New Jaunts Old Haunts

Walking through the Saanich Peninsula in late April

On one of my weekly 15-mile walks through the Saanich Peninsula

My trip to Britain and Belgium is rapidly approaching and I’ve been busy researching, sorting out logistics and walking. A combination of fine weather and flexible hours has allowed me to clock a minimum of 5 miles a day and at least one 15-mile hike per week. The photo above was taken on the one wet outing in mid-April when I practically had the Lochside Trail to myself. On one stretch, normally very popular with cyclists, I counted only seven whizz by in a two-hour period. In contrast during the same period I walked by six deer and hundreds of slugs, the latter of whom took full advantage of the gentle rain to slither about on the grass that lined the footpaths.

This route never gets old

This route never gets old

On my last hike I passed a pair of walkers and we were both so shocked we had to stop and chat. This might sound strange but hikers are a very odd sight on the Lochside Trail. Dog-walkers, joggers and cyclists outnumber us by a thousand to one. In the last seven years I’ve walked this route at least 60 times and I can count on one hand the number of hikers I’ve encountered. In fact other trail users often give me a quizzical look when they spot me approach with a fully laden backpack. Still this is much preferable to the stares I get in the city from those who simply assume I’m homeless. Fortunately the kindred spirits I met that day were heading to England to explore parts of the South West Coast Path and so we had a thoroughly enjoyable chat.

Surprise, my walking plans have changed! Instead of walking Offa’s Dyke I will divide my time between Cheshire/Shropshire/Wales, Yorkshire and the north Norfolk coast. I’m going to base myself in a handful of locations and explore each area on foot. I’ll be visiting some areas for the very first time while others are old haunts I haven’t ventured into for decades.

This new approach is essentially the one I used for my UK visits prior to my LEJOG in 2010. I believe this will be my 17th visit to Britain since 1983 and I’m finding that reasonably priced single rooms are getting thin on the ground. Cheap and cheerful rooms are giving way to luxurious ensuite sanctuaries geared to weekend getaways and not tired walkers looking for one night’s accommodation. I’m not the first to comment on this but I would be interested in hearing your thoughts. I’ve more or less come to the decision that if I do another LEJOG-type walk I will be carrying a tent.

This church is definitely one place I will be visiting again

Christ Church Willaston

In my last article I featured a photo of a church and promised an explanation would be forthcoming. It is of Christ Church Willaston and it will be one of the first stops on my visit. If you’ve followed my blog over the years you will know that I’ve been trying to unravel the mystery surrounding my great-grandfather’s disappearance after the First World War. My research began in earnest in 1996 and it’s been quite a journey. I’ve spent countless hours exploring the streets of north-east London, Windsor, Chester and several villages on the Wirral. I followed in his footsteps on the battlefields surrounding Ypres and hunkered down in Archives across Britain in search of clues as to his whereabouts. Last month the Reverend of Christ Church Willaston confirmed that my great-grandfather is buried in their churchyard. I can scarcely believe that within two weeks my long journey will be over and I can’t help but notice that my feelings are similar to those I experienced the day I walked into John O’Groats.

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Pondering No More!

This church is definitely one place I will be visiting again

This is one must-visit destination on my upcoming trip

After years of false-starts I’m pleased to report that I will be returning to Britain in just over one month from now. Having previously planned and then abandoned visits in 2014 and 2015 I too would be sceptical was it not for the credit card bills confirming that I really am going this time.

A lot has happened since last July. The biggest news is that I quit my well-paid and secure job at the beginning of April in order to join the ranks of the self-employed. I did so for several reasons not the least of which was the toll it was taking on my health, but more than anything I felt that now was the time to devote my time and energy to creating meaningful work. I have little interest in retiring and so I see no reason to postpone developing something that will keep me engaged, put food on the table and hopefully be of benefit to others.

I’m pretty passionate about helping others research their family trees and especially their military ancestors. As such I’m devoting a lot of time to my Military and Family History blog while keeping my eyes open for other opportunities, especially those related to travel, tourism, writing and walking. I’ve worked in these areas before and so I’m looking forward to seeing what possibilities exist for me this time around.

Major transitions in life need to be marked in some way and so before I settle into a new routine I’m off to Europe for a month of R&R (Research and Relaxation). A lengthy LEJOG-like walk isn’t in the cards but being self-employed will provide me with both freedom and adventure and so I’m content with a shorter ramble.

At this point it looks like I will be tackling Offa’s Dyke with the possibility of an additional short diversion (or two). I will also spend a few days wandering amongst the battlefields, cemeteries and memorials of the old Ypres salient. Research visits to Chester and Huddersfield are in the works and of course there will be real ale.

I’ll provide more details in the days and weeks to come including an explanation of why I posted the photograph above. In the meantime I have weekly 15-mile walks planned in order to get my legs and back into shape!