Pilgrimpace's Blog


a canterbury tale – 1

It was time, we agreed, to get the thing finished.  Roland and I had been walking the Pilgrims Way from Winchester to Canterbury over a couple of years (you can see some of the reports of this here and here and in the posts next to these).  We had planned to finish last year.  Appallingly wet weather and thick mud – at times we were struggling to make one mile an hour – meant we pulled out before Canterbury.  Now it was time to finish.

Archbishop's Palace, Charing

Archbishop’s Palace, Charing

Roland met me off the coach in London mid afternoon and we got the train to Charing.  If you are ever there, visit the station, it is a Palm Court and also the medieval Archbishop’s Palace by the Church.  After suitable refreshment in the pub (Roland had a shoulder injury and we needed to make sure he was anaesthetised) we set off onto the Pilgrims Way (also at this point the North Downs Long Distance Footpath) mainly contouring along the top of the Downs.

This year the Way was kind, easy to walk on and easy to follow – at some points the farmers had scorched a bright yellow path through the low crops with weedkiller.  We walked past the ruins of St Mary’s Eastwell, accidentally destroyed in weapons testing, and into Boughton Lees where, after the green and the Flying Horse (Canterbury Ale’s Wife of Bath’s Ale scored 4 Pilgrim Points), the North Downs Way split with what was very much a path-less-travelled heading off to the left and to Canterbury.

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We were making good progress.  We stopped to explore the exterior of All Saints, Boughton Aluph.  This has a fireplace in the porch built for pilgrims a long time ago.  Unfortunately (and understandably) this isolated Church was locked up when we got there after 8pm, so we climbed up into Kings Wood.

bivouac at dawn

bivouac at dawn

Here, the land was kind to us, opening out in a covered clearing.  We laid out sleeping bags, ate sandwiches and, listening to owls, slept well through a mild night.  Six hundred years ago, this wood was the haunt of robbers preying on travellers.  Tonight it was peaceful until the birds woke us at 4.30.

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