3rd June 2024

Alternative route for the footpath closure between Allbrook and Eastleigh (on stage five)

Some bank breaks in the Itchen Navigation after Allbrook are dangerous to cross.  As a result, Hampshire County Council have imposed a footpath closure from 17th May to 31st July, until the banks are repaired.

We have tried out two detour options and discovered a wonderful alternative route that walks a section of the Water Vole Way.  To take this 2 ½ mile option (which adds about ½ mile to the route), at Allbrook turn left along the Highbridge Road and immediately after crossing the river, take the footpath opposite. This detour, with maps and images, is detailed in this download.  Enjoy it, we did!

15th May 2024

Planned footpath closures before and after Little London

One mile and 2 ½ miles after St James church, Bramley, two footpath closures on the route are planned for public safety.  National Grid is upgrading the overhead electricity lines.  The works are scheduled for:

1.     21st May to 24th June (5 weeks)

2.     20th August to 3rd September (2 weeks)

To detour around:

1.     At Bramley Corner, continue down Ash Lane past the route footpath (while closed), for ½ km.  Take the next left, Frog Lane, and after 200 metres go left again onto a footpath along the edge of a field, to rejoin the route at Boars Bridge Farm.

2.     On New Road, 400 metres after Little London, go past the route footpath (while closed) down the road for a further ½ km.  OS maps indicate a footpath on the left – take it for ½ km but it may be little used.  Upon reaching the main Aldermaston Road go left for a kilometre to rejoin the route opposite the Bramley Road junction and 50 metres before the Queens College Arms pub.

Both route detours avoid the busy Bramley Road with no footpath along its verge.  Below are maps from Hampshire County Council notices and an image from the National Grid notice about these footpath closures:

1st May 2024

New contact at St Mary’s, Sulhamstead Abbots (on stage one)

Please contact Rev. Anthony Peabody in advance and not Ros  Coulston, as given in the old edition of the guidebook.  He will be very happy to greet you and show you St Mary’s Church (8.5 miles/13.6km from Reading).  This church is this Camino’s first destination after leaving the abbey.  His contact details are below.

Extract from the next edition of the guidebook:

“Note that where stamps are available by prior arrangement at churches, please ensure you contact them in advance by at least a day or two, preferably a week.  They want to make your pilgrimage as uplifting and enjoyable as possible and will be pleased to hear from you in good time.  This request applies in particular to St Mary’s at Sulhamstead Abbots on stage 1 – please ring ahead to Anthony Peabody on 0118 983 2491 or email [email protected].”

Updated guidebook and new map booklet

The CSJ UK expects to receive copies of the updated guidebook "A Pilgrim Guide to St James’ Way" very soon and will make them available on this website as soon as possible, estimated early May 2024. We apologise for the continuing inconvenience for ministers and pilgrims due to out-of-date contact details in the old guidebook.

Another valuable pilgrimage resource, the Harper Collins map booklet, which traces the route, is in print production and will also be available for purchase as soon as possible, likely early May.

22nd April 2024

Walkable footpaths from Reading

The ground underfoot has significantly dried over the last week following a spell of good weather.  Footpaths from the start on the route beside the river Kennet are walkable.  They have one small bank break to negotiate and a small makeshift bridge to cross – see the photos below. At the end of the route, by now the river Itchen will have similar easily passable obstacles.

Obstacles on the banks of the river Kennet on 21st April 2024

Stamps for Sanctuaries

The three overnight sanctuary sites on the St James’ Way Camino that offer basic overnight refuge through the British Pilgrimage Trust’s website, recently updated, now have a special stamp to record your visit in a pilgrim passport.

8th April 2024

Footpath closures

The rainy weather has not relented for a sustained period; water table levels are generally high.  So, it varies from challenging to impossible to walk the start and end of the route by the rivers Kennet and Itchen.  Some footpaths remain closed.  Expect to wade at points.  Local river levels and flood warnings for the Kennet and Itchen can be viewed here.

Additionally, the bridleway past Stable Futures (formerly Simms Stud Farm) between Mortimer and Silchester is currently a bog.  Navigate around this stretch using country lanes.

River Kennet leaving Reading on 4th April 2024

Preston Candover

In the beautiful rural Hampshire village of Preston Candover, the Candover Valley Store is now the only place open to top up supplies and get a pilgrim stamp.  This excellently stocked community-run store can be found a further 300 metres past The Purefoy Arms pub, which recently closed.  The pub’s reopening plans are unclear.

Approach to Dummer - Alternative Route

An alternative route has been waymarked to Kempshott Park, Dummer from the old Roman Road (now a cycle path) about two miles after Worting, Basingstoke.  This pleasant walk is recommended and safer and avoids the busy roads (in planning) on the existing route.  It is described in the next edition of the St James’ Way guidebook.

From the foot and cycle path, the route continues straight on through the Old Down Nature Reserve, along Beggarwood Lane, past The Holly Blue pub and a shopping square, and down Longwood Copse Lane to the footbridge over the M3.

Waymarks for the two route options

25th February 2024

Footpath closures

Please put on hold your St James’ Way Camino plans until April.

The rivers Kennet and Itchen, at the start and end of the route respectively, are in flood.  Several severe bank breaks, or complete submersion, make footpaths dangerous or impassable at places.  Additionally, some of these footpaths are forcibly closed by councils – see the Reading BC notice dated 22nd February in the image below.

Once reopened “a winter alternative route out of Reading … is to follow the Sustrans NCN4 (National Cycle Network, Route 4) signage from the Oracle along the LH side of the river for a mile, initially through an underpass and housing, then parallel to the river, until it joins the route after crossing the bridge at Rose Kiln Lane.  It is much drier and wider.” (extract from the next edition of ‘A Pilgrim Guide to St James’ Way’ due for release next month).

