The New Plan Saturday, Aug 29 2009 

Ok, here goes. Redesigned the entire plan for Rome from here (Lincoln).

31st August: Welbourn – Sleaford
1st September: Aslackby
2nd September: Market Deeping
3rd September: Peterborough
4th September: Ramsay
5th: Huntingdon
6th: Roxton
7th: Biggleswade
8th: Baldock
9th: Stevenage
10th: Hertford – maybe go to Tesco and sing the Foundation Hymn. Cookie to the person who can tell me why (leave a comment)
11th: Cheshunt
12th: London
13th: Take a train home to collect winter kit and get ready to leave the continent.
15th: Return to London
16th: Welling
17th: Gravesend
18th: Rochester
19th: Teynham
20th: Canterbury

From Canterbury I take the established Via Francigena to Rome, expected to take around 80 days.


Bad news Wednesday, Aug 26 2009 

Hi, all.

In the past couple of days several things have happened that may threaten this pilgrimage, and as a result have caused some changes.

The first thing that happened is to do with my phone. As you are probably aware, I have been using Facebook and Google Maps extensively for contact and navigation respectively. Normally this is free for a month when I top up by £10, which I always do. However, it seems that halfway through this month, these services ceased to be free, for no apparent reason. This has ruined my credit and also means I can no longer use either of these services until the 8th, which is when my “month” begins next. Hopefully it will remain free for the entirety of the next month.

Another thing that has happened is that I have been looking at time. My route, according to the actually very punishing schedule I had posted, will get me into Rome in mid-late January. However, I doubt that I will be up to the mileage I had suggested, thus meaning that the trip would take longer than planned. Having looked at my bank balance, I don’t think this route is feasible, on account of money as well as time – this route would have me going through the Austrian Alps in the 2nd week of December – hardly wise.

Because of this, then, I regret to announce a number of changes to my route. It will proceed as normal until September 19th. From London, I will be taking a train home to pick up my winter clothing, and then returning to London and instead of walking through Chichester and CH etc., will be going directly to Canterbury, stopping at the places I had planned to but in reverse order (i.e. London, Dartford, Rochester etc.). From Canterbury, I will pick up the Via Francigena, an established pilgrims’ route through France and Switzerland. This route is much shorter than my planned route, and will get me to Rome over a month earlier than I had planned. There is a high mountain pass which leads over the Alps. This will be snowbound, but there is a tunnel that leads through the Alps under it, called the Great St. Bernard’s Tunnel. It is likely that a bus or suchlike would run through the tunnel, enabling me to avoid this dangerous section.

Thank you for your support at this time. If you are able to assist me in any way, whether you can host me for a night or have winter kit I can take or anything else at all, please do email me at

The Journey so far: Havant to Hebden Bridge Saturday, Aug 22 2009 

Day 1: Saturday August 1st
Havant – Grange-over-Sands

Took coach at 07.45 to London. At Victoria Coach Station, I met a man carrying luggage and chatted a bit. At Preston, the coach had a problem with its indicators which held us up for half an hour or so, until it turned out that one of the passengers was a mechanic. Then took the X35 bus to the Lindale Inn, where I met JDS. IHT was there, having recovered from the illness that had threatened his part in the venture. For dinner we had Spaghetti Bolognaise, which I felt rather appropriate as the traditional first meal on scout camp.

Day 2: Sunday August 2nd
Grange-over-Sands – Ravenstonedale

The next morning, we ate a massive breakfast which included my first taste of Haggis! We then drove to Cartmel Priory, where I sang tenor in the choir, and managed to hack my way through sight-reading the music, including Gounoud’s Ave Verum Corpus. After the service, we went to the Cartmel Scout HQ, of which JDS is a warden. It is the only Scout HQ in the country to be set inside a raceground! We then went to a pub for lunch and I had a burger. After lunch, we  returned to the cottage where we got out maps and looked over them, cross-referencing with my route and various scout campsites JDS had managed to find. To make my task easier, JDS had made me a “Pilgrim ID”, which bore a picture of me holding the Scout Standard, JDS’s Cartmel Scout header and the following text:

Joshua Bell
has been a Scout and Explorer Scout
in the Christ’s Hospital Scout Group
West Sussex for the past seven years

He is currently undertaking as a Gap Year project a Pilgrimage on Foot from the North of England to Rome. He is on a very restricted bufget and your help in assisting him to find a simple site on which to pitch his small tent for a night would be much appreciated.

