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Archive for the ‘my Canterbury Tales’ Category

Day 2 of my Way of St Augustine walk dawned bright and cheerful; blue skies and fluffy white clouds 🙂 Yayyy. I had been so blessed with the weather on both my walks. Most of the days were lovely blue skies and fluffy white clouds and not too hot. Perfect for walking. I guess one can excuse the heat and rain if one had good weather otherwise 😉

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You are here….yayyy 🙂 Bright sunny day and I’m off for a walk

I slept so well that night at The Rising Sun Inn… the bed was so comfy I could quite easily just have stayed in bed the whole day. LOL But adventures awaited and breakfast would soon be on the table. I dressed, tidied the room, packed Pepe and set off. First stop: dining room. Nary a soul joined me…apparently I was the only guest that night. Besides the ghosts that is.

Breakfast was a splendid affair….’Full English’ please preceded by cereal, tons of fruit and a cup of tea. I had to eat well since it wasn’t likely I would eat again that day till Canterbury. Anyway I needed the energy.

And then it was time to go. Bill settled I got some last minute instructions from the landlady and at 08:35 I was on my way…first a bit of an explore of the hamlet then onto School lane and across the fields…..it’s along this lane, through the gate and directly across the fields, just head towards the church spire! Hmmmm. Nope.

After much backwards and forwards and walking through a farmers farm 😉 which was actually a bonus since they were picking raspberries and I got to taste some (delicious), I finally decided to ignore the direction to walk through the gate, checked map my walk and set off…once again creating my own ‘way’ and St Augustine will just have to deal with that! So there!!

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lovely open fields but nary a church spire in sight

I did finally spy the church spire and although it definitely wasn’t direct, I eventually found my way. The houses were so quaint and quintessentially English it was hard to bear it! As I passed close to the church I saw one house that I just loved. I remember thinking that it looked a bit sad and that if I lived there I’d be out in the garden enjoying the flowers and the roses. When I read the visitor’s book I noticed a heart-felt request to pray for the health of a lady, someone’s Mother….turns out she lived in that house, but a little notation above the original request mentioned that she had sadly died just the week before. It was so heartbreaking, and then I understood why the house looked sad.

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a beautiful house with an air of sadness. I love the roses and the red phone box. quintessential English houses

All Saint’s Church, West Stourmouth was just wonderful to visit. An absolute gem of a church, so much history within those walls. The first incumbent 1281!!! Just wow. Reading the memorials is truly eye-watering…some of the dates are just incredible. I spent some time there just absorbing the serenity and peace and then set off once again….I could not find the route. After walking back and forth I finally spotted two gentlemen chatting nearby and asked them…they showed me where to turn and I wasn’t mistaken, it really just wasn’t clear and there were no markers. Perhaps because I had come a different route straight from the inn instead of from Plucks Gutter, I probably came in at a different angle and therefore the map didn’t make sense.

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these little churches are absolute gems. a real treasure house of history

Walking through the Kent countryside was such a treat. I crossed channels of water and walked through fields of ‘something or other’…sorry no idea…I’m not an expert, but it was lovely anyway 😉

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channels of water and fields of crops

My next destination was Grove Ferry and the marina. A gentleman suggested I head towards the house with the boat on the roof? Okayyyy. It took me just over an hour of walking and I was there….blissful green grass and lots of lovely water. Pity I couldn’t have a swim!! I spotted a pub, The Grove Ferry Riverside Pub, and stopped off for tea and a piece of cake and the all important rest. Chatted to a family who were driving through. Nice.

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house with a boat on the roof! paths of green. Grove Ferry Marina and the pub. another gate

And then it was the long stretch through Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve in the Wickhambreaux Valley. I loved the many gates I passed through.

What a treat it was walking through the nature reserve. Over an hour of peace and quiet, just me and nature; miles of grasses, channels of water, birds, butterflies, bees, dragon flies and blue skies with fluffy white clouds; blissful.

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Stodmarsh Nature Reserve

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As I neared the exit I noticed a wooden bench with the word DAD sculpted on the back. I rested there for about 10 minutes and thought about my Dad who has also done a number of ‘Caminos’.

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DAD – nice

Shortly afterwards I found St Mary’s Church in the village of Stodmarsh. Another wonderful little church. To my surprise there was a story board featuring the Way of St Augustine 🙂 Magic. I’m on the right road! This hamlet too was just gorgeous; ancient buildings and so much history it’s hard to take it all in.

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a dainty little hamlet – Stodmarsh

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St Mary’s Church Stodmarsh

As I left the village I passed some amazing farms; wide open spaces with the river in the background. Such a beautiful day I could barely believe it. And so goodbye to Stodmarsh. This country is beautiful.

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Goodbye Stodmarsh

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I love a good tree

From here I set off through some pretty remote countryside, through forests of trees, some old, some newish, along lonely pathways, past lakes and occasionally I spied other walkers through the trees…usually disappearing before I reached them. It was weird, but interesting.

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The Way of St Augustine – I’m pretty sure these trees are not the same he saw!

My next destination was the Domesday Book village of Fordwich that I reached just before 3pm. Stunning place. As I entered the village I passed a house named ‘Monks rest’ – too divine!!!

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Fordwich; a Domesday Book Village on the Way of St Augustine

The church again was just amazing!!! I love these churches, they are so extraordinary. This church like the others, an absolute gem of a stop on my route, was open but again sadly, no pilgrims stamp. You can feel the aeons of history thick in the air; as early as 620AD with remnants of the Saxon building. And I just loved the donation box!! Stunning. I had never seen one like it before. I spent ages here and got to speak to quite a few people as they came in to visit. I signed the visitors book and was delighted to see that a couple from Shawnigan Lake, Canada were waking the Way of St Augustine on the same day as me 🙂

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Church of St Mary the Virgin Fordwich

16 fordwich church

Before I left Fordwich I crossed the river over the bridge and took some photos. Definitely going to have to visit here again..so much to see and so little time.

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Fordwich; a Domesday Book village on the Way of St Augustine. The Town Hall is awesome! loved the houses

It was by then already 15:30 and if I still wanted to visit St Augustine’s Abbey and Conduit House, I had to get moving.

Things get a bit hazy from here onwards. I was already very tired. The previous two days of walking had worn me out. Thank goodness I had decided to do these 2 walks prior to my Camino in Europe. I have learned so much about distances, timing, and carrying the backpack. Invaluable lessons that allowed me to adjust my Porto to Santiago route considerably.

As a result of my tiredness and the map not matching what I was seeing, I very definitely went off-route!! I asked for directions but the people I spoke to hadn’t heard of St Augustine’s Way so I simply asked for directions to Canterbury…and ended up having to navigate a golf-course and finally ended up on the Roman Road into Canterbury rather than following the final stages of Augustine’s route. 😦 But on the plus side, I found a cafe for some much needed chocolate and a sugar-rush…a can of Coke. I seldom drink the stuff but these were desperate times and I really needed the energy.

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countryside and reading maps….LOL

And as a major bonus I managed to visit St Martin’s Church…even though it was closed by the time I eventually got there. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe that I managed somehow to end up visiting this church. Although it was securely locked, I did get to walk around the grounds for a few minutes and rested there before my final push into Canterbury.

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St Martin’s Church Canterbury – oldest church in continuous use in the country

St Martin’s Church was the private chapel of Queen Bertha of Kent in the 6th century before Augustine arrived from Rome. Considered to be the oldest Church in the English speaking world still used for worship, and has been for over 1,400 years. It was here that Queen Bertha welcomed Augustine, who with his 40 companions, set up his mission when he arrived from Rome in 597 AD to convert the Saxons. Here they remained until King Ethelbert granted him the land for the abbey and the cathedral which, with St Martin’s, now form the Canterbury World Heritage Site.

And so to Canterbury Cathedral. Footsore and weary beyond belief I passed through the city walls at just on 17:00! Hoorah. I would be in time, only just, to get my Pilgrim’s Passport stamped at the Visitor’s Centre. Once again it was supremely fun at arrive at the gate to the cathedral as a Pilgrim; the folks on duty at the gate are marvellous and made a great fan-fare of my arrival 🙂 – Make way – we have a Pilgrim coming through. Hoorah!! By 17:15 my passport was stamped and I was having my photo taken in front of the cathedral. What a blessing. What a journey. I still can’t quite believe that I actually walked for 3 solid days. Wheww.

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Finally through the city walls and so to Canterbury Cathedral

The staff invited me to stay for the Choral Mass which I did. But first a bit of an explore. I visited the cloisters and the Chapter House where I photographed the stained glass window featuring Archbishop Chichele for my client. They had a fantastic exhibition about pilgrimage to Canterbury featuring the route from Winchester…next on my list me thinks 😉

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Canterbury Cathedral – journey’s end The Way of St Augustine

As I left a verger came along to lock up and I asked her to direct me to the tomb of St Augustine. She went one better and unlocked the area for me; usually closed to visitors so that I could take some photos and pay homage. I can’t describe how fantastic that was.

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The shrine of St Augustine at Canterbury Cathedral

After the choral service I went walkabout through the gardens and almost got myself locked into the grounds for the night LOL But fortunately I discovered to my relief that the entrance to the cloisters was still open. Not that I would have minded staying there overnight, but I had places to go and people to see….and work the next day!!! blergh.

