Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Launch of Self-Guided walking holidays !

After a very successful year of providing Guided walking holidays during 2017, we are pleased that our 2018 dates are now available to book.  Catch our Early Bird Offer for a reduced price if you book a 2018 guided holiday before the end of November.

We also now provide self-guided walking holidays for our most popular route ' The Prior Richard Way, via Ripon Cathedral ' between St. Mary's Abbey, York and Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, Yorkshire  This holiday is totally flexible in that it can be taken at any time of year, and you can take as long as you like to walk it.  Check out our self-guided walking holiday page.

Also exciting, is that Tony is about to embark on walking an ancient route between Rome and Canterbury, following the footsteps of St. Augustine who founded Canterbury's Benedictine Abbey in 598 ( which remained a Benedictine monastery until 1538 ).

Tony will walk a total of 2500 km / 1550 miles in 3 chunks, the first of which will start on Saturday 14 November.  He will finish his journey during 2018.

This route will then be made available on our website for you to download / use the walk instructions and / or GPS co-ordinates so that you can also walk this route.
So, watch this space or our home page for links to his blog.

We hope to see you soon !

Sunday, 12 February 2017

UNESCO bid for Italy leg of Canterbury - Rome pilgrim’s path


UNESCO bid for Italy leg of Canterbury -  Rome pilgrim’s path 
2017. 2. 12 (SUN) Mon, 
Published : 2017-02-12 12:11 Updated : 2017-02-12 12:11 
Borld Edite ROME (AFP) - Italy is to seek world heritage status for its leg of the Francigena Way, a much-tramped pilgrim’s route which once linked Canterbury in southern England to Rome via France and Switzerland. 
Seven regions are backing the application to secure UNESCO protection for the section of the famous hiking route that starts in the Alps and winds through plains and Tuscan olive groves before reaching the Italian capital. 
The hope is the UN will recognize the “exceptional importance in terms of both culture and nature” of the path first made famous by Sigeric the Serious at the end of the 10th Century, the regions said as they announced their proposal Friday. 
Sigeric, the bishop of Canterbury, described the 1,800-kilometer route in a 990 travel journal detailing his pilgrimage to Rome and 80 landmarks he visited along the way. 
He would have run the risk of encountering wild animals and bandits. 
Nowadays the Italian leg is underfunded and largely neglected and needs protecting “for present and future generations,” the regions said. 
Sections of the way, which can be enjoyed on foot, horseback or bicycle, remain popular with pilgrims (some 30,000 walked it in 2014) and nature enthusiasts. 
But with few places offering walker-friendly accommodation, it has lost out in recent years to the more popular Santiago de Compostela route in Spain. 

“Italy does not have gold mines,” said Nicola Zingaretti, president of the Lazio region. “But it has an enormous heritage of hamlets, traditions, and wine and food. 

”It’s an immense wealth which the whole world envies and wants a part of,” he said, describing the route as ”an opportunity for development.“ 

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Walking holidays launched!

Well, we've been walking and working our socks off since returning from walking in Italy in October last year.

The winter months have consisted of writing up the walk notes for the routes walked in Italy, in preparation for making them available on our website, but most importantly we have been pulling info together in order to be able to provide walking holidays for some of our most popular walking routes from our www.abbeywalks.co.uk website.  

This work is now complete and we are very proud to now be able to offer Guided Walking holidays for two of our ancient footsteps routes : there are two available currently, with more to be added in the near future.  
Check out our Walking Holiday page or directly to the Overview page of what UK walking holidays are available.

Our walking routes can be treated as opportunities to walk in the beautiful English countryside, or as pilgrimage routes enabling you to follow journeys made by monks in the 12-14th centuries.

You may see a slight change of tone to this blog compared to previous ones - that's because we are trying to make a living from our walking and walks.  Until now our walks on the 
website have all been downloadable for free for people to use 
and enjoy, but that isn't bringing any pennies in.

Please spread the word that Abbey Walks Walking Holidays are now up and running  !  Of, course please get in touch if you have any comments or questions.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The end is nigh!

Canarra to Assisi – 14k

Today was another short walk and so I took advantage of getting up as late as I could without missing breakfast. At 9am I walked through into the dining room and found a feast before me, cold meats and cheese, yoghurt so, cereals, cake and lots of other scrummy things. Had I died and gone to heaven?

