St Monans to Kingsbarns

Saturday 2nd February 2019 (one year since the last leg of the journey). 26kms (16 miles)

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After last weekend’s walk on the Berwickshire Coastal Path I was aware of the short day-light at this time of year, so I set out in the dark with a rucksack that I found upstairs looking like it had never been used, telling myself:

  • It’s going to be harder than you think it’s going to be
  • You never know what’s going to happen

Slowly the sky lightened as I trundled through the countryside on the train from Edinburgh to Kirkcaldy, a blue glow over the misty fields. My phone registered one degrees.

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The majestic Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy, Fife

The X60 Stagecoach from Bennochy Road (close to Kirkcaldy railway station) dropped me off by the entrance to the Holiday Park with its puffin sign on the outside of St Monans and the memorial to George Hutchison 1945-90.

Time flies, Shadows fall, Love is forever, Over all.

By 10am I had walked through it and down the steps to the mirror clear water of the salt pans, the mini windmill, and onto the beach.

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On the sea side of the Holiday Park, St Monans, Fife
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The first of the salt pans where ‘at the end of the 18th century the dirty, smokey process of salt-making went on around the clock’ (public notice), St Monans, Fife

I heard the sea before I saw it as there was no wind. Somebody was ahead of me, somebody behind me.

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The windmill, another tangible reminder of the salt production industry, St Monans, Fife
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The remains of the St Monans pan houses where 6-8 tons of coal was needed to produce 1 ton of salt. Fife

Like last weekend, white waves rolled over themselves, but there were no cliffs just flat, jagged rocks the colour of sandstone. Closer to the water they were black, etched deeply, at right angles to the land making little coves of apricot sand. A yellow gorse bush was tucked under the eroding edge. A pair of mallards drifted, and the air was very still with the smell of smoked fish.

Big white birds perched on the outcrop and, looking closely, almost hidden, black-on-black, large dark ones as well, one standing up and opening its wide wings: cormorants.

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Water sliding over the rocks, slippery with weed in shades of teal
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The constant sound of the waves as the tide came in

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I could see Pittenweem’s orange roofs ahead but it was too early for a stop. I was hoping to find somewhere to buy something to eat later on though, as a picnic with my flask of (not very hot) Jasmine tea.

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The approaching view of Pittenweem, Fife

A bunch of friendly ladies all dressed in pink and purple left strong wafts of perfume as they chattered by, each saying ‘morning’ to me.

I had expected a cold bright sunny day like yesterday, but it was dull instead so I could not see into the distance and it was warmer as a result.

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Here the stink of seaweed was palpable and friendly dog walkers were out and about. Pretty cottages, all marled in pale hues – beige, pumpkin, baby blue and the odd lavender – line the harbour. Wood smoke hung in the air and as I passed a bicycle decorated with scallop shells I wondered if it was owned by a fellow camino walker.

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In Pittenweem I could have tasted ice cream or supped on fish and chips, drank a dram at the Larachmhor Tavern or admired the arts and antiquities off to the left. Were the toilets open? Yes, and well supplied – warm, light and clean – excellent as public facilities go. What I couldn’t spot was a food shop. Pittenweem is an active harbour, however it being the winter months, the Dory Bistro and Gallery was shut and there were few people around considering it was a Saturday morning.

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Pittenweem harbour, Fife

Coming out of the village, I noticed that there were not many wild flowers – one or two orange marigolds (calendula) and a few with tiny dandelion-like heads to a stalk. The path goes along the back of what look like holiday cottages. Here pink mallow in someone’s garden, there a pinky-purple hebe, otherwise not much colour at this time of year.

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Found poetry: soar alba / free Scotland scrawled in Gaelic, and ‘bee (sic) happy’ written in shells on the rocks

I was walking higher up now above the sea and behind a fence. Down below, right by the shoreline were man-made concrete blocks, presumably the remains of WW2 battlements or look-out towers. On my other side were well manured and beautifully ploughed dark brown fields.

The cropped green of the well manicured links (golf course) contrasted with the improvised yellow lichen of the fence posts.

A cormorant’s proud neck and head were at right angles to its body and suddenly it dove down amongst the tumultuous waves.

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Then I too was right down by the beach, enjoying the lovely gentle colours of the rocks – threads of khaki and caramel with carmine underneath and black above.

Sparrows trotted along with pointy beaks dabbing amongst the blades. A single cormorant flew past, neck reaching, its body the shape of a black cigar remaining dead parallel to the sea, while both black wings flapped up and down simultaneously.

I passed a big group of hikers, some of them properly dressed to tackle the north face of the Eiger. A castellated tower had a list of names below it; a war memorial.

As I entered Anstruther I spotted a street labelled ‘Formerly Witches Wynd’. I thought wryly, that’ll be before they killed them then!

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The Dreel Burn, Anstruther, Fife

A nearby sign read: ‘James V travelled incognito through Fife as the ‘Guid Man o’Ballengiech’, coming to the Dreel Burn and fearful of wetting his hose, he was carried across at this point by a stout gaberlunzie (beggar) woman, who was rewarded with the king’s purse.’

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Shell House, Anstruther

Around an extremely sharp and very dangerous bend with no pavement, was more coquille Saint-Jaques decorating a house and the Dreel Halls with a lot to see – the church architecture, its graveyard and various monuments and inscriptions.

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Concealing a casket, Dreel Halls, Anstruther, Fife

Around the glass the inscription reads: There is a stone coffin which has stood exposed to the injuries of the weather in the churchyard. Tradition says it once contained the relics of St Adrian. Time immemorial.

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Written on the stone is a poem about God:

‘…He drops into the kirk, and sits as sunlight on a rear pew. It is warm, the sermon’s mighty long.  He sucks a mint and dozes…’

Taken from ‘In Anster’, engraved on a stone in the yard, by Andrew Greig, 2013 who grew up in the town.

The path takes walkers into the town but remember to take a right turn at the wee shop, walking between the A & A Stores and The Bank hotel! The path turns quickly to the right down a very narrow wynd back to the sea.

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At the harbour there is the ubiquitous fish bar plus a post office, cash point and the Scottish Fisheries Museum (shut but the cafe was open and there were eco toilets that I have never seen before where the water for cleaning your hands fills the cistern after use).

You can learn about the desperate outcome of a collision in 1918 between submarine troops on an exercise who, due to the wartime blackout, collided with minesweepers, leaving 108 dead.

This is where one can take a trip to the Isle of May during the summer months.

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Teasal plants and an orange glow to the horizon where you can see the Island of May

Islands of the Forth

Anstruther is an extensive town made up of 3 or 4 boroughs (depending on which source you consult). It was bustling, and I happily spotted the elegant hostel where I would be spending the night.

