12/3/08   We, or rather, Mike has had this idea of strolling to Italy.  When we discovered we had walked over 300 miles from twelfth night to just before the end of February (from our step counters), he idly said we could walk to our house in Northern Italy.  The idea seized our imaginations, and we have started thinking about it half seriously – very little baggage, sleeping at B&B’s or youth hostels.

We have drawn a straight line on the map from Gravels Bank to Northern Italy, which strangely enough goes right through Dover and Calais.  It goes down through France and through the middle of Switzerland.

16/3/08 Sunday   We looked at the road route map of England today, and drew a straight line from Gravels Bank to Dover.  It goes across to Church Stretton and through Bromsgrove, Banbury and the north of London.  We think we would like to plan it to go down through the Malverns, and possibly the Cotswolds, towards Farnham etc and onto the North Downs, going south round London.  We measured the straight line from northern Italy to Gravels Bank, and it is about 750 miles, so we think that perhaps a thousand /  twelve hundred miles in total wouldn’t be too far out.

December 2008   Sarah gave me a book token for my birthday.  I went to Waterstones to browse, expecting to go lots of times before I made my final choice.  However, when I was there, I saw a book about National Trails and fell in love with it at once, so I bought it straight away, and we have been absorbing it ever since.  One of the most important things I discovered was that there is a national trail from Farnham to Dover – the North Downs Way (or the old Pilgrim’s Way), so we definitely want to have that as part of our English leg.

26/1/09   We have talked more and more about it, and wish we could start this March.  However, we can’t.

28/1/09   On our walk this evening, we were talking about things we would have to take with us.  I started it off by saying that I would have to take a hot water bottle.  I couldn’t manage without one.  Mike said his essential was bottom cream.  I then wondered how I would manage with E45 cream.  It would be fine while we are in England, as I can buy little tubes in any town, but what once we cross the Channel?  I use it for everything.  We were then saying that we would only have one change of clothes with us, but would our knickers and socks wear out with all the washing?  So many things to think about and plan.  Perhaps it’s a good job we are not going for years!

21/3/09   Today is the day we always consider the Equinox.  It has been a beautiful, shining day.   Not a cloud in the sky.  Chilly, but only a light wind, and delightful in the sun.  We walked down to the shop for our walk, and talked about how in three years’ time to this very day we hope to be setting off from Gravels Bank to Italy.  On this first day, we are planning to walk to Offa’s Dyke, and along it to Mainstone.  We also talked about finding a home for Catherine and Camilla, our lovely Highland cows, possibly this year, as we need to do so before we go on our Stroll.

26/3/09   I’ve been watching the weather all week to see what we are likely to encounter when we start off in three years’ time.  Saturday 21st was beautiful, but the weather has all been downhill since then.  Wind.  Rain.  Cold.  Sunny spells, though.  We shall have to have good weather-proof clothing.

26/3/10   Sunday 21st was a lovely day, though there was a bit of a westerly wind, which, had we been starting on the Walk, would have been blowing into our face all the way to Mainstone.  The rest of the week hasn’t been so good.  Quite showery, with some days warmer than others, and pretty windy at times.  Having read last year’s entry, I see the weather is really quite similar.

We have found a home for Catherine and Camilla, and they are no longer with us.  Helen Vaughan’s mum took them before we went away in February, so we have no animals at all on our land.

14/4/10   There has been, and still is, a very cold north-easterly wind at the moment.  There have been some beautiful days recently, as long as we were out of the wind.  The Easter Tour (on Mon 5th April) was very pleasant, but extremely cold in the wind.  I felt cold for a large part of the day.  Today has been really cold too.  I had to put the heating on while I was working in the office today.  All things to remember for our walk – it can be REALLY cold, even in April.

2/3/12   I am so looking forward to our stroll.  We are just over a month away from it now.  Mike doesn’t finish work until 31st March, so we have changed our departure date from the Equinox to Good Friday which is the day of the first full moon after the Equinox.  It also means we can dance on Easter Monday! – a thing we had wanted to do,  but couldn’t imagine how we could do it.  It will occur on the fourth day of our walk, and will be the last place before we truly leave home ground and strike out into the unknown.