Newsletter > Newsletter archive > April 2013
Longing for a pilgrimage?
Winter may finally be past. Now we’re into the ‘sweet April showers’ that Chaucer famously writes about in the prologue of the Canterbury Tales, reminding us that it is the month in which folk 'long to go on pilgrimages'. Mind you, he mentions the ‘drought of March’ in the very next line, which suggests that the climate was somewhat different in those days.
Today not many of us go on religious pilgrimages, but we do have some near equivalents. Last Sunday, in a not particularly sweet April shower, we climbed to the Nine Standards above Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria. Waterproof-clad groups were trudging their way to the summit and then onwards into Yorkshire on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast route. Long distance paths are in a manner a 'rite of passage', in much the same way as medieval pilgrimages were hundreds of years ago. And on the previous weekend we joined our daughter and her friends on a trial ascent of Scafell Pike, still shrouded in snow, as they began their preparations for the arduous 3 Peaks Challenge. Raising funds for charity in this way is perhaps a modern day penance, a way of giving something back for the generally lucky lives we lead.
At least we get to do most of our walking without fear of bandits or robbers. For the chapter on pilgrimages in our Pathways book we happened upon a small church on the Pilgrims Way in Kent, its porch complete with open fire and tall brick chimney. Here pilgrims were said to gather before venturing into the wood lying on the route to Canterbury, so they could pass through with the benefit of numbers and perhaps even a guard. Some things have definitely got better since Chaucer’s time.
Exploring the link between walking and writing
Many writers walk. Many walkers write – or aspire to. A new venture set in some of southern France's finest, wildest hills offers week-long breaks that should appeal to both.
WalkingWithWords, based in Florac in the Cevennes, draws its inspiration from writers whose work owes its character and even its existence to the rhythms of walking and its intimate interaction with nature, people and landscape. Guided half-day hikes, afternoon writing workshops, and long summer evenings to share ideas and pursue your projects, cost £695 for the week.
Details are at www.walkingwithwords.org. If you email Roger East directly on firstname.lastname@example.org he'll do you a 10% discount as a fellow member of Walkingworld.
Discover great walks in South Tyrol
The dramatic mountain landscapes of the Dolomites in northern Italy’s South Tyrol region offer endless opportunities for thrilling walks through contrasting scenery. Inntravel’s featured region this month is a land where apple orchards and neat vineyards gradually rise through meadows and forested slopes towards jagged peaks and glaciers. Discover the Valleys & Villages of the Dolomites, walking from delightful Radein to equally charming Bad Dreikirchen; or head into the High Dolomites to walk beneath the striking peaks that make the Seiseralm Regional Park such a magnet for walkers. Remarkably, South Tyrol also boasts 300 days of sunshine every year!
But it’s not just the beautiful views that draw walkers here every year. South Tyrol has an atmosphere all of its own, created through a magical blend of Alpine and Mediterranean influences that have shaped its history and heritage (legends abound of witches and wildfolk in the mountains) as well as its unique gastronomy. In Bozen (Bolzano) for example, a medieval market town with a distinctly Austrian feel, you’ll find menus featuring dumplings and speck (smoked ham) alongside dishes such as polenta, which you can enjoy with a glass or two of the aromatic local pinot grigio or one of the fruity St Magdalene reds.
For more walking holidays in South Tyrol, take a look at Inntravel’s website (www.inntravel.co.uk), or speak to their expert team on 01653 617034.
How to deal with that coat when the sun does come out
The Coat Caddie is one of those inventions that is either completely mad or absolutely brilliant. You can imagine it appearing on BBC’s Dragon’s Den with the bunch of wily investors shaking their heads and asking why people wouldn’t simply tie their coats around their waists, as they have always done, before finally growling ‘I’m out’. What is it? Well it’s described as a ‘revolutionary new system for carrying your excess garments when out and about’.
Essentially it’s a little pouch which opens out into a sleeve into which a coat (or two or three sweaters) can be inserted. A long strap allows you to carry the whole lot over your shoulder. Actually it is brilliant, it’s just a question of whether you would ever remember to take it with you. If you think you would, it’s a well made product and only costs £10, so you can hardly complain about the price. www.coatcaddie.co.uk
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation charity has organised some five mile walks on the 30th June, in various places including Birmingham, Blackpool, Brighton, London, Scarborough and Weymouth. The ‘Walks for Whales’ are sponsored walks and the charity asks all walkers to raise money to help stop whaling. There is no booking fee and no minimum sponsorship, but there are, apparently, prizes for top fundraisers. www.whales.org/en/events/walks
Our own home town of Kirkby Stephen is once again hosting The Yomp on Sunday 2nd June; it's a challenging 23 mile course over the local fells (you can opt for two shorter routes if you wish). The event has been going for over 30 years, raising money for local and national charities, including the well-known Shelterbox scheme. www.yomp.org
Festivals and Routes
The rearranged Swanage and Purbeck Walking Festival dates are confirmed as Saturday 21st to Friday 27th September. www.walkswanage.com.
The Boudicca Way in south Norfolk is celebrating being chosen as one of the top 30 travel secrets of the world by Lonely Planet Traveller magazine. The April issue puts the route in the company of the Waitakere Ranges in New Zealand, the San Bernando islands in Colombia and the Kiso Valley in Japan. The Boudicca Way runs for 36 miles between Diss and Norwich passing through picturesque villages such as Shotesham. The route has been given a new lease of life through a voluntary and small business community project. www.boudiccaway.co.uk.
Great result for the calendar
The Wainwright Society has announced that £10,000 from sales of the 2013 Society calendar has been donated to Cumbria Wildlife Trust in support of the Uplands for Juniper project. Several hundred calendars were bought by Walkingworld members. Michelle Waller, Senior Development officer at Cumbria Wildlife Trust, explains that the money actually goes much further: “The money has been used to secure grants from WREN (www.wren.org.uk) and the SITA Trust Landfill Communities Fund (www.sitatrust.org.uk). To secure grants from these bodies we need to provide 10% match funding - so we have been able to use the £10,000 from the Wainwright Society to secure £100,000.”
The money has allowed a re-survey of all the stands of juniper recorded in a 1970’s survey. This shows that the health of juniper trees has declined over the past 40 years. The trees are hosts for over forty species of bugs and insects and are very important in maintaining the rich ecological diversity of the Cumbrian fells. During the past year, forty-seven volunteers have replanted 3000 saplings with the result that the long-term future viability of juniper is now more secure. www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk
Jim Arymar has revamped our background information on Ibiza. Putting aside its party-town image (and it’s very easy to avoid those parts of the island if you wish), Ibiza is a fabulous walking destination. We now have a good portfolio of walks to choose from. It’s certainly worth considering for an out-of-season break.