas present!) – this is a 36 litre rucksack, with lots of pockets and zips for stashing away those essentials that I might need to access quickly on the walk. As it’s a women’s rucksack, it’s supposed to suit the female shape and minimise any damage to the back and shoulders. Also, as it’s not mahoosive, I’m hoping it will deter me from carrying far too much (!) As a relatively petite person, I can’t afford to carry more than I should.
  • Walking boots: Asolo Stynger (Women’s) These are boots that I had fitted at Cotswold, as they suit narrower feet. So far, they have fared well on the walks that I’ve done, although I’ve yet to wear them alongside my full rucksack so we shall see! I’d highly recommend Cotsworld for boot fittings, as they know exactly which shoes suit both your gait, and shoe size (unlike some stores, which simply ask “which shoes do you like the look of?” *shakes head in dismay*)
  • Platypus-style water pouch: This fits nicely into my rucksack back pocket, and with easy access I won’t be tempted to forgo a regular sip of water.
  • Silk sleeping bag liner: Small, lightweight, and will hopefully keep out the bedbugs (we shall see!)  I am not bringing a full-on sleeping back, as the weather will start to get warmer (plus, I can always opt to pay for extra sheets in hostels if need be).
  • Lunchbox: For those days in remoter sections when I’ll need to prepare some food the night before.  Hopefully will soon contain lots of nice cheese, bread and saucisson.
  • Passport and money: for obvious reasons! I’ve opted for one of those travel cards onto which I’ve put a bit of money, but am also bringing a credit card just in case.
  • EHIC health card: Just in case!
  • Personal alarm: Not sure whether these are useful or not, but good to have in remote areas for peace of mind.

CLOTHING
I got most of my clothing from Sports Direct in their winter sale, and managed to bag some great bargains.

  • Poncho: Incase of rain… and also, as The Mighty Boosh say:

Poncho

  • Karrimor walking sandals: Lightweight, comfy and less than £25 – perfect for wearing on an evening or in the shower block.
  • Convertible trousers/shorts X 2 pairs: My boyfriend laughed when he saw these, but needs must! If they’re lightweight and comfortable, then that’s all good.
  • Short-sleeved wicking tops X 2
  • Long-sleeved wicking top X 1
  • Lightweight fleece X 1
  • Lightweight rain jacket X 1
  • Gloves and hat X 1
  • Gaiters X 1
  • Walking socks X 3 pairs
  • Pyjamas/chill-out clothes: harem pants + cotton long-sleeved teeshirt
  • Underwear X 3 pairs
  • Sports bras X 2

TOILETRIES

  • Lightweight microfibre towel: this should be fun to use! Let’s hope it’s bigger than a teatowel.
  • Bar of soap + shower gel (for hair washing and clothes washing)
  • Toothbrush and mini toothpaste
  • Mini Deoderant + mini moisturiser
  • Makeup: MINIMAL makeup, I hasten to add! I’ve brought some mascara and BB cream as a bit of a crutch, but hoping I’ll end up chucking these in the bin once I get going (!)
  • Medi-kit: suncream, paracetamol, Compeed, couple of plasters, hand-warmers, rehydration powder and  insect-repellant
  • Lip balm

BOOKS + MAPS, with the main ones being:

NON-ESSENTIAL ESSENTIALS

  • Earplugs: I am a very light sleeper, so hopefully these will help me get to sleep in a big dormitory.
  • Notebook: Ever the diary-keeper, I want to keep a journal of the route.
  • Mobile phone: just in case!
  • Coquille St Jacques  pilgrim’s shell: I’ve heard that traditionally Pilgrim’s wore this once they’d already completed the Camino, however, I will bring it along anyhow – especially since it was a gift from my parents.

To get to this fairly select bunch of items, I’ve done a bit of research both online and in books – with this particular book being a nice source of both humour and information (thanks to my boyfriend for picking it out for me!). It’s not the book for the seasoned walker, but rather one aimed at people who are doing the chemin for the first time ever, and probably leans more towards women at that. It reads like a blog, or a magazine, with plenty of jokes and quizzes (how to spot a camino snorer//what your camino hat says about you etc – you get the picture), which is a nice counterbalance to some of the other camino literature out there – although the fluffy tone isn’t for everyone, though, granted!

