Can you spare a few minutes for a Camino Survey?

The Territorial Studies Group (GET) of the Faculty of Sociology of the University of A Coruña is conducting a study on the Camino de Santiago in Galicia. I would be grateful if you could answer some questions if you are over 18 years old and have made this Pilgrimage Route between 2015 and 2020. The information will be treated in a completely anonymous and confidential way so that you can answer the questions with total sincerity and freedom. It will only be 4 minutes. Thanks a lot.

https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=PuqhzrJgdU-mwqYCLo-WG9C-OIeBZh5HhHW23bH_XwFURUExWTFUMk9JVEdVVjlON1EyNVA4NktNNS4u&wdLOR=c97D6F56A-5BCC-4D4B-BAB6-C68CF9930126
https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=PuqhzrJgdU-mwqYCLo-WG9C-OIeBZh5HhHW23bH_XwFURUExWTFUMk9JVEdVVjlON1EyNVA4NktNNS4u&wdLOR=c97D6F56A-5BCC-4D4B-BAB6-C68CF9930126

O Grupo de Estudos Territoriais ( GET) da Facultade de Socioloxía da Universidade da Coruña está a realizar un estudo sobre o Camiño de Santiago en Galicia. Agradeceríamoslle que contestase ao seguinte cuestionario se ten máis de 18 anos e se realizou este Roteiro de Peregrinación entre 2015 e 2020. A información será tratada de maneira totalmente anónima e confidencial. Serán  soamente 4 minutos. Moitas grazas.

El Grupo de Estudios Territoriales (GET) de la Facultad de Sociología de la Universidad de A Coruña está realizando un estudio sobre el Camino de Santiago en Galicia.
Le agradecería que nos contestase a unas preguntas si tiene más de 18 años y ha realizado esta Ruta de Peregrinación entre 2015 y 2020.
La información será tratada de manera totalmente anónima y confidencial de forma que puede contestar con total sinceridad y libertad a las preguntas.
Serán sólamente 4 minutos.

https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=PuqhzrJgdU-mwqYCLo-WG9C-OIeBZh5HhHW23bH_XwFURUExWTFUMk9JVEdVVjlON1EyNVA4NktNNS4u


Área Cultura Xacobea

Turismo de Galicia – S.A. de Xestión do Plan Xacobeo
Estrada Santiago – Noia, Km 3 / A Barcia
15897 Santiago de Compostela

Praying with Paintings | Why do our faith and belief fade so quickly when once we believed so keenly?

Shared by Johnnie Walker Santiago | Reflections by Fr. Denis McBride

For those of you fond of both the Camino de Santiago and that which is Celtic and isosteric, then this reflection is for you. Enjoy

Dear Friends


For the last 10 years I have set off on a Lenten Camino the day after Ash Wednesday. This year it was not to be. The Camino is closed, no travel is permitted outside of Galicia and many other regions and the vaccination programme has hardly started. I must confess to feeling a little sorry for myself when my friend Fr Denis McBride sent me an invitation to join him for a 20 minute reflection. It is wonderful. One discerning friend has already written to say that it is a “masterpiece”.

Enjoy it. For those suspicious of the title…just listen!


https://youtu.be/tJXmYIpAh0g

Stay well land keep safe | With love from Santiago

John

https://www.amazon.com/Johnnie-Walker/e/B06XT5CRHVhttp://www.johnniewalker-santiago.blogspot.com

REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF COVID 19 ON THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO

XirCammini, as the Malta representative of the Associations of Friends of the Way of St. James, has received the following message and announcement from the Xunta de Galicia to share with our members, pilgrims and Camino aficionados.

More information, not only in terms of Covid-19 updates in Galicia but about the continuous work of the Xunta de Galicia can also be found on https://www.caminodesantiago.gal/en

Dear President.

Following instructions from the First Vice President of the Xunta de Galicia, I am enclosing a report on the situation of COVID19 on the Camino de Santiago. In this report, you will see the actions implemented by the Government of Galicia and their impact on pilgrims in our region, as well as reference to the main information resources on COVID19 in our region.

I hope that this information will be useful for your association.

Yours sincerely

Ildefonso de la Campa Montenegro, Managing  Director

UPDATE ON HEALTHCARE MEASURES AGAINST COVID IN THE
AUTONOMOUS COMMUNITY OF GALICIA AND UPDATE ON PUBLIC
HOSTELS.

29 January 2021.

HEALTHCARE MEASURES IN THE AUTONOMOUS COMMUNITY OF
GALICIA AND ITS AFFECT ON THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO.