Renata appeared and I ordered my breakfast coffee and set too with making my fill. We both made small talk as once more I was observed eating my breakfast. Why do they have to do that, are the croissants so precious? I hastily ate my food and without wanting to seem too greedy, I ignored the gorgeous apple cake but did say I'll just take the croissant, wrapped in a napkin and left.  

I returned to the Piazza to record my journey and was soon off following a cycle track to Assisi. There was the threat of rain according to the weather forecast, it set to start at midday so I was hoping to arrive before it started. I followed a minor road to reach a crossroads and crossed over onto a no entry road except for residents and cyclists. Well that is what it said but none of the local people were taking any notice of it. It turned out to be a rat run to Assise and I was constantly moving to one side for fear of being mown down. As I neared the outskirts of the city I passed a memorial to Captain Ibbotsen, an RAF pilot who had lost his life in November 1944. There was no indication of the circumstances but I paused to pay my respects before moving on.

4K from Assise a heavy shower started and I promptly took shelter under and oak tree to put my waterproof trousers and jacket on. Once fully attired Inset off and in no time at all Inwas sweating buckets in the humid air. Thankfully the showers were intermittent and during the dry periods I managed to role my sleeves up and open my jacket to get some air. 

As I neared Assisi  the low clouds started to dissipate and the truly breathtaking place started to appear before my eyes. Initially I had planned to take a more direct route into the city but I felt it was appropriate to extend the walk and record the path along the base of the city from one side to the other. It was a wise choice because as I turned right to walk along a busy road, my path became a tranquil traffic free slope with the majestic beauty of the St Francis church and monastery dominating the hillside. Once in the city I set off to the church to see for myself. It is a sad to see so muck security around these places now but after the sad death of the priest who was stabbed in France, it is the times we now live in. 

I placed my rucksack on the table to be searched and told the armed soldiers that there was just smelly dirty clothes in there. “No knife, no knife” he uttered more than once. Non I repeated just as often. I had my fingers crosses because I was telling a little white lie, I had my penknife but I don't think that counted.

I was conscious as I entered the fresco adorned church that I was wearing shorts but I did not get shouted at and went inside. It was just a brief visit as I planned to return the next day when Claire, my walking companion for the next two weeks arrives.

After paying my respects, I set off in search of my accommodation and a decent meal and a glass of red wine before a siesta.

This journey concludes the footpath that the Cistercian monks may have taken in the 12th century. It is known that they walked from abbey to abbey every year to attend their General chapter meeting, a sort of annual general meeting, to discuss the affairs of their monasteries. The meeting would have taken place at Citaeux Abbey, Dijon France and they would have walked there. 

I have retraced that possible route from the most northerly Cistercian abbey in Melrose, Scotland and extended the path from Dijon to the place where the Cistercian General Chapter meeting now takes place annually, Assisi.

Maybe one day I will walk the whole route in one go and if I do maybe, just maybe I may be seen wearing a white habit!

And finally a special thank you to the person who helped in sponsoring this adventure, you know who you are! 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

A lazy, lazy day.

Bevagne to Cannara.    8.8k

My accommodation was perfect, toasty warm and a large balcony to watch the sun set and see the early morning sun. I was reluctant to leave and could have sat having my breakfast on my balcony if any was being served. I took my breakfast voucher down to the local bar and swapped it for an espresso and a croissant. With both in hand, I set to transform my croissant into a lovely egg sandwich curtesy of a hard boiled egg I had and my trusty Swiss Army knife. Once they were both consumed I returned for a second helping and repeated the previous task……I was in heaven. My first hard boiled eggs since I had left blight over two weeks ago. The only thing I was really missing, apart from my wife, and children, and Grandson, well you get the idea, was the ability to brew a cup of mint tea when I wanted one.

It was approaching 10.30 by the time I picked up my bag and walked out of the door. I returned to the locati n of a Roman Temple to take a photograph as I was totally dumbfounded to see it had been transformed into the shell of a modern building. It never ceases to amaze me what the Italians do with their historically architecture, they really have far too much to preserve all of it. This temple had no information what so ever about it, it was that important!

