A Post from the Pilgrims – Day 11 – Boughton Lees to CANTERBURY!

So, the Final Day dawned with a clear blue sky and we have had a lovely balmy day.

It was great to have a good nights sleep in a cosy bed at Sylva and Joe’s house. We made sure Rhona and Jonathan had their porridge ration to help their legs for the rest of the day. Many thanks to our wonderful hosts for their generosity.


We were able to get going at 8.30am from Boughton Lees and were grateful for a mile of flat walking at the start. Rhona set her usual good pace of 3 miles an hour and we felt like we were flying along. We only had 13.1 miles to do and it felt like one of our Sunday afternoon training walks.

Very soon after starting the day, the North Downs Way splits and we took the northerly route; Canterbury was starting to feel closer!


We tried to have a look in All Saints church in Boughton Aluph, but as Rhona approached the door, the burglar alarm went off and we scurried away trying not to look too suspicious! I was intrigued by the single flying brick buttress on one corner.


One of our last climbs back up the face of the scarp gave us lovely views to the south. There were some beautiful tranquil brown cows near the top who barely acknowledged our presence.



Fi tries to find what we call her ‘Moss of the Day’, but has been disappointed with the moss quality compared to Wiltshire. However, she rather liked some found on a tree stump. WP_20140813_016

Shortly afterwards we saw our last milestone which meant we were into single figure mileage. Big hurrah!


There were some very lovely woodland paths today and as 2 girls on our own (Jonathan met us later) we decided to ignore the old stories of pilgrims needing to band together for safety against the bandits and robbers through King’s Wood.


We felt at home in Chilham as not only was there a statue of 2 pilgrims, but it was also used as the film location for the 1944 film A Canterbury Tale.  We liked the mansion known as Chilham Castle, the tea shops and St Mary’s church. They too were selling teas & coffees, but our feet were itching to keep going.




Thereafter the footpath was bounded for several miles by field after field of apple orchards. Some of the trees were so small and yet had produced a huge crop of large fruit. Jonathan met us here having made sure the Cathedral was expecting us.


Not only did we see the brown cows and the ubiquitous sheep today, but also 2 snakes. One was quite recently killed and the other was a large wooden sculpture!


We got a little over-excited in the last 5 miles and put our mileage countdown onto Facebook as each mile was eaten up. What a great response from our loyal friends – it really spurred us on.


Soon we got our first glimpse of the top of the Cathedral.  We had wanted to do the traditional pilgrim routine and visit St Dunstan’s church on the final approach, but there was a funeral about to start.   So onwards through the throngs of tourists and to the last stop.   Fi was delighted to see her friend Anne and her daughter Elizabeth there waiting to greet them.   Canon Pastor Clare Edwards welcomed us to the Cathedral, took us to see the place where Thomas a Becket was killed and buried and then into the Crypt’s chapel for the formal welcome and prayers.   We had a group hug and felt we had arrived.   Clare then took us up to the place where St Thomas’s shrine had been and we were allowed to stand on the spot to have our photos taken.   Then off to the private Campanile Gardens for tea, a chat and relax.   Our very grateful thanks to Clare for her welcome, her time and interest in us and our journey and especially for our Certificates of Achievement!   Rhona’s niece, Fiona, who lives and works locally, managed to use her lunch hour to come and join us for tea.   And we were delighted too that the Canon Treasurer, Rev’d Nick Papadopulos found us too.   He is  an old friend of our church.   He sent warmest wishes to all the congregation.







Now we are being driven home by Jonathan. Oh the realisation that our endeavours of 11 days can be matched by a few hours in a car!

A Post from the Pilgrims – Day 10 – Detling to Boughton Lees

Oh my, today shall be known as ‘The Day of Weariness’. Somehow, none of us had much energy to push on and get through the miles. We had estimated that that it would be 16.6 miles, but it turned out to be over 17.  Not much difference, but with complaining knees, sore feet and niggling shins & hips, it all counts.  But, we congratulate ourselves on not a single blister between us.


However, the weather was sunny and beautifully windy which kept us cooler than on previous days. We only had one light shower for a couple of minutes. No coats needed today.

We had many climbs and descents in the first hour. The ground had become soggy on the surface and the clay content made it horribly slippery and quite difficult to walk on. The pace was therefore slower than we had been achieving. The views were wide but as the South Downs have run out now, they are less spectacular.