1st August 2009

JDS had signed the card as Group Scout Leader of Christ’s Hospital and Warden of the South Lakeland Scout Base.

That evening we drove in IHT’s car to Cartmel again for Evensong, arriving early to take photos of me looking around the church, and again I hacked my way through the music. It turned out that the vicar…priest…Rev., call him what you will, had trained Fr. Ian! While IHT drove home, JDS and I walked back to the cottage and after loading my bag and looking round Stonebeck we got into the Land Rover and drove across to Ravenstonedale, where IHT lives. His head start had allowed him to pick the vegetables fresh from his Eden Project-like garden for dinner. That evening we ate squashes, potatoes, tomatoes and sausages, with Summer Pudding and cheese, and stayed up late talking about all kinds of things. One thing that did come up of especial interest was Ampleforth College, a boarding school run by Benedictine Monks, where a former Housemaster at CH had been a member. See later on!

Day 3: Monday August 3rd
Ravenstonedale – Evenwood

That morning, we drove to Middleton-in-Teesdale, where we walked to High and Low Force to warm up and to check that I could actually carry my pack, which I could – despite it weighing 35 pounds (DofE Gold packs are around 30 pounds, but in a group not everyone carries a tent, and a sleeping bag, and the food etc). After shopping in Middleton-in-Teesdale, JDS and IHT drove me to Hamsterley Forest, where after bidding me goodbye, left me. (View the last sighting of me at

As I was leaving Hamsterly Forest, I stopped for some water and met a retired couple,  Jack and Ann, who drove me down to my campsite, and when it turned out they didn’t take tents any more, drove me to another, which was Caravan Club members only. These being the only two in the area, they then drove me to their house in Evenwood, where I pitched up in their front garden and was then sat down with a massive plate of Fish and Chips! Over dinner we talked. Jack and Ann had been teachers. Jack had taught Rural and Agricultural Studies, and had been partly involved in designing the GCSE course.

Day 4: Tuesday August 4th
Evenwood – Brancepeth

Ann and Jack gave me breakfast and a Tuna Mayonnaise roll to take with me. As I was out of my way, I took the bus to Bishop Auckland, and then followed a disused railway line up to Brancepeth, where I camped for the night behind Brancepeth Castle, which had big gates and a pair of (non-functional) portcullis!

Day 5: Wednesday August 5th
Brancepeth-Moorhouse Campsite

Got up early and went to Morning Prayers at the church, which was about 200m away and from which I had been getting water. Prayers were led by Margaret, the lady who owned the castle. She told me about the church, which was a 13th Century design until it was gutted by fire in 1988 and had been built much more light and airy. I then went around the castle with her grandson Henry. By now I had a late start as I had yet to make breakfast, so after eating the porridge from hell (trust me, it really needs sugar) I struck tent and walked to Durham. After buying a mains charger for my phone in case I got to a power source, I went to the Cathedral for the Evensong service on the feast of Saint Oswald. The visiting choir were very good, singing Wood’s Expectans Expectavi, and Christ is the King, O Friends Rejoice! was let down only by the fact that it was the words according to the New English Hymnal, and not the CH Hymnbook. But there we are.

After the service I walked halfway to the Campsite at Moorhouse, about 5 miles outside Durham, until the road got too busy, when I took a bus the rest of the way. It wasn’t far. I met a church group there from the Jesus Christ Church of Latter-Day Saints, with whom I talked at great length. The LDS, or Mormons as they are commonly known, abstain from caffeine and alcohol, though they are not “under law”. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul writes “‘All things are lawful’, but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful’, but not all things build up.”  Otherwise, they are fairly traditional, with a few exceptions:

  • They practise pre-baptism (baptism on behalf of dead family, so they may hear the gospel after death)
  • Marriages held in their temples last into the second life – which reminded me of Swedenborg’s theology
  • Their scriptures consist of 4 books: The Bible; The Book of Mormon; The Pearl of Great Price; and Doctrines and Covenants.

Joseph smith is said to have been 14 when he prayed about which church to join. He had a vision of God telling him not to join any of the existing churches, but to begin a new one. An angel, the Prophet Moronai, showed him golden plates of scripture which he then copied and translated through the Spirit, as he was barely literate, into the Book of Mormon. I also sat listening to one of the adults talking about his work in the Fraud office and his time as a member of the Serious Crimes Squad – not quite as exciting as Hot Fuzz, but there we are.