After the publication of DECREE 8/2021, of 26 January, adopting measures in the territory of the Autonomous Community of Galicia to deal with the healthcare crisis, under the condition of competent delegated authority within the framework of the provisions of Royal Decree 926/2020, of 25 October, declaring a state of alarm to prevent the spread of infections caused by SARS-CoV-2:
https://www.xunta.gal/dog/Publicados/excepcional/2021/20210126/2549/Anunci
oC3B0-260121-1_gl.pdf
, its impact on the Camino de Santiago is as follows:

  1. Limitation on the entry and exit of people to and from the territory
    of the Autonomous Community of Galicia
    from another region of Spain or from foreign countries, except for the exceptions set forth in this decree, from 00:00 on 27 January to 00:00 on 17 February.
  2. Limitations on the entry and exit of people to and from the territory of each of the municipalities of the Autonomous Community of Galicia, except for the exceptions set forth in this decree, from 00.00 on 27 January 2021 until 00.00 on 17 February.
  3. Closure of the public network of pilgrim hostels from 00:00 on 27 January 2021 until 00:00 on 17 February.

HEALTHCARE SITUATION OF THE MUNICIPALITIES OF GALICIA.

To access up-to-date information on the pandemic situation and anti-COVID measures in the municipalities of Galicia, visit the Health Council of the Xunta de Galicia’s website:

https://coronavirus.sergas.gal/Contidos/Restriccions-concellos?idioma=es

SITUATION OF THE PUBLIC NETWORK OF THE XUNTA DE GALICIA’S
PILGRIM HOSTELS.

As indicated in point 1, the public network of pilgrim shelters will be closed from 00:00 on 27 January 2021 until 00:00 on 17 February.

COVID APPS

RADAR COVID

Radar COVID is an application designed by the Government of Spain to help prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Radar COVID anonymously notifies you of possible contact that you may have had in the last 14 days with a person who was infected. In the case that this contact occurred, it enables easy communication with public health.

PassCOVID.gal

PassCOVID.gal is an application designed by the Xunta de Galicia to help keep citizens safe from COVID-19. PassCovid complements RadarCovid and allows you to: consult information of interest; receive notifications if you were in an establishment of risk due to the concentration of infections; communicate any positive COVID-19 diagnosis you may have to contacts you had and the places you visited; and find your Radar COVID code.

It allows you to check the updated status of restrictions in Galicia’s different municipalities.

It enables you to immediately receive important information, to consult the recommendations and to find information about the current state of the pandemic in Galicia.

PROGRAMME: “CAMINO SEGURO” (“SAFE CAMINO”) AND DOWNLOADABLE MATERIALS.

The Xunta de Galicia has launched the Camino Seguro (Safe Camino) programme, an initiative that promotes pilgrimages adapted to the current health situation through a comprehensive protocol of action on Jacobean routes in Galicia.


This programme has established a series of measures for pilgrims and professionals, management entities or volunteers who work on the Jacobean Route.


You can find the protocols, plans and support materials through the following links:

Information for professionals and management entities:
https://www.caminodesantiago.gal/es/caminoseguro/profesionales

Information for pilgrims:
https://www.caminodesantiago.gal/es/caminoseguro/peregrinos

Opening of the Holy Door, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Message from Dirección Xacobeo

On behalf of the director of Administration and Relations with the Associations of Friends of the Camino de Santiago, Ildefonso de la Campa Montenegro, we attach the following links for the streaming broadcast of the opening of the Holy Door of the Cathedral of Santiago which, as you know, marks the beginning of Xacobeo 2021.

The broadcast will take place live on December 31st from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Spanish time.

These are the specifications given to us by Televisión de Galicia, TVG, the host broadcaster, providing coverage which you will be able to use in different ways:

The iframe with which you will be able to embed the signal of our live broadcast on your website. The iframe itself contains TVG’s broadcast, so right now what it reproduces is TVG’s daily programming. As the event will be broadcast on Opening Day, that is when you will be able to see if you embed it (it is an HTML code that you have to embed in your website). It is the retransmission of this special programme.

<iframe id=’flumotion_iframe_player’ name=’flumotion_iframe_player’ src=’http://crtvg-backend.flumotion.com/api/v1/player_site/?asset=8&player=1‘ scrolling=’no’ frameborder=0 width=’640px’height=’360px’allowFullScreenwebkitallowfullscreenmozallowfullscreen></iframe>

This is the link to TVG’s website where the Opening of the Holy Door can be watched live: http://www.crtvg.es/en-directo/apertura-puerta-santa-de la-catedral-de-santiago-de-compostela

This link will not be active until the moment before the start of the programme.

The third link, and the one that will probably work best for you, is that of Televisión de Galicia (TVG)’s Youtube Channel.