It seemed such a let down to be heading back to work after such an amazing 3 days. But needs must; I have a Camino to save up for!

I did a quick tour of Canterbury to take some photos and then I was off to the station;

The River Stour in Canterbury - looking towards the East Bridge

The River Stour in Canterbury – looking towards the East Bridge

no time for a pancake treat this trip but I shall make up for it next visit! I reached Tonbridge (my accommodation for the night) at just after 9pm. Seriously ready for a shower and bed.

And so endeth my pilgrimages to Canterbury; the Roman town of Dvrovernvm.

In case you missed it: Day 1 The Way of St Augustine

Medieval pilgrimage: a pilgrimage is a journey to a holy place connected with the stories of the bible. People have made pilgrimages for centuries and thousands still do so today, but it was especially popular in the medieval period. Early churches were built over the tombs of saints. The bodies and relics of saints, famous miracle-working images and statues , and holy wells, all attracted pilgrims. Apart from major holy cities such as Rome and Jerusalem, there were many thousands of major and minor pilgrimages sites across Europe and hundreds in England.

Why is Canterbury so important?Canterbury is where St Augustine, who reconverted parts of southern England to Christianity founded his cathedral in 597 AD. The cathedral always attracted pilgrims as a special holy place, but it was only after the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170 that large numbers of pilgrims began to come to Canterbury. Canterbury has one of the largest collections of holy relics; bones, clothes and other items associated with saints in England. Most pilgrims only visited Canterbury once in their lives, so it was important to make it as memorable an experience as possible. Pilgrims, then as now, liked to take a souvenir of their journey, and Canterbury had many different badges that could be bought in the town, and which would identify the wearer as a pilgrim to Thomas Becket’s shrine. 

 

 

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St Augustine’s Way from Ramsgate to Canterbury.

The Way of St Augustine aka St Augustine’s Way – I first learned about this particular walk on one of my many Camino 2017 practice walks between Broadstairs and Cliffsend last year. Frankly I’d never heard of St Augustine before then but by all accounts he was quite an adventurous fella. I did some research and decided to do the walk.

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St Augustine

I’d made a list of walks I wanted to do in the UK so added this as it was quite short at 19 miles from Ramsgate to Canterbury and seemed eminently achievable.

As it turned out I actually walked 28 miles (?) and the hours are only my walking hours, not rest periods during the day. I was able to tag the walk on after my Southwark to Canterbury finale that ended on 29th July.

Day 1 : Walked 24.03 kms (15.02 miles) – 8 hours and 24 minutes
Day 2 : Walked 20.93 kms (13.08 miles) – 8 hours and 04 minutes

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Broadstairs to Ramsgate

 

The Way of St Augustine; my journey from Ramsgate to Canterbury started really from Broadstairs, at which time I walked from Viking Bay to St Augustine’s Shrine in Ramsgate.  I’d had some really amazing help from Hunter and John of Friends of St Augustine, who prepared maps for me and answered my questions about the route and where to stay etc.

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The St Augustine Trail

I’d decided to attend the Sunday morning service at the shrine and so at 07:11 on July 30th I set off with Pepe; my fully loaded backpack, heading for Ramsgate. The service started at 08:30 and I figured I had loads of time since it usually took me just on 45 minutes to walk the distance…Hah!! I hadn’t factored in the weight of the backpack slowing me down and forgot that I still had to climb the hill on the opposite side of Ramsgate Harbour and walk to the shrine…as a result I slipped into the church with 2 minutes to spare and sweating profusely from rushing to get there on time.

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St Augustine’s Shrine in Ramsgate

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Shrine of St Augustine

After the service I took some photos (of course) and then joined the parishioners for tea and biscuits and a wee chat, and at 09:44, following the map that John had kindly printed for me I set off from The Shrine heading for the 2nd of what was to be many stops; St Augustine’s Cross.

I passed through familiar territory walking along the clifftops at Ramsgate and stopped for a swing in the park…how can I not? It’s my favourite 😉

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stopping for a swing 🙂

From there it’s a short walk to Pegwell Bay

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Pegwell Bay – I wonder how it looked in AD 597

and taking the clifftop walk I soon passed the Viking Ship and Cliffs End village signboard,

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Viking Ship at Cliffsend

then a right turn and within no time at all I found the cross….I can’t believe I didn’t know it was there!! Managed by English Heritage, it’s free to visit.

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St Augustine’s Cross

After taking some photos and getting my bearings on the map, I found myself walking along secluded lanes and farmlands. One field in particular was really amazing…sunflowers as far as the eye could see.

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sunflowers; a touch of sunshine on a cloudy day

I had got a wee bit lost just before this as the map didn’t show the massive arterial roadway that crossed over the railway and so I missed the turn under the bridge…but thankfully some fella was walking towards me so I didn’t go too far off course. He directed me back to the bridge and mentioned that he had done this many times before!! hmmm. I also missed the crossing of the railway line, but after finding myself in a cul-de-sac of trees, I again retraced my steps and hopped across quick as a flash…I loathe railway crossings.

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the railway crossing I missed…

I got to chat to a lovely elderly gentleman at this point and he was quite impressed at my endeavour. Actually most people looked at me like I was quite insane when I told them what I was doing. LOL Nonetheless I was on the right track and soon I could see the spire of St Mary’s in Minster. I found the abbey quite easily. Oh my word. What a delightful surprise.

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Minster Abbey

Quite different to what I was expecting, but just amazing. I summonsed one of the Nuns who live and work there, and she kindly stamped my Pilgrim’s Passport for me 🙂 Of course I took loads of photos and then visited St. Mary The Virgin Church.

St. Mary’s Church, founded in 670AD is known as the ‘Cathedral on the marshes’ and is the mother-church of western Thanet. Fantastic place with oodles of history. Sadly there was no stamp for my passport.

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St Mary’s – cathedral on the marshes

Quite hungry by then I stopped off at The Bell Inn for Sunday Roast 🙂 A hearty meal very much appreciated.

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The Bell Inn, Minster

The Bell Inn was built during the reign of Elizabeth I in the year 1576 and is apparently a pub with ghosts……The earliest recorded occupant of the property is one Thomas Calfe who is mentioned in a sale document of 1611. In 1715 the rector of the parish held the first tithe supper at The Bell and in 1718 with his help and persuasion a 7 day licence was granted on condition that no liquor be administered between the hours of divine service. The penalty for doing so was a day in the stocks, a heavy fine or in some cases a flogging. In 1864, The Bell was lit by gaslight for the first time.

After a rest (I took my shoes and socks off and revelled in the cool wet grass) and the delicious meal, I hoiked Pepe onto my back and made my way back to the abbey. While at the shrine in Ramsgate earlier I had noticed that there was a Gregorian chant event at the abbey in the afternoon, so I decided to pop in. Getting there a tad late (45 minutes) I slipped quietly through the door…LOL – I only entered right next to the speaker and with a huge backpack…quietly I was not!! However, it seems I had stumbled into what was a semi-private event and there was a fee to be paid?? eeee. Oh well… But the organiser chap kindly let me off since I had got there very late and wasn’t staying for the 6:30 event at the church…which was the chanting part of the event. Duhhhh. So I just stayed as long as it was polite to do so, had a cup of tea and a delicious slice of chocolate cake baked by the nuns, left a hefty donation in lieu of my entrance fee and at 5:30 I set off once again. Destination Plucks Gutter. Seriously? Plucks Gutter??  I thought I’d have a quick squizz at wikipedia and here is their description: “The hamlet is named after a Dutch Drainage Engineer called Ploeg, whose grave is in All Saints Church, West Stourmouth. Ploeg, being the Dutch for a plough, the hamlet takes its origins from the Dutch Protestant tradition of draining marshland by creating a ploughed ditch”. I’m really not sure how that converts to Plucks Gutter…but there it is!! Although just a hamlet it has an interesting history with links to King Alfred and the Vikings, smugglers and of course was part of what was then the Isle of Thanet on the Wantsum Channel (now built over).

Most of the Way of St Augustine walk was through farmland and along streams and what was once Saxon Shore, although I warrant that Augustine would find things very different to his time!

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channels of water and fields of crops

Whenever the going got tough, I reminded myself that they didn’t have it any easier…I think! The land has been pushed back so far since then that you can’t even see the shoreline from that point, so maybe they walked along the beach whilst I was dragging myself through a jungle LOL

Traipsing across farmlands and recently cut fields that left horrible spiky stalks that crunched underfoot I was in danger of being pierced at the ankles!!

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spiky stalks…horrible to walk in this

Barring my first misdirection, I had so far managed to follow the map quite easily with the help of some signs attached to either gate posts or barriers etc…but somewhere, in the middle of nowhere I lost the trail.

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signs…..here there and everywhere…and anywhere

The map indicated to head inland at one point which I did and followed a narrow channel (there were a LOT of channels and streams in this area; salt-marsh works and farmland as far as the eye could see) but the crops were so high and so thick that I simply could not find ‘The Way’. I tried walking along a particular pathway, but that was making me double back and there was no way to cross the channel which appeared to go on for miles…that I could see anyway. Eventually after walking back and forth a few times and carefully looking for the pathway, I gave up and walked back to the river. I could see from the map that it lead towards Plucks Gutter so figured I would walk along the riverbank till I reached the bridge. Hah!!Great plan….or so it seemed.