Day 6: Thursday August 6th
Stayed in Durham

Whilst writing my log before breakfast, one of the LDS adults, Jennifer, invited me over for breakfast. I gladly accepted, as I would choose Honey Nut Corn Flakes over the Porridge from Hell any day. That day I got talking to Daniel, one of the Scout staff, about my pack, which was giving me grief. I had already managed to dump a packet of spaghetti by trading it for my site fees, but he suggested instead of throwing things out, I should just get a better pack, as this one had minimal padding. So I went to Cotswold Outdoors and bought one, having tried several on. This one is 65+10 litres, vs. 75, but has side pockets, bottle holders, a built-in waterproof cover, a platypus holder, and an inner section for Stuff. The sleeping bag section is separated not by a cord but by a zip, and the bag overall has more padding, as well as a chest strap and Bio-Flex, which means the bag bends with you (so I can now bend down to pick things up). The only problem is the straps on the outside. On the old pack I could loosen them right off to slide my tent and roll mat in at the top and bottom, but this new pack had much tighter straps at the top, so my tent scarcely fit in (I’ve now taken to clipping both in at the bottom.)  That evening, the LDS invited me to dinner, so I dined on Spaghetti Bolognaise, squash and jelly with cream.  After washing my pan up, I joined them for fellowship, consisting of songs, games, hot chocolate, biscuits and marshmallows, as well as  a short time of prayer.

Day 7: Friday August 7th
Durham – Sedgefield

In the morning, I returned from binning rubbish to find a card, a set of leaflets, a Book of Mormon and a packed breakfast as a gift from the LDS. After thanking them, I left and took a bus back into Durham, where after posting the old bag home, I to Sedgefield. In Durham I stopped into the Police Station to check directions. I got a Google Map with directions, a cup of tea and an interview. A non-uniformed officer talked to me to check I was safe (the duty officer had seen me, young, alone etc. and was motherly concerned) and took my name and details, and asked me to check in at Sedgefield Police Station to let them know I had arrived safely. At dusk, I reached Sedgefield, and after checking in at the non-manned station, I looked for a place to sleep. I was going to camp in the churchyard, but the landlord of the pub said it wasn’t safe. Two pints of coke later, I learnt about the cricket club, who wouldn’t let me sleep there, but directed me to the next field where there was an agricultural show in progress. By now it was 10pm, so instead of pitching my tent, I threw down my bivvy bag and slept in that.

Day 8: Saturday August 8th
Sedgefield – Middlesbrough

Gone by dawn, I ate a cold breakfast of bread and cheese  under a road bridge. Walk was mostly dull. Sometimes the road had no pavement but thick grass verges. Once it was thickest down the middle of the dual carriage way so I walked down there. A business park on the way, where I went for water, was closed for the weekend even though they had a working water feature! Got to Middlesbrough, and found a campsite, but it was charging £11 per night, which was too much. So I went back to Middlesbrough to try the Salvation Army but it wasn’t a hostel. I went to the Police Station, and the duty officer pointed me to a hostel next door, telling me that if it was full I should come back as it wasn’t safe to walk the streets at night. It was full, so I ended up bedded down in the foyer of the police station. I had a sort-of dinner of jaffa cakes.

At 2pm a drunk person was arrested for assault on someone who had slapped his girlfriend. She and her friend had come in for him, even though he didn’t get released till the next afternoon. At 3pm they went and got pizza, so I ended up eating pizza at 3am in a police statiion! I like hot food.

Day 9: Sunday August 9th
Middlesbrough – Commondale

I left the Police station at half past 7, and walked down to the Salvation Army church. Waited 2 hours for the service, reading Pilgrim’s Progress. The service was good. People were very welcoming, I got mentioned by the officer leading it! I also got £5 from the Welcoming Sergeant, a pot noodle and a cuppasoup. I needed to move on to stay on schedule but as it was Sundawy, I took a train to Commondale, where there was a Scout camposite. Commondale is the funniest station, and village, ever. I thought CH station was spartan…

CH has hourly trains each way; Commondale has 5 per day each way.
CH has two platforms; Commondale has 1.
CH has a Car Park; Commondale is accessed through a farmer’s field.
CH has a ticket office that is sometimes open, a ticket machine, electronic train times and a timetable. Commondale has neither of these things.

The village was jokes too. Chickens and Sheep just walk around randomly. I stayed at the Scout Campsite, and for £2.50 was given my own plot. It rained that night, and while most of my stuff was under cover, my hat wasn’t, and I had to dry it out the next morning.

