Number of kilometres: 12
Number of steps: 19,686
Number of times lost: 0.5
And so blessed, my pilgrimage began with no fanfare, just that first step, then the next and the next and the next.
My first destination, Barham, is not directly on the Via Francigena trail. I wanted to break up the walk to Dover and I discovered a lovely lady who offers a bed and breakfast free of charge to Pilgrims. This meant the guidebook didn't provide instructions on how to get there so I didn't use it at all and found my way there using Pocket Earth, an offline map application on my iPad mini. It is so awesome that it shows most off-road walking paths as well.
I walked past golden fields of chopped grass. I discovered that down here, a footpath is not a concrete paved path but a public right of way to walk through private land. I walked through paddocks dodging cow pats. I climbed over stiles with the Devil on my back.
I almost got lost but recovered before I was. Having reached a main road after coming off one of the footpaths through farmland, the map no longer seemed to make sense. I found my onto another footpath and then continued along a minor road where I passed an elderly lady strolling towards me. She greeted me and made comment that I was on a long walk. I felt the impulse to confirm that I was heading towards Barham to which she replied yes but its a long way. So I asked her what road I was on and which way I was heading and discovered I was walking the long way but she pointed me to another footpath cutting through woodlands and then I discovered the gelocate button on my maps that not only showed me exactly where I was but tracked my movement. Saved before I was lost. And this lady who helped me was on holidays from Melbourne and lives in Packenham Upper!
It was only an hour into the walk that I started dreaming of having a trolley cart that I could use to drag The Devil behind me. It is a little heavier than my training walks and really full because the weather is warm and I don't need to wear any of my jackets at the moment. I then started to imagine my meeting with Valerie, that she would offer me tea and biscuits and how delighted I would be. Then I realised what I was doing and started laughing and brought myself back into the moment with the very heavy Devil on my back, trudging along a minor road in the South East of England.
I arrived to a warm welcome at Valerie's. She didn't offer me tea and biscuits but a double bed, hot shower, salmon and vegetable soup and bread and some lovely company.