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sigh

Firstly the riverbank was exceptionally narrow and I walked (dragged myself) along long grass with just a few inches between me and the river. Mindful of the weight of the backpack, I was having nightmare visions of falling in and not being able to surface due to the weight of the pack…but thankfully I had my walking poles. They really came into their own at this point and saved me from many a stumble on uneven ground and a possible tumble into the river. Eventually my luck ran out and the grassy riverbank ran into thickets of weeds and nettles as tall as me!! I was confounded as to what I should do. It was getting later and the sun was setting. Fortunately said sun was ahead of me so pulling on my ‘big girl panties’ I plunged into the fields of corn! Never mind ‘Children of the Corn’ – I am ‘Woman of the Corn’ hahahaha

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Woman of the Corn…no snakes!!

The stalks were taller than me and for at least 30 minutes of plunging and shoving my way through, I could not see anything other than green corn stalks and a faint glimmer of the sun. Walking through these stalks was eerie and a tad unnerving. I was reminded of when I was about 7 or 8 following my grandfather through a small field of corn that he had grown on their property in South Africa. I was casually strolling along behind him when I looked up and right there before me, with head poised to strike was a thin green snake! Fuck! I can tell you that never have I been so terrified. I screamed, the snake snaked and my grandfather came up with a stick and whacked it into kingdom come…or gone! As the case may be. So yeah, walking through this particular field was rather unpleasant. Fortunately I didn’t see any snakes…but perhaps they saw me and scarpered. I was kinda hoping that like Ireland, this particular field didn’t have snakes!

After what seemed like forever, with all sorts of greenery tangled in my hair and poking through my clothes, I stumbled out of the field and voila the bridge was ahead of me 🙂 Hurrah!! Only problem was that I ended up in a boatyard of some sort so had to find my way through a maze and then do some serious climbing of fences and gates. Forget the signs that say ‘Keep Out’ …mate, I’m leaving, no worries.

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Plucks Gutter and the River Stour

I have also learned that I can climb a gate with a fully loaded backpack in situ!! Something I had to do quite frequently on this walk. LOL

Once I reached the bridge over the River Stour it was so much easier; tarmac! Yayyy. I was in Plucks Gutter…but thankfully not in a gutter. I stopped to read the history board outside the Dog and Duck Inn; fascinating stuff!! Then my feet hit the mac and I was off…only a few more minutes of walking to be done and I would be able to have a cuppa and put my feet up, but first I had to navigate this road. It was however quite scary since the road, if you can call it that, was narrow and had no sidewalk or place for pedestrians. Once again I sucked in my breath and set off….The Sun Inn according to the map at the pub was within a 25 minute walk.

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You are here….Plucks Gutter and Stourmouth

And what a treat Stourmouth proved to be, lots of lovely quaint houses greeted me…although frankly I was too tired right then to be more than a little impressed. Suddenly as I rounded a corner there it was….. The Rising Sun Inn – my accommodation for the night. And once again, exhausted and dusty, but not wet (thankfully), I stumbled across the portal and traipsed across the reception area. A lovely young lass showed me to my room, and brought me a much needed cup of tea. The landlady soon came by to say hello whereupon I ordered a platter of sandwiches and crisps – delicious. The room at the Inn was absolutely fantastic. A gorgeous big bed and an ensuite shower.

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The Rising Sun, Stourmouth

Within no time at all I had my shoes off, my very dirty hiking pants hanging up to air, and with my feet up on the comfy couch I settled in for a bit of telly. 🙂 Exploring would have to wait for the morrow…for now, I wasn’t going anywhere except into the shower and then bed!! It seemed perfectly apt for me to be staying at The Rising Sun since one of my ultimate favourite songs is ‘House of the Rising Sun’ (The Animals). I still have the 7-single 😉

A spot of history: “Originally a bakery owned and worked by the Monks of the Diocese of Canterbury, the first part of the building was erected in 1372 during the reign of Edward III. Continuing as a bakery and passing through a number of different owners, the building eventually came into the hands of Edgar Rake; baker and brewer in 1682!! Said gentleman applied for an ale and cider licence that was granted on April 4th, 1695. He carried out some building work in 1708 & 1709 but died before this more modern structure was completed. One Jeremiah Bedley; baker and beer seller took over the premises in 1709 and granted a licence to sell liquor and named the premises “The Rising Sun”….probably coz his patrons saw the sun rising after a heavy night!! LOL From 1709 onwards till 1865 all the Inn Keepers of The Rising Sun were bakers, working the old bakery and running the Inn, except for Thomas Lucke who in 1776 was described as a ‘beer seller, baker and ferryman’. The inn was for many years also known as the Ferryman’s Inn as the men who worked the ferries across the mile-wide estuary to the “Crown” (Cherry Brandy House) at Sarre, met here.”

I was hoping to see the rising of the sun on the Way of St Augustine walk and so to spend the night at a 14th century inn called The Rising Sun is superbly brilliant.

And so to bed…perchance to dream. I slept really well that night….the bed was amazing.

Day 2 The Way of St Augustine

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You’ve got to know when to carry on
Know when to quit,
Know when to stop each day,
And know when to rest.
You never count your blisters
When you’re sitting at the table (ewww)
There’ll be time enough for walking
When the feet are healed…..

Okay, so I’ve used a bit of artistic licence with the lyrics of ‘The Gambler’ – one of my favourite Kenny Rogers songs, something my daughter and I often sing along to.

That song was running through my mind on Day 3 after I reached Faversham having hobbled the last 4 kilometres in driving rain, feet blistered and aching, soaked to the skin. LOL Alright, I admit it….it wasn’t THAT bad; it did rain but just short shower (albeit enough to soak me to the skin mind!), my feet were blistered and I did hobble….but I wasn’t actually dying!! hahaha. I did however make the sensible decision to quit while I could actually still walk and on the morning of Day 4 I took the train to Canterbury.

The blisters were by that stage seriously eina (painful) and I knew for sure that I wouldn’t be able to walk the final 9+ miles into Canterbury and live to tell the tale. I also had to get back to work within a couple of days, and that was more important than pushing myself beyond what was necessary.

As mentioned in Day 3’s blog post, my daughter joined me for a scrumptious Afternoon tea with champagne with scones and cream, and I spent the night at The Falstaff, the fabulous 14th century inn just outside the West Gate of Canterbury city.

I so enjoyed the feel of spending the night in a 14th century inn, it’s quite phenomenal. After checkout I popped in at the Hospital of St Thomas of Eastbridge to get a stamp in my passport…no date, just the stamp in case they were closed when I did my final day. Then I hopped on a train to home and spent the day with my daughter. Back to work and I took some time out, not making any lengthy walks anywhere…I really needed to rest my feet, allow the blisters to heal and the bones to recover their equilibrium.

The days whizzed by and finally I was ready to start; Faversham to Canterbury – the finale 🙂

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Faversham architectural history

Taking the train from Tonbridge at 06:15 I arrived in Faversham just after 8:30. The trains don’t run very early on Sundays so I had to just bite the bullet and start when I started. First I went back to The Sun Inn to say hello and thank you and take a few photos, and then explored the town centre.

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The Sun Inn Faversham. A most amazing place to stay

With oodles of history going back to the 1086 Domesday Book and earlier, Faversham definitely bears further investigation on another day.faversham

It was market day and the stall holders were busy setting up. I bought a sweet pastry to get me going and set off….Canterbury here I come.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

I’m on the right road

I was of course under no illusions now about how tiring and painful this could be, so I tried to set an easy gait and get my backpack settled. For some reason it just did not want to sit properly and I spent the whole day shifting it about. Weird since it was packed almost identically to the first 3 days I walked and was no heavier.

Again I was struck by how beautiful the English countryside can be. Kent is known as the food basket or garden of England and seeing the fields of crops and dozens of fruit trees, you can certainly believe the name fits.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

Kent countryside

The first village of note was Boughton Under Blean; a stunning village lined with the most marvellous array of medieval architecture you could wish for I was hoping to stop for coffee and something to eat and had bypassed the pub at the beginning of the village expecting to find another suitable place. Lesson learned: stop at the first place you find…there may not be another. I was still really early (10:04) and most places were still closed. Oh well. Onwards.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

Boughton Under Blean

I stopped to ask a lady if there was likely to be anything open, but being Sunday….however we had a wonderful conversation and she was quite intrigued by my journey. I think that is one of the aspects I really enjoyed chatting to various folk along the way. I spotted a history board as I left the village and note that there was a parish church…but again too far to walk to that day. A car would be good LOL. The history is amazing and the village has links going back to the 16th century and earlier, as well as the Gunpowder Plot and Guy Fawkes.