Day 10: Monday August 1oth
Commondale – Castleton

The rain continued intermittently for most of the rest of the day, so I didn’t leave until 4pm. My plan was to camp on Beacon Hill, just outside Danby. I hung the Tilley Hat, now christened “Christopher” for several reasons, out to dry inside the porch of my tent. One of the adults with the scouts camping in the hut asked me as I was passing, “Are you camping on your own?” and when I said that I was, she asked, “Would you like to come in for breakfast?” Again, I assented. So after a cooked breakfast, another of the adults drove me into Castleton to buy food, and then gave me half a packet of ham and 28 cheese triangles! At half 4, the rain finally cleared up and I left. Earlier in Castleton I had noticed a Wesleyan Chapel, and as I was passing through again, stopped in to take a look, whereupon I was instantly assailed by a cup of tea and ham rolls. The people there were holding a 24-hour prayer vigil for the vision of their chapel and I joined them overnight. At 10pm I was eating burgers; at midnight we celebrated communion.

At 1 o’clock I bedded down in the vestry and slept til 6. The upper room was at this point housing John, a Polish man who had come in about half an hour after me, speaking little English. His feet were in an awful condition and his trainers and things were all worn out. He must have had a suitcase at some point as he still had the handle, but it was now supporting two black bags. We managed to get out of him that he had been to Norway, to Scotland and Ireland on boats, and that he was now going to walk to Dover so that he could go to France. One of the ladies at the vigil washed his feet and put him to bed. Alan, the minister, after the communion went home and got him some new clthes, boots and a rucksack for him, then drove him to Whitby, whence he planned to walk to Scarborough, and then to Dover along the coast. During the course of the evening, I was prayed over for my pilgrimage, and went off with some packed food for lunch, having had a bacon sandwich in the morning. I myself declined the lift, and regretted it later on.

Day 11: Tuesday August 11th
Castleton – Whitby

After leaving the chapel I walked to Whitby via Danby. There was a road diversion in place which not only sent me out of my way but also sent me down a main road earlier than I would otherwise have had to have joined it. By the time I reached my hostess’s house at around 8pm, my feet were dead. I had a hot bath and then ate lamb chops for dinner. The local minister, Stuart, came by to say hello. That night, I slept in a bed for the first time since IHT’s cottage, and slept soundly.

Day 12: Wednesday August 12th
Whitby – Goathland

I had a lie-in. I went around whitby without my pack, as my right foot was giving me trouble so it was best to walk unburdened. I took lots of photos with the new batteries I had bought, and went around “The Dracula Experience” – essentially a walk-through of the story, using scenes and mockups of the Coppola film. I also wrote my sole postcard so far, to Mrs. Grindlay – as I had promised her I would after I told her I was going to Whitby (at AS English we had studied Dracula, and I had been massively excited about it – even going so far as to write a story based on a thinly veiled CH, with a vampiric Slovak Baron coming to the UK.)

I came back to my hostess’s house for lunch, and after eating, was given a lift to Goathland to save my feet. I found a campsite after spending some time at the railway station (used for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter Films). There I slept for the night.

Day 13: Thursday August 13th
Goathland – Newton-on-Rawcliffe

Now that I had sugar, the “porridge from hell” was rather nice. I left around 10.30 and walked over the moors via a Roman Road to Newton-on-Rawcliffe. All roads lead to Rome, they say…
I had neglected to take out any cash at Whitby and thus could not pay for the only campsite in the village. Fortunately the church had a porch just wide enough for me to bunk down in. I had also run out of pasta so all I ate that evening was the cup-soup from the Salvation Army. At around 10pm, I was just dozing off when the warden came around to lock the church for the night, and let me sleep inside. So I brought my things in and bedded down, giving me a chance to charge my phone.

Day 14: Friday August 14th
Newton-on-Rawcliffe – Kirkbymoorside

That morning the Warden gave me a bacon sandwich for breakfast, which I ate as well as the porridge I was already cooking up. That day I walked to Pickering and bought food for the next few days, and then took the bus to Rosedale Abbey. I missed the last bus to Kirkbymoorside and so be walking. On Chimney Bank Road – a 30% gradient – the rain started coming down. I managed to flag down a car – even though it was going the opposite way – and the people in it turned round and drove me to Kirkbymoorside. I found the local methodist minister, Norma, who arranged a campsite for me. I camped there; it was about halfway from Kirkbymoorside to Helmsley.