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The Murray Library Hostel, Anstruther. I gave it 5 stars

Nearby was an artisan bakery where I treated myself to an expensive packet of thick and chunky cheese oatcakes (made, so the board informed, of ‘Anster cheese crafted by Jane Stewart’) which came in very handy for the remainder of the trip (ie I ate them for breakfast, lunch and tea!)

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They were also selling traditional Scottish fare!

A wee way along was Cellardyke Harbour (known locally as Skinfast Haven created in  1452) with washing lines beside it. I sat down and supped my tea.

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The Plough and the Reaper, Marion Smith. Anstruther, Fife
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Cellardyke harbour where there are washing lines to dry your clothes
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I sat a while here, looking out to sea and having a snack, Cellardyke, Fife

Oooh weep, oooh weep – big crowds of curlew with their long thin, curvy beaks. A stretch of uneven grassy path and it was definitely sniffly weather. A couple trundled ahead of me; the sea rolled and crashed close to my right shoulder; and then a kissing gate which I really had to squeeze through because I never want to take the rucksack off when I have got it comfy and settled on my back.

The high point of the day were the rocks. Sandy to the touch and with amazing colours, stripes, indentations, wave patterns and all manner of other shapes that you could make stories up about. I stood underneath them and looked up to the sky and out to the sea. There was something very powerful about the place.

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The colours (the camera did not do them justice)…
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… and patterns of these rocks amazed me
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Partly eroded, they create fantastic shapes, …
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… holes and arches to crane through

More cormorants seemed mammoths compared to the orange-legged oyster catchers beside them up to their knees at the water’s edge.

 

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Taken with the zoom, this photo is blurred and no cormorants, but you can identify the oyster catchers paddling and, on a rock on the right, a lapwing
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The land tapering into the sea in the distance
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The Coastal Path sign warns of danger!
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Climbing up I snapped a bird in flight – there isn’t much uphill on this stretch

A stony beach meant that the withdrawing waves cause the rocks to clatter against each other and tufty puffs of white foam rise high between rocks. What’s left of the water in the pools had the setting sun reflected in them, even though it looks as though it’s way over to the horizon and nowhere near overhead.

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The sea was active, crashing and washing over the rocks

It was 1 o’ clock and I was already starting to feel tired and slightly anxious about the evening, a bit cranky as I came into Crail!

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Crail, Fife

I lost the signs and asked a couple who directed me back the way I had come and they recommended the Golf Hotel where I duly stopped for a cup of tea and some ‘rocky road’. Report: very nice waitress, very slow service, not my sort of place.

Once out there was a clear sign downhill to the sea – I must have needed that boost!

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Crail coat of arms, Fife. The panel reads. ‘Restored and given new life by The National trust for Scotland’ but if you search their site they have no results for this village!
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Sauchope Caravan Park, Fife

Roome Bay was next and caravan site #3: Sauchope Links. There is lots of space for visitors with little huts, white yurts with little chimneys coming out of the side and a swimming pool. One larger dwelling had a hot tub on its balcony, and overall it could not be closer to the sea. Like a spotlessly clean small village, everything is well kept and perhaps because only a few are inhabited at this time of year it seemed soulless.

Out to the ocean, I watched while banks of water gathered, dark on the forward slope, white bubbles teetering on the edge before crashing down and running into the bay. Sometimes when you think you get to the top of a mountain it turns out to be a false summit, and this was the same: that long wave was all over until it turned out that it wasn’t and there was another edge, and another beyond that, and…

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I looked at them and they looked at me!

My attention was attracted by baah and the sheep’s great thick ruffs of coat bunched up around their necks. When they have their heads down it looks as if you might be able to extend them, opening up those folds like a concertina.

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Kilminning Coast Wildlife Reserve, Fife and more rock stacks
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Symmetrical square and rectangular chunks lined up in a row

The massive rocks were sometimes triangular but never curved, gravity having squashed down the layers of the land. Even the vertical cuts and breaks were all at right angles.

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3pm saw me rounding the tip by the lighthouse and the Fife Ness bird watching hide

A little further on there were some demure cottages, more caravans and golf links. It was darkening now. The birds were in clusters and from a distance they looked as jaggedy as the rocks at very corner, battered by the waves, like dinosaurs’ backs across the peach sand to the sea.

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The odd quack came from ducks all settled down comfortably on the pungent seaweed interspersed with a squawk of ravens. As the cormorants were standing with their wings open but there was no sun, I could only conclude that they too were having hot sweats and needing to cool down!

Constantine’s Cave is just here. According to tradition, King Constantine I was killed in this place after a battle with Dubhghall (‘dark foreigners or Danes’) in 874.

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I was nervous of being stranded by the sea at night, so I took a left before I got to Cambo Ness. Although Kingsbarns village is covered up by a panel of writing on the Coastal Path map for stage 5, I had researched in advance and knew I could get a bus from there. I found my way across the corner of the golf course and up the beginnings of a small road where I spied a lit window where a woman was washing up. She kindly came to the door and advised me it would be quicker to stay by the sea. However, she is familiar with the area and I was not, so I took off up the farm track, through the yard, and narrowly missed the bus by about 3 minutes as it thundered past on the main A917. Then I had to do what she said I would and walk at the side of a very busy road, initially with no pavement, and into Kingsbarns by the church where I waited nearly half an hour for the 95 bus.

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I thought it looked like a member of the KKK!

Back I went to Anstruther and to the Murray House Hostel which I had seen earlier. The French hospitalier was extremely helpful and let me practice my French. The communal rooms are large, and I was put with the other solo woman Coastal Path walker in a 4-bed (usually more expensive) dorm which was very kind. Cost £14 (not including breakfast). I was told that I had to sample the famous fish and chips at the Anstruther Fish Bar and Restaurant which I dutifully did – I gave it 4 stars! The hostel has a very decent kitchen and a supermarket is not far away so there’s no need to eat out. Do book the hostel in advance during this time of year though, as it will open for 2 or more people but may be shut if you turn up on spec.

I had a very good, long sleep to prepare me for an early start to stage 6 the next day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camden Market – Regents Canal Towpath – London Zoo

October 2018 – I had spent a month in Ireland and had just arrived in London to visit family and lead a Shiatsu workshop. Having stayed the night with my daughter, I woke to find that the sun was shining and I thought I would take my rucksack on a nice walk across London to Chiswick to meet my sister. Approx. 7 miles / 11.5 kms.

I started at Kentish Town West underground station, and turned tail  cutting through small streets as they took my fancy, avoiding the busy commuters rushing to work

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Public wash house, Grafton Road, London
MAP studio and café where I stopped for breakfast, good tea and music, Grafton Road, London
The roof space of MAP café, Grafton Road, London

Refreshed, I found the Owl Bookshop which was full of school children browsing. There was a lovely sense of excitement amongst them at the prospect of the reading.

The Owl Bookshop, Kentish Town Road, London

‘Natural’ is a mix of MAP and Owl, being a café with books stacked in the window!

