This day of walking the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury has been fun and fulfilling. I have seen my first oasthouses and definitely feel that I am in Kent and getting closer to Canterbury. I had an early breakfast and quickly reached Otford. Here I passed over the River Darent. Shortly after this I crossed the main road at what must surely be the prettiest roundabout in the country – with its own duckhouse and pond.
I took a slight detour to pass by the remains of Archbishop Wareham’s palace (one of a string of palaces as stopping off points for Archbishops on their journeys many years ago).
I also went inside The Church of St Bartholomew . I have been so fortunate that so many beautiful churches have been open along the way. As per yesterday, where possible I kept to the old Pilgrim route as marked on the map diverting to the North Downs’ Way where the two merged.
The village of Kemsing was interesting. My tour agent lent me the guidebook “A guide to The Pilgrims’ Way and North Downs Way” by Christopher John Wright and I have been looking out for some of the places he particularly mentions. I passed by St Edith’s well – the waters here reputed to cure eye conditions and saw the famous crinkle-crankle wall. Again such a beautiful Kent village. Very quiet, even though not that far from the motorway.
Some of the glass in the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Kemsing is reputed to be the oldest glass in the country. Had I stuck purely to the North Downs Way I would have missed these sights.
The Pilgrims’ Way took lanes rather like yesterday (Day 8 of Walking the Pilgrims’ Way) bordered by banks lined with hedges and trees. Shortly after passing the Stuart mansion of St Clere , the route joined with the North Downs Way and led onto Wrotham. Although it was shut for re-wiring works I am so glad that I visited the Church of St George . The walk through tower was interesting.
Apparently it was provided so that the Sunday procession before Mass in Medieval times could circle the church without leaving consecretated ground (because the road was there in the way, before the Church was built). My plans continued to go slightly awry. The pub I was going to stop at for lunch had been converted into a house! However, It was a little early for lunch anyway and I picked up some snacks along the way.
As is always seeming to be the case the route got a bit hillier with the North Downs Way and I could see ahead views towards the Medway Valley. I passed another “Pilgrims’ House” before diverting off route to Trottiscliffe. What a wonderful place this is. I met some other walkers out for a trip on a lady’s birthday (sorry I have forgotten your name), but their generous husbands Roger and James made a contribution to the Mencap Leighton Buzzard fund . I will pay the donation into my Just Giving Page when I get home (the internet connection in the accommodation tonight is not very good and I am having trouble posting this). We did a joint “selfie” and e mailed it to me. I haven’t received it yet, so it may be the trouble with the internet here. Hopefully it will make its way through the airwaves!!
They suggested I visit Trottiscliffe Church and I am so glad I did. Another “pilgrim” church; The Church of St Peter and St Paul. The leaflet in the Church said that there were old markings which were presumed to have been made on the archway by the entrance door, supposedly by pilgrims many years before. In front of the Church was another wonderful wall – this time with crosses in it. It fell into disrepair a while ago and a local craftsman rebuilt it.
Finally today just off of my route I had time to visit the Coldrum Stones. An ancient Neolithic long barrow burial place. Just like when I visited Waylands’ Smithy when I walked the Ridgeway National Trail last year, I always find coming across these sights in the middle of nowhere very humbling and also peaceful. It looked from the decorations in a nearby tree that some other people had been celebrating here.
I was wondering today having passed so many churches that if, as I believe, God is everywhere, all around and inside of us, then why do we go to special places to try to find “him”? What is the pull of a holy place? I always feel a stronger spiritual connection when I am outside in nature, away from people. Yet, I can see and feel the spirit of God moving in other people as well – just as when I received the donations today. It is ,however, much harder at some times to recognise this Spirit than others. But it is important to me that I do not limit my search for God to places of beauty where he can easily be recognized.
The story of the shrine of Thomas Becket is here. It has no particular relevance to me, any more than any other shrine. But this route has personal relevance because of the starting place at Winchester and because it is a route that so many have trudged before. Somehow, the fact that thousands of others have done