Guest post: Backpacking Britain (Part 2) by Drew of The Local Traveler NS

Hi friends, let us continue along with Drew of The Local Traveler NS as he continues around England (and briefly, Wales), on a literature-inspired backpacking trip. Such a brilliant idea for an itinerary, I’m now starting to think about how I can do the same. Enjoy!

Wait! Have you read Part 1 yet? Get caught up and then come back, we’ll be here.

Day 4 Glastonbury – Chester

The next morning I jumped on a train to take me to Chester.  Chester is a walled city (the walls date back to the Romans, of course) and was once the home of the famed 20th Legion, the Valeria Victrix.  It had personal significance for me because this is where my dad was born.

I entered by the East Gate, which has this very iconic sight (maybe iconic to me because I grew up with a sketch of it always in my living room).

Chester street

While in Chester I visited a museum that displayed how the area had changed hands through successive invasions.  Similar to Bath, Chester has been built up by about 2m over the centuries.  It was interesting to see a cross-section of a building that had modern architecture built on top of Norman construction, which had in turn been built on top of the Roman foundations.

Chester ruins

I spent the afternoon sauntering along the top of the walls.  Finally I grabbed a bus to a campground.  I missed my stop and ended up in Wales, but got myself turned back around pretty quickly.  I would have loved to continue on to Mount Snowden, but I had plans to hightail it to Cornwall the next day.

Wales bus stop

Day 5 Chester – Exeter – Salisbury

On Day 5 I still had some ambitious touring to do and I was running out of time.  I was flying out of London the next night, and I wanted to fit in Cornwall and Salisbury.  I had closely studied the train and bus schedules the night before, and had determined that if I hustled, and if the stars aligned, I’d be able to go all the way west to Tintagel Castle, the alleged birthplace of King Arthur, on the Cornish coast, and still make it back to Salisbury to see Stonehenge and Amesbury Abbey.  Unfortunately, despite rushing through train stations and bus terminals drenched in sweat with my 50lb pack on my back, I had to save my quest to reach Tintagel for another day, and turned around at the bus station in Exeter.

Exeter bus station

In Salisbury, I found my way to Old Sarum, an iron age hill fort that has evidence of human habitation dating back to 3000 BC.  You can clearly see the overgrown evidence of the ancient battlements as you wonder around the hill.  This site was important for the Romans in fending off the Saxons, as it was, in turn, important for the Saxons in fending off the Vikings.  That night, I found myself camping at the foot of another historically significant hill.

Iron Hill

Day 6 Salisbury – Southampton – London – Canada

For my last day in England, I hiked to Stonehenge.  Despite the fact that legends credit Merlin with floating the stones along a river to use his magic to assemble Stonehenge, I hadn’t been all that excited to see this Wonder of the World.  I felt that it must’ve been overhyped.  My advice is to walk to Stonehenge.  The sensation you get when you walk over that last crest and see the stone formation ahead of you, and imagine what it must have symbolized to travelers over the centuries will make you realize that Stonehenge has earned the hype.

At some point, someone had the brilliant idea of moving the highway underground into a tunnel, so the view of Stonehenge is unspoiled by any modern infrastructure.  The only thing that pulls you back into today, is the chain link fence surrounding the site, and, of course, the throngs of tourists.

Stonehenge

I decided not to spend the 26 pounds to walk among the stones.  I’ve read quite a bit of the lore surrounding Stonehenge so I didn’t feel like I was missing out on the interpretive tour either as I gazed at the monoliths.  Finally I pulled myself away, because there was another nearby site that holds significance in Arthur’s tale.

Anyone slightly familiar with Arthur’s story has probably heard of his wife, Gwenivere.  Amesbury Abbey, outside of Salisbury is supposed to be where she retired to after the affair between her and Lancelot was discovered.  Quite often various versions of the Arthurian Legend, Gwenivere represents the shift from Paganism to Christianity in Britain, so it is fitting that she spent the rest of her days at an abbey.

Amesbury Abbey

Finally I returned to Salisbury to visit St. Thomas Church, which is famous for this Judgement Day, or Doom, mural.  Then I returned to my relatives’ house to collect my things, left my tent in the care of my cousin after showing him how to take care of it and headed to the airport to return home.

Salisbury St. Thomas Doom mural

At the beginning of this trip, my cousin had lent me a trilogy of books about the life of Robert the Bruce, the Scottish hero who continued William Wallace’s quest for Scottish independence.  I will someday return to Britain to trace the events from this series of books.  Not, at all, a bad way to travel!

book and beer

My eternal thanks to Drew! Be sure to wander over to The Local Traveler NS to say hi and check out his and Gillian’s great Nova Scotia adventures!

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