Past Challenges,  Santiago 2018

16 May

Dear Humphrey

I am in the fine city of Niort (well worth a visit) although most of the population seem to be training for a marathon.. runners everywhere.. little wonder as it has some lovely parks running along the Sevre Niortaise river. Also it has one huge Castle built by our Henry 11 and Richard the Lionheart. We were’nt Brexiteers in those days! Any way just had an average pasta dinner and sitting here with some ice pack around the ankle. It is ok walking but not so good when I stop. Anyway thought I would give it some respect and ice it and hit it with anti inflammatories. That it is any fit state at all is due entirely to Sarah McDonald who did something magic to it when we were in Ireland.

Covered a few miles since I last wrote and with Anna Kasket’s help been busy on social media and Norfolk Radio trying to promote the interests of the unpaid carers. I have plenty of time to think these things through and do the calculations. Do you know there are 7 million unpaid carers ( not including your mistress,  as dog carers don’t count) and based on the value for money delivered by them in Norfolk ( 100,000 saving the NHS and Social Services 1.6 bn a year) saving the government £112 bn a year. There is a lovely lady who follows me on Twitter called Katy Styles whose husband has Motor Neuron Disease and she was asked to give evidence to Parliament about her lot.. that was two years ago and the Goverment have still to produce a strategy on acknowledging and supporting these hidden heroes. You would have thought £112 bn was worth a strategy! She has a petition out which needs signatures.

See if you can get lots of people to sign it. It’s a ‘no brainer’.

So what of life on the walk? I walk a lot on on metalled Farm tracks, very minor roads ( on which unlike UK there is hardly any traffic) and some pedestrians only tracks .. one today reminded a bit of Dorset

Reminder of times gone by

There is a barking dog behind every fence and sometimes they are huge causing me to keep checking behind me to see if like you they can clear their fence. There are banks of wild flowers and hanging wisteria. There is a cuckoo in every wood and some red squirrels. Along the rivers and I have followed a few there are endless little holdings.. sort of allotments where presumably the owners come to to escape and do a bit of fishing. Some are better kept than others but all are locked and each has its own loo! There are some big farms, big fields and expensive kit interspersed with some more modest cattle and dairy holdings.

I mentioned rivers which sometimes one is required to cross. Usually there is a bridge, some dodgier than others and I am always suspicious of those where some of the planks have been repaired which suggest some might now been in need of repair! However I encountered one set of stepping stones

The stepping stone challenge

At first sight this looked ok even with a 11 kg pack. A third of the way across I negotiated one tricky jump and continued on until I came on this

The farther stone was a good deal higher than the one I was on. The log did not look as though it was staying there for too long and would certainly not if I trod on it! I was thinking to myself it would be awfully wet not to try but then again I would get very wet if I did. After a careful risk assessment I decided discretion prevail over stupidity and turned around only to have to renegotiate the first awkward   step. All’s well that ends well and I found a way round.

I have  seen no other pilgrims yet although I am soon to join the Route from Paris and Tours. Lots of bikers and runners. The saddest thing is that all the villages, small and medium size French towns are dead. Parthenay in particular had all its shops up for sale. The only active businesses are the odd boulangerie and the estate agents. The super markets have taken the life out of these beautiful historic places. Even the Office of Tourism was closed in Parthenay!

A hole in wall I could hardly get through.. ‘camel: eye of a needle’?

I have been hosted by some lovely people in interesting houses. In P the entrance to the place looked like something out of Dickens but behind the  decrepit  front door were the most charming couple in a sixteenth century apartment with all mod cons.

I think I have said enough. St Jean d’Angely on Saturday, the Gironde by this time next week and Bordeaux by the following weekend. Helluva a long way to go for a bottle of wine!

lots of love

your friend and master

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