Three members of Odinn's Raven Guard, a Viking reenactment group based in Ipswich, UK, have departed Ipswich on a 200-mile march on foot to York, where they will attend the Jorvik Viking Festival.
To find out how they are getting on, The Viking Herald caught up with Karla Bartlett, who is embarking on the journey with her partner David Bartlett and their friend Stígandr Jörmungandr.
In the footsteps of legends
Karla tells us that the trio came up with the idea of walking to York after years of making the long journey to the Jorvik Viking Festival by car or train.
"We wanted to find a more interesting way to get there, something more unique. We started looking into the Great Heathen Army – when they arrived in East Anglia, and how they traveled to York."
Both the county of Suffolk and the broader region of East Anglia have a rich Norse history.
Indeed, some experts have even speculated that the East Angles, who ruled the area prior to the Viking Age, were descendants of the Geats, a large North Germanic tribe from southern Sweden.
Then, when the Great Heathen Army invaded England in 865, they wintered in Thetford in central East Anglia before marching northwards to the kingdom of Northumbria.
There, they would conquer York and turn it into a Viking stronghold.
In 869, the Norse returned to East Anglia, deposed the monarch, and took control of both Ipswich and the rest of the kingdom under the Danelaw.
By studying the Great Heathen Army's original journey from East Anglia to York through old maps, stories, and historical records, Karla, Dave, and Stígandr were able to establish the approximate path the Vikings would have taken.
"Of course, the modern roads and all the other construction make it a little more difficult to follow them," Karla admits, "but we're keeping as close to the original route as humanly possible."
Amidst the testing journey from Ipswich to York, Karla, despite her fibromyalgia, remains determined to complete the 200-mile march, underscoring the team's commitment to raising funds for charities. Photo: Odinn's Raven Guard
Testing the limits
The total distance of the reenactors' journey from Ipswich to York is just under 200 miles (around 321 kilometers).
On the day we spoke, Karla and her companions marched resolutely, covering 33 miles (just over 53 kilometers).
"It's going well," Karla says happily. "Yesterday, we got absolutely soaked before we got to our first resting place in the evening. But we're keeping time as best as we can. We're getting there."
"It should take us five days, but we've got an extra rest day in case I'm struggling with my fibro."
Karla suffers from fibromyalgia, a chronic (long-lasting) disorder that causes pain and tenderness throughout the body, as well as fatigue and trouble sleeping.
"Fibro attacks the muscles and the joints, so you're in constant pain," Karla explains.
"I have a chemist's worth of drugs I have to take every morning just to keep going. It's a battle of wills at the moment. It's about whether I can keep my brain in this mindset – that I'm going to do it."
"I hit the wall quite quickly on the first day, but I kept going, and after a while, I was okay. It's up and down, but I had a nice rest last night, and it was all good by the morning."
The walkers are accepting donations for their endeavors, with all the proceeds going to three listed charities: Fibromyalgia Action UK, the UK Archaeological Society, and the Zoological Society of East Anglia.
The trio's journey in Viking reenactment gear has not only tested their endurance but also charmed the locals and attracted national press attention, making their march a modern-day Viking invasion welcomed with enthusiasm. Photo: Odinn's Raven Guard
Pleasing the locals
However, there's no denying that the sense of adventure is also part of the appeal.
The trio are also dressed for the part, in full Viking reenactment clothing, though not all items have been able to bear the hard yards.
"We all started off in Norse shoes, but David and I have had to change ours," Karla says. "He split his soles, and my ankles were struggling. Stígandr's pair is still going strong, though."
It is safe to say that these particular invading Vikings have received a friendlier welcome from the locals than their counterparts in the 9th century, while the national press has also been in touch.
"I don't think I've ever talked to so many people in one day in my whole life!" Karla laughs.
"We've had loads of cars, motorbikes, and lorries beeping at us. People have been walking down the street waving, taking photos, and coming up to speak to us. It's been brilliant and has given us a real boost."
Now in its 40th year, the Jorvik Viking Festival annually attracts approximately 45,000 visitors, culminating in a grand march on the final Saturday, where around 200 Viking reenactors parade through York's city center. Photo: Courtesy of Jorvik Viking Festival
A well-earned glass of mead
Of course, the ultimate destination of the march is the Jorvik Viking Festival, a stunning week-long Norse-based extravaganza that explores York's Viking past and attracts 45,000 visitors annually.
Karla and her friends have been attending the festival for many years.
"We've always been interested in history," she explains. "The Vikings don't always have the best reputation – everyone hears the bad stuff, rather than about the farming, what they did with York, and everything else."
Although they have helped out in the living village at the festival in previous years, this time, Karla is looking forward to some rest, relaxation, and sheer entertainment after their long expedition.
"We just want to enjoy ourselves," she tells us. "We'll see many of our friends and meet up with people we haven't seen since last year."
"When we arrive, though, I just want to walk into Valhalla Bar, grab a mead, collapse in a nice chair, and stay there for the rest of the night."
Visit Karla, Dave, and Stígandr's Facebook page to follow them on their journey. Interested in supporting their journey and contributing to a good cause? Visit their JustGiving pages to make a donation:
We get to provide readers with original coverage thanks to our loyal supporters. Do you enjoy our work? You can become a PATRON here or via our Patreon page. You'll get access to exclusive content and early access.
Feel free to reach out to discuss potential stories that may be in the public interest. You can reach us via email at email@example.com with the understanding that the information you provide might be used in our reporting and stories.