We met some interesting fellow travellers including representatives from the Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group and from Kent Refugee Help. They were on a practice walk for their own trek next year. We met them near the Lenham War Memorial Cross – a large cross cut into the chalk hill. The other ‘traveller’ was Brother Percival having a rest on a bench on his own pilgrimage. So we joined him for a while.




Fi’s favourite moment of the day was being allowed a few minutes pause to fly her kite.


We did realise by the end of the day of long flat, straight stretches that we actually liked the challenge of climbs and some map reading.

There was a sad derelict church ruin at Eastwell, which only had its bell tower standing.


At the end of the day we had to try and keep a straight face as we passed a golf course with a lady golfer who was dressed all in pink, pink T shirt, pink cardigan, pink golf cart with pink club covers. It was all taken so seriously and yet looked so ridiculous!


Now we are all warm and rested in the lovely home of Sylva & Joe and their daughter Katherine. They have given us tea, let us use their shower, fed us royally and given us beds for the night. Such a wonderful welcome.

The prospect of only 13.1 miles tomorrow is making us feel like it will be a holiday. The last post of details of the walk will come tomorrow, but do keep looking as we have a few more bits of information we would like to share.

We are thinking of those at home, how we are grateful for their support and how we have missed them. We are hoping that we have made a difference and have helped to raise a respectable amount of money for The Friends of St Thomas’s. Has it all been worth it? What will we remember especially? How have we changed?


Love the Pilgrims


A Post from the Pilgrims – Day 9 – Cuxton to Detling

We woke to blue skies – so reassuring, but then heard that rain was on its way for the afternoon, so we wanted to make an early start. Rev’d Roger (on his day off) offered to give us Communion in his church next door – a very good start to the day.  A quick bowl of porridge set us up for the day and we managed to start at 8.15am. But why, oh why do we seem to have an uphill stretch right at the start of the day? A good warming process, but a bit of a challenge!

We had some lovely fields to traverse before the concrete, harshness and noise of the Medway bridges. There are 3, one for the trains (including the international ones) & 2 for road traffic.



There were lovely views up the river to Rochester Castle and Cathedral. We took the river path as a detour up to the Cathedral and I learnt something new-Borstal is a real place where borstals began.



We were warmly welcomed by all the staff at the Cathedral and Rev’d Jean Kerr, Canon Missioner prayed with us at the High Altar. What a jewel of a place, light and airy, restful and quiet. We felt properly welcomed and sent on our way by the scallop shells engraved on their glass doors.




However, Jonathan’s report on the traffic system of Rochester can be distilled down to: ‘a farago’!
As we passed the boundary of the Castle we noticed this plaque and thought we need the blog followers to help us out. So, first quiz question of the day: What is/was a Pie Powder Court?




For the first time we had to retrace our steps (boring) back to the bridges. Then on and up onto the scarp face again, but this time we had a gentle climb. We met 3 riders who needed a bit of assistance, which was easily given and they gladly posed for us.


Rhona was so excited to be up close to an oast house, it really feels that we are in the heart of Kent and hop country now.


The weather today was actually rather nice with a thunderstorm just ahead of us at one point and only 2 light showers. Fair bit of mud though on the lovely long tracks on the ridges.


At the top of Blue Bell Hill we were accosted by a lovely researcher, Emily Howard asking about our attitude to the local country park. Our answers didn’t really fit with the ones offered – how far did you travel to get here today? ‘120 miles’ wasn’t what she was expecting!


We found 2 neolithic ‘structures’ today: Kit’s Coty House and the White Horse Stone.



There aren’t too many of the large North Downs Way milestones along the way, but today’s one cheered us when we saw that it isn’t far to Canterbury now.
As we get closer we find more references to Thomas Beckett and pilgrims. In Detling we saw this Tudor gateway and the round information sign.



We carried on into Thurnham for the end of the walk – another climb up to the top of the scarp, where we found lots of Wayfarer’s Trees. It is a type of Viburnum which has black and red berries.


However, we don’t know what these orange-berried plants are. So, Dear Readers, here is quiz question number 2: what is the plant pictured below?  


But what lovely fungi we also saw: 



Tonight we are laying our heads down in a church for the first time – St Martin of Tours. It is an archetypal beautiful little country church with the most wonderful churchwarden – June Eckton and her husband, John who were there to welcome us. Tea and biscuits felt like champagne and cake!



