Maps, by Christy

 

I am an old fashioned navigator, I like to have a paper map spread on a table when planning a route. I like to unfold it in a forest and check my progress. I like to use a compass or the sun as a guide

Nowadays you can do marvelous things on a phone or computer, zooming in on OS maps, marking a route and downloading it for offline use. The problem with modern technology is that it demands access to a power supply and a reliable bit of kit.

When Issy and I set off from Dover beach we had two devices. These were meant to provide navigation, phone calls, photos videos and sound recordings. I had spare batteries, but my screen was on the blink. Issy’s screen worked but her device was cleverly designed so you can’t switch batteries and the power drained rapidly with all the demands we placed on it.

Turning the air blue as I wrestle with technology

Our friend Will Parsons had kindly sent us a route plan which we could access if our phones worked, but we soon discovered these expensive gadgets were not to be relied on.

We headed straight for the tourist information office, where a map of South East England set us back a fiver. Now we were confident that we wouldn’t get hopelessly lost.

Dover to Southwark, the wiggly way. Maybe 1/10th of the total distance done.

On the second leg of the walk my phone was being fixed, so the whole burden of recording and navigating fell on Issy’s phone. In the evenings I used a tablet to investigate the next day’s route, noting down the directions and names of streets or paths we would take. With these archaic scraps of paper we found our way.

Follow these directions to get from Aylesford to Southwark.

The only time we had to retrace our steps was when what appeared on maps to be a footbridge over the Medway turned out to be an inaccessible gantry in the middle of a wasteland. It was unseasonably hot as we picked our way nervously across the mud, intimidated by the sight of a modern troll’s lair, littered with discarded cider cans and tarpaulins.

We have learned not to rely too heavily on electronic devices. We will set our course North-West and keep on walking.

In the meantime, maps and charts are a fascinating way of seeing the world, as the examples below will testify.

UPDATE:

Thanks to Dave at Splashmaps for these two beauties:  waterproof, breathable, scrunchable, wearable.  Good for large-scale planning and make an attractive table-cloth.

http://www.splash-maps.com

 

And thanks to Will Parsons at The British Pilgrimage Trust for coaching me in the use of OS and Memory-map, and for dragging me into the 21st Century!  See below for a “screen shot”.

Memory-map has several useful functions, like making a pink fish appear at your destination.

Here are some curious maps I’ve spotted recently:

 

Cute map of Dover by prosperdevas.com. Spot the whale and mermaids.

 

The Fish and Chip map of Britain
A fascinating map we found on a pub wall in Kent. Much was destroyed in ‘Bomb Alley’ during the Second World War.
Pilgrimage sites, from The Pilgrims’ Way by John Adair and Peter Cheze-Brown.

 

Writers’ map, copyright Geoff Sawer.

 

Thanks to Billy for supplying a 2004 OS map of Kent and to Will for supplying routes from Dover to Canterbury and guiding us on Day 2.

 

 

Seeds

By Christy

 

On a recent visit to Australia my friends Matt and Ange gave me a dried sunflower head from the previous year’s crop. The golden spiral of seeds is beautifully compact and pregnant with potential.

Each day of our journey we give a seed or two to the special people who offer us shelter or encouragement.  With a bit of luck these humble gifts will grow into giant blooms that resemble the star they worship.

The first seeds were given away on 1st March in Dover. How tall will they be when we reach Iona?

Have we given you a seed? Send us a picture when the flowers grow!

Ah! Sun-flower (William Blake)

Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,

Who countest the steps of the Sun:

Seeking after that sweet golden clime

Where the traveller’s journey is done.

 

Where the Youth pined away with desire,

And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow:

Arise from their graves and aspire,

Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.

Step by Step

by Issy

My biggest challenge so far has been my feet. Although I’m not an experienced walker, I like to think that I’m relatively fit and I was relieved that 15mile days, with 5kgs on my back weren’t a problem, but my feet aren’t happy. My first pair of shoes caused me tendonitis, so I switched to my trainers, which gave me blisters. Four days in and things seemed to be settling down until small stings/bites appeared on my ankles, which promptly blistered and caused my ankles and feet to swell. I felt seriously fed up and frustrated, my feet seemed set on testing me and the odds seemed stacked against me making it through the first leg (Dover to London), let alone the next 600 mile stretch (London to Iona).

Over dinner I mentioned the bites to Debra from Hornchurch, she immediately ran off to her room to grab a big bottle of Aloe Vera gel, insisting that I should keep it. So kind when she’d literally just met me a few hours before. Similarly, Clover, who we stayed with in Hartley, on seeing my swollen foot rummaged through her medicine cabinet and was thrilled to find that she had some old antihistamine tablets. Meanwhile, having posted a photo of my swollen foot on Instagram and Facebook, I found a whole host of concerned messages from new and old friends alike. How kind and caring everyone was, albeit slightly embarrassing that my puffy foot had become the centre of attention. My frustration turned to gratitude for everyone’s support.

Debra and Chris

Amazingly my foot made a speedy recovery overnight and was able to stride the 11 miles to London in time to enjoy a lazy picnic in Greenwich Park, with our friend Alexandra who’d joined us for the last few miles to Southwark.

I was happy, relieved and had learnt two big lessons. Firstly, to keep the faith. Secondly, to banish expectations and embrace each day as it comes. You can prepare as much as you like but new challenges, delights and opportunities will constantly be thrown up that no amount of research would have either avoided or discovered. For someone who likes to be organised and in control of things, this is hard, but something I’ll now be more aware of.