You didn’t think two trips on the Camino and I’d be done did you? As I wrote before, el Camino te enganchas. The Camino hooks you! I’m hook, line and sinker.
So this year I’m heading back, with my Camino bestie Elke, and her friends Sten and Annette, who I’m yet to meet. But since some of us have already walked the Camino Frances (the most famous route), this time we’re going to walk a different route, the Camino Ingles (which is the “English” Camino, so perfect for me)!
As I learnt the hard way a couple of years back, proper training is key to an enjoyable pilgrimage. Last year my training mainly involved trips to and from work with a heavy backpack, or hiking to (and around) Richmond Park. But this was starting to feel a bit repetitive so I looked up walking routes around London, and I found the London Loop.
This is a great route that circles London, taking in its greenest suburbs. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve even managed to bring the hubbie along with me for a stomp in the mud.
It’s been a pleasure to explore parts of this city that I never knew existed, and today I was planning more of the same.
It didn’t start well.
As the route is looping around London it’s getting further from home, and there was a schlep and a half to Hatton Cross this morning, not helped by narrowly missing my train.
When I arrived at Hatton Cross I walked the half a mile down a busy road outside Heathrow to pick up the route where we left off last week. As soon as I got there it appeared the River Crane had joined forces with the footpath. For about ten metres or so, the two were nearly indistinguishable.
I hastily returned to the main road to see if there was a walkaround. There wasn’t.
Not one to be defeated by floodwater… I tucked my trousers in to my socks, and fetched a hiking pole from my backpack to test the water levels. I screwed the pole to fighting length and tentatively stepped into the bog.
Reader, it was intense. No sooner did I step onto the “path” than the water went right up the side of my boot. I tried another spot. This was less deep, but as I tried to take another step I felt my foot sink further in….
This continued in baby steps until I reached the other side. One sock got a little wet, but thanks to my trusty Camino boots, the rest of me stayed dry!
Drama done for the day, I started my walk. Mere minutes from Heathrow and I was in a muddy oasis of trees and streams with only moorhens for company.
I did three stages of the Loop today and the TfL guide describes them as some of the ‘bluest’, taking in miles of waterways, including some of the Grand Union Canal. I found the whole route very peaceful.
Perhaps most welcome were the signs of spring on the walk. Whereas last week there was ice underfoot, this week the air was warm and there was blossom on the trees. I saw all sorts of birds, and heard woodpeckers once or twice.
I walked around 27kms and felt light of foot nearly every step of the way (after the initial mud-gate). When I reached the end, as I waited for my bus, I sat on a bench overlooking some of the route I’d just walked, and listened to the birds. A lovely moment of tranquility.
While my journey home has been less tranquil (three buses, a train, a tube and a bus… so far…) it was truly a lovely day to be out walking, and a reminder of the sense of peace a day in nature can bring.
From walking in England, to the English Camino… Here we go! Nos vamos!