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Posts Tagged ‘my Canterbury Tales’

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 🙂

faversham history

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.

the sun inn faversham

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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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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….and other stuff I learned before I had to…….Press Pause 《 #SouthwarktoCanterbury –
a horse, a horse…..my kingdom for a horse!! I could surely have done with a horse on Tuesday last week!!!

horses southwark to canterbury

with my patron Saint; George to guide me, I set off from The George Inn, Southwark to Canterbury and met some other horses along the way…

And there it is; after 3 days of walking, eating, enjoying, seeing and experiencing – heat, exhaustion, love, joy, excitement, support, exploration and pain, my sojourn came to an abrupt end in Faversham 😔😔😔

town of faversham

My relief at seeing this sign was enormous….I thought I was close to my destination! I wasn’t, and had yet another 45 minutes to go; 3 hills and 6 kms in the rain later…..

A hard lesson to learn, but one I’ll never forget…..= DON’T WALK IN WET SOCKS!!!
Fundamentally I knew not to walk in wet socks, one part of my brain was saying “it’s not a good idea to walk in wet socks” while the other part of my brain was arguing “oh nonsense, it’s fine, they’ll dry out while you’re walking” – well it wasn’t and they didn’t.

That time in Newington when I’d stopped at the church to rest and then shelter from the rain…well I walked across the grass in my socks and got them wet. Why?? Who knows?? But, I’ll spare you the minutiae, suffice to say that by the time I got to Faversham my feet were in a sorry state. Although the blisters only pained for 3 days and have lasted till now, they pretty much spelt disaster for the walk. On the plus side I discovered that Newington was not only a Domesday Book village, but the church contained the tomb of a Saint; Robert, a pilgrim murdered on his way to Canterbury in 1150.

St Mary's Church, Newington and the tomb of St Robert.

St Mary’s Church, Newington and the tomb of St Robert. My view from under the tree where I sat to shelter from the rain

After setting off from Rochester at 05:19, 36.67 kms later at 18:56 I quite literally staggered into the Sun Inn at Faversham; feet in agony, exhausted and drenched to the core!!! Oh did I mention that it rained the last 6 kms of my walk that day? LOL…..well yes. It did. A lot!!!  The look on people’s faces in the bar when I fell over the portal absolutely dripping water everywhere was entertaining. The lass behind the bar counter rolled up a huge wad of paper and gave it to me to dry myself off with. I was so wet that I had to unpack Pepe and toss all my clothes into the tumble dryer…thankfully the proprietor was amenable to my doing that!!

Besides the blisters, my phone crashed in Sittingbourne and just didn’t want to charge up, ergo I ended my photo journey too…..at the Sun Inn at Faversham…with no battery power I didn’t want to continue; it was most important to me to have a photo-journal of my journey. Besides that, I wanted to map my walk all the way, for the record. I tried everything – connected it to my emergency charger, to the plug in the wall….no matter what, it just did not want to charge.

Pilgrimage; Southwark to Canterbury

Pilgrimage; Southwark to Canterbury

I had booked to spend the night at The Sun Inn anyway, the fabulous 17th century inn I’d found in Faversham, which was just as well since I could hobble no further (more on that in Day 2’s episode to follow). The next morning, to spare my feet and the nasty blisters, instead of resuming my walk, I hobbled to the train station and took the train to Canterbury. I had to be back at work within a few days and could not afford to be incapacitated by blisters.

My daughter and I met up as we had arranged at The Falstaff, where we enjoyed our cream/champagne tea. Although to be fair, I don’t think either of us were up to celebrating right then…I was too exhausted and she was too ill. I had planned to stay overnight at The Falstaff Inn, a fantastic 14th century inn just outside the West Gate at Canterbury, which was just as well since I could walk no further. There too the staff were amazing. More about that later. 😉

My daughter and I celebrating my journey at The Falstaff with a Champagne Afternoon Tea in Canterbury

My daughter and I celebrating my journey at The Falstaff with a Champagne Afternoon Tea in Canterbury

The long and short of it is that I will walk the last 8.1 miles from Faversham to Canterbury at the end of July after my current assignment.
The distance on Day 3 from Rochester to Faversham was just too great. Pretty much everyone who walks the Camino and the 1000 Mile Challenge agrees; 22.92 miles is pretty much two days of walking. Of course it can be done, but at what cost?