Photograph taken I once again wound my way through the quite narrow streets to leave the village. My route was a simple one, I just followed the Forno Tippo along a quiet track, taking the odd opportunity to capture pictures of the Appenine mountains I would be skirting along in three days time. My peaceful thoughts were occasionally interrupted when frenzied dogs suddenly pounced at the fence of houses, barking frantically and scaring me half to death. Why do they have to do that?

By midday I was entering Cannara and with nearly two hours before I could check in a meandered round the streets getting my bearings. Now I have come across some quite places before, but I only saw about ten people as I paddled round and then took an hour to drink another coffee and write some blog notes. At 2pm and before my bottom got any number from sitting down too long, I made my way to the hotel and checked in. It turned out to be a 3star huge pile with me as the only guest……where was everyone, were they all zombies living in this place?

At 7pm after a siesta and writing more blogs I decided to see what delights Cannara had to offer in the evening and was there any more people alive. Well, there were more people alive but not much more. It transpired that every restaurant was closed, my hotel was not serving food and so I traipsed off to Sid’s pizzeria. My luck was definitely not in, it was just a fast food pizza joint and all they could offer me was two pieces of reheated mushroom pizza! I washed it down with a beer and having seen the supermarket next door open, I hastily paid and left to stock up on food goodies…….It was shut!

I knew there was a coop on the other side of town and wandered round the streets in that direction hoping to find a chip shop or a Wetherspoons open. I saw neither but there was at least three ice cream bars open. I arrived at the coop………it was shut!

I retraced my steps in the direction of my hotel and in shear desperation of some food, made a beeline for the Bluesky ice cream bar and bought two croissants and a bag of crisps to make some crisp sandwiches for my tea. I went to sleep hungry.

A late start and a short walk.

Bastardo to Bevagne      14.6k

My accommodation, the Hotel Paradiso served my needs well. The room was warm, the bed was comfy and I'd been able to have a decent two course vegetarian evening meal. Breakfast on the other hand was a different affair. I was the only guest and I'm of the firm opinion that Italians really don't do breakfast. On my table was a plate of various biscuits and baclava and some dried toast that comes in packets. I did have a choice of fruit spreads that I could add to my toast though. Needs must and I ate what I could and after obligatory two espressos I was packed and ready to go.

The route from Bastardo took me along a primary road and was not too busy for the time of the morning. Once again I was blessed with warm weather as I sauntered along the road passing along vineyards and olive groves. Every now and then I would get the distinguishing  aroma of wine fermenting in their vats, a smell I could be around all day.

After 4k I was off piste and trying to establish a route through farm land. I'd passed a landowner tending his olive trees and with only a cursory nod of the head in acknowledgement I knew I was ok on the path. My journey then took me through a farmyard with a large barn full of very curious young cattle, I don't think they've seen any walkers go past them before. I descended into the valley, my path meeting up with a road below or so I thought. Once again I came to a dead end, well the track continued, but will fall trees across it and clear evidence that it had not been used for some time I retraced my steps. I'd passed a bird hide at the top of a 10 metre scaffold tower so bravely and probably rather foolishly I climbed the ladder with my pack on to see if I could make out any tracks from the top. Not a dickie bird could be seen and know dickie birds either. I gingerly climbed down and walked up and down the track until eventually I saw a faint track which I decided to follow.

Eventually I arrived at the road and once again proceeded to climb up out of the valley. It was slow going but I was in the shadow of the trees and soon I was in my own little world of thoughts and dreams, savouring the peace and tranquility of the space around me. On the outskirts of the Bevagne I came across a church sat proudly looking down to the village. I was not able to check into my accommodation until 16.00hrs so I took advantage to take some photos and to sit on a chair that I felt had been placed there just for me. With my feet up and the weight off my back I just sat there enjoying the landscape ahead of me. I could have said silence, but less than a kilometre from the square a motorbike race was taking place around a field and the air was filled with the dreadful drone of the machines as they chased each other around the track. 

After 20 minutes I could stand it no more. I had planned to take a direct route to the village but the thought of walking down to and passing the dreadful racket I could hear where I was, filled me with dread. I chose instead to extend the route slightly and continued along the top of the valley before taking a right turn along via Sant’ Antonio. One of the houses along the road had a fresco of St Anthony of Padua set into the eves of the wall. I stopped and being an Anthony myself took time to reflect on my journey thus far. The final leg of the journey took me along the narrow medieval streets, with washing hanging high up from windowsills and the wafts of fresh meals being cooked. At the Romanesque church of St Micheal Archangel my journey ended and I went in search of a beer and well deserved sit down in the shade.

