As usual I slept badly last night imagining all the horrors and disasters that will no doubt confront us. Everything from ferocious farm dogs, Italian snakes in the grass to broken limbs and overdosing on gelato.
However the day dawned brightly and at 9.30 Paul and I set off accompanied by a delightful group of would-be pilgrims. I was so happy to have my family, Mandy, Adam and Sophie together with my friends Martin and Sue, Mike and his daughter Mel and Robert & Qwan with us for the day. We reached the end of the road without incident but then the leading group turned left instead of right, a mistake that might have added thousands of kilometres to the journey. But we recovered and soon found a secret footpath which I’d never walked along before. This led us to the River Wey and onwards towards Rome.
The weather was delightful and we were all in high spirits. We stopped at the Anchor for coffee and found a table big enough for eleven despite it being Whit Monday. And then later, we had similar good fortune when we arrived at The New Inn for lunch. It was a joy to walk along the river which was glistening in the sunshine. Long canal boats made their way along or waited patiently at the locks built in the 17th century by Dutch experts.
Suddenly we stumbled upon our accommodation, the riverside Premier Inn and this provided an opportunity for a final beer before our satisfied companions were whisked the short distance back to Weybridge in a taxi.
Paul, who (against my advice) had drunk a pint of Strongbow, retired and fell into a deep sleep while I sat outside the hotel with some twigs, leaves and running water to remove a little canine excrement from my left boot.
I was encouraged to receive an email from Brian Mooney this morning. Brian is the chairman of the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome and has written an excellent book about the Via Francigena. I also received another email from Margot who runs the Association Internationale Via Francigena AIVF in Luzern. I feel like we now have our credentials to proceed.
I woke Paul and we walked into Guildford for a light supper. The waitress would not be convinced we are walking to Rome and I would have to agree with her. But Paul has posted a message onto his Facebook Via Francigena group and already has received over 100 messages from people (mostly women) promising support and encouragement along the way.
the first step this morning