Boughton; (originally ‘Bocton’) means ‘land held by book, or charter’ and lay on the main route between London and Canterbury and is mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, in ‘The Canon’s Yeoman’s Prologue’. The High Street forms part of the old Roman road (‘Watling Street’) from London to Canterbury and Dover and in days gone by would have hosted thousand of pilgrims on their way to the shrine of Thomas Becket.

faversham to canterbury finale

Chaucer’s pilgrims passing through Boughton Under Blean

Moving on from Boughton Under Blean I passed Christ Church Dunkirk ….Dunkirk??? Jeez did I teleport to France? LOL Bears further investigation. The church is now a private residence but the graveyard was still open to exploration.

parish church of dunkirk

Parish Church of Dunkirk

I passed another row of houses further on that turned out to be the village of Dunkirk. 🙂 How cool is that. Time now was 11:36. I was looking forward to reaching Canterbury LOL

I had been following the route on my app: map my walk and suddenly the roadway ran out…just after passing through Dunkirk I quite literally hit a dual carriageway with absolutely nowhere to walk. I had been walking on a narrow pavement up until then and the traffic whizzing past was nerve-wracking…again coming from behind and when a large truck roared past I could feel my body being pulled in the slip-stream. I retraced my steps and turned down a road that was a cul-de-sac. This took me into wild country and I passed a paint-balling group who said I should just carry on along this narrow road, that turned out to be the old Roman Road to Canterbury, and eventually I would reach a point where I would find a better road….which I eventually did.

Along the way I came across some wild blackberry bushes; fat juicy pollution ripened blackberries 😉 delicious nonetheless. I ate my fill and carried on. Really wanting a cup of tea.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

Blackberries enroute

I spotted a Holiday Inn sign in the distance and decided to stop for that tea and a snack to eat and charge up my tablet. Following the Roman Road I passed through Harbledowns and eventually reached the A2050 which lead me to Canterbury Christ Church University…and this is where the road seriously ran out for me. There was just no way around it and the verge, although wide was just grass and bushes lined with high walls…probably to reduce the traffic noise levels for the houses behind. If I was limber enough I would have climbed over the wall LOL. But I’m not and I didn’t.

The walls also meant that I couldn’t get to Westgate Court Avenue which is the road I had wanted to follow into the city. I walked along the grass verges which were quite wide and so I felt safe from the traffic but I’m pretty certain I wasn’t meant to be there. I finally spotted a roundabout that became Rheims Way and at the same time a sign-board that read CANTERBURY! Hoorah Time was now 14:19 and I had left Faversham 5 hours previously.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

Finally reaching Canterbury

From there I scooted across the road and picked up the London Road that took me to St Dunstans Street and a wonderful church. Stopping off to explore, no way could this marvellous place; The Parish Church of Saint Dunstan Without the West Gate be bypassed. Dunstan was Archbishop of Canterbury from 960 to 978 and canonised soon after his death, becoming the favourite saint of the English until 200 years later he was supplanted by Thomas Becket. Dunstan was buried in Canterbury Cathedral but his tomb was destroyed during the Reformation.

st dunstans without the west gate

St Dunstan’s Without the West Gate, Canterbury

Finally I was in Canterbury. I cannot tell you the sense of achievement and relief. It had rained, shined, pained and here I was….almost at the end of my journey.

After exploring St Dunstans I headed towards the West Gate, finally entering the city as a proper pilgrim. I was so tired and so chuffed.

west gate canterbury

The West Gate Canterbury

After entering through the gate into Canterbury city my first stop was the Hospital of St Thomas the Martyr of Eastbridge. And now I could have my passport dated 🙂 The gentleman behind the counter was happy to oblige and well impressed at my journey. We chatted for a while and then he invited me to take a tour; as a pilgrim. I was nearly in tears. I am a pilgrim 🙂 Awesome.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

The Canterbury Pilgrim’s Hospital of Saint Thomas

Founded in the 12th century the Hospital of St Thomas the Martyr of Eastbridge in Canterbury, was in fact similar to today’s hostels; a place that provided overnight accommodation for poor pilgrims to the shrine of St Thomas Beckett….although of course we pay for hostels, in those days pilgrims usually donated or worked for their keep.  The ‘Hospital’ is a grade I listed building and one of the ten almshouses still providing accommodation for elderly citizens of Canterbury.east bridge hospital and chaucer

Do visit, it is fabulous. I went upstairs to the Pilgrims Chapel and said a prayer of thanks for bringing me this far in one piece. I’m not religious by any means, but I do find it very comforting and special to say a prayer of thanks….and I was really grateful to have been able to walk this journey. It had taken such a long time from when I first started.

Situated on the King’s-bridge, near the Westgate, in Canterbury, the hospital was established sometime after the death of Thomas Becket (1170), possibly as early as 1176, when Canterbury Cathedral became a site of pilgrimage. There are some fabulous medieval paintings on the walls and the crypt is ethereal.

From there I set off for the Cathedral 🙂 Finally I could get my pilgrims passport stamped at journey’s end! I entered the gate as a Pilgrim at 15:36 and was escorted to the Visitor Centre by the young man who welcomed me and called out “Pilgrim coming through” – I was so emotional and overjoyed…

Pilgrim's Passport - Southwark to Canterbury In the footsteps of Chaucer

Pilgrim’s Passport – Southwark to Canterbury In the footsteps of Chaucer

To my absolute delight I had quite unknowingly arrived at Canterbury Cathedral on Pilgrim’s Day; 29 July 2017. The cathedral had hosted a series of events on that day and even though I was a tad late to participate in many of them, I did get a passport of sorts, a badge and managed to get 1 stamp for one of the activities.

pilgrims day at canterbury cathedral

Pilgrim’s Day at Canterbury Cathedral 29 July 2017

I spent some time exploring the cathedral; my first stop the shrine of Thomas Becket. This area is where he was murdered in 1170 by four of Henry II’s knights.

shrine of thomas becket

Shrine of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral

Henry and Becket had been friend since their youth but once Becket became Archbishop his demeanour changed and in due course he and Henry had a conflict. This resulted in Henry becoming incensed and uttered the infamous words “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest!” The 4 knights took this to heart, and on the 29 December 1170 they murdered Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.

 

I love Canterbury Cathedral. Like Westminster Cathedral and Winchester Cathedral it soars skywards to the heavens. It’s filled with an extraordinary array of historical treasures, tombs and memorials. I spent a good hour there and then set off for my reward for all the walking.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

a delicious treat

And as a treat for my epic journey I treated myself to a most delicious crepe with dark chocolate, fresh strawberries and cream at the Chocolate Cafe in Guildhall Street. Best ever crepes and highly recommended.

Distance walked: 20.1 kms – 7:37 hours – 42063 steps – elevation 185 meters.

I love to explore and am usually quite happy to take numerous diversions to visit something that takes my interest, but one thing I learned on this journey….not matter how intriguing the place may be, I have my limits LOL After walking for hours and miles with a backpack, I find myself quite unable to summon up any enthusiasm for adding another mile or so.

So that’s it, my Southwark to Canterbury in the footsteps of Chaucer journey is now complete. Only took 7 years hahaha. It was worth all the pain and tiredness; I had a most amazing time and saw so many fantastic places and learned some fascinating facts about the history of this amazing country.

If you’d like to read up on the first 3 days, here are the links:

Day 1 Southwark to Gravesend

Day 2 Gravesend to Rochester

Day 3 Rochester to Faversham

What’s next? Way of St Augustine from Ramsgate to Canterbury…starting 30/07/2017 & finishing 31/07/2017

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I’ve split Day 3 – Rochester to Faversham into two parts due to the length of the journey and also because in reality, the day was split in two when my phone crashed in Sittingbourne.

16:05 – Rochester to Sittingbourne 10 Hours and 45 minutes on the road  – Walked  23.82 kms (14.89 miles)

I had to be very sparing with my phone/camera now since I didn’t want to run out of battery power and the photos (fortunately?) lessened 😦

Marching on with no further stops of any substance, at 16:46 I reached another direction bollard – 13 miles to Canterbury. Geez Louise! Come on, I’m tired and I’d only done 2 miles in 40 minutes!!

day 3 rochester to faversham

13 miles to Canterbury…so how far to Faversham?

I trudged on, my feet getting steadily more achy and painful; I was hobbling by then rather than walking. Passing Bapschild and Teynham and in due course Ospringe where I passed a house with a plaque that said ‘Pilgrims Rest’….ahhh yes, how marvellous that would be…a rest. 🙂

day 3 rochester to faversham

Rochester to Faversham – a pilgrim needs rest

But for now it was a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and just focusing on getting to Faversham.

day 3 - faversham

Andddd finally!!! at 18:09 I reached a signboard that said: FAVERSHAM!!! Hoorahh.

Only guess what? It had started to rain, earlier on I’d discovered 2 massive blisters on the pad of my right foot and 1 on the heel of my left foot (remember those wet socks I mentioned?) and it was, despite the excitement of seeing the sign-board, still another 3 kms before I actually reached Faversham proper. LOL

I stumbled along in the rain, desperately wanting warmth and food and a bed. It was to be another 45 minutes before I finally stumbled across the entrance and into the dry and warmth of The Sun Inn in Faversham 🙂

pluviophile a lover of rain

Today I’m not a pluviophile LOL

The look on the faces of the management and patrons was most amusing…Lord knows I was a mess…my hair sticking up, soaked to the skin, dripping water everywhere, rain running down my glasses, gasping for breath; I looked something akin to a drowned rat.