This is the direct link to the broadcast of the 31st:  

This is the direct link to TVG’s Youtube Channel. You can always enter it and connect to what is being broadcast at the time:

https://www.youtube.com/c/televisiondegalicia/videos? view=57

Grace: It doesn’t rain. It pours

Xunta de Galicia Christmas Card

2020: What a Year!

What could have happened but didn’t!

I have written before and will reiterate it again, “If you want to make God laugh, share with him your plans!”

Having launched XirCammini last year, 2020 was the year when we really should have taken off in terms of local and overseas trekking. In 2019 we walked together in Malta on a weekly basis and travelled on Spanish Caminos (Camino Primitivo and Camino Inglés x 2), 5 Celtic Caminos (x2), Via Jacobi in Switzerland, St. Augustine’s Camino in Kent, UK, various short trekking trips to Sicily and also a 2-week end-of-year trekking trip in Sri Lanka where we immersed ourselves in a completely different culture. Late in 2019 we also undertook training to support the UK Confraternity of St. James with volunteers in 2020 to help run a donativo albergue on the Camino Norte that CSJ administers.

We even started 2020 well with a couple of hiking trips in Sicily.

Then Covid-19 struck!

The rest of the itinerary for 2020, i.e. Caminos in France, Spain, Slovakia, Ireland, Italy and a repeat of Sri Lanka, as well as the much-awaited Universal Peace Walk® that we had to launch in March 2020 all had to be shelved. Initial despair gradually turned to a stoic acceptance of what we could not change.. and the year ambled on.

 What did happen!

Wed Walks in Summer

2020 gave us more time for quiet reflection. At a personal level we had more time for our loved ones. We also had time to sort the wheat from the chaff and re-evaluate what is really important in our lives.

For XirCammini, we learned to adapt to the harsh reality of not being able to walk in large groups or trek overseas. It was all part of our journey and not the end of the world.

We

  1. Urged people to walk solo or in small groups between March and June 2020 and posted photos of solo/small groups of a maximum of 3 persons to encourage others to follow suit;
  2. Immediately helped to recoup and reimburse all accommodation and internal travel deposits in connection with the overseas treks. All were 100% reimbursed thanks to the goodwill of the overseas partner organisation with whom we collaborate;
  3.  Re-commenced weekly groups walks with a bang in June, attracting between 50 – 100 people per weekly walk. Managing these, with leaders and sweepers, were a challenge but they prepared us for what followed and gave us the nucleus of leaders for when Covid-19 proverbial hit the fan again.
  4. Re-0rganised in eight groups of 10 people each (maximum 80 people) with 8 different routes each Wednesday between July until October, following strict Covid-19 protocol.  Despite it being summer the concurrence was very high. People were committed. We managed this thanks to the commitment of the leaders that helped in the planning and led small groups every week.
  5. Continued to provide route advice when the groups of 10 had to be disbanded (6-person limit imposed).

We are encouraged by the fact that people have continued to exercise in fresh air in the company of others and this has proven to be therapeutic during these times of increased stress.

In this respect, XirCammini continues to reiterate that it is not an exclusive group. On the contrary, XirCammini has proven to be a movement urging individuals to walk (whether alone, with us or with others) and also urging others to start leading walks.

Something that really shone through 2020 is a spirit of positivity and altruism.

 Your Generosity: Our Greatest Achievement in 2020

Although the above required planning, effort and commitment, our greatest achievement in 2020 was harnessing the generosity of XirCammini members and friends over the last few weeks.

For this I wish to thank John Darmanin and John Chircop for driving the ‘Lend a Helping Hand’ Initiative and for the Committee’s counsel. But mostly I wish to thank all of you who donated freely towards this worthy cause, including also the volunteers who helped in each of the collection points and in delivering the goods to the inner-harbour parish. 

When grace flourishes it does not rain; it pours. Not only did we fill the parish office but also most of the stairwell of the office. I personally fought back tears when we delivered the goodies, overwhelmed by your generosity.

.. and it does not stop there. Gifts keep on coming in. A pharmacist calling to deliver more boxes, a baby products/clothing firm filling 2 of our cars with an assortment of items as we ponder who best to donate to.

The words, “Thank you” are a very poor vehicle to express the gratitude welling up within.

2021: .. the journey continues

When measures relax again we hope to re-introduce the weekly walks as well as roll out an itinerary for overseas trekking, air-travel permitting. For example, we are keen to walk the Tochar Phadriag for the feast of St. Patrick or trek the Cork Peninsula to Gougane Barra over the Easter Recess and undertake Caminos in Spain and more Celtic Caminos after that. But it all depends on how the situation vis-à-vis, vaccination, air travel and people’s perceptions continue to unfold.