Further along Kentish Town Road was Natural, London
Prince of Wales Road
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The Abbey Tavern, a typical London pub, Kentish Town Road, London
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Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Kentish Town Road, London (perhaps a hint of where I might end my Autumnal travels though I had no inkling I would be going to Northern Greece at that time )
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Creation Studios, Kentish Town Road, London

At the end of Kentish Town Road, I turned right into Hawley Road.

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Hawley Primary School, Hawley Road, London
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Slightly to the left, ahead, was Castlehaven Open Space, London

I took a left onto Castlehaven Road and left again onto Chalk Farm Road.

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And not very much further was one of my favourite teenage haunts  Camden Market, London

I wound my way between stalls and caravans selling food and other goodies.

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Here I found bookshop number 3, the Blackgull which is also a book binders, Camden Lock, London

On my left was the towpath…

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With weeping willows and colourful reflections in the still water, London
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Barges which you can take along to Little Venice for sightseeing, Regents Canal, London
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Here the canal is closely flanked by new residential units and I spied the tower of the Pirate Castle on the bridge.
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Under the Oval Road, looking ahead at the train running over the canal, London

Remember to check out Banksy’s famous artwork  in the vicinity (24 – 26 Oval Road).

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Paddle Boarding, London

You can stand up and paddle on a board under the full moon, at hallowe’en and combine it with prosecco!

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Going under Gloucester Avenue, London
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The conical spire of St Mark’s Church in the distance, Camden, London NW1 7TN

When I caught up with it (the church) I appreciated its six-petalled, flower windows.

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Sleeping rough away from the traffic
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A busy waterway, Regents Canal, London
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Highly decorated London Waterbus
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Monks enjoying the peace and quiet, London

There were bicycles and a wheel barrow on the roof of a house boat; paintings propped up against trees and hanging on sheets along the washing line; a bench with a proud goat who has curled horns (you will have to go and see!); there was graffiti galore.

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At the corner I turned right and admired the Feng Shang Princess restaurant boat, resplendant in its red livery

Not long afterwards I realised I was not far from Primrose Hill on the right and alongside the world famous London Zoo opposite where the previously mentioned Waterbus makes a drop-off, just before the pretty wrough-iron bridge.

At the Prince Albert Ramp I had the chance of a detour for Camden High Street, and ahead was St John’s Wood, the Snowdon Aviary and Lord’s Cricket Ground. I trundled along taking photos of the wild plants. Joggers jogged and I got to the Jubilee Greenway completed in 2012 to mark the Queen’s birthday and the London Games.

My path took me around Regents Park, named after the Prince Regent, where there’s an Open Air Theatre and a boating lake.

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Winfield House, the residence of the US Ambassador
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Under Park Road, London
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Creative garden spaces, Regents Canal, London

Here there were delphiniums (even though it was October) and foxgloves.

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Quintessentially English flowers in pots, Regents Canal, London
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A waterside village of longboats and cute dwellings, Regents Canal, London

At the Canal Gate (pictured at the top of this blog) I had to leave because the way was blocked off.

I carried on along pavements by busy roads, past underground stations and shops, discovering parts of London I had never visited before. I made my way to Chiswick via Holland Park Avenue, Shepherd’s Bush, the Goldhawk Road, Stamford Brook Road and Bath Road where I met my sister.

My phone ran out so I stopped taking photos and used my handy Belkin Pocket Power (a 5000 mAh portable charger which has been my saving grace many times) to recharge it.

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Hot with the action and the weight of the rucksack, I was glad to sit down and have a cup of tea. Had I ‘world enough and time’ I would have visited St Michael and All Angels Church in Turnham Green, an Arts and Crafts building which a gentleman told me about as I stood waiting to cross a road. We had a most pleasant chat while he also regaled me with his life in India. I meet the most interesting characters when I walk.

The Regents Park and Primrose Hill both have excellent views of the London skyline. Royal Parks website.

Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
The opening lines of ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvell

 

St Magnus Way – reflections

St Magnus Way – reflections

Reflecting is a vital part of taking a walk. It helps to embed or integrate the walking experiences – where I have been, and what I have learned – in the hope that any changes wrought will last.

Most of all, though, I failed to comprehend that the best things in life aren’t things that are visibly sexy on the surface. They don’t scream for attention, and they rarely invite adrenaline. Rather they come from quiet commitment, respectful engagement, and a love of something greater than yourself.

Design Luck

Where lies the greatest learning?

Before a sitting meditation I start by acknowledging or noting any issues which are bothering me, either to clear my mind, to problem-solve, or create focus. Then I try to simply sit. I have been doing that for years. As a result I sometimes come up with creative ideas, solutions and greater understanding, or at the very least a recognition of patterns of behaviour.

Walking is a kind of meditation and the more I walk, the more I realise it’s the pilgrimage itself which presents the learning – simply by starting, trekking, and getting to the end of it.

I have habits that I try to pretend aren’t there, aren’t really so bad, or that I can’t help. These come to the fore when walking a pilgrimage. It is in the planning and facing of the realities of the land and the practicalities of accommodation and food which bring me face to face with myself.

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A cross by the roadside in Spain (Via de la Plata) with an inscription by Pablo Neruda. May 2017

Is walking pilgrimage synonymous with being religious?

I do not follow a recognised religion. I was christened into the Church of England by my parents and had to learn tracts of the bible overnight for reciting in primary school the next day. Joining in assembly every morning at secondary school was obligatory, and I sang and read lessons during services; went on a Sunday School holiday; and spent years in the Girl Guides where Christianity was important.

I was steeped in it – the tenets of it seem to be in my soul (or my cells). Religion provided me with a moral and ethical language at the time when I was learning to speak, and I have discovered that it is hard to shrug off.

I might be on a mission to get rid of the destructive part of what I was taught in those early years: I was encouraged to feel guilty; it was assumed that I had Original Sin; and I was told that I was bad in my core, like every other human being. Perhaps I take ecumenical walks to give myself the time to recognise the impact of this and to let go of such negatives.

Nowadays I visit churches sometimes, and I certainly respect believers, but I do not take communion. I have read widely, listened and discussed with friends, but I cannot follow a Faith which seems to exclude or criticise people for being the way they are or believing what they do.

So, I do understand why people keep asking me why I walk pilgrimage. After all, historically it was a religious practice.

Thereafter, his (Bruce Chatwin’s) religious faith became subsumed in his nomadic theory: he believed that movement made religion redundant and only when people settled did they need it.

From Nicholas Shakespeare’s article about Chatwin’s visit to Mount Athos.

Why pilgrimage?

This question is asked of Guy Stagg who wrote The Crossway. Personally, he knew why he had set out – it was primarily for his mental health – but he repeatedly asked himself, ‘Why pilgrimage, why not just a nice trek?’ The astonished monks asked him too, as he battled through the alps in the middle of winter. Not having been satisfied with going from London to Canterbury he decided to go on to Jerusalem no less.

