GALLERY: These sandals are made for walking! Ivor follows historic pilgrimage trail to raise funds for March church
PUBLISHED: 10:02 27 June 2014 | UPDATED: 10:02 27 June 2014
A retired carpenter, who followed an ancient pilgrimage trail across northern Spain, has raised hundreds of pounds for a March church – and is back boasting blister-free feet thanks to his £20 walking sandals.
Ivor Clarke walked the 550-mile Camino de Santiago trail in just 27 days, finishing a week earlier than expected.
It is a 1,000-year-old walking route considered to be one of the most important early Christian pilgrimages during mediaeval times.
It captured the imagination of Hollywood when Martin Sheen and son Emilio Estevez made a 2010 film about the spiritual journey in The Way.
Mr Clarke, 67, said: “It rained most of the time, mists came down, you often couldn’t see where you were going.
“I’m not a churchgoer but it was a spiritual journey. It was a challenge and a very enjoyable one.”
Mr Clarke set out from his Marsh Close home, in March, with a small guide book and a 2.5kg backpack containing the bare essentials.
His training was daily walks to Chatteris and back in his expensive walking boots.
But after giving him terrible blisters he opted for the £20 sandal option and flew to Biarritz ready to start the journey on May 12.
The first day took him up the Pyrenees in southern France and the rest of the journey was through Spain, stopping off at backpacker-style hostels along the way.
Mr Clarke said: “It’s a really popular trail. About 200,000 people a year walk it. It was busy on the first day but it tailed off, so often I was on my own.”
Many people finish the trail at Santiago but Mr Clarke continued to Finistere where pilgrims traditionally shed their clothes and wash in the sea as a sign of being cleansed.
His journey has raised more than £800 for March Catholic Church, where parishioners were given regular updates of his progress via Janet Sirr, a neighbour of Mr Clarke and his wife Christine.
Mrs Clarke said: “It was a great achievement for Ivor but actually his biggest challenge before this was the Pacific Crest Trail, which was 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada in 2007.
“It’s fair to say he loves his walking!”