Famous last words: It’s never about the numbers or the destination. It’s all about the experience of the journey. Keep walking | keep smiling | keep safe.

Never forget to smile, even when life is hard

Introduction: Woes are relative

Quoting Pope Francis, “one of the most needed virtues of modern time is hope.. no matter how hard life gets; this is often expressed in the simple act of a smile.”

Misfortune does not rest. It is seemingly unaware of Christmas recess or Summer break.

We know this all too well from the Covid-19 experience that spread relentlessly across the world.

Because most of us have had it relatively good for so long we may have moaned at our “mis-fortune”, perhaps not understanding that at the end of the day misfortune is relative.

We often need to look outside of ourselves to realise this. Nothing brings this point home more than a post from our friend and fellow hiker Carmel (https://www.facebook.com/carmel.pace.73/posts/10213892387183474) who in March 2020 lost his wife and everything else except the clothes on this back and nine months later there is no equitable end in sight. There are other severe personal misfortunes that hit close to home such as illness, death, loss of employment of a main bread winner, insolvencies and so on that make most of our “woes” pale in comparison.

We are our own enemies when we do not look beyond ourselves and be the change this world sorely needs.

 “Lend a Helping Hand”: Looking outside ourselves

In the words of Martin Luther King, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

And in Mother Theresa’s words, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

We may not be able to individually change the whole world but we can change the world of a few individuals around us.

Within this spirit, XirCammini has launched the “Lend a Helping Hand” initiative for this Christmas:

https://www.facebook.com/events/371338264126193/?acontext=%7B%22event_action_history%22%3A[%7B%22mechanism%22%3A%22search_results%22%2C%22surface%22%3A%22search%22%7D]%7D

In a nutshell, we are asking our XirCammini community and their friends, to put together a basket with 5 items, i.e. tinned food item and dried food item, a prepared beverage (excluding alcohol and soft drinks), an item of toiletry (or feminine hygiene) and a Christmas goodie.

We are not stipulating how much one should spend on putting the basket together (“il-qalb kollox”). Our only request is that in each bag, we have at least one of each of the above items.

These will be donated by XirCammini on behalf of all donors to one of our inner harbour parishes who run a food bank for the less fortunate in our society. We may not be in a position to bankroll banquets, but we will collectively put food on the table of (and Christmas goodies to children) who otherwise might go without.

We have organised 5 “drop-off” points for 12th December between 10:00 and 12:00 as follows:

  • Ghajn Dwieli Car Park – John Darmanin 99476595
  • Pembroke Parish – John Chircop 79618619
  • Xemxija Kiosk Car Park – James Portelli 79046942
  • Ta’ Qali Car Park (opposite US embassy) – Mark Mifsud 99440318

Conclusion: Advent | Anticipation

Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time of anticipation. The anticipation of Christmas. A time of goodwill.

For those who believe, Christmas finds its fulfillment in Easter which, in turn, is meaningless without the rite of passage of Good Friday.. the ultimate act of giving. So, in a nutshell, Christmas derives its substance solely and directly from an act of selfless giving. And, in giving, we receive.

There is no grey area around this: Christmas is all about giving. The rest is only wrapping and without it, all the lights, colour and noise would be meaningless.

We can change the world one thought at a time, one child at a time, one family at a time, one community at a time, one city, one state and one country at a time,” Bryant McGill.

And in Dillon Burroughs, “God is calling you to change the world one life at a time and one small step at a time. Begin today where you are.”    

AN AUTUMN WALK ALONG ST AUGUSTINE’S WAY

By Priscilla White, Confraternity of St. James, UK and Camino Aficionada

Introduction | Historical Background

Augustine, Disciple of Britain

A bit of background history: Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) wished to convert the heathen tribes of Northern Europe to Christianity and despatched St Augustine to carry out his mission.   Augustine set off for England but was so worried about the fierce reputation of the English that he and his forty monks begged to return to Rome.   However, the Pope was determined that Augustine should persevere and in AD597 he landed at Ebbsfleet (near Ramsgate) on the Isle of Thanet to begin his ministry.  

He was aided by Queen Bertha, a Frankish princess who was already a Christian, and she persuaded her husband King Ethelbert of Kent to meet Augustine.   This meeting took place in the open air as the king was fearful about the possibility of witchcraft.  Fortunately, Augustine made such a good impression on the Kentish king that he gave him the old Roman church of St Martin, named after the saint of Tours where Bertha originated from and where she worshipped.   This is the oldest continually-used church in the English-speaking world.