Tim Moore in Spanish Steps, Travels with my Donkey asks himself, why he is doing the barmy thing of finding, caring for and walking with a donkey along the camino in Spain when he is not religious.

For me, it is a walk but with added zizz! There is an in-built beginning, middle and end; it’s a project all in itself, and it is so much more than a wander round my local park.

it is essential as a reunion with oneself and with others. It’s almost a phenomenon of resistance: walking does not mean saving time, but rather losing it, making a détour to catch one’s breath!

David le Breton, on the Via Compostella

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Seville, Spain. April 2018

Spirit, soul and understanding

In Chinese Medicine I was delighted to learn that there are a number of different ways to describe the spirit or soul. In Icelandic there are more words for snow than we have in English; in the Orient the parts of ourselves which relate to spirituality, to nature or to our innate relationship with other people are as important as our physical and mental aspects. Although the spirit is amorphous, hard to define, it is something I have a tangible sense of, particularly when I walk in nature. Although sometimes I am content to ‘be’, at other times I become curious and try to understand this puzzle.

When I sit and meditate in my Shiatsu room in Edinburgh I can simultaneously be in Tibet or Japan or China. I don’t know why that is or how it happens and I ponder on these things as I walk. I privately think (well, not so privately now!) that at least one explanation is that I was a nun and a monk in former lives. It is the best explanation I have come across so far.  The feeling I had, for example, when I crossed the sands, barefoot, to Mont Saint Michel was real – I ‘knew’ I had walked there before.

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Walking across the sands to Mont Saint Michel, France May 2017

What is ‘knowing’?

We have discovered in the last 100 years or so that our physical cells destruct and reconstruct, so the ones I have now shouldn’t be the same ones I had when I was a baby, never mind the ones my mother or grandmother had. And yet we know that we share genetic material.

There is a theory that there is a collective knowledge which accumulates from the generations which came before. It could be this wisdom which tells me where to go to find what I seek, and what has got me here in the first place. However, current scientific methodology and outcomes deny me entry into this collective unconscious. It insists that I enter through the portal of logic and I am not sure that logic is the right way into that sort of understanding.

I have an intrinsic sense of the English phrase, ‘I know it in my bones’. My bones are made up of cells and therein lies my genetic material, yet in every text I read about pilgrimage something inside me recognises it. I seem to share the centuries of that collective knowledge, it is familiar.

Osteocytes

* . . . live inside the bone and have long branches which allow them to contact each other …

https://depts.washington.edu/bonebio/ASBMRed/cells.html

There is my DNA and my body. There are my mind and my thoughts. There is my self, my soul, my spirit. In my work and my walking I am enquiring into the connections and (re)discovering dissociations between these.

It’s all about love

The more I listen to myself as I traipse, and to my clients in the Shiatsu room, the more I think that what we all seek is the connection to LOVE. It sounds like a familiar new-age thing to say, it is straight out of the ‘all you need is ….’ 1960s, but I keep coming back to it.

I have a hunger for that ‘something for which we search’. And I know it isn’t just me, because when I tell folk what I do, they say, ‘Oh, I wish I could do that’ or, ‘I have wanted to do that for ages’. Or maybe they too have already started!

I seem to be part of a contemporary pilgrimage movement in which it is possible that we are seeking ways to integrate, comprehend and connect our-selves, personally and in community.

Pilgrims walking the Via de la Plata, Spain; Tourists flocking to the Sacre Coeur in Paris, France.

Restlessness

In addition to all this, I notice a compunction to move on, to save my soul, to find, to seek. The ‘thing’ I am looking for is at the same time inside me right now and just ahead of me. It is that towards which I reach or walk. It isn’t new. Everything I have done in my life so far is part of this instinctive movement towards being purer, ironing out the creases. That’s what I believe we are all doing wherever we are.

I know that inside me lies this knowledge just as tangibly as I know my organs are there. I recognise that I am part of a continuum, a humanity of seekers. What is necessary is the time and space to better hear what is happening, and that is hard to find when I am at home looking after people and my surroundings, doing what most of us do in our adult Western lives.

The answer, it seems, lies in introspection. Without trying to be precious, I go quietly back inside myself when I walk to hear the still, small voice.

But it takes intentional steps to change our pace and encounter one another as pilgrims on a journey along with Way. In our time of frenetic political intensity, within a culture addicted to speed, we need to hear and heed the call of this step by step pilgrimage.. Wes Granberg-Michaelson https://sojo.net/articles/all-are-pilgrims

And so it appears I am descended from the ascetics and hermits of my history. I’m reborn into the liberated 21st century. I am, at one and the same time, part of a shared community -walkers and pilgrims, fellow monks and nuns, a group with shared values – and I am alone for to ponder.

Some things are proving intractable and I expect that’s why I have to keep on doing it!

scapa beach
Scapa Beach, Kirkwall, Orkney. May 2018

Clean Language practitioner and author of Words That Touch, Nick Pole

Bone cells https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/why-cant-bones-grow-back/

 

Walking the Camino

Do you want to walk the Spanish Camino?

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Monte Gozo – the last stop before Santiago de Compostella, Spain
What does camino mean?

Camino means both the act of walking and path in Spanish. There are many caminos and they all end up at Santiago de Compostella in the top left hand corner of Spain.

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Traditional pilgrim statue, Finisterre
Where is the camino?

When you hear someone talking about walking the Camino they usually mean that they are following all or part of the east to west route called the Camino Francés, the most popular.

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Following the yellow arrows is easy – you don’t even need a guidebook for the Camino Francés
In what part of Spain is the camino?

This camino starts in France at Saint Jean Pied de Port (Saint John at the foot of the pass) in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques region, crosses the Pyrénées mountains to Roncesvalles, passes through the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia, ending at….. you have guessed it, Santiago. You can start anywhere along this route.

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The final way marker of the Camino Francés, Finisterre, Spain.
Sorry, what is it called again ?

Also known as The Way of St James (Sant (saint) iago (James) in Spanish), The French Way, or The Camino de Santiago, it is 500 miles long (near enough 800kms), and takes between 25 and 50 days hiking. You can also cycle it which is quicker, but that’s another story.

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Free wine – early on the Camino Frances, Spain.
Pilgrimage

The Way is a pilgrimage and those who walk it are traditionally known as pilgrims – peregrinas (female) or peregrinos (males) in Spanish.

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Carrying everything you need. Pilgrim crossing an ancient stone bridge in Galicia, Spain
Pilgrim Passport / scallop shell

Carrying a pilgrim passport or Credencial del Peregrino which gets stamped every time you stop for the night is a great way to keep a record of your hike. Hanging a scallop shell, symbol of Saint James, on the back of your rucksack is a proud way to indicate your sense of belonging to this famous confraternity.