Some of the distance and direction signs I saw between London and Faversham...and onto Canterbury

Some of the distance and direction signs I saw between London and Faversham…and onto Canterbury

So a few lessons learned, experience gained and new knowledge stored for future reference 😉
Meanwhile I’m back at work. My phone is still not working properly and will have to go in for repair. 😡😡

What have I learned after 3 days of walking and 59 miles? One of the most important lessons I learned from my walk/pilgrimage/Camino has to be: never, ever, never contemplate WALKING WITH WET SOCKS!! Other than that:

  • Plan shorter distances. I didn’t have to walk those distances; just that when planning my route, Google maps said 6 hours and 18.1 miles…..at least this much I have gained for the Camino in September; plan shorter days.
  • Pack light!! Even though my backpack (Pepe) was not at full capacity, weighing in at just over 7.5 kgs at the start last Sunday, by Day 2 I was leaving it lying about and praying someone would pick it up and walk off with it….even with all my valuables in it. Hah!! I did in fact post some of the stuff home from Higham; 1.5 kgs lighter made all the difference to the comfort of carrying my backpack.
southwark to canterbury - backpack

My backpack; Pepe, weighed in at just on 7.5 kgs when I left and 6 kgs after posting home 1.5 kgs of stuff!!

  • Eat!! I love my food, but when I’m walking I tend to forget to eat. So I planned to eat plenty of food, frequently and yet even that wasn’t really enough. I can feel my body is still depleted. I’m bumping up the protein no end and yet I still get excruciating cramps in my legs. I’m guessing those dried black ants my daughter bought as a dare will have to be eaten soon!! hahaha.
  • Drink!! Lots of water. I consumed 6 liters of water on Day 1 between Southwark and Thamesmead. It was 28 degrees c with a humidity level of 44% and terribly terribly hot. The water bladder inserted on the backpack weighed in at 1.5 kgs when filled and added to the overall weight of my backpack, but that supply it was most welcome along the way.
  • Rest!! This is imperative, especially on a very hot day. I did in fact take a lot of rest breaks, but because I had a deadline to reach Gravesend by 8pm for a dinner reservation I had made, I really pushed myself to keep going. Although I did snooze on the grass at Woolwich…and woke myself up with the sounds of snoring LOL.
  • Pack a rain poncho!!! Yes, I had packed my rain poncho, but because the weight of the bag was killing me on Day 2 I posted the poncho (weight 385 grams), along with my sandals and a few other bits and bobs, back to my daughter. hmmm.

In all, I had a great time. I will write more about my Southwark to Canterbury walk that ended at Faversham in due course. I discovered some extraordinary places, explored magical churches (one of which was being built at the time Chaucer travelled to Canterbury – I mean seriously, how awesome is that!!!), met some wonderful people along the way and saw some incredible sights. I am planning on writing up a day to day travelogue, but in the meantime –

Here are the stats:

1 Pilgrim’s Passport – duly stamped 🙂

southwark to canterbury pilgrims passport

1 Castle – Rochestersouthwark to canterbury rochester castle

1 Horse – seen in a field near Bapschild – ate my tangerine!!southwark to canterbury rochester castle

2 Cathedrals –

Southwark Cathedralpilgrimage southwark to canterbury southwark cathedral

Rochester Cathedralpilgrimage southwark to canterbury rochester cathedral

3 blisters – one on my left heel and two under the ball of my right foot. I cannot tell you how painful those two blisters were by Day 4…..which as it turned out was entirely different to how I originally planned it!!! Duh

3 Inns –pilgrimage southwark to canterbury medieval inns

The George Inn (17th century galleried coaching inn), Southwark.

The Sun Inn (17th century), Faversham.

The Falstaff (14th century), Canterbury.

5 Beds –

YHA Thamesidepilgrimage southwark to canterbury

The Old Prince of Orange, Gravesendpilgrimage southwark to canterbury

Greystones B&B, Rochesterpilgrimage southwark to canterbury

The Sun Inn, Favershampilgrimage southwark to canterbury

The Falstaff, Rochesterpilgrimage southwark to canterbury

6 liters of water – drunk on the first day….between Southwark and Thamesmead

6 kms walked in pouring rain – sans rain poncho (uhmmm yes, well)

9 Churches –pilgrimage southwark to canterbury

The first 3 churches I visited in Gravesend, none of which had pilgrim stamps.