The great abbey of St Augustine was built on land between St Martin’s and the city walls and until the Reformation would have rivalled the Cathedral in size and importance.   Little of it now remains, apart from the stone walls, following the destruction of the monasteries in 16C.

Objective

One of the reasons for following St Augustine’s Way, apart from its historical and spiritual significance, is that in order to gain a Compostela when walking the Camino Inglés, (which I hope to do in the spring of 2021 unless prevented by Covid-19 restrictions) you need to walk at least 20kms in your home country.   St Augustine’s Way is some 30kms from Ramsgate to Canterbury so well fits the bill, and where better to arrive than at Canterbury Cathedral, where Augustine became its first Archbishop?

From Ramsgate to West Stourmouth

Here is the starting point of the Way.  This picture shows the corner of Pugin’s house, The Grange, where he lived with his family next door to the Chapel he designed and built in the mid-19C in the Gothic style.   It is in this house where he designed the present House of Lords after the medieval Palace of Westminster burnt down in October 1834.

(You can get a stamp for your credential from the Pugin Centre before you set off along St Augustine’s Way.)

Setting forth on a windy October day with mask in place and endless layers to keep out the cold and rain.   As you leave the town of Ramsgate behind, you walk along the cliff top down and round to Pegwell Bay with magnificent views over the Channel.  

The shore is an important bird sanctuary with scores of wading birds poking about in the mudflats – redshank, shelduck, oyster catchers, a little egret and a lone curlew. Seals bask on the strip of land in the distance.  A man is digging for lugworms way out on the flats with a wooden contraption to stop him sinking into the mud.   As you pass through Pegwell village with its two adjacent pubs, one of them, the Belle Vue Tavern, boasts of a long history of smugglers with their contraband hidden in nearby caves.   It reminds me of Kipling’s A Smuggler’s Song – “Brandy for the Parson, ‘Baccy for the Clerk”.  

The cliff path follows the contours of the bay until you reach the village of Cliffsend.  Perched above the cliff is a replica Viking ship, “The Hugin”.   It is a reconstructed longship that sailed from Denmark to Thanet in 1949 as a gift from the Danish government to commemorate the 1500th anniversary of the arrival of Hengist and Horsa, leaders of the Anglo-Saxon invasion, at nearby Ebbsfleet. (King Ethelbert was a descendent of Hengist)

Leaving the village, you turn inland and shortly reach St Augustine’s Cross set by the side of the road near a golf course.   An undistinguished setting for such an important moment in history.

St Augustine’s Cross was commissioned by the Earl of Granville in 1884 at that time Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.   He was inspired to erect it after a massive oak, known as the Augustine Oak was felled in a storm; according to legend it was under this tree that Augustine converted King Ethelbert and baptised him in a nearby stream (Stour) that was afterwards known as St Augustine’s Well.   Tradition holds that the baptism was carried out on Whit Sunday AD597.  The cross is carved in the early Christian style, modelled on 8C stone crosses at Sandbach in Cheshire.  It stands quietly by the side of the road with farmland stretching out behind it.

Following along the river for a mile or so, you cross over the railway line and walk through fields along a footpath until you reach the village of Minster and Minster Abbey, founded by Domneva of Kent in AD670.   She was succeeded by her daughter Mildred, a much loved prioress who became the patron saint of Thanet (Feast Day 13 July).   The Abbey was largely destroyed in the 16C during Henry VIII’s Reformation.   St Mildred’s Priory, adjacent to the abbey is now owned and run by Benedictine nuns who escaped from Germany in the war and set up their convent here in Minster.   You can visit the Abbey in the afternoon and services are held there on a Sunday.   (This is of course in normal Covid-free times.   At the moment, it is closed to all visitors).

Just down the road from the Abbey stands the church of St Mary the Virgin, with the original building dating from AD670.   Rebuilt by the Saxons and enlarged by the Normans, the present building dates from 1150 and the nave remains in its present form since that date. You can see St Augustine’s stone that he is said to have used when he preached.   Traditionally called the “Cathedral of the Marshes”, it is a beautiful church with a great sense of peace and tranquillity set in village once on the edge of the Wantsum Channel.   A lovely spot to sit and reflect awhile (and get a stamp for your credential)

Having stamped my credential and offered me a cup of coffee, I was joined for a stretch of the way by the Rev. Richard Braddy, vicar of St Mary’s who filled me in on the local history and showed me the path down to the River Stour.  The hedgerows are full of berries, both hips and haws and dark purple sloes.   A kestrel hovers overhead and pair of swans with their signets glide by along the stream at the side of the path.  Up to the right at the edge of the field is the Abbots Wall, a mediaeval earthwork to stop the water from flooding into Minster during heavy rain. In St Augustine’s day, the land would have been under water so he would have sailed towards Canterbury across the Wantsum Channel.  