The lass behind the bar took one look and rolled up a huge wad of mopping up paper and handed it to me to dry off. I really was soaked to the skin.

geoffrey chaucer canterbury tales pilgrims route to canterbury

a sketch of Geoffrey Chaucer as he may have looked on his route to Canterbury

Whilst walking I had switched on my phone again and messaged my daughter to say that I was almost in Faversham, that I had blisters and that it was raining….”get a taxi Mother!!” she implored. But no, I really wanted to complete the walk, after all I’m sure to encounter rain on the Camino and I’m quite positive that Chaucer didn’t have the luxury of calling a cab!!

And of course as mentioned in an earlier blog, I’d posted my rain poncho home the day before LOL

 

Before I reached Faversham proper I had quite a few hills to climb, metaphorically and physically. Could I do this? I really didn’t want to quit. It was a matter of determination now to see this through to the end and it felt like I would be quitting and failing if I didn’t just carry on walking.

As it is, if I had called a cab, I would have missed Ospringe which is one of the stops on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales route. There I saw the most amazing building! Ospringe Maison Dieu (hospital) founded in the 13th century; commissioned by Henry III in 1234, to look after pilgrims and travellers on the road from London to Canterbury or Dover. It’s no longer a hospital and is managed by English Heritage, but how thrilling to discover a building that was definitely in existence at the time of The Canterbury Tales 🙂 Just wow. As it was by then very late, clearly I couldn’t visit but it’s on my list of places to visit again…when I have access to a car LOL. I am not walking again….(for now anyway).

Maison Dieu, Ospringe - Day 3 Rochester to Faversham

Maison Dieu, Ospringe – Day 3 Rochester to Faversham

Once I had been checked in and paid my bill I was shown to my room. I had booked to stay at The Sun Inn due to the age of the place and didn’t really have high expectations for the room; expecting a small room with a tiny ensuite, my jaw hit the floor as the Manager opened the door….”OMG is this my room?” Yes, so it was.

The Sun Inn, Faversham - Day 3 Rochester to Faversham

The Sun Inn, Faversham – Day 3 Rochester to Faversham

It was enormous with the most amazing bed I had ever seen. The bathroom was huge, way bigger than even my bedroom at home with a bath that was just waiting to be filled to the brim with steaming hot water and lots and lots and lots of bubbles 🙂 And so it was. I just floated and floated…luxuriating in the heavenly heat and warmth. And as amazing as this room was, it wasn’t even the feature room…check this out!! Woww

I stuffed my very wet clothes into the tumble dryer and then, bathed, dressed and refreshed I loped off downstairs for dinner; a humungeous piece of battered cod and chips with mushy peas. I seem to have made a habit of that meal; the 3rd in 4 days LOL

I returned upstairs after my delicious meal and without further ado climbed into bed and snuggled down to sleep…..can I just stay here forever?

18:54 – Sittingbourne to Faversham – Walked 12.85 kms (8.06 miles) – 3 hours & 01 minutes

Day 4 – After a really wonderful nights sleep I rose at about 8:30 and went down for breakfast. So thrilling to have slept in an inn that was built in the 14th century!! The Sun Inn at Faversham – “with a tale to tell that dates back to the 14th century, the inn oozes history, charm and character“…or so the website says 😉 I wonder, since it’s a 14th century inn, whether Chaucer stayed there perhaps? I’d love to think he did… I can highly recommend this venue  http://www.sunfaversham.co.uk/

Rochester to Faversham – Total walked 36.67 kms (23.54 miles) – 13 hours & 35 minutes

I had, taking my by then substantial blisters into account, as well as my exhaustion after the previous day’s marathon walk, decided to postpone the finale to Canterbury for the end of the month. Instead of staggering the final 9.1 miles onto Canterbury with the massive blisters and incurring further damage, after relaxing over my meal, I once again hefted Pepe onto my back and set off for the train station…I would be using a 7000 horse-powered form of transport to get to Canterbury….my feet were quite unable to complete the 9+ miles that day!

It was bliss, less than 40 minutes and I was there! Canterbury; at last!

arriving in Canterbury

arriving in Canterbury – not quite the entrance I had planned, but a stunning day anyway

I met up with my lovely daughter, who despite being quite ill, joined me at the Falstaff Hotel for the planned afternoon tea (thank you sweetheart, it was much appreciated 😉 )

Arriving at Canterbury - Afternoon Cream Tea at The Falstaff Inn, Canterbury

Arriving at Canterbury – Afternoon Cream Tea at The Falstaff Inn, Canterbury

We chatted, she took photos for me and I postponed my visit to the Cathedral and having my Pilgrim’s Passport stamped until such time as I actually completed the journey which took place on the 29th July after my next assignment.

southwark to canterbury in the footsteps of chaucer

All being well….. I’ll complete the #SouthwarktoCanterbury

After we had finished our tea, I walked my daughter to the station and saw her off on the train to home. She had really made a huge effort to be there for me and unfortunately got really ill on the train 😦

Meanwhile I slipped back up to my room, too tired to even consider exploring much as I was yearning to do just that. Not as luxurious or amazing as my room at The Sun Inn, it was still lovely and I so enjoyed the comfy bed and a long hot shower.

pilgrimage southwark to canterbury

Canterbury is so amazing and again it’s one of those places where no matter how many times you visit, there is always something new to discover. After a really good night’s sleep I checked out and set off once again for the station; destination: home! I spent the day with my daughter and then with reluctance and resistance to carrying Pepe any further I made my way to the station and back to Tonbridge where I was to spend the night before starting work again the next day.

a beautiful horse sculpture in front of Tonbridge Castle

a beautiful horse sculpture in front of Tonbridge Castle

What an adventure – Southwark to Faversham: 3 days; 95 kms (59.38 miles). 162+k steps; 9 Domesday Book villages (some now towns or cities); 1 UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Footnote: On further research I’ve found that Teynham is also a Domesday Book village: The name Teynham [Teneham 798, Therham 1086 (Domesday Book), Taenham, Taeneham, Tenham, Teneham c 1100 (Domesday Monachorum). Possibly ‘homestead of a man called Tena” or ‘homestead near the stream called Tene‘.  I’m guessing a 2nd visit is in order then!

I completed Day proper on the 29th July 2017 – Faversham to Canterbury…..post to follow.

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Day 3: From Rochester to Faversham 17.2 miles (according to google) 🙂

In reality I walked 36.67 kms/22.91875 miles (probably more, since my phone crashed at one point in Sittingbourne).

Pilgrimage; Southwark to Canterbury

I do keep thinking of this quote…nonetheless

Either way, it was too long and in retrospect I could/should have spread the journey over 5 days instead of 4, even 6 days would have been more enjoyable.

Be that as it may, that walk has given me a huge insight into how my body and my mind cope with the extra weight of the backpack; how it slowed me down, how it affected my feet, my back, my shoulders, how necessary it was to take more frequent breaks, and thus I can reassess my Camino plan and amend it accordingly.

Before I started the journey and during the planning phase I recall thinking that this section, from Rochester to Faversham was going to be a tough one…..I rightly figured that by day 3 my feet and joints et al were going to be aching!! And they were. But if I’m to do the Camino then I just have to suck it up, take a deep breath and carry on! According to the information I’d gleaned it seems that Chaucer and his merry band stayed at lodgings in Ospringe. Now I did some research and found that there is a fab monastery where groups of modern pilgrims have stayed, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll open it up for just me. So instead I’ve found a fab place called The Sun Inn at Faversham – “with a tale to tell that dates back to the 14th century, the inn oozes history, charm and character“…or so the website says 😉 I wonder, since it’s a 14th century inn, whether Chaucer stayed there perhaps? I’d love to think he did…. whatever the case may be, it looked amazing and I was excited at the prospect of staying there!! http://www.sunfaversham.co.uk/

I slept really well at Greystones B&B in Rochester and at 5:30 after a quick breakfast I was on my way. I stopped for a last look at the castle and of course the cathedral where I posted a live video to Facebook. I felt really excited at the journey ahead; what would I discover? The sun was already well up in the sky and I was glad I’d decided to leave so early. After yesterday’s grilling heat, I was hoping to get far before it got too hot….hah!

Rochester Castle and Rochester Cathedral

Rochester Castle and Rochester Cathedral

First up was a quick explore around Rochester. The streets were still relatively quiet although there were quite a few people about. I’ve been to Rochester a couple of times before and explored, but there is always something new to discover; so many layers of history make up this marvellous city.

City of Rochester, one of the stops on Chaucer;'s Canterbury Tales

City of Rochester, one of the stops on Chaucer;’s Canterbury Tales

And so to Chatham. I was swinging along, still feeling jaunty after a good night’s sleep, bones and feet not too achy, when suddenly I saw a signboard that read ‘Chatham’!! I was gobsmacked…I never expected to get there so quickly.

Chatham - first town on the Rochester to Faversham section

Chatham – first town on the Rochester to Faversham section

And then….Chatham Hill LOL. When I was planning my trip I saw the name of the road on google maps, but somehow the word ‘hill’ didn’t quite sink in….not sure which part of ‘hill’ I didn’t fully understand but oh my gosh….there it was, leering at me with spiteful glee. hahaha. “Come on the you woosey, climb me why don’t you”. Urgh. But, since that was the route I didn’t have much choice, so I just focused on one foot in front of the other and plodded…. and suddenly after 20 minutes (LOL) I was at the top. 🙂 That was the first but OMG it certainly wasn’t the last! I never realised that Kent was so hilly, it doesn’t look like it from the train!!! It made me glad to think that the Camino route I was planning on walking is quite flat; I freaking hope!!