St Mary the Virgin, Chalk – closed

St John’s Church, Higham – open 🙂

St Mary the Virgin, Newington – open 🙂

St Margaret’s Church, Rainham – open 🙂

Holy Trinity, Sittingbourne – open 🙂

and the last one I forget…..both the name and whether it was open or closed LOL

9 meals – in no particular order……pilgrimage southwark to canterbury

YHA, Thameside London – breakfast. always a brilliant spread

The George Inn, Southwark (supper) – fantastic people; my favourite London pub

Costa Coffee, Greenwich (breakfast) – lovely young man; so interested in my journey

The Three Daws, Gravesend (supper) – Josie was amazing; made my night special

The Copperfield, Shorne (breakfast) – imminently forgettable….but nice staff

Crepe & Co, Rochester (supper) – delicious crepes…I had 2 🙂

Manor Farm Restaurant, Rainham (lunch) – Emma was a charming host

The Sun Inn, Faversham (breakfast & supper) – Leigh was very interested in my journey

The Falstaff, Canterbury (Afternoon Tea) – fantastic spread, thoroughly enjoyed

The Falstaff, Canterbury (breakfast) – good meal, lovely staff.

Lunches were mostly buy & go snacks and fruit, with cups of tea or coffee and cake along the way.

22 Places visited: Southwark, City of London, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Royal Greenwich, Royal Arsenal Woolwich, Thamesmead, Erith, Gravesend, Chalk Village, Higham, Strood, Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham, Rainham, Newington, Sittingbourne, Bapschild, Teynham, Ospringe, Faversham…and ultimately Canterbury.

94 kilometers / 59 miles – which brings my miles walked for 2017 to the grand total of 720 miles…..plus all the walking I did that I didn’t record.

160,000 steps plus!

One of the more amusing signs I saw came just as I was leaving Greenwich. I rounded a corner and there before my eyes……okayyyy, I got it!! Thank you!!southwark to canterbury

And that summarises my #SouthwarktoCanterbury pilgrimage that ended at Faversham! Fear not, for I shall complete the walk in just over a week’s time and in fact I’m planning on tagging on a 2nd walk next weekend too…why not? St Augustine’s pilgrimage from Ramsgate to Canterbury. And this time I’ll be sure to keep my socks dry. 😉

Now about that phone…..

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Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral in the footsteps of Geoffrey Chaucer.

6 years ago, after discovering the George Inn in Southwark and seeing the Chaucer window in Southwark Cathedral I was inspired by my love of London, the River Thames, my love of walking and my interest in Chaucer to follow in his footsteps to Canterbury.

Although I did indeed complete the walk from Southwark Cathedral to Greenwich, life got in the way and I never completed the rest of the journey.geoffrey-chaucers-probable-route-to-canterbury-pic-via-httpfaculty-arts-ubc-casechard346map-htm1

However, since I’ll be walking the Camino de Santiago this year in September, I decided that not having completed my journey to Canterbury is just not on! So as part of my Camino training and in order to complete one journey before the next, I resolved to walk from Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral in July of this year over a period of 4 days. This will not only complete my original journey, but will add 60+ miles to my walk 1000 miles challenge (#walk1000miles) and enroute I will visit a few cathedrals, a couple of UNESCO World Heritage sites and hopefully add one or two new places to Project 101.

To this end I have continued apace with my Camino practice walks (640 miles since January 1st 2017)….only now I am carrying my lovely new Osprey Mystic Magenta Tempest 40 litre backpack with me…75% loaded. I did try one day to carry it fully loaded (8.5 kgs) but I nearly put myself on the ground in agony! So I emptied the water bladder and removed my toiletries and for the month of June and part of this month till I leave for my walk I’ve been practising with 5kgs on my back and slowly built it up to 7kgs.

nordic walking poles and osprey backpack

my nordic walking poles and osprey backpack looking fairly benign….