The path follows the river and ahead of me on a stubby bush sits a stonechat with his mate; they flitter ahead of me as I approach them.   Cormorants are drying their wings on a large tree by the river and a solitary marsh harrier quarters the ground looking for small prey.   Richard leaves me to return home and I continue on to the hamlet of Pluck’s Gutter, apparently named after a Dutch drainage engineer called Ploeg, which is Dutch for plough.   The Dutch were renowned for draining the marshes by digging ditches to create farmland.   The rain sets in just as I arrive at the Dog and Duck pub and as my boots are muddy and my jacket is dripping, I eat my packed lunch outside on a bench outside the pub.   The friendly waitress braves the rain to bring me a drink and stamp my credential.   I could see spire of the church at Stourmouth ahead of me as I walked by the side of the river in the afternoon.   The path was muddy after all the rain but the walking is easy underfoot and I made good time.

I soon reached the small village of West Stourmouth with its ancient and beautiful Anglo-Saxon church of All Saints  It is no longer in use as a place of worship but open to visitors and is worth a visit to look at the beautiful stained glass windows.  The sun came out at this point so I sat on the bench to enjoy a few minutes sunning myself.

Stained glass window showing saints Philip and Thomas. You can book a night in the church for the experience of “champing”.

From Stourmouth to Canterbury

From West Stourmouth, you continue along a well-trodden path by the river bank until you reach Grove Ferry, so called because it was used to ferry traffic across the Great Stour.   The Grove Ferry Inn is a converted manor house set by the river and looking over Stodmarsh. In earlier times it held the rights to the ferry crossing and farmed 17 acres of lavender, creating a popular day trip destination, as there was a railway station nearby.

You can’t get a stamp but you can spend the night and it is a good place to end the first part of your journey.   I ended my first day’s journey here and took the bus back home.

Retracing my bus journey of yesterday, I returned to Grove Ferry to complete the walk to Canterbury. The river Stour meanders calmly along the edge of Stodmarsh, once farmed by the monks of St Augustine’s Abbey in the Middle Ages and now home to rare birds and butterflies.

For this second day of my journey, I was joined by a fellow CSJ member, Dominic Kempson, who lives nearby.  The weather was warm and sunny and made for a pleasant day’s walking along the banks of the river.  Small boats chug up and down the river taking advantage of the good weather. 

A herd of belted Galloway cattle were grazing in the distance and they help to keep the pastures cropped in this wild life haven.

Autumn berries glowing bright red in the sunshine along the path through Stodmarsh.   This is a particularly beautiful part of the Way to Canterbury and you feel you are walking through history as you follow the old paths towards the village of Stodmarsh.

Leaving the marsh, you walk through a car park used by walkers and bird watchers, and up a track to the hamlet of Stodmarsh with its small flint stone church of St Mary’s originally built in the 12C.   The church was open as the verger was doing the flowers for the altar.   Although the church doesn’t have a stamp, the verger kindly signed and dated my credential.

These strange looking crossbeams support the bell turret and are believed to be unique in Kent. 

 Ahead is The Red Lion, a 15C pub where you can eat a meal and spend the night.   A good place to stay if you are bird watching on the marsh, or another place to break your journey to Canterbury.

As we climbed the hill out of Stodmarsh along a quiet country lane surrounded by fields with the river flowing gently below us, we came across these tempting apples but reluctantly left them in the box as there was insufficient room in our knapsacks.

We continued on to the top of the hill and climbed over a stile into a muddy field.   The path was unclear at this point and once we had left the field we found ourselves walking down the winding road to Fordwich, somehow missing the footpath that leads through the woods to the town.   No harm was done, but a path through the autumn woodland would have been preferable to the road.

The town of Fordwich boasts as being the smallest in Britain.   We stopped to eat our lunch on the bench in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin.   Unfortunately, the church was closed and a young woman dressed in black is expressing her annoyance as she finds the porch door locked.   Shakespeare’s plays were performed in the Town Hall here during his lifetime and the actors used the upper room of the mediaeval hall unchanged to this day.

Autumn colours by the river Stour, and before the bridge was built, this is where the river was forded, hence the name of the town.   We crossed the bridge and turned left to follow the river into Canterbury.  A wooden fingerpost directs you along the path through water meadows and woodland until you reach the outskirts of Canterbury, passing by the church of St Martin’s, used by St Augustine, with the agreement of King Ethelbert, when he arrived in Canterbury to begin his mission.