Chatham - first town on the Rochester to Faversham section

Chatham Hill

After plodding along for 2 hours I was desperate for a cup of tea…or even coffee would do. Costa Coffee where are you when I need you? With nary a sighting of a coffee shop I spied a diner; Karen’s Diner, just ahead…hoorah. I dashed in, desperate for not only a cup of something hot, but I needed to pee….”where’s the loo…fast !” LOL. Bless him, the chap behind the counter didn’t even blink…just pointed me in the right direction and carried on with…whatever it was he was doing. As for me, I just bloody made it. Backpack on and walking poles sticking akimbo, I plonked myself down without even closing the door…I couldn’t hahahaha…with my backpack on I kinda filled the cubicle. Finding toilets was one of the biggest challenges of the walk, especially between towns. Both relieved and relieved, I ordered a cup of coffee and proceeded to add 6 spoons of sugar!!! Don’t criticise okay!! 😉 I needed the boost; my energy was already flagging. Gawd, carrying the backpack sure makes a huge difference to my energy levels. This was one of the reasons why I wanted to do this walk; to walk the distance and see if I could finish it off before my Camino, and get an idea of how my body could could cope with carrying the weight on my back….I feel utmost sympathy for horses, donkeys and asses…amongst other poor beasts of burden. One thing for sure, hot food is going to be very important.

07:45 and 8 miles to Sittingbourne – easy peasy LOL

day 3 - rochester to faversham sittingbourne

8 Miles to Sittingbourne – how long could 8 miles be?

Although walking along the A2 was absolutely the pits, so much traffic….the little gems of history I discovered along the way were fantastic. Gillingham bears further exploration. Till now these names had all just been stations on the railway route from Broadstairs to London, now suddenly they had personalities; history places and people.

day 3 - rochester to faversham sittingbourne

William Adams – born Gillingham 1504

08:36 Walked: 9.6kms/6 miles. By now I was famished…again!! I spotted Beefeater Manor Farm, High Street, Rainham, Gillingham ME8 7JE and popped in to find out about breakfast. Yayyy; an eat all you want for £8.99. Needless to say I was soon tucking into a delicious meal; I had the works – fruit, pastries, cereal, full English (protein!!) and a pot of heavenly tea. And what did I see just after I set off again….Costa Coffee LOL

By 09:40 I was in Rainham proper where I found a superb little church that just had to be explored. St Margaret’s Rainham is an absolute gem with fantastic medieval paintings on the walls. And there were alive people there!! Hoorah. They welcomed me in, stamped my passport and gave me an impromptu tour of the building…so fascinating!!

st margarets church rainham kent

St Margaret’s Church, Rainham. Built 1350

It turns out that building of the church was started in 1355 which means that it was being built at the time of the Canterbury Tales and Chaucer would have seen it being built. 🙂

day 3 rochester to faversham

St Margaret’s Church, Rainham

How cool is that! <There was a village here by 811 AD when a charter records a grant of land at ‘Roegingaham’ to Wulfrid, Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1137 Robert de Crevecoeur gave Rainham Church and 18 acres of land to Leeds Priory, which he had founded. This meant that the abbot was also the rector of Rainham and would have appointed the vicar as the abbey’s representative to act as the parish priest.>

10:21 and 5 miles to Sittingbourne ( still 5 miles….gahhhh!!)

day 3 rochester to faversham

5 miles to Sittingbourne….. *sob*

Next up and to my absolute delight was the discovery of a village called Newington! By now it was just after 11am and discovering this really energised me – I immediately looked up the history on google and found that it was a Domesday Book village 🙂 How thrilling – another Domesday Book village to add to my Project 101 list.

day 3 rochester to faversham - newington

The Domesday Book village of Newington

Just as I reached the end of the high street I stopped to take a photo of an old building and to my delight and dismay noticed a sign board on the wall: Ancient Parish Church. Oh lordy. hahaha. I love discovering these places, and simply cannot just walk on by, but oh my gosh, they are always well off the road and entailed a lengthy walk….but I just couldn’t continue without stopping to look. I’m so glad I did. St Mary’s Church, Newington was loaded with history, although at that stage I didn’t realise it…the door was locked. What a disappointment. It had just started to rain so taking shelter beneath a lovely tree and a rest I removed my shoes to give my feet a breather, and thus the end result of my journey that day was determined, although I didn’t realise it yet. I foolishly decided to walk across the grass; wet grass I might add, to see the name of the church…and so it came to pass that this really stupid action came to bring my journey to an abrupt end…

day 3 rochester to faversham St Mary the Virgin Church, Newington

St Mary the Virgin Church, Newington

Meanwhile, once the rain had stopped I put my shoes back on and set off…walking with wet socks! (keep that in mind!). As I headed back to the main road I passed a house with the name ‘The Vicarage’ on the gate. I couldn’t resist and marching straight up to the front door I rang the bell. Half expecting it to be a private house, to my surprise the Vicar opened the door; at which the first words out my mouth were: “well that answers that question then!” LOL lordy lordy, God alone knows what he must have thought in that moment…loony lady alert!!

day 3 rochester to faversham

The Vicarage, Newington

After introducing myself I told him about journey and asked if he would be kind enough to sign my Pilgrim’s Passport even though I hadn’t actually been inside the church. To my surprise and sheer delight he asked if I’d like to see inside the church!!! Would I ever! And the next surprise! He gave me the key!! I got the key to the door 🙂 Truly I was amazed that he would trust me with the key after the way I greeted him!! So before he could change his mind…..

day 3 rochester to faversham St Mary the Virgin Church, Newington

St Mary the Virgin Church, Newington

I scurried back from whence I had just come and without further ado I unlocked the door and stepped through the portal into the church interior. Wowww. Fantastic is an understatement. It was wonderful; medieval paintings on the wall, ancient tombs, and the remains of a Saint. Some say that this church contains the tomb of a medieval saint; a pilgrim murdered on his way to Canterbury in 1150. If so, St Robert of Newington is the rarest of survivors; an English saint lying undisturbed in his original tomb!! Seriously just awesome. I spent some minutes exploring and taking photos then locked up behind me and took the key back to himself, with profuse thanks for trusting me with the key.

day 3 rochester to faversham st mary the virgin

the key to St Mary the Virgin, Newington and the tomb of a murdered saint

By now it was 13:12 and on my way again I set a steady pace, still feeling energised at the thrill of being on the ‘open road’ – but I could feel my feet were flagging. That backpack; Pepe sure weighs a ton after a while. Then I met a horse. Spotted in a field across the way I vacillated between crossing the busy road to say hello or just walking on by….eventually the joy of meeting that creature won out and when a gap appeared I scurried over. As soon as he saw me coming he whinnied and trotted over 🙂 I had made the right decision. What a beauty. At first he was coy, but we soon became friends and he proceeded to eat my tangerine. Not sure that it was good for his digestive system but he loved it, asking for more. As soon as it became apparent that my pockets were empty, we said farewell. I remember thinking that Chaucer had the right idea….a horse to Canterbury would suit me fine! If I could ride LOL

day 3 rochester to faversham

this delightful creature was a welcome joy

After 30 minutes or so I reached a very busy roundabout. Urgh, I loathe roudabouts when driving – negotiating them on foot is even worse. On one ‘corner’ I spotted a signboard which told the local story of Key Street; the lost village. Sadly lost to progress, it is thought that the area had been settled as early as the Iron Age. Variously inhabited by Romans, Vikings and Norsemen the area was at first settled and then abandoned and the forests grew back. After Thomas Becket was murdered at Canterbury in 1170, pilgrims to his shrine, on foot or horseback regularly passed this way and so a location was formed with an inn and houses. Fascinating history involving Royals and Highwaymen, a Civil War and the Victorians, it soon succumbed to World Wars, traffic lights and progress.

day 3 rochester to faversham Key Street - The Lost Village

Key Street – The Lost Village…lost to progress

The open road is marvellous with wide fields of corn or vegetables and a scattering of houses here and there. As I walked along I spied Postman Pat in the distance delivering letters and shortly passed a red mailbox set into an alcove in the wall. On the ground just in front was a £5 note! whoaa. I’m a money magnet LOL But I reasoned it probably belonged to the Postman so setting a faster pace I tried my best to catch up to him, which I duly did. I enquired as to whether or not he had possibly lost some money and got a very gruff rebuttal and skewiff glare, so I just cheerily said “Okay, no worries” and carried on along my way with the £5 note tucked into my pocket.

At last, it’s 13:57 and I was on the outskirts of Sittingbourne. As I neared the town I saw a Holiday Inn just off the road and decided to refresh myself…by now I was really tired and had been walking for 8 hours, with Faversham still far far away!! I set off once again grateful for 10 minutes respite and soon spotted a church tower in the distance…hoorah!

day 3 rochester to faversham sittingbourne

Sittingbourne

A welcome sign on the door said ‘Open’ and a trio of cheerful gentlemen welcomed me over and said “join us for tea; it’s free” – tea and free – welcome words indeed 🙂 It was now 14:50 and after 9 hours and 30 minutes of walking with breaks it definitely was time for tea!!!