Day 15: Saturday August 15th
Beadlam Grange – Helmsley & Rievaulx Abbey

Walked into Helmsley and when the rain started again, took shelter in the porch of All Saints’ Church. Eventually a wedding party came along and I scarpered during the service. I went up to Rievaulx to camp, but it wasn’t abandoned, as I thought it was.  Instead it was managed by the English Heritage, so there would be no wild camping there! So I went in. The EH were charging £5.00 for an adult and £4.30 concessions. Even the concessions were a little too much but I tried my luck, and donning full pilgrim regalia, asked very politely, “Do your concessions include pilgrims?” After telling them my story, they let me in free of charge! I went back to Helmsley Church but it was locked, and there were no campsites. I nearly paid £18 to book into the local YHA but fortunately bumped into the local minister, David, who drove me to a campsite run by a family he knew outside Rievaulx, who let me camp for free.

Day 16: Sunday August 16th

At 9 I was picked up by David and taken to church. He was on his holiday so would not be attending byuy gave me cornflakes and milk, and I had breakfast in the church kitchen, which had 16 hob rings! Helmsley – the tune to Lo, He comes with clouds descending – felt extra special being played at the end of the service, perhaps on the very organ on which it was composed. At the end of the service, a lady named Pam took me to her house and put me up for the night. I had egg and beans on toast for lunch, and after watching Clash of the Titans on TV, ate pizza for dinner with chips and veg, and then slept soundly.

Day 17: Monday August 17th
Helmsley – Ampleforth

I left around midmorning and took a gentle stroll down to Ampleforth Abbey. The name had come up in conversation at IHT’s cottage when JDS and IHT were discussing Mr. Slater, who had been a CH Housemaster and formerly a monk at Ampleforth. I discovered it was on my route and so went there. The monks were going into Chapter the next day so ordinarily would not take guests, but the monk in charge of hospitality, Fr. Mattew, happened to call in and said I could stay. I was given a room and at 6.30 went down to Vespers. Vespers was sung in Latin using Gregorian plainsong, and I must admit I had to use the English translation occasionally, which actually was not all that accurate. After Vespers Fr. Phillip took me to dinner in the refrectory. After the sung Grace and the passage of scripture, the monks ate in general silence, except for one monk who did not eat but sat on a kind of lectern, reading throughout the meal. The book at the time was Barack Obama’s autobiography, Dreams from my Father. For dinner we had pea soup and warm bread, and quiche with potatoes and vegetables. After dinner I went back to my room before coming down to Compline. I am well versed in Compline as I know it, but this was sung in a more modern English that the style in which it is sung at CH, beginning “Brethren, be sober, be vigilant; for your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour; whom resist, steadfast in faith.” After Compline I returned to my room, and after making a cup of tea, went to bed.

Day 18: Tuesday August 18th
Ampleforth – York

Before breakfast that morning, I went to Lauds, a morning prayer service. After this we went into the refrectory for breakfast. Breakfast was a more informal event than dinner, and the monks moved around, getting food in a self service fashion. I had frosties (the monks eat Frosties!), a croissant, a yoghurt and a cup of tea. Father Phillip had arranged for a packed lunch for me, so before leaving I picked that up. As I walked into Ampleforth village, I met Fr. Matthew driving in for Chapter, and he wished me good luck. I took a bus into York from Ampleforth as the heat of the day was causing me grief – something that has been happening a lot – though my feet were healed up nicely. I refused to pay £6.00 to enter York Minster, and the next service wasn’t until 5.30, so I took a look around York, including some of the other churches in the area, and then went to the Scout Campsite, where I camped for the night.

Day 20: Thursday August 20th
York – Wetherby – Hebden Bridge

The next morning I returned to York to go west to Wetherby, and stopped into the Minster for the lunchtime communion. After that, I headed for the Wetherby Road, the B1227 or suchlike, and headed into Wetherby. I stopped in at a house at mid-afternoon to get water, and they also gave me a packed tea! This came in handy, as you’ll see…

I got to Wetherby at half 5 and went into the library to investigate campsites. The only one in the area had closed since the map with it on had been produced, so I rang around the local clergy. The methodist minister was away; the anglican priest said had he had notice he could have helped, and the Catholic priest refused to believe me for a long time, but eventually gave me £10 towards accomodation. With no other choice – the cheapest accomodation anywhere was £30 and the police station was shut – I decided to move on, and so took a bus to Leeds and a train to Hebden Bridge, arriving 3 days early. My train was at 2237 and I didn’t reach the campsite at Hebden Hey until after midnight, so I ate the packed food from the people and then bedded down in my bivvy bag.

Since then, I have been at Hebden Hey, which charges £1/head/night – this is perfect!