Canterbury

As you pass by the Abbey, you come across the statue of Queen Bertha walking down Lady Wootton’s garden.   Her husband is beckoning her to join him after she has attended Mass at St Martin’s.

This is a particularly beautiful view of the Cathedral standing high above the city walls with the Caen stone glowing in the late afternoon light as you cross over the road and walk down Burgate to the main entrance.  

The Cathedral precincts are closed at the moment and the front of the building is covered in scaffolding whilst restoration works are carried out. 

There was a long queue of visitors waiting to enter via a side entrance.  My credential was stamped and we were welcomed into the Cathedral.   I had completed the 20kms required for my Compostela.

Arriving at the Cathedral, credential in hand with my fellow pilgrim, Dominic Kempson. 

The site of St Thomas Becket’s martyrdom with the arresting sculpture by Giles Blomfeld above the altar stone representing the knights’ four swords; two swords and two shadows.

We sat for a while in the main body of the cathedral, contemplating the journey from Ramsgate to Canterbury and feeling very much part of the history of earlier times with past centuries seeming very present as we followed in St Augustine’s footsteps.

October, 2020

Have faith | We will walk together again

It’s uncanny how all the odds have recently been staked against a pastime that is providing many not only with physical activity in the outdoors but also psychological relief and social networking in smaller groups.

Law

Sadly, following the latest set of Covid-19 related regulations, this week will be the last XirCammini Wed Walk for the time being. The XirCammini Wed Walks will be stopped until further notice. This does not mean that you have to stop walking. We encourage you to continue walking solo or in small groups and if you need ideas of routes please feel free to contact any of the XirCammini group / walk leaders.

Please also post photos (with masks on if of yourself) of walks on the XirCammini FB Group to encourage others to be out and about and to keep spirits high. We can all do with a generous dose of positivity under the current circumstances.

While we would have loved to continue with our Wed Walks, the problem for XirCammini is that we would need to double the number of leaders and walks to handle the same groups each week. We had already regrouped into smaller groups (max 10), taking our Wed walk routes from 1 to 8 every Wednesday. Managing 8 walks (and up to 80 people) each week already had its challenges. For this I would like to thank all of those who stepped up to the plate and volunteered time and energy to lead the smaller groups. I cannot thank you enough.

The new regulations coming into effect this Thursday would mean that we would have to double our Wed Walk itineraries. To manage 16 walks per week and to manage the downside risk (i.e. an infringement even in one group or notification and investigation protocols in case of and an outbreak in one group) poses a significant burden on volunteers relentlessly trying against all odds to make this work. Hence the reason for regretfully having to postpone the Wed Walks until further notice.

Logic?

Regretfully,  if one is smoking in public then one can do away with the mask.  When jogging, semi-naked, on promenades and spraying sweat over everybody else one does not need to wear a mask. Hunters or trappers on public land requisitioned from the public by the government for the hunters and trappers .. that’s probably also okay. In many cases paths leading to such woodlands have been obliterated making it more difficult to detect any infringements (not just infringements related to Covid-19 regulations) or to apprehend culprits.

But, apparently, Maltese hikers are mere mortals who do not deserve to indulge in physical exercise that also does a wealth of good to their mental state unless they wear masks even in the non-urban outdoors and in small groups and observing social distancing regulations. Everybody else, bikers, cyclists, joggers, and until recently revelers in or outside bars and clubs can be trusted to observe the rules. Foreign outdoor-activity groups (could it be that one solo septuagenarian single-handedly disfigured Malta’s natural heritage with red paint without ‘local’ help?) can also be trusted. But local hikers who have walked the proverbial extra mile, modified and structured weekly walks, and managed them in a way so as to continue this pastime safely .. they are lesser mortals.

Life

Life itself is a journey and every bed of roses is also a bed of thorns. Notwithstanding the odds do not stop walking. Whether solo or in small groups permissible by the law take as much fresh air in the ever diminishing Maltese countryside or close to the sea as you possible can. Positivity is a great medicine. This is scientifically proven. It is also scientifically proven that  exercise in fresh air boosts not only physical but also mental health and wellbeing. Maybe step up to the plate, find a few walking buddies within the allowed regulatory limits, create your ‘bubble of buddies’ and continue with your walks.  Ask for some routes, do whatever it takes and continue walking.

Life is a journey | Keep walking | Keep smiling | And, whatever you do .. stay safe.