Camino shell and credential
A record and mementoes of my first camino in 2016
Who can walk the camino?

People of all ages and nationalities make this trek and they do so for many reasons: religious (especially Catholic); social (it is a great way of making friends); fitness (sensible walking is good for your breathing, circulation and musculo skeletal system); and personal (at times of major life changes, or for the benefit of their mental health).

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Jolly Spanish house sign
Do I have to walk ALL of it?

You can walk as much or as little as you like. Some go the length and others do sections several times a year or year-by-year. The most popular part is the final 69 miles (111 kms) from Sarria to Santiago which earns you a Compostella, a certificate in Latin. Aficianados come back time and time again.

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A typical rural chapel on the camino, Spain
How far will I walk every day?

I highly recommend that you take it easy, at least to start with, whether you are young or old, male or female. This means 9 – 12.5 miles (15-20 kms) at the beginning. Even if you are fit and feel fabulous in the glorious Spanish sun, beware! You will almost certainly get blisters and a sprain or strain if you walk too far too soon (unless you honestly walk 9 miles (15 kms) or more every day at home in the same shoes or boots which you intend to wear).

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Autumn colours along the Way, Spain
Where do I sleep?

Most pilgrims stay in hostels or albergues. Their facilities vary, but almost all offer a basic bunk in a dormitory for between 5 and 12 euros (£4.50 – £11) per night. You do not have to book in advance, indeed sometimes you cannot. There are also hundreds of hotels and private hostels, usually at a higher cost with greater luxury.

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Statue of Saint James whose relics are supposed to be buried in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella
What do I take with me? How much do I have to carry?

Historically everyone would have carried their own clothes and equipment in a backsack. (see What to Put in Your Rucksack). Nowadays there are many companies who offer to transport your stuff from hostel to hostel so that you can walk with a daypack and water only if you choose. You can even hire a donkey!

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walkingwithoutadonkey.com
Food

Many hostels offer a basic breakfast, and shared meals in the evenings can be a highlight. Kitchens, with (or sometimes without) utensils are the norm. There are cafes, bars and restaurants all along the way and at every stop where the food is often delicious and cheap. There are plenty of shops which will sell you most things you need such as suntan lotion or a single egg wrapped cleverly in a paper cone.

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Space for thinking quiet thoughts on the camino in winter
Time of year to walk the camino

All times of the year are good for walking the camino! It is hot in the summer (and crowded); cooler in the Autumn with great natural colours (it can also be really warm but with cold nights); pretty with wild flowers in the Spring (lots of daylight); and peaceful in Winter (though some of the albergues will be shut).

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The wonderful chestnut woods of Galicia
Speaking Spanish. Yo hablo espanol.

It really helps if you speak some Spanish. It’s polite, respectful and fun to be able to communicate with the local people. You are also more likely to be served what you have ordered.

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The familiar sign of the Galician albergues, Spain.
Travel from the UK

You can take a boat to Santander (71.5 / 155 kms to Burgos) from the UK; There is an airport in Santiago itself (from there you can take a bus back east to the place where you want to start walking) itself, as well as La Coruna (82 miles / 132 kms from Sarria). Also, Asturias airport for Leon (from Stansted only), Bilbao (from Edinburgh, Manchester and others) for Pamplona, and Biarritz (33.5 / 54 kms from Saint Jean from Birmingham and others); Overland, there are trains taking 5 hours from Paris (4 per day, approx. 35 euros) and the Eurostar from London is smooth and efficient (around £50 and just over 2 hours). You can also take Alsa (long distance) buses or try Bla Bla Car (car pooling).

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You can tack on an extra 3 days of walking after Santiago and to to the sea at Finistere.

There are many books and online guides to help you find your way, pointing towards places to stay and eat. Gerald Kelly and John Brierley’s are the best known in English. Using this guide means that you will inevitably walk the same steps (stages of the walk) as other English speaking folk and will therefore have pals to walk and share meals with before long. The municipal hostels at the end of these stages are the busiest.

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There is wifi and places to charge your phone at most hostels, Spain
Top tip!

Start slowly, in short stages, do not be too ambitious until the second week, and that way you will avoid going home early and in pain (I have seen this happen many times). It doesn’t matter if other people are going further. You will either catch up with them later or you will find new companions instead, ones who are enjoying the scenery as much as you.

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Misty mornings herald a hot day, Spain

There are also other caminos in Spain: The Via de la Plata which starts in Seville and goes through Salamanca; the Camino Norte along the coast passing through San Sebastian; the Inglés from A Coruña; Mozarabe through Malaga and Cordoba, and many others. Criss crossing this stunning country, the walking is delightful, the people colourful, and the experience one which you will remember for the rest of your life.

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Getting into my stride – the Camino Francés 2016

Have you walked the Camino Francés or any of the other ones in Spain? Leave a comment and share your experience.

The frescoes of Mount Athos

These fascinating photographs were shared with me by Nikos Savvidis, who is restoring the frescoes in the monasteries of Mount Athos, Greece.

Byzantine fresco (Christian Greek), Mount Athos, Greece.

Mount Athos is a mountain (6670 feet / 2033m) and peninsula just north of Thessaloniki in Greece. It is the eastern most of the three Chalcidice fingers pointing towards Turkey across the Aegean Sea.

Death conquers. Byzantine fresco (Christian Greek), Mount Athos, Greece.

Mount Athos or Agion Oros, as it is locally known, is the oldest surviving monastic community in the world. It dates back more than a thousand years, to Byzantine times. It is a unique monastic republic, which, although part of Greece, is governed by its own local administration. Quote from ouranoupoli.com.

Chilandari Monastery, Mount Athos, Greece.

The monks spend most of their time in silent prayer, especially between 2 – 6am when all is quiet. Otherwise they are busy maintaining the building, (link to Guardian photo essay), fishing, caring for livestock, growing and making wine, and preparing food. You can order some of their produce online.

Mount Athos, Greece.

In this UNESCO World Heritage Site, there are 2000 monks living in 20 monasteries, 13 skytes, and 700 individual cells, hermitage and other buildings.

Byzantine fresco (Christian Greek), Mount Athos, Greece.

Skite or skyte is the state of being concealed. These are therefore private places of contemplation.

Philotheou Monastery, Mount Athos, Greece.

The peninsula is 50km wide and 10km long. (Greek Tourist Board). Some of the monasteries belong to distinct national churches’ including those of Georgia, Bulgaria and Serbia. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/holy-mount-athos

Byzantine fresco (Christian Greek), Mount Athos, Greece.

Nikos makes his colours using the original method, from the earth.

Natural pigments in an old toolbits box.

Robert Byron (author of The Station: Athos – Treasures and Men (Traveller’s)) called these frescoes the finest in the world.

