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.
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!