Wed Cluster Walks: Ultreya

Introduction

A fortnight ago, we reluctantly communicated the decision that we would be stopping the weekly ‘Wed Walks’ (https://xircammini.org/covid-19/covid-19-keep-calm-carry-on-in-smaller-groups/). We took the decision with a heavy heart because Wed Walks had started to gain momentum attracting between 50 to 100 walkers each week. As a result of various calls to re-consider, and with the assistance of various persons that stepped up to the plate to lead smaller groups, XirCammini has put in place a calendar and itinerary of walks that rotate per cluster group.

 

Cluster Groups: How will it work?

Last week we re-communicated through our website and on social media (https://xircammini.org/covid-19/wed-walks-with-your-help-we-can-carry-on/) that Wed Walks will continue, albeit in a different format, i.e. in groups of 10 on a rotating itinerary of walks. This means that several walks in various parts of Malta will take place each Wednesday evening with group sizes bring curtailed at 10 per group. Persons participating in these groups are persons who answered our poll and/or concurrently interacted with us at the time. Groups and itineraries are now fixed until the end of September when the scheme will be re-evaluated in the light of Covid-19 developments. By now, all persons who interacted with us in this respect would have been allotted an FB Chat group informing them of the leader and fellow group members and of the first walk. We ask for your understanding not to request changes because (a.) putting the whole plan into place was a significant endeavour and (b.) volunteers (who otherwise also have full-time jobs and personal responsibilities) undertake all the work on a voluntary basis by sacrificing personal time.

Thank you.

 

Risk Management Considerations

Some have asked, “Why all the work (and fuss) when outside events have a 300-person limit?”

If we had to provide one succinct answer to the above question, it would be, “To reduce the probability of spread and to lessen potential consequences in the event of Covid contagion.”

What does this mean?

  1. If you are in a group of 10 persons that does not change from one week to the next, the probability of coming into contact with an infected and/or asymptomatic person is much less than if you are walking with a group of 50 or more people that change each week.
  2. Similarly, if you an asymptomatic carrier the possibility of transmission is to a smaller group of people instead of the whole group. This also significantly reduces the burden on contract tracing and swabbing for the health authorities.

Why have we continued with the walks?

The short reply would be because of an overwhelming response to do so notwithstanding the circumstances.

The underlying response is that – even under normal circumstances – several people are benefitting whether physically, psychologically, emotionally or spiritually when participating in these Wed Walks.

Covid-19 has heightened some of the fears, concerns, anxiety, stress and loneliness and in some cases increased real or perceived isolation. Within this context, these walks have become even more relevant for our well-being.

This being stated, they had to be ‘re-engineered’ to respect the realities we are living in and the directives from health and government authorities in this respect.

Health Directives: Our 10 Commandments.

By participating in these walks, walkers bind themselves to the following directives. Help us to continue providing you with walks:

  1. DO NOT join a walk if you are sick, running a temperature, have a cough, or experiencing trouble to breathe;
  2. DO NOT join a walk if you or persons close to you have recently (i.e. during the last fortnight) returned from overseas from a country with whom there isn’t an established ‘safe-corridor’;
  3. When we meet AVOID ANY FORM of physical contact with others (i.e. shaking hands, hugging, kissing etc.) and try to maintain a 2-metre physical distance;
  4. AVOID touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Carry and use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, tissues, and other hygiene products constantly on a trek. Please also dispose of these responsibly;
  5. USE soap and water if hands are visibly dirty;
  6. COVER your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing;
  7. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES invite others to join your cluster for the weekly Wed Walk. Cluster leaders have instructions to turn away anyone who is not pre-registered in the respective cluster.
  8. GIVE your leader a telephone number on which you can be contacted in case these are required (a.) for further announcements by your leader and/or (b.) for us to share with Health Authorities if asked e.g. for contact tracing.
  9. By participating in your cluster you are CONSENTING to providing your telephone contact number and to us sharing it with health authorities if required.
  10. You also agree that you are participating freely in such walks and freely assume any risks arising from such walks. You hold XirCammini harmless and free from any liability for any accident, illness, injury, loss or direct or indirect consequences of such accident, illness, injury or loss.

Conclusion: A Word of Thanks.

I want to thank the Committee members who participated in the discussions and assisted in bringing this plan to fruition and also to the persons who kindly offered to lead cluster groups. These walks would not have been possible without their assistance. In choosing leaders, XirCammini:

  1. Decided the overall direction, encouraging a change in thinking;
  2. Empowered people and will continue to support them to achieve;
  3. Provided an overall framework for effective implementation and leader guidance, aligning clusters and facilitating ‘cluster’ decisions;
  4. Created a system that is flexible to respond to changes and improvements.

In other words, this was and will continue to be an exercise of leadership in action.

A lot of thought, planning and execution went into the process. The success of these walks now hinges on response and cooperation of walkers in each group, the ultimate beneficiaries.