Planning and Preparation

As February approaches and the days begin to lengthen again, we’ve been busy getting ready for our big walk. We’ve spent much of our spare time since Christmas gathering together the essential equipment. Selection of boots took quite an effort with multiple visits to various outdoor shops across southern England. The technology of boot design and fitting really seems to have moved on in recent years. We were fortunate to find good advice from some excellent shop staff, including one young chap who’d recently walked across the USA from coast to coast! We thought that our project was a big one! Eventually we settled on boots that we’re both happy with. Interestingly they’re from a manufacturer we’ve both had several pairs from before. We’ve been busy getting them muddy since. 

The selection of rucksacks has been a matter of balancing the need for sufficient space to carry the essentials against the temptation to take too much. Yes, we know about that from previous experience. Julie recalls long mountain trips in our younger days when Tom insisted that she even cut the handle of her toothbrush in half to save weight! We reckon to carry a maximum of 10kg each: at least for the early part of our trip. Others have talked about getting that down to 8kg. That may be feasible in summer, with think but quite a challenge in the early spring.

Route planning and identification of places to stay has been greatly assisted by the Lightfoot Guide to the Via Francigena by Paul Chinn and Babette Gallard. We’ve joined the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome and that has turned out to be a useful source of information, much of it from the experience of pilgrims who have gone before.

For the initial English part of our walk mapping is less of a problem. However, once we’re on the continent sourcing and carrying maps of sufficiently large scale becomes quite a challenge. We’ve decided to chance our luck with technology and ordered a mini tablet onto which we can put digital IGN 1:25000 maps for the route. It’ll be useful for other information and of course for keeping our blog up to date.

We’ve spent as much time out walking at weekends as we can. We hesitate to use the term training as it makes it sound so serious and competitive, while we feel it’s as much a spiritual experience as a physical one. This far, 15 miles or so a day seems to be within our comfort zone and slowly the stiffness the day after seems to be getting less. We’re not yet carrying the 10kg though. 

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