As I write this, Rhona is making a nest in the box pews with kneelers for each of us to sleep on. Looks like this could be a very comfy bed.


Our last full day of walking is tomorrow – off to Boughton Lees. Then Canterbury on Weds! As the frequent refrain goes – ‘Nearly there. Not far now.’



Love the Pilgrims


A Post from the Pilgrims – Day 8 – Otford to Cuxton

Today, as they say, was a day of two halves.  It started damp, became wet, then there was a thunderstorm with much rain falling with speed on us. This helped to dispel the resentment that had been building over 7 days of sunshine about carrying our waterproof coats each day!



When we met Jonathan at Trosley Country Park, the day started to cheer up and by the time we arrived in Cuxton, there were blue skies overhead and lots of sunshine. Hurrah.



It felt a little odd leaving our lovely overnight stay in Wrotham’s cricket pavilion, drive back to Otford in order to walk straight back to Wrotham!


Unsurprisingly, we didn’t take many photos in the rain, but you can picture the scene – Rhona has a startling pink coat and a bright yellow backpack cover. Do you have that image? Then Fi has a red backpack cover with a lavender coat. The image has got better?  Throw in a thunderstorm and we made a pretty picture! The sound of the rain falling on the leaves of the trees in the woodlands as we passed was enchanting, though we didn’t like the fizzing noise of the rain on the overhead electric wires!


We only had a few climbs today, but they were all long scarp climbs from bottom to top and most of them had a good stream running down them. Fun! The rest of the paths had good surfaces and were fairly wide. There were a lot of woodland tracks. The first ones seemed to have come straight out of the spooky bits of a Disney fairytale cartoon.
It was lovely to see another milestone with the mileage to Canterbury decreasing.


We had a lovely set of large fields at the end of the day.
Due to our early start, Rhona was really pleased that we were able to do 10 miles before noon.
We arrived in Cuxton at mid afternoon to be met by Rev’d Roger Knight, the Rector and his lovely dog, Max.


A fab cup of tea and then off to celebrate St Lawrence’s Day in Upper Halling in their Jubilee Hall which is on the site of a church dedicated to St Lawrence. There was a great welcome for us, along with a high tea and Evensong (a ‘cracking evensong’ according to Jonathan).


Roger then took us to one of his churches- St John the Baptist, to see the chancel paintings. They are rather faded, incomplete and the subject matter is not too clear, but great to see a different one to our Doom Painting. An adjournment to the pub to set the world to rights has ended the day. Oh, the prospect of a bed is wonderful!




Quiz question of the day: what is the blue flower? We found it in abundance in a large meadow growing up to 6ft tall.


Please comment below with your answers!

Love the Pilgrims


A Post from the Pilgrims – Day 7 – War Coppice Road to Otford

Day 7 began dry, sunny and benign. So much for the dire warnings of Bertha. Yes, we know she is still on her way and we shall be rained upon tomorrow. But today was calm, less humid than yesterday due to the overnight rain and we were feeling positive after our efforts of the last 2 days. We would like to thank the good folk of St John the Evangelist in Caterham and Suzanne Corps in particular for their kindness and hospitality in letting us use their spacious church hall for our stopover last night.


We started walking at 8.35am on lovely flat woodland paths. It even felt a little chilly after the heat of days 5 & 6. But with Rhona doing her duty as pace setter, we were soon warmed up. The route followed the scarp face up and down through woods and meadows. We were walking parallel to the M25 for a lot of today, so some rather unwelcome background noise. It did make us feel a little smug to see the queues!


We passed a few plaques today – one marking the Greenwich Meridian, one marking the county boundary between Surrey and Kent and another just reminding us (quite unnecessarily) which footpath we were on.


Animals of the day were mostly horses in the far end of a field. But Rhona nearly tripped over a snail (but then her legs aren’t that long) and it was a huge snail! Quiz question 1 for today: what type of snail was it?


The woodland tracks are usually a little sunken down from the surrounding land. The yew trees are in abundance and often their roots are exposed which Fi can’t help thinking is photogenic.


We spent a fair bit of the day passing rather large houses. Our favourite exterior decoration involved 2 characters from a children’s book. Quiz question 2: name the characters, the book and the author.


Jonathan had a very circuitous route from Caterham to find the beautiful cricket pavilion in Wrotham that is our home tonight courtesy of Brenda Jackson.  


Love the Pilgrims