A Virtual Walk of the Camino during Lock-down by Graham Long

When the lock-down during the Coronavirus pandemic was announced there was an instruction that we should go out once a day for daily exercise, whilst observing social distancing and other advice.

I decided that rather than just walk it would be an idea to have an imaginary walk with a purpose, so I decided on doing a virtual walk of one of the routes of the Camino in Northern Spain. I chose the shortest route which allows you to qualify for the Pilgrim’s Certificate – from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela, about 115 km long. This is known as The French Way (Camino Frances).

It normally takes pilgrims about 5-6 days to complete this journey but as there were limitations on the amount of time allowed out of home I knew that it would take me about 24 days or so.

I walked on average 4.6km a day around the streets of Hayes but also taking in some lovely walks through woods and common land on Hayes Common, Baston, Pickhurst Woods and Recreation Ground. These walks took in some interesting observations of different sorts of housing, how people treat their homes and gardens differently and a tally of how many people’s driveways had been jet washed!

Perhaps the best experience of the journey was walking through the woodland pathways, seeing the beauty of nature and listening to some lovely birdsong and less traffic. Whilst on the walks it was also an opportunity to have some time for reflection and I was able to consider and think about many issues during the current situation.

My imaginary journey would have taken in the following places in Spain on the way, starting from SARRIA a municipality in the province of Lugo, north western Spain. 

Sarria – the church of Santa Marina

There will have been many places passed through during the journey but perhaps the most notable would be:

PORTOMARIN is a municipality in the Spanish province of Lugo. It has a population of only 2008 people but has an interesting history as it was completely moved during the 1960s when the Miño River was dammed to create the Belesar reservoir, putting the old village under water.

Portomarin church of San Juan moved brick-by-brick

The most historic buildings of the town were moved brick by brick and reconstructed in the new town, including its castle-style main church: Church of San Juan of Portomarín.

In the seasons when the dam is at low level, the remains of ancient buildings, the waterfront and the old bridge are still visible.

PALAS DE REI  another town in The Province of Lugo, with a population of about 3200.

Church of Santiago de Alba

The history of Palas de Rei appears closely linked to military culture, which retains many of the archaeological remains (dolmens and forts) from a remote settlement. According to tradition, the city owes its name “Pallatium regis” to the palace of the Visigothic king Witiza, who reigned between 702 and 710.

ARZUA is a municipality of Galicia in the province of A Coruña in northwestern Spain. It has a population of about 6,300 and it is one of the Galician municipalities with more cows per capita rate in Galicia.

Although the region has long been settled, even pre-dating Roman occupation, the current population of the town are mostly of Basque extraction.

The village is where French Way (Camino Frances)and the Northern Way (Camino del Norte) of Camino join up in a single path towards Santiago de Compostela.

MONUMENTO DE MONTE DA GOZO – The Hill of Joy; is a hill in Santiago de CompostelaGaliciaSpain. It is known for being the place where Christian pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) get their first views of the three spires of their destination, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.  At 370 metres (1,210 ft),  it is the pilgrims’ last hill and last stop before reaching the cathedral, with about an hour’s walk still to go, and by tradition is where they cry out in rapture at finally seeing the end of their path.

Modern sculpture at Monte de Goza

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA – the journey ends as you enter the square in front of the cathedral – a most awesome sight. The tradition is that pilgrims usually make the final part of their walk barefoot, which I copied on the end of my trip.

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

The visit into the cathedral includes a visit to The Shrine of St James. This is also where the Botafumeiro (The Great Thurible) swings during services.

Instead of ending at Santiago my journey ended near home at The Parish Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Hayes, Kent.

Graham at St Mary’s Hayes
Graham barefoot at St Marys
%d bloggers like this: