This is the first walk I have led for South Bank Ramblers. I chose Thursday to avoid the crowds, and then wondered whether anyone would turn up. But we were 20, a good number, including my nephew Dan, a couple visiting from Australia, and three or four members of a Dartford group. Some had already walked Abbey Woods to Woolwich,others had grown up in Plumstead, but all discovered something new and were very appreciative. The abbey ruins were lovely in the sunshine. Unfortunately the kiosk was closed, as they were preparing for an official reception. One of the walkers asked if there was a guide book, and we were told there is an app in preparation. A great day out.
Ten years ago when I walked from Leon to Santiago, nothing was pre-booked except the flights. There were plenty of hostels and one could just turn up. This time, and on the Ignatian Camino, it’s different. Fewer places to stay, and further apart. What is more, when I started to look at booking.com I discovered several of the key towns were 100% booked on the date I wanted.
So instead of leaving everything open until I get to Spain, I have spent quite a bit of time in the last couple of days filling in the gaps where there is no pilgrim hostel available. I have even written emails in Spanish.
I had planned not to fly back until November 6, but then heard that the official launch of the new Prayer Centre is on November 2. So I should get to Barcelona the evening before and catch a lunchtime flight. This means that I can only have a completely free day if I either walk 50 km one day or do part of the route on wheels, and it looks as if the relevant bus does not run at weekends. So one week is still uncertain.
Most pilgrim hostels probably don’t take bookings but I shall have to do some telephoning on the day to get in.
So, not footloose and fancy free, this time.