Chemins

So there you have it, my camino pack is now ready!  I’ll be setting off to Paris tomorrow to spend a final weekend with Léo, my boyfriend, before getting the train down to St Etienne and Le Puy on Easter Monday.  The next time I see him, it may be in Santiago – who knows?

I’d love to know what your one *essential* camino item was, or would be? What couldn’t you live without for a few months?  Let me know in the comments below!

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As the week drew to an end I was itching to escape London and breathe some fresh air in the countryside. Having grown up amidst the fields of Cheshire as a child, and spending summers in the Scottish highlands or the Lake District, it’s fair to say that I’m definitely more of a country-mouse than a town-mouse.  I’m not too picky in terms of the landscape, either: whether it’s rugged, heather-spotted hills, quiet country lanes or majestic mountains, I love all of it. There is something magical about being able to hear the birds singing, the wind rustling in the grass and seeing the stars at night.

And so I found myself on Friday evening, bleary-eyed after a day in the office, googling “walks near London”.  There was practical element to my hunger for the outdoors this weekend, too: I recently picked out some walking boots for my birthday and needed to start wearing them in so that they are ready in time for the Camino de Santiago in April.  Soon enough, I came across a site detailing walks of different lengths in Surrey.

That’s when I began reading about the Thames Down Link – a 15 mile walk from Kingston-Upon-Thames to Box Hill in the Surrey countryside. A relatively well-known path which joins London up with the North Downs, passing through Horton Country Park, Epsom Common and Ashtead Park.

The distance seemed perfect for a day of walking, and transport-wise it was relatively cheap and easy to access. Sorted.  And so I set off from Kingston at exactly 9am on Saturday morning – just at it began to snow (trust me to pick the only snowy day on which to do a walk!)

Thames Down Link itself begins in a very urban setting, on the banks of the River Thames. This first section of the walk, I’d read, was quite difficult to navigate, and I would tend to agree: despite being sign-posted most of the way, some signs were few and far-between – often missing at important junctions in the journey.  My PDF guide to the walk was of some help, although sections of it were relatively obscure, and I ended up retracing my steps quite a number of times! I laughed to myself at these points, realising that it was all good practice ahead of the camino.

Navigation became much simpler, however, as I moved out of Kingston and hit the surrounding marshland and fields.  The path takes in some surprising sights along the way: from football fields, to golf courses, riding centres and go-karting clubs – it’s a great way of tracing the landscape as it changes from city to countryside, and is not once monotonous.

As the scenery became more rural, and the path, less-frequented, I breathed a deep sigh of relief – it’s good to get away from the city sometimes.  It was at this point that I grew more and more aware of my being a solitary walker.  I quite enjoy walking alone and being with my thoughts – and this is how I’ll be doing the camino, at least some of the time; however, there were some points along the Thames Down Link that felt a little less than safe, especially being a woman walking alone. One of these points was along the meadows near the Hogsmill River, for instance, where I’m quite certain that there were a group of people smoking something in the bushes nearby (!) I’d advise people to be vigilant and take care in some of the more remote, yet urban sections – some alleyways and sections by the river are eerily quiet, but strewn with litter, so best not to walk there when it’s dark.

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After about 9 miles, I began to really feel as if I had reached the countryside. Although you never quite escape the humming drone of traffic on the TDL (albeit somewhere in the distance), and indeed the path crosses over the A3, there’s something quite interesting about the meeting of the old and new on the walk.  I crossed motorways, and duel carriageways, and I also walked along a Roman road, and a through a farm that has existed since mediaeval  times.

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As Box Hill came into view, the scenery truly became beautiful.  Although the walk passes alongside it, I couldn’t resist but to take a brief detour up to the top of the hill to see the view, which was wonderful. My feet had begun to throb a little at this point (NB. Must build more stamina before April!)- but it felt great to have the wind blowing in my face, and my cheeks burning from the cold. It’s these sorts of moments that make me feel truly alive.

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I reached Westhumble and Box Hill station at 4pm, and had half an hour to wait until my train would arrive. I took the opportunity to have a well-earned coffee and slice of fruit cake at the sweet little café and bike shop in the station – and look at what the café was called:

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