Simona Petras Monastery, Mount Athos, Greece.

Despite being known as ‘the garden of the mother of God’, no women are allowed in there – the Virgin Mary is the sole female representative.

Angels in attendance. Byzantine fresco (Christian Greek), Mount Athos, Greece.

Fascinating fact: Edward Lear was one of the many famous (male, of course) visitors to Mount Athos where he painted the Stavronikita Monastery according to Nicholas Shakespeare (link below). To cement the Russian connection (many of the rennovations are funded by them), Vladimir Putin visited in 2006 and 2016.

Simonos Petras monastery perched on the cliff edge, Mount Athos, Greece.

‘Aside from the limited supervision of the civil governor and police force provided by the Greek government, Athos functions autonomously and symbolizes a transnational faith community. ‘ Taken from https://sacredland.org/mount-athos-greece/

Byzantine fresco (Christian Greek), Mount Athos, Greece.

The Macedonian School had its centre in Thessaloniki and flourished in the 13th and 14th centuries. Its hallmarks are realism in the depiction of the figures, not only in their external features but also in the rendering of their inner world, particularly their pathos. Macedonian heritage

Wonderful monsters. Byzantine fresco (Christian Greek), Mount Athos, Greece.

There are several versions of the formation of the Mount doing the rounds of the internet. They usually concern Athos (one of the Gigantes according to Wikipedia) and a rock dropped on or thrown by Poseidon (the Greek god of the sea) .

Byzantine fresco (Christian Greek), Mount Athos, Greece.

You can read stories about the monks here

Pantokrator Monastery, Mount Athos, Greece.

Why are women banned from Mount Athos? BBC link

The English in this blog from the Halkidiki Tourist Office is not good but there is a lot of very useful information including how to visit.

Pilgrim information

Byzantine art blog

The great Australian travel writer, Bruce Chatwin went to Mount Athos. Nicholas Shakespeare’s article is here.

You can read more about Greece here.

Tweedbank Station to Melrose, walking the Scottish Borders

December 2018 – a rail journey from Edinburgh to Tweedbank and a short but stunning walk to Melrose in Roxburghshire, where you will find the ruins of a magnificent Medieval Abbey.

The Tweed River, Scottish Borders.

I took the train to Tweedbank in the Borders – it’s the end of the line. It takes 1 hr and the service runs every half hour. It costs £9.30 with an Over 50s Railcard ( I booked the ticket and renewed the rail card last night online through Scotrail for £15 for the year and it took about 5 minutes). Then it’s a 40 minutes walk each way into the town of Melrose, although that doesn’t allow for what I call ‘astonishment time’ ie time for stopping at intervals because, Oh my, look at that, oh I must take a photo, I just can’t believe it, it’s so gorgeous!

The Tweed River between Tweedbank and Melrose, Scottish Borders.

If you like you can stop reading this now and open YouTube or Spotify and find Fording the Tweed By Savourna Stevenson, so that you have something magical to listen to as you continue reading and imagining you are taking this journey with me.

Choose a day where it won’t go above 2 degrees celsius so that it stays white and hard underfoot. Wear thermals under your normal clothes, plus a coat, woolly hat and cosy gloves.

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Jack Frost was at work overnight.

You know what they say, it’s not the weather that’s the problem in Scotland it’s having the right clothes! Not being able to bend your elbows because you have a thick jumper on under your not-quite-big-enough jacket is a small price to pay for all this beauty.

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You can see Arthur’s Seat and the Pentland hills from the train.

You will travel on the Waverley Route, so called as it refers to Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley Novels. Start by facing in the direction you are coming from and sitting on the left. This way you will have wonderful views of Edinburgh – Arthur’s Seat. Ignore the rest unless you enjoy the industrial outskirts of cities.

When you hear the nice lady announce Gorebridge, change seats so that you are looking the way you are going and you can either plump for right or left (the views are equally attractive) or, like me you can leap from side to side because, well because the views are both enticing.

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Expanses of farm land in the sun, Lothian Region, Scotland.

People seem to have it in for Galashiels, so I will blog separately about that. Suffice to say that it is impossible for a whole town to be boring and I know some lovely people who live there and they like it a lot. It has an excellent brass band for a start.

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Leaving Galashiels. Straight out of the 19th century! Scotland.

You will not need a map nor must you look up the way in advance or use your phone. Believe me, if it’s possible to get lost I would have and it’s not. I promise. Sit back and relax. Feast your eyes on the hills, rivers, pretty houses, and majestic trees. Over on one side you will spy the traffic – be pleased that you are not driving, have a nice cup of tea and a comfy seat – you can just gawp.

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From the train window between Edinburgh and Tweedback on a chilly morning, Scotland.

Tweedbank station is new and modern with a massive car park. There is one line, two platforms and everything is properly signposted. There is a bus if you prefer.

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The end of the line, Waverley Route, Tweedbank Station. Waiting areas and ticket machines in the middle.
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Connecting buses, Tweedbank Station, Borders.

Otherwise, walk along the only way you can and straight ahead you will see the cycle path.

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Cycle path from Tweedback Station towards Melrose, Scottish Borders.

Today I was enchanted by the way the hoar highlighted the seed heads, fence posts, and each individual blade of grass.

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The stalks were as tall as me, upstanding!

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You won’t get lost – there are multiple signs: Melrose Link on the left; National Cycle Network on the right.

 

 

There will be aluminium buildings to your left. When the SPPA (Scottish Public Pensions Agency) is ahead, admire their gardens and peer at the poor folk inside working on such a wonderful day. Smile. Then walk to the right of them, following those signs.

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The SPPA gardens.

You will see that you are joining the Southern Upland Way.

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This little walk forms part of the Southern Upland Way.

Very soon there is a road to cross and opposite, through a little wooden gate at waist height, is a path with steps going down and there is the Tweed River, burbling on your left.

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Lowood Bridge over the River Tweed, Scottish Borders.

On the right you may be lucky enough to see two Highland cattle, and if it is cold enough it will look as if they are vaping with condensed air coming sideways simultaneously from both nostrils in opposite directions.

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Highland Cattle, Scottish Borders.
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Can you see him steaming?

I scraped the ice from the tourist board telling about the fantastically named Skirmish Hill where King James V’s men fought those of the Duke of Buccleuch and won. The 14 year old monarch is said to have watched from a safe place.

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Skirmish Hill hidden behind the tree, Scottish Borders.
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Follow the thistle signs!

At the kissing gate go to the left of the houses and you will see signs. Almost immediately continue through the woods to the left. The way goes uphill with a wooden handrail, green with lichen.

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Holy Trinity Church, Melrose, Scotland with the Eildon Hills behind.

The ferns were all flattened by frost as I came into a clearing, going gently downhill. Here I spied more information, this time about fishing: grayling and salmon who make the courageous journey from sea upstream to fresh waters to spawn, often against all odds.

