I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more!
Since talking to experienced walker Judith Tooth, Sophie Harrington feels inspired to grab her backpack and walking boots and hit the Camino de Santiago de Compostela .
The 47-year-old from Redgrave in north Suffolk is about to make her third trip along the ancient pilgrim route on the third leg of a 1,000-mile journey for CAFOD.
Last year, Judith walked from Arles to St Martin D’Orb in France. This year, she plans to do 150-miles and is starting from where she left off in St Martin D’Orb on June 28. Her supportive parish of St Henry Morse in Diss is right behind her in spirit and has supported her fundraising by sponsoring her over her last two pilgrimages there.
She has already raised more than £4,000.
You can’t fail not to be inspired if you talk to Judith about it and I hope by the end of reading this – and looking at her pictures and top tips – you’ll feel inspired too.
With four sons – aged between ten years to 18 – you’d think Judith has enough on her plate. But she also home educates them and fits in being a freelance journalist as well.
She laughed when I ask how she also has time to train and fundraise too.
Judith said: “It is a bit of a juggling act! I had it in my mind to do a long walk for ages and had visited the Camino de Santiago about 20 years ago. I remember it being a beautiful city.
“It means so much to me to walk in solidarity with the poor. The fact that CAFOD helps everyone – no matter what their creed or religion – really appeals to me.”
When she did it in 2012, she wasn’t disappointed. She started at the end and did the final 100 miles to Camino de Santiago – The Way of St James – which ends at the city cathedral, which houses his shrine.
“It was amazing. Some of the people I walked with had walked from France or Germany. There were people from Luxemburg and Germany. People who had spent months converging on this place. The feeling was incredible. I decided I would start again from a traditional route.”
She hooked up with Sharen, a fellow CAFOD supporter from Dorset and started from Arles in France in 2013 for a 125 mile trip.
This was a very different experience and one which would see them cross stunning sights of beautiful scenery and often only a couple of people a day and not a single car.
“We crossed rice fields, orchards, melons growing, aubergines, olive groves, nectarines, rosemary. It was wild and beautiful. It was such an isolated route that we saw only one other pilgrim – from South Korea.”
At one point though they even got utterly lost and not a soul could be found. But then something amazing happened. “We had seen no-one at all. It was desolate. Then suddenly this pick-up truck came along just when we needed someone the most. He showed the way and also saved us so much time. That was my worst moment turned into my best moment,” she said.
This year former parish priest of St Henry Morse Father Simon Blakeley, now parish priest at Newmarket, is set to join her on the pilgrimage. Continuing their journey, they will walk from Martin D’Orb and cover 150 miles – 15 miles over ten days.
I, for one, will do the Camino de Santiago one day. I have even less of an excuse since realising my uncle Anthony and aunt Linda have moved on to one of the pilgrim routes in France.
CLOSER TO HOME
Judith is inspiring her parish to take part in a charity walk as she warms up for her 150-mile walk. Her parish of St Henry Morse in Diss will be walking ten miles from Quidenham to Diss on Saturday June 14.
The parish is also aiming to raise money to create a CAFOD World Gifts virtual village to help people in developing countries break free from poverty. The money can buy gifts such as chickens, a vegetable garden and a water supply to help a struggling community craft a better future for themselves.
Please sponsor our star fundraiser Judith at her Just Giving page
If you feel like getting involved in a pilgrimage, or any fundraising activity for CAFOD, contact us for advice and help.
1. Take as little as possible. There are things it is hard to do without – like water and a change of underwear – but when you’re carrying everything on your back you soon work out what’s essential and what’s a luxury.
2. Follow the signs. When you’re walking all day it’s easy to go into a dream and miss a turning, so if you realise you haven’t seen one for a while, go back.
3. Ear plugs can save your night’s sleep from snoring companions.
4. Pilgrim guides (available from the Confraternity of St James) list accommodation and facilities along the route and are a helpful back-up to the waymarkers.
5. Enjoy the peace and the space and feel God’s love carrying you along. Back home it will soon get busy again!
Judith wants to end world poverty and injustice – and she is prepared to give, act and pray for it. Could you?
UPDATE: Judith has finished this leg. See how she got on.