At that is where disaster struck. For the first, but not the last time. My phone (and most importantly the camera that lives inside) had been connected to my portable charger for a few kilometres, charging on the go as I am wont to do. No sooner had I sat down to sip my tea than the phone suddenly died??? Whatt?? Initially I thought the emergency charger had run out of power, but no, on checking at a power source it still had loads of power. I connected my phone directly to the power source but absolutely nothing! Bloody disaster.

But since there was nothing much I could do, the company was lively, the tea was hot and the cake delicious, I sat back and relaxed; telling my story and listening to theirs.

Time was marching on and I could tarry no longer so with cheerful farewells and donating the fiver I had picked up earlier, I set off to find a phone store that could look at my device and tell me what was going on. I did find a small outlet where the lovely young man behind the counter plugged the phone into his computer (the only place it would charge & still the only place 4 weeks later that it will charge) and boosted the battery by a few %. Just enough to get me to Faversham.

By now it was just after 4pm and the next distance bollard said: 15 miles to Canterbury! How far to Faversham is what I REALLY wanted to know!!

day 3 rochester to faversham

15 miles to Canterbury….

…….to be continued in Part 2 Rochester to Faversham

I had to be very sparing with my phone/camera now since I didn’t want to run out of battery power and the photos (fortunately?) lessened 😦

Marching on with few stops at 16:46 I reached another distance bollard – 13 miles to Canterbury. Geez Louise! Come on, I’m tired and I’d only done 2 miles in 40 minutes!!

day 3 rochester to faversham

13 miles to Canterbury…so how far to Faversham?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One of the most exciting aspects of my Southwark to Canterbury pilgrimage was arriving in Rochester. According to the Canterbury Tales Chaucer and his pilgrims stopped in Rochester to visit the Cathedral, a site of pilgrimage in it’s own right, comparable to Canterbury.

Rochester Cathedral; 2nd oldest cathedral in England

Rochester Cathedral; 2nd oldest cathedral in England

I’d visited Rochester twice already in the past 2 years and although I did visit the castle, I wanted to save the cathedral for when I did this particular journey; Southwark to Canterbury in the footsteps of Chaucer, and suddenly here I was….just across the river. I could see the tower and the turrets and my heart quickened…at last I would step through those hallowed doors!

entering Rochester Cathedral - pilgrims shell

entering Rochester Cathedral – pilgrims shell

Rochester is famous not only for it’s cathedral, the 2nd oldest in England, but also for the fantastically well-preserved Norman castle (well worth a visit any day). Charles Dickens, as mentioned in a previous post had many associations with Rochester and a number of places feature in his stories.

During the 13th century, Rochester Cathedral became an important place of pilgrimage for those wishing to venerate William of Perth, a Scottish baker who was murdered nearby and enshrined in the cathedral. Although no trace remains of the shrine today the well-worn Pilgrim’s Steps can still be seen; now protected by a series of wooden steps.

Rochester Cathedral; the Pilgrim's steps - worn away by centuries of footsteps

Rochester Cathedral; the Pilgrim’s steps – worn away by centuries of footsteps

Although the well-known Pilgrim’s Way, a series of track-ways used since neolithic times, has been used across the centuries as pilgrim’s made their way to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Archbishop Becket, Chaucer’s pilgrims did not use that route from Southwark.  It’s quite difficult trying to tie down the exact route Chaucer and his fictitious pilgrims followed, since not only are the tales fictitious but so is the apparent route. There is also quite a LOT of dissension from various experts, each of whom regard their information as being correct….a moot point really since it’s a work of fiction.

Stepping through the doors after my journey that day was quite surreal. I had waited for this moment for many years and now finally I was here. The cathedral is beautiful. Not as ostentatious as many of the other cathedrals I have visited, but has a simple beauty that enchants. I spent quite some time just looking and absorbing the atmosphere and marvelling at the fact that I was finally there.

Rochester Cathedral; the interior of the cathedrals are designed to inspire and awe

Rochester Cathedral; the interior of the cathedrals are designed to inspire and awe

The next step was to find someone to stamp my passport……I saw a man in a long black cloak waft down the stairs and along a short corridor, turn through a doorway and disappear. I therefore made my way in that direction figuring if he went in, he must surely come back out….and so he eventually did. (it’s weird how their cossacks make it appear as if they’re floating across the floor). Anyway, I digress. I went to the doorway with the intention of following him, instead my way was barred by a sign: ‘staff only’. Hmmm. So instead I called out ‘hellooooo’…..I got no reply. In a bit of a quandry now, I wasn’t sure what to do, so banged on the door rather loudly. Still nothing. I could hear voices echoing from somewhere in the corridor, but got no answering reply. So I figured I would just sit there till someone came back out again…..which our gentleman in the black cloak eventually did. In no time at all he had hailed a lady from the depths of the cathedral and she came armed with the relevant stamp 🙂 🙂 Hoorah!

Getting my Pilgrim's passport stamped at Rochester Cathedral

Getting my Pilgrim’s passport stamped at Rochester Cathedral

I meandered about the cathedral enjoying the tranquillity and peace. I managed to track down the name of the Bishop of the time; one Thomas Trilleck who was nominated Bishop of Rochester on 6 March 1364 and consecrated on 26 May 1364. He died between 12 December and 25 December 1372 so would have been bishop at the time of the pilgrim’s journey. I found his name inscribed on the wall above the quire. Some of those dates are seriously astounding.

So there I was, finally at Rochester Cathedral. The lady who had stamped my passport managed to track me down and invited me to attend a service of thanksgiving at 5:30pm, which I duly did after a quick shower and change of clothes at the B&B.

Rochester Cathedral organ...appears to soar.

Rochester Cathedral organ…appears to soar.

Rochester is one of those cities that really captured my imagination. I had seen the cathedral and castle so many times from the train between London and Broadstairs, so when we finally visited I was enthralled. It’s certainly not the prettiest city I’ve visited, but there is so much atmosphere and character with the ancient buildings and alleyways, cobbled streets and phenomenal history, it’s quite impossible to not be charmed. There are numerous places that feature in Dickens’ books (as mentioned previously),

Charles Dickens and Rochester

Charles Dickens and Rochester

there’s the Restoration House that is an absolute must visit; phenomenal, two of the city Gates still stand. The castle moats are till visible, and many of the streets bear the names of ancient history.

Rochester Castle and remnants of the moat, two city gates

Rochester Castle and remnants of the moat, two city gates

Rochester has also been an important centre for many a royal visit and a number of kings passed that way between landing at Dover and travelling to London.

Rochester History; oldest pub in Kent, Restoration house, ancient streets, significant people

Rochester History; oldest pub in Kent, Restoration house, ancient streets, significant people

Rochester, we may have only spent a brief time together this time around, but I shall be seeing you again……

Further information via The British Library

What is ‘The Canterbury Tales’ about?

Chaucer’s long poem follows the journey of a group of pilgrims, 31 including Chaucer himself, from the Tabard Inn in Southwark to St Thomas à Becket’s shrine at Canterbury Cathedral. The host at the inn suggests each pilgrim tell two tales on the way out and two on the way home to help while away their time on the road. The best storyteller is to be rewarded with a free supper on their return.

This literary device gives Chaucer the opportunity to paint a series of vivid word portraits of a cross-section of his society, from a knight and prioress, to a carpenter and cook; a much-married wife of Bath, to a bawdy miller – an occupation regarded in Chaucer’s day as shifty and dishonest.

Chaucer mixes satire and realism in lively characterisations of his pilgrims. The tone of their tales ranges from pious to comic, with humour veering between erudite wit and good honest vulgarity. Taken together, the tales offer a fascinating insight into English life during the late 14th century.

Chaucer’s original plan was for over 100 stories, but only 24 were completed, some of which had already been written for earlier works. Their order varies in different surviving copies, the Hengwrt manuscript being valued most for its accuracy.

More about the journey:

Prelude – Day 1 Southwark

Prelude – Day 2 Southwark and the City of London

Day 1 – Southwark to Gravesend

Day 2 – Gravesend to Rochester

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Day 2: From Gravesend to Rochester – 7.1 miles – again this proved to be inaccurate 😉 and in fact I walked 21.96 kms / 13.72 miles…give or take a few detours LOL

The second day was from Gravesend to Rochester where apparently Chaucer and his ‘press’ gang of hardy souls spent the night. Again I searched and searched and although I did find one very likely ‘inn’, after leaving 3 messages on their answering machine about wanting to book for a night, with no reply…I said “oh to heck with it ‘off with ye heads, ye daft bugas” and booked at another location that was close to the Cathedral.

Day 2 was without doubt hard. Although a much shorter distance, I was tired from the day before and really struggled to get my act together in the morning, and yes, EVERYTHING HURTS.

everything hurts

my daughter bought this t-shirt for me some months ago….apt! LOL

I had decided I wanted to get some more stamps in my Pilgrim’s Passport before setting off, so at 07:30 I walked back down into the town to look for an open church….the first 2 were a washout, but to be fair they were Anglican so their reply “we don’t have pilgrim stamps” was in retrospect, not surprising. After that I gave up and spent a few minutes walking around taking photos of the town whilst it was still quiet, bought a bowl of cherries and some bananas. The history of these towns is extraordinary and the more layers you peel back, the more you discover….I mean seriously 1568!!! Just wow.