It’s been heavy going and I can see the impact the weight has on my joints and my back, as well as which I am constantly tired. But persevere I must as time is fleeting and although its now July and not April, I can identify with Chaucer’s comment: On Wednesday 18 April, I stood in Talbot Yard off Borough High Street in London getting wet: an April shoure soote was piercing me to the roote. Some days walking with the Osprey has had me feeling like the backpack was ‘piercing me to the roote’. LOL

Chaucer and his merry band of pilgrims left from an inn called the Tabard Inn and although the Tabard Inn no longer exists, I shall repair to the George Inn, the last of the medieval London Coaching Inns, for a meal on the night before I begin my journey. I’m not sure what to eat; fish and chips with mushy peas or sausage and mash with onions…but one thing is for sure….I will be having a glass or two of a suitable brew!!

the george inn

pulling a pint at the George Inn in 2011

The Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer between 1387–1400 of a journey taken by himself and a number of pilgrims from Southwark to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Thomas á Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.

In the year 1387, Geoffrey Chaucer and his motely band of pilgrims gathered in the yard of The Tabard Inn before setting off on their pilgrimage to visit the shrine of Thomas á Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. They travelled mostly on foot but in one or two of the images I have seen of Chaucer on his pilgrimage he is usually seated on a four-legged animal…ergo a horse.

geoffrey chaucer canterbury tales pilgrims route to canterbury

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

Therefore I shall endeavour to travel by foot for as much of the way as I can and revert to horse-power if and when necessary.  I have carefully worked out my daily routes, taking distance into account, and will follow as closely as possible the same route that Chaucer followed….with 2 exceptions: from Southwark Cathedral in London – I will follow the banks of the Thames to Greenwich and from there to Erith

southwark cathedral and geoffrey chaucer

Southwark Cathedral – a place of worship since 606AD

….the road that Chaucer travelled along from Southwark towards Deptford; Tooley Street, is now a very busy, polluted highway with hundreds of cars, trucks and whatall travelling along and frankly; it’s unpleasant. The 2nd exception will be between Dartford and Rochester. Dartford is not a lovely place to spend the night (sorry folks 😉 ), so once I reach the town I’ll take a 7,000 horse-powered vehicle in the form of a train from there to Gravesend (which is not where Chaucer stopped), but since this is my journey…..

As a prelude to the journey I shall once again visit some of the places that were around in Chaucer’s day….albeit today they are somewhat altered and some even have different names.

London Bridge – in Chaucer’s day (14th C): Late Medieval: the Peter de Colechurch Bridge – There was a Stone Gate House on the bridge and on its roof stood poles where traitors’ heads were placed. This practice started in 1304 and continued until 1678.  In the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell’s head was placed on one of the poles.
Southwark Cathedral – a place of worship on this site since 606AD –  a medieval priory which today has become Southwark Cathedral.
Winchester Palace – the remains/ruins of a 12th century palace, London residence of the Bishops of Winchester.
The Clink Prison – 1144-1780 now a museum – The Clink Prison Museum is built upon the original site of the Clink Prison which dates back to 1144 making it one of England’s oldest, if not the oldest Prison.  Now a museum (great fun for a visit)

Saint George the Martyr Church on Borough High Street – a church that was in existence during the 14th Century and before. The earliest reference to this church is in the Annals of Bermondsey Abbey, which claims that the church was given by Thomas de Ardern and Thomas his son in 1122.

And of course The George Inn – in it’s present incarnation, having gone through a number of fires over the years, and rebuilt.  The George Inn was situated next door to the Tabard Inn from whence Chaucer commenced his journey to Canterbury.

On Sunday 9th July, I will stand opposite Talbot Yard off Borough High Street in London getting ………wet? Who knows….we often have rain in July…..but I have a poncho 😉

I’ll be posting photos on instagram as I go and updating my progress. If you’d like to follow along you can find me @notjustagranny and the hashtags I’ll be using are #SouthwarktoCanterbury and #inthefootstepsofChaucer amongst others.

Hope to see you there and if you happen to see me along the way….say hello 🙂

And so to Canterbury……..

southwark to canterbury in the footsteps of chaucer

This plaque on Titsey Hill on the North Downs shows various routes and distances to faraway places….one of which is Canterbury…53 miles from the Titsey Estate

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