Footpath closures

22nd February 2024

Reading Museum registers pilgrims

Reading Museum & Town Hall, the St James’ Way official Pilgrims’ Office, is the go-to place upon arriving in Reading to register your Camino.

The museum has added a St James’ Way page to their website – see link.  This webpage gives introductory information about Reading’s pilgrimage history and instructions on how to simply register your walking of the route if you are unable to visit in person.

Please take time to register and also to explore this venue, which is near Reading Station, the Camino Street Mural, and the start at St James Church.

BBC film

On Wednesday, 13th December 2023, The One Show played an informative 4-minute film about this “first UK Camino.”  This film, presented by Spencer Matthews from ‘Made in Chelsea’ fame, is likely to generate a lot of interest in walking the St James’ Way this year.  Scenes can be seen in the image below, credit BBC.

The One Show broadcasts on BBC One weeknights at 7pm, entertaining a regular audience of 3 million viewers, with a mix of topical stories from across the UK, big-name studio guests and much-loved talent.

Scenes from The One Show, 13th December 2023 (BBC)

“Peregrino Menu” at The Cricketers

Under new management The Cricketers Inn, so named owing to the nearby cricket ground, is the first venue in the UK to offer an English-style “peregrino menu”.  This substantial meal is widely available to Camino pilgrims at restaurants and albergues in Spain.  Present your pilgrim passport and ask for the “pilgrim’s menu”, to be given the choice of a two-course, hot or cold, menu at a special price.

The pub is situated between Martyr Worthy and Kings Worthy.  To find it, venture 500 metres off the route down Easton Lane, crossing the river Itchen into the Hampshire village of Easton.  The Cricketers Inn also has a pilgrim stamp and lodgings.

Via de Sanctus Iacobus at the Platform Tavern

The historic Platform Tavern, on Southampton quayside and only 20 metres away from God’s House Tower (GHT), now has a pilgrim stamp.  Additionally, if arriving late in the day when GHT and Tudor House & Garden are closed, the pub will issue the Via de Sanctus Iacobus to pilgrims with stamps from Reading.  It has its own version of the certificate following collaborative works with GHT.

Recently the pub was destroyed inside by a fire and was on the verge of ‘permanent’ closure.  Thanks to sterling fund-raising efforts it has been saved, reopening on 21st December 2023.

Sanctuary – now available to pilgrims

The first three sanctuaries, which offer basic overnight refuge to pilgrims, have been added to the British Pilgrimage Trust’s website:

1.     Sulhamstead & Ufton Village Hall.  A pleasant walk of one mile from St Mary’s in Sulhamstead Abbots.  This venue is 8.5 miles/13.6 kilometres along the St James’ Way from Reading.

2.     Cross House, Bramley.  The parish building beside the medieval Church of St James.  17 miles/27.2 km along the route.

3.     Hector’s House, Preston Candover.  Camping.  33.5 miles/53.6 km along the route.

The St James’ Way Fund hopes to provide soft matting and tents at these sites for pilgrims.

St James' Way (Sanctuary)

10th December 2023

Major Travel Award Nomination

The St James’ Way was shortlisted, an accolade in itself, for the Best UK and Ireland Tourism Project at the British Guild of Travel Writers Awards 2023.

At the awards on 5th November in the Temple, London, the project did not win, yet can the Camino ever lose!  Its representatives, Alex Brannen and David Sinclair, enjoyed a memorable evening.

For this nomination, our great thanks go to all the CSJ volunteers who have supported the project to revive the route over the last 2 ½ years and continue to do so.

The British Guild of Travel Writers Awards 2023

River Itchen Bank Improvements

Three previously challenging small stretches along the river Itchen between Shawford and Allbrook that experienced flooding have seen bank improvements this summer.  Pilgrims will fondly remember having to cross the bank break seen in the image on the left below.  A sturdy bridge now makes for easy passage, all thanks to the Hampshire County Council Countryside Service team.

1st August 2023

Route Maintenance

Over three days during May and June, the route between Worting to Southampton was walked to maintain its waymarks.  This led to the painting of several new yellow arrows.

Pilgrim Stamps

Unfortunately, The Junction Inn in Southampton has closed for the foreseeable future.  To fill this gap, a new pilgrim stamp is now available at The White Swan, Mansbridge.  This pub is found 400m off route on the river Itchen, left after crossing Mans Bridge on the approach to Southampton.  A 20% discount on food and drink is given to pilgrims.

Additionally, a coffee and tea lounge with cakes and food (converted pub) that only received a stamp in May – The Olive Tree in Monk Sherborne – sadly closed on 29th July owing to ever increasing costs.

A new stamp is now available at Platform 1 in Shawford.  This coffee shop at Shawford Station opens at 7:30am during the week and 9am at weekends for early-bird pilgrims.

Winchester – Pilgrim Notice

Do check out this new group photo opportunity – a St James’ Way/Camino Inglés pilgrimage ‘milestone’ notice near the entrance to Winchester Cathedral.  It is located on the lamppost by the war memorial.

Its 5-year placement comes after lengthy permission applications with the local authorities.  Local CSJ member and volunteer, Brian Muddle, put up the notice, which has identical dimensions as the start notice at St James Church, Reading.

Sanctuary

Initial requests to offer ‘Sanctuary’ under the British Pilgrimage Trust’s scheme have been made to selected sites along the route.  The scheme would provide basic budget overnight refuge to pilgrims.  However, it’s very early days, as the governing bodies must agree to offer sanctuary and procedures and policies reviewed.