History of Gravesend, Kent

History of Gravesend, Kent

Finally at just after 9am I set off along Old Road East towards Rochester 🙂 Hoorah! I was on my way. Shortly after setting off I reached a roundabout which had a mileage marker showing distances to various places; one of which was Rochester : 7.5 miles 🙂

Rochester 7.5 miles :)

Rochester 7.5 miles 🙂

Okay well that shouldn’t be too difficult….Hah!! famous last thoughts….it took bloody forever, but at that stage I wasn’t yet too tired, albeit still stiff from the day before and still excited about the walk. My post on instagram:

2017-07-10 08.58.33 1555696645857184093_231798962

Walked 4.21 kms and 80 minutes and I haven’t yet left Gravesend 😂😂😂
So just in case I hadn’t punished myself enough already, I decided I wanted to see my beautiful Thames one more time before I left and find some churches to get more stamps in my Pilgrim’s Passport.
Churches = 2
Stamps = 0
Cindy = 😡😢
Gravesend = fail!!! 😂😂😂 But oh the river, it is gorgeous. On my way I bought a bowl of cherries; it’s life after all, innit😉 
I’m now back from whence I started #OldPrinceofOrange and wishing I’d left Pepe at the pub and just checked out later 🤔🤔🤔🤔
The reason I’ve come back this way is coz the road I’ll be walking along; Old Road East, used to be the old road from London to Rochester, and I’m trying to be as authentic as possible 600 odd years later…I’ll pick up the Rochester road proper just a short way along. So I’m now on my way, I’ll try to not sit down anywhere coz by jove, it’s difficult to get back up again. And I’ve remembered why I wanted to leave early this morning….its already as humid as 🌋 Goodbye Gravesend, it’s been fun.’

I was hoping to arrive early enough to be able to visit the cathedral and obtain my pilgrim stamp and since Chaucer visited it would be entirely remiss of me if I didn’t!!! I was keen to see if I could find any traces of Bishops of the time or references to Chaucer.

My Pilgrim's Passport - duly stamped and a reference to Thomas Triller; Bishop of Rochester 1365-1372 who would have been Bishop at the time of Chaucer's pilgrimage

My Pilgrim’s Passport – duly stamped and a reference to Thomas Triller; Bishop of Rochester 1365-1372 who would have been Bishop at the time of Chaucer’s pilgrimage

I soon spotted another likely looking church, but no, it was not only locked, but they too didn’t have a Pilgrim’s stamp!! So a tad disappointed with the churches in Gravesend I mosied on and shortly reached what was a dual-carriageway and the real test of my resolve began…it’s horrible walking next to a busy road and by the 3rd day my throat was sore and scratchy from the care fumes. A young woman saw my backpack and asked me what I was doing 🙂 So lovely of her. We chatted for a while and then crossing the roundabout I saw what was the ONLY faint resemblance to a scallop shell that I was to see during my whole 3 days except for the sculpted glass doors at Rochester Cathedral.

Rochester Road.....the landscape at least was beautiful

Rochester Road…..the landscape at least was beautiful

The landscape across the fields and farmlands was really beautiful, the weather marvellous albeit already heating up considerably, and in the distance I could just make out the Thames estuary and shipping lane. Good to see so many windmills utilising natural resources.

A few kilometers later I saw a  sign for Chalk Village and decided to investigate.  Down Church Lane I found a scattering of houses and a church!! What a surprise 🙂 St Mary the Virgin aka Chalk Church was unfortunately closed but I decided that this would be a good place to rest a while.day 2 - higham The time was now just on 10am. The graveyard was, as most of them are, just lovely; restful and peaceful. I posted a couple of photos to instagram with these words ‘My current view; parish church Chalk Village – no pilgrims stamp 🤔🤔🤔 Today is about pain and endurance and endurance and pain, and energy sapping heat.
Bloody hell. It’s hot. I’m quite literally dragging my feet and just focusing on putting one in front of the other. I now know what it’s going to be like by day 3 on the Camino. It feels as if some gremlins have added another 10 kgs of bricks to the backpack; Pepe and I are not friends atm and I’d happily leave it right here if it wasn’t too expensive to buy another one 😆😆😆 Atm I really must rest. There’s no deadline. 5 miles to go 😐😐😓😓😓 The cherries taste good. 🍒🍒🍒’  and ‘Okay so I’ve caved in…decided to lie down in pastures green and have a proper rest; after all there’s no place like a graveyard for having a rest, right!! 😂😂😂 I shall commune with the souls of the dead for a wee bit 👻👻👻’

There has been a church in Chalk for well over a thousand years, but I stayed there only an hour; frankly I could have stayed right there the whole day!! About 30 minutes after setting off again I saw a welcome sign in the distance….food at The Copperfield!! I was famished by now, not yet having had breakfast besides the cherries.

Full English at The Copperfield, Rochester Road, Gravesend...or thereabouts

Full English at The Copperfield, Rochester Road, Gravesend…or thereabouts

I ordered the full-english and the ice-cream sundae as per the billboard advert Hah! You never get what you ask for….but I was so hungry that I wolfed the food down in no time at all. A pot of tea and a pee later and I was once again on my way.

Next amazing village was Higham where I discovered to my delight that not only had Charles Dickens lived there, but it was a Domesday Book village!! Awesome 🙂 At that stage I continued along the A226 towards Rochester but as I got to the roundabouts my nerve failed. There were no grass verges or sidewalk for me to safely continue my journey, so with a quick look at map my walk I notice a lane; Crutches Lane going off to the left further back, that looked a much better idea. I had walked a fair distance from Higham by then and it was a real slog to walk back again. But, to my delight as I neared Higham I notice a sign ‘Ancient church’…what??? How could I have missed that?

Higham. Domesday Village and once home to Charles Dickens

Higham. Domesday Village and once home to Charles Dickens

I promptly set off to investigate and leaving the main road I walked in the general direction of the church. By this stage I was thoroughly sick of having Pepe on my back. It was hot and the backpack felt like it weighed a ton! So you can imagine my delight when I saw a post office! I immediately made the decision to post some of the items from my backpack home; sandals: 385 grams, rain poncho: 395 grams (I was to regret sending this away the next day!!)  a note-book, a set of keys and a couple of other odds and ends – 1.5kgs later and Pepe felt much lighter. Hoorah! Then it was off along Hermitage Lane (don’t you just love that name?) to find the ‘Ancient Church’. Well as it turns out the ‘Ancient Church’ was another 4 kms away and I was NOT in the mood to be adding another 8 kms to my journey, so instead I knocked on the door of St John’s Church…..hellloooo!! A wonderful lady answered my call and after telling her my story she graciously provided me with loads of information and pamphlets with the history of the church and let me take photos. She also signed my Pilgrim’s Passport 🙂  Wonderful!!

St Peter's Church, Higham - a wonderful discovery

St Peter’s Church, Higham – a wonderful discovery

And then it was time to go…Rochester beckons and my energy was slipping away. I made my way back to the A226 and onto Crutches Lane (the names of the lanes are terrific). Crutches Lane provided me with very welcomed shade and although quite a few cars and vans passed me by, it was quiet and green and just a lovely walk. Sadly though the amount of garbage littering the lane, the bushes and embankments was dreadful. We really are swimming in a sea of rubbish.

Crutches Lane from one end to the other was in fact swimming in rubbish...although the landscape was beautiful, the garbage really spoilt it

Crutches Lane from one end to the other was in fact swimming in rubbish…although the landscape was beautiful, the garbage really spoilt it

By 14:50 I was on the A289 to Rochester. But it was still a fair way to go and a full 55 minutes before I finally saw the Medway and reached the bridge crossing to Rochester! Just before that whilst walking downhill I spied Rochester Castle through the trees in the distance and promptly burst into tears LOL. I was so tired, and so overwhelmed to be within spitting distance of my destination that I cried all the way down the hill and across the bridge!!

Rochester and the River Medway

Rochester and the River Medway; on the opposite bank is Rochester Castle

I had noticed, on the many facebook pages and blogs I’ve been reading, how people say they break down and sob when they reach Santiago…I now had an inkling of why. It’s overwhelming. I had by then been on the road for 8 hours and walking for 6 of those. Whew. At least I now know more or less what to expect when I’m walking the Camino in September, which was partly the reason for doing this walk; to see if I could actually manage. Well I can, but by jove it’s hard work. I love walking and walk a lot…but it’s a completely different ball-game when you have a 7.5kg backpack on your shoulders!

I had found a lovely place; Greystones B&B via booking.com; a Victorian Terraced house on the hill, and although it’s not in the same league historically as the other venues, it looked nice, got great reviews and was most importantly only 8 minutes walk from the cathedral.

Greystone B&B Rochester.

Greystones B&B Rochester. A lovely Victorian Terraced house. The proprietor Bill was very welcoming….I really enjoyed my stay

Rochester. Oh how much I do love thee…..and I shall tell you more about lovely, wonderful, amazing, extraordinary Rochester in my next blog.

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