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Honestly, the water did really look like this: shiny and luminous. Rver Tweed, Scotland.

There is a choice coming up:
You can either go past the hedge which is too high to see over (I stood on one of the handy benches to get a shot), ignore the sign and keep on going for a while to see the Chain Bridge, but then turn back and take the Town Centre sign. This will take you between the rugby club (left) and the green park (right)

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Taken on the way back when the sun was lowering, here is the bench mentioned above.

Or, keep walking past the church to the Chain Bridge and around behind the town centre coming in by the road directly to the Abbey.

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The impressive Chain Bridge, near Melrose, Scotland. Ice still on the ground at 11am.

I took the second option because it was signed Abbey Walk.

Everyone is very friendly as are their dogs. A collie politely laid her pink ball at my toes, her nose flat along the ground, eyes expectant. The second time she came back she showed me the tricks she could do with it, presumably as encouragement and to distract from my muddy fingers. The third time, the gap between me and her owner having widened considerably, I informed her this would be the last, before hurling it behind me.

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You can halt to admire the horses on the left, or perhaps the motorbikes on the right. (You can pick up a copy of their free magazine too.)

You will continue onto a small road. Turn left if you wish to visit Newstead.

Hang a right at the main road where the signs mysteriously disappear (sorry, I guess what I wrote above was wrong at this juncture).

Walk past the Abbey Woollen Mill shop, or visit if you like. Carry on by the houses and careful because it’s a busy road, but not for long.

Don’t take the next right (St Marys Road) unless visiting the Harmony Garden. The nearby Georgian Manor House is available for holiday lets.

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Instead go straight on see to see Melrose Abbey on the left, behind the wall. David I founded the first Cistercian Abbey in 1136. The heart of Robert the Bruce is believed to be buried in the chapter house there. The opening hours and link to the Historic Scotland page are at the end of this blog. The bus stop is to the right of the monument.

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Public toilets, Melrose, Scotland.
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The magnificent medieval Melrose Abbey ruins.

The town centre is in the middle of a triangle with a unicorn on an extremely high pillar in its middle. Originally this would have been the Mercat Cross where all typesiof goods wouldhhave been for sale, proclamations were made and criminals punished. The heraldic unicorn is the supporter for the Royal Arms. Here you will find a pharmacy, and library plus The Roman Centre. There are lots of hotels, cafés and nice independent shops, particularly bookshops, partly because the people who live there like to read, and there is also a Book Festival. Explore!

 

 

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The Bookroom at the bottom of Dingleton Road, Melrose, Scotland.
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One of the inscriptions on this window is ‘Outside a dog, a book is a man’s best friend – inside a dog, it’s too dark to read!’ This is the local library, right in the centre of the town where it should be, Melrose, Scotland.

After your browsing and sightseeing, you can return the other way if you did what I did: to get back to the station, walk out of town along the A6091 road with the Co-operative store (food) on your right, and head towards the Melrose Rugby Club. Anyone will be able to point you in that direction as rugby is THE sport in the Borders.

If it’s still light, enjoy the grand trees, admire the mole hills, and tune into the water as you wander.

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A gentleman and I passed the time of day as we recognised each other from the morning when we were then also going in the opposite direction.

Remember that things look different when retracing one’s steps! You must cross two roads and keep both the SPPA and the aluminium buildings on on your right. Keep following the white Scottish thistles and yellow arrow. The final cycle path part is fully lit when it’s darkling (3.30pm at this time of year).

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Birds twitched: robin, chaffinch, blackbird, pidgeon, crow, mallard and a heron unusually crouched by the riverbank. Luckily there were still plenty of berries available for them to feast on.

 

 

Station facilities:
There is a little shop at the station selling hot drinks, snacks and G’n’T. I was reliably informed that passengers usually buy it on the way up in the morning!

Don’t believe all the moaning complaints you might find on the internet. The trains are great. Well, we were only delayed 10 minutes homeward bound. I know I am not a commuter but.. take a leaf out of our school girl days (I took a daily return to school for 7 years) and if the train is cancelled don’t go to work, go for a walk instead. Look around you and inhale.

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Silhouette of a beech tree in its winter glory.

Tweed walking: Peebles, Coldstream etc.

I went there to see friends and give Shiatsu. I might go back so if you live there and would like a session let me know. Many thanks to the Chris (designer of my lovely website) and Penny for lunch and chat.

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Melrose Abbey is open all year round. April to September 9.30 – 17.30; October to March 10 – 16.00.

The McInroy and Wood Lecture featured Robert Peston in 2018.

Maronia coastline

This is the coast of Greece found between the cities of Thessaloniki and Alexandroupolis, in the East Macedonia and Thrace region.

East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.

In late November it is stark and beautiful. The geology is second to none and it boasts secluded beaches and miles of land for walking.

The sun lights up the horizon. East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.

I was driven there by my wonderful host, a fount of local and fascinating information, Anastasia. She knows the location well and I was lucky to be taken to the best places. Monumental cliffs. East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.
The island of Samothraki is visible along the length of this coastline. A 2.5 hour ferry trip away from Alexandrouplis, there are men-only monasteries and a fantastic walking route. Further down the coast towards Thessaloniki is the island of Thassos which is made of white marble, the same that was used to build the White House in Washington DC. Samosthraki almost lost in the mists, with fishing boats. East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.

Beautiful cliffs with the waves lapping. East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.

 All along this stretch glorious colours can be found: pink, blue, white, bronze, yellow, cream and golden. They simply gleam when the waves wash over or the rain drenches them.

Beautiful cliffs with the waves lapping. East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.
There is a tricky climb down to this hidden beach. Rosie the dog couldn’t make it. East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.

There are rock stacks with grassy tufts growing out of them and, where they are surrounded by sea there are birds perched.

East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.

Unfortunately there was a recent tragic tale of an English woman, apparently familiar with the area, who was walking alone and got attacked by wild animals. This has made me wary of solo walking the Via Egnatia which passes this way. (The hiking trail begins in Dures, Albania (Dyrrachium in Roman times) and ends in Istanbul (Constantinople) Turkey – a full 1000 kms, 695 miles).

In twos or groups, the trails would be well worth following. You are advised never to run from such a creature, but to stoop to pick up a stone as if to throw because they understand this gesture and will usually leave.

East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.
East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.
Marmaritsa (little marble) beach, East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.

According to the locals, this is the land of the Cyclops from Homer’s tales of Odysseus. There are two caves nearby purporting to be the place where he was captured by the single eyed giant Polyphemus. There is also a River Ulysses (Odysseus’ Roman name).

Roman amphitheatre, East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.

There is a newly excavated Roman amphitheatre with white columns which are the same as those on the beach nearby.