Up a mountain to come down a hill!

Masa Martana to Bastardo – 15th October 2016 24.3k

Well it was hard to leave today. I had had a good night sleep, managed to get my walk clothes washed and dried by keeping the heating on in the bathroom and consumed a decent breakfast. Well I say decent, I had planned to have some fried egg sandwiches after finishing the fruit salad I had made the day before, but I'd bought sugared croissants by mistake. I also say dried my clothes but my walk socks were still damp. After warming the croissants that I did not eat, I took advantage of the oven still being warm, switched it off and hung my socks on the inside of it and closed the door. Not only were my socks dry to put on but they were toasty warm. If anyone chooses to do this after reading this, please make sure the oven is switched off! I cannot be held responsible for you cooking your socks….

I'd had pre planned my route using satellite imagery and chose to follow a footpath up to the top of Mt Martano which then turned into a cycle route to Bastardo. Easy peasey, lemon squeezy. My first immediate hurdle was when I turned into the street that led me up there and I noticed a sing that stated Mt Martano ristoranta 11k. WHAT, what, 11k uphill…..you've got to be kidding me!

Well needless to say I continued the uphill trawl, initially I had not been able to see the top of the mountain due to the low cloud level, but as I ascended in the morning heat that soon had me dripping with sweat, the clouds dispersed and the sun beat down. In fairness the route wasn't too bad, once the Tarmac road had given way to the now familiar white stone track it was ok. The track meandered around the hillside all the time steadily climbing, I was on an unpaved road so a few cars passed me by and secretly was yearning for the offer of a lift but only to be able to refuse it……honest!

To left of my was a deep valley down to the town and to the left of that was the summit of the mountain with two very large and out of place telecommunications towers, but I guess they have to be there. Eventually after two hours I reached the crossroads and the cycle track that would take me to Bastardo. On occasions when I was facing the wrong direction there was a cool breeze that briefly gave me goose pimples but it did not last long enough for me to add an extra layer. As I neared the summit I was praying for the restaurant to be open, I thought it should be as it was a Saturday. My luck was in, every now and then I caught the smell of a log fire and although there were a few holiday chalets dotted around not were emitting smoke. The final corner brought the relief I was looking for when I spied smoke rising above the trees and the tell tale glimpse of the restaurant, I'm sure my pace increased slightly and before long I was walking through the door and ordering my usual double espresso. 

All good things must come to an end and after a quick photo of the roaring fire I slipped out of the door to climb the last few metres to take some breath taking views of the valley below me and the Appenine mountain range to the right.

Soon I was descending the long road down to the valley far below. Once again I had cars passing me by but this time I was smiling and nodding as they passed me by…..smug git I'm sure they uttered! In the distance I could hear the tingle of bells and knew that somewhere around the sheep or the goats would be grazing on the lush vegetation and forest floor. As I rounded a sharp bend the owners of the bells appeared…..four white cows slowly munching their way up the hill. Now the nearest field was about 6k down the hill, the nearest one up the hill was about 3k, so why were the cows coming up the mountain? Sadly despite being asked no one could explain.

I skirted around them and their deposits before arriving in Giano dell Umbria 11c, another sleepy place. It looked quite quaint so I decided to explore only to find that their was only about four streets around the circumference of the main piazza and the church at the top of a small hill. 

I made my way back to the main road and although I was starting to get weary I was equally keen to get to the hotel I had booked and so pressed on. By know I had 20k under my be
belt and my feet were telling me that they had had enough, I continued. I was keen to stay off any roads with traffic on so elected to meander through a sleepy hamlet with only three houses in but in essence never gained anytime or distance. Once more on the main road, I past the cemetery which was rather big given the size of the village I had passed through and then turned left. I don't recall the last 5k, I think I was either asleep or somewhere else, but just before 3.30pm I rolled into the village and to my hotel. 

The town grew around an inn and stabling station in the 17th or 18th centuries, and was once known as Osteria del Bastardo (i.e. "Bastard's Inn"). In the 1920s the name was shortened to its current form, it  has been noted for its unusual place name. Currently there are only about 1,000 people living there.