History Walks, Talks and Books by David Clarke – more than just footsteps on a path. Inspiring, exploring and discovering unique walks with a sense of history. Long walks and short walks, there’s something for everyone.
1066 Harold’s Way
1066 Harold’s Way is a long distance path from Westminster Abbey to Battle that was inspired by Harold’s epic journey to the Battle of Hastings. There are castles and battle sites to see, Roman roads and ancient trackways to walk, forests to forge and always a pub at the end to savour the walk.
There were arrows everywhere. Long arrows, short arrows, broad and narrow arrows, even red and blue arrows.
I was in the bookshop at Battle Abbey and every map in every book that I looked at about the Battle of Hastings gave a different view of the route that Harold took from London.
There were arrows on a diagonal from London, aiming at Battle, four or five in a row as if a hail of arrows had been fired at William. There was a broad arrow creating a swathe across the south-east as the Saxon army passed over the land. Arrows approached Battle from all the points of the compass – except the south!
So, the seeds of a long distance walk were sown, inspired by King Harold’s march to the Battle of Hastings, an adventure to create a new long-distance walk that would begin in the centre of London at Westminster Abbey and traverse the South-East of England to finish at the site of that famous battle that shaped the future of England.
It was the Scouts that introduced me to proper walking in the 1960’s, with Youth Hostelling expeditions to Ireland and Norway and an exacting entry in the Four Inns, field trips to Alsop en le Dale, and walking Kinder and a very boggy Bleaklow on cold and wet days.
Later, walking became stress relief, completing The Viking Way, Leicestershire Round and other longer local East Midlands walks but always with the thought, reinforced by getting lost, that maybe less experienced walkers would find it difficult to follow those walking guides.
Moving to Hastings opened up a new world of the North and South Downs and the High Weald of Outstanding Natural Beauty, new paths to explore, new walks to follow but that damascene revelation in Battle gave me the opportunity to research, devise and write a walk of my own and, change my life for ever.
I became a writer and an author of walking books and of all things 1066, a project planner, a time manager, researcher and front of house and the books were published.
1066 Harold’s Way is still my ‘magnus opus’ and continues to be a successful and popular long-distance walk for walking groups and walkers, carving a niche footpath from Capital to Coast, Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey and Hastings Castle, and regularly up dated since publication in 2013.
Those first steps were written down in a notebook, fledgling photographs taken on a smartphone before graduating to a Dictaphone and ‘proper camera’. Digital mapping became the norm and digital drawing took some practice for the ‘hand drawn maps’. Long forgotten rules of grammar were applied to the step by step instructions, the poetic walk reflections and the history of that tumultuous year 1066.
I have walked every step of those 100miles on numerous occasions, following the old Roman roads, through Kent and East Sussex, as closely as I can as King Harold would have done almost 1000 years ago. Now, there is a Pub Guide to go with the walk and if all the pubs had been open when the King and his men passed, there may never have been a battle!
Planning, walking and writing that first book took almost five years from that idea in Battle Abbey. It was hard work balancing teaching and writing, adapting old skills and learning new techniques but, I have to say, very, very rewarding.
David is the author of 1066 Harold’s Way, Walking the High Weald (Three Castles and an Ironmaster’ House), a series of twelve History Walks in 1066 Country, Rye in Pictures and The Saxon Times, all written with the idea of wanting people to imagine, discover and explore whether it is new footpaths or the rich local history. www.1066haroldsway.co.uk
This guide is what walkers have been waiting for since 1066 Harold’s Way was first published in 2013 – the definitive guide to all those watering holes along the 100 miles from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey, East Sussex that now includes the final ten miles to Hastings Castle.
Of course, if these inns and pubs had been open 950 years ago who knows what might have happened. Certainly, the march may have taken a little longer and those battle-hardened reinforcements would have been in position to defeat Duke William and the Normans. Fired up on ‘Spitfire’, ‘Bombardier’ or ‘Harvey’s Best’ they could have taken on the world – or fallen asleep on Caldbec Hill.
Just following this Pub Guide is worth the walk from Westminster Abbey. LOOK INSIDE
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