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Nature Notes June 2019


 Martyn is currently somewhere along the “Camino de Santiago” (more about that later). However, I am sure he would have made comment about how the changeable weather of May has affected nature. The wonderfully long hours of daylight that we are blessed with during May and June kindly encouraged deciduous plants to come into full leaf. However, the chilly weather of early May certainly held back development. At times it seemed as if our summer came on Easter Sunday this year, because by the following week temperatures had dropped almost 20C a lot for migratory birds to handle, and indeed the RSPB reported that the west to east migration of some species came to an almost abrupt halt in May, as their expected source of insects had ceased to be available. What happened to the Spanish Plume that was reported in the ‘media’ to sweep in and bring the associated high temperatures? I think one can safely say that was just ‘hot air’ based upon falsely interpreting the long term weather outlook – no change there then. The chilly weather from the north west certainly cooled down the Spring Bank Holiday, and ‘soup’ rather than ‘salad’ became the favoured menu choice. However, at least cool weather resulted in the bluebells staying out in full bloom for a lot longer than last year, when the heat over the holiday weekend caused the blooms rapidly fade and flop over.

As Christianity spread in Spain regions west of Navarra became linked by the Camino de Santiago – known in England as the Way of Saint James – is a network of well over a dozen recognised pilgrimage routes leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (north west Spain). During the Middle Ages it became one of the most important Christian pilgrimage routes, along with those to Rome and Jerusalem, and is reputed to have encouraged the growth of several striking Cities. Then the Black Death, the Protestant Reformation along with political unrest in Europe during the sixteenth century saw a marked decline in pilgrimages. By the 1980s only a few hundred pilgrims registered each year, and then in 1987 the route was declared the first European Cultural Route, and was quickly followed by some well documented guide books. In 1985 690 people registered and then in 2018 some 327,379 pilgrims registered. In Holy Years – this when the feast of St. James (25th July) falls on a Sunday - there is a significant increase in numbers in 1993 some 99,436 registered in 2010 just over 272,700 registered, so by the next Holy Year 2021 the number could exceed the 400,000 mark.

Traditionally pilgrims undertook the Camino de Santiago from their home, and this what Martyn is intending to do, but not from Uckfield instead he will commence his pilgrimage from his house in Casteljaloux (near Marmande) in France. I imagine he will then head some 160+ miles to St. Jean Pied de Port (still in France) near to Ostbat in the Pyrenees, and a traditional starting point for the journey. Considering the nature of some of the terrain he will encounter this would take about two weeks. From there Martyn will be able to follow a well trodden pathway marked by Scallops – the symbol for the “way of Saint James” – and then some 500 miles later, after at least 35 days, Martyn will have reached his destination. The route will pass close to Pamplona, Puente Reina, Logrono, Burgos, Leon, Astorga, Ponferrada, Lugo (or Ourense) and seen him in closeness to the nature of the Basque country Navarra and La Rioja, and then in to Castilla y Leon and finally in to Galicia.

Just one question remains. Will Martyn opt to undertake the additional pilgrimage that some embark upon, and that is to continue to the Finisterre coast where Saint James came ashore?