A Roman column just poking out onto the beach. Such a wealth of history. East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.
A medieval wall. East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.
I spotted several sorts of succulents. East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.
Olives – November is picking time. East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.

Each farmer has his own trees marked with name. Once they are producing enough they can sell them to the oil producers.

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The twisted olive trunk – it must be ages old, East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.
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Prickly oak and wild olive grow side by side, crouching low to the ground. East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.
Juniper. East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.

Much of the higher land consists of slabs of rock rich in oxydated iron and there are quartz crystals under ledges.

With seams of white reaching into the distance. East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.
And wind blown trees atop crevices of grey and bronze stripes. East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.
Rocks galore – Stripey and speckled!

There is a wealth of local flora, even at this time of year – wild thyme and lavender, rosemary with purple flowers.

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My private collection.
Detail.

And beachcombing is always a delight.

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A popular place for jumping in from a high place. East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.
The hounds loved it! East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.
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On the way home we saw this little chapel – popular for weddings I was told. East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.
Red and white stripes – a sure sign of a hiking trail. East Macedonia and Thrace, Northern Greece.

Walking information:
Via Egnatia, the Roman Road
Lonely Planet
Wikilocs
Wanderlust

Proskynites

November 2018

It is all about the animals here in Proskynites, a small village located in northern Greece, in the Thrace region.

12-15 hens and cockerals

When I arrived the tabby was at home and the mother and all her kittens were at the field

A few days later the same mother, a tabby/white mix with a wonky eye, joined us at the house having made the journey herself (it took me 25 minutes to walk but maybe she knew a short cut!)

The queen, looking as if butter wouldn’t melt, but actually establishing her superiority over the resident female within a very short time

Leaving the rest behind to fight amongst themselves

And look very sweet

Playing among the bales

And always waiting to be fed and given affection

Somehow not as attractive as these turkeys who live by the petrol station

The land of Thrace also lies in Bulgaria to the north and Turkey to the east. The goddess of the same name was daughter of Oceanus and Parthenope, and sister of Europa. There is always a story.

Lea

Rosie and Lea play fighting

Proskynites boasts 2 cafés where you can sit all day drinking tsipouro (a sort of grapa distinct from ouzo by omission of star anise) if you fancy; an equal number of churches; an extremely well kitted out supermarket selling almost everything and with a spotless meat area out back; a community centre; and a bus stop where you can get a lift to Komotini which is the nearest big town (about half an hours ride at 2.30 euros).

Several times a week a gentleman hollers out over the village for 2 and a half hours. It is a Greek orthodox Church

Everywhere I spy saints – icons sitting with their back to the till in the supermarket or stuck up above the steering wheel of the bus.

On 2 floors, the house has a courtyard with a roof for training the vies over providing shade in the summer when temperatures reach the mid 30s

From the top of the steps I can see over the rooftops

A garden for tomatoes and sweetcorn

Here was some afternoon sunshine during my first 2 days and look!

Swarms of Autumn swallows swooping in front of me and once or twice settling on the wires in their hundreds

Our days are mapped out with twice regular visits to the field ( 10 minutes away by jeep) to feed, water and look after the horses, one of whom has a sneezy cough.

Giselle resplendent in her coat and Juli

A very necessary 4-wheel drive

Anyone who loves horses enough to do this is bound for heaven in my opinion, particularly with winds wailing from the Russian plains, temperatures of 4 degrees or torrential rain, the rest of us mere mortals would stay at home.

The dogs taunt the horses something dreadful, causing them to gallop around and kick up their hind legs

Not much further on is an abandoned village. The authorities offered them compensation in the form of land if they would vacate because it was too expensive to run electricity there. So the tale is told.

It is cotton country and at this time of year there are cotton wool balls in the hedgerows, beside the road, in transporter trucks and vestiges still in the fields.

The tracks all look the same unless you learn to identify the different hills surrounding them.

They looked dramatic as the light waned at 5pm

A flock of goats with herder and dogs cause Lea and Rosie great excitement

They took absolutely no notice of me and only came back when they were effectively seen off.

Turn left just before the disused silo

This part of Greece is so close to the border that you can almost see across to Turkey, a non-EU country.

The rain causes the clay to coagulate around our boots

And tyres

Causing it to fly off in chunky lumps when we once more gain the road.

Wild cucumbers – poisonous although made into a tincture and used sparingly the drops are good for sinusitis

Quinces fallen by the roadside.

Wrapped in foil and baked in the oven on top of the wood burner, they were delicious for breakfast.

Several spectacular sunsets before the rain came and then the full moon

Sunset, Proskynites, Greece.

Cycle route through the area

https://www.mapmyride.com/gr/komotini-east-macedonia-and-thrace/proskinites-route-139669967

Zagreb – getting to the airport

My last sunrise in Zagreb

At the stop on Avenija Dubrovnik (some 5 minutes from the apartment) which Google maps recommended, there was a list of buses but it didn’t include an airport one or the numbers mentioned, so I took someone’s advice instead. I took the #6 tram.

Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning

More than an hour later, the airport bus did indeed stop right where Google maps said it would, so I am writing this blog to help others to avoid the same waste of time and energy.

You can pick up the airport bus from a number of different places but notably from the Autobusni kolodov (Zagreb bus station). Allow time to find the bay as it is not amongst the other bus stops.

This is the airport bus terminal, tucked behind all the other bays – no signs pointing in this direction, no officials to ask where it is – but it is the part of Zagreb bus station where you get the airport bus.

Not an exciting photo but I took it so that you can orientate yourself ie if you can see this view, you have found or are close to finding the place where the airport bus leaves from!

It goes every half hour on the hour and the half hour, and takes 35 minutes.

Airport bus timetable as of November 2018

Detail: Nice bus driver. On time. Comfy seats. Ticket: 30 kuna, buy on the bus.

Zagreb Airport (another chrome tube! – see previous blogs)

The airport has different names: Zracna luka and Franjo Tudman being 2 of them.

I flew to Thessaloniki (Greece) from Zagreb (Croatia) with Air Serbia – stopping at Belgrade (in Serbia) to change planes.

Zagreb is the quietest, emptiest airport I have ever been to. There were 3 of us going through security. Three!

Waiting for the flight

Although the first plane was tiny and almost full, there was almost no-one on this second one.

Free fish biscuits and a glass of water on both flights

Piet Mondrian – Belgrade has a museum / art gallery. What a brilliant idea

I recommend the cafe below at Belgrade Airport – helpful staff, free WiFi and delicious green tea. It takes euro and local currency.

Zagreb – photo essay

Photos of Zagreb

A blue and yellow theme.

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Bundek / Gradski Park

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Contemplation

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Gradski Park lake – the smart end

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Gradski Park lake – the wilder end

Avenija Dubrovnik and surrounding area

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Graffiti

Spiders webs

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Final walk

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Where I stayed – thanks to LR

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View from the balcony