The aim of the walk was to find out what it really felt like to travel along the old roads in clothing appropriate to the era. I wanted to know how effective the old clothing would be.

I also wanted to estimate how much distance I could cover each day in order to put the events of the autumn of 1066 into perspective. Just how fast could an army move?

To my surprise, the limit on the daily distance covered was set by the daylight and essential, logistical requirements.

Plodding for 10 hours a day was no problem but it was always nice to stop at the end of the day. But the legs were refreshed and renewed by a good night's sleep and ready for another 10 hours.

These teasels lined my route. I can understand how they were spread along the old pathways. They attached themselves to my habit all along the route and I suspect that I assisted their spread.

However, rather vengefully, I tried to cast the many teasels that I picked off my monk's habit onto the road instead of some fertile ground!

Every night I would discover one of these wretched seed-pods when I laid down to sleep.

There were a number of places where Ermine Street is dual-carriageway and closed to pedestrians. Public transport or kind passers-by overcame these obstacles.

At one place, the Police advised me that walking was unsafe and offered me a lift to a coffee stop which was very welcome as it was on the wettest, windiest day.

Altogether I was transported for about 35 miles which is why I arrived a day and a half ahead of my schedule.

I covered between 2.1 and 2.7 miles per hour (3.4 - 4.4 KPH).
  • Slowest progress was on hilly, cross-country paths.
  • Fastest was the canal tow-path leading to Waltham Abbey. (flat!)
  • The average for the journey was  2.4 mph (3.9 KPH).

These speeds include time taken for the short pauses along the way.

I take shorter steps going up and down hill so cover less ground.

Note that the distance is measured from 2D maps so progress over land that goes up and down will appear a few percent slower even if one is walking at the same speed.

Facts and figures

The length of the walking day was limited by the time between sunrise and sunset. It was light enough to get up and sorted for the day at 7am and it was dark by 7pm.

But it took almost a full hour to get ready for the day, a little less when it was not raining. Washing, foot-care, packing and snacking took a surprising amount of time.

So that used up an hour of daylight. I was able to set-up camp by the light of the moon which was almost full at the time of the walk.

Rain also caused delays. If it rained before about 3pm I walked on. But I had to be dry before the sun set as it would be impossible to sleep if the clothing was damp. Because it rained most days I had to find a secluded spot where all the kit could be dried. But it was also very windy so I could dry everything in about half an hour.

But if it rained later in the afternoon I had to take shelter so that I would stay dry and have a comfortable night. This meant I lost at least an hour every day with drying and sheltering.  

It was not necessary to take rests along the way but I would pause for a few minutes every hour to study the map or take a drink. It was always uncomfortable getting the legs and feet started after each pause so there was no incentive to stop.

So there were about 9 hours available for walking each day which meant I could cover about 20-25 miles each day.

The longer days of summer would, I suspect, have allowed me to walk 30 miles each day. However, the shorter distance was be sustainable for weeks while the longer distance might have been too much for my old body!

Stopping places

Day 1

Caenby Corner appeared on the map to have a pub but it was closed for refurbishment. Ironically, the closed pub was called the 'Monks Arms'! The nearby garage provided a sandwich for my supper.

Day 2

'The Railway Inn' in Ancaster had some good Yorkshire ale and cooked some great Chinese food which was very welcome after 2 days on bread and water.

Day 3

'The Prince of Wales Feathers' in Castro was a lovely pub. The owners Kay and Si Fitch make the place a pleasure to visit and Kay produced a great sandwich made with her home-cooked ham (even though the kitchen was officially closed). Excellent range of beer.

Day 4

I could hear the buzz as I passed the window of 'The Cross Keys' in Caxton. This was a great local and was made very welcome. Henry, is a model landlord. He runs a really great, friendly local pub. Henry offered me the shelter of one of his sheds and sent me on way with a cup of tea and a lift to avoid walking a dangerous road (for walkers) to Royston.

Day 5

I was not sure I could find a secluded wood on the outskirts of London. All the woods I passed were fenced so I stayed at 'The Rifle Volunteer' in Ware. Excellent food and the shower was bliss.


Each day began with some bread, dried fruit and water. The hope was to find a hot meal each evening but this only worked out on 2 evenings.

I never felt  particularly hungry even though on two occasions I went without a proper meal for 24 hours. So I ate more because I thought I needed to eat rather than feeling hunger pangs.

This was a surprise because when I am stuck in my normal, daily routine I feel I am about to starve if any meal is late!

However, I did find that for the week after the walk my appetite could be described and 'healthy'. So I have made up for any meals missed along the way.

This has led me to wonder if perhaps we are well adapted to feast or famine. I will also not be so surprised when I read of armies marching for several days to battle without any mention of catering arrangements.

The time available for the walk was constrained by my work commitments so I had to be back home within the week.

But based on the progress I made, I estimate that the journey from York to Waltham Abbey would need 8-10 days for a messenger. Groups move more slowly so I would allow 14 days to move a larger force on foot to London - but it is unlikely that they would have followed the Ermine Street route because of the time it would take to ferry them across the Humber.

Walking on to Senlac Hill would be another 104 miles via Rochester. This represents another 4 or 5 day journey.

So getting from Yorkshire to Senlac Hill along the old routes, carrying a load, could have been accomplished in the 12 'walking days' available. (This assumes the news of William's landing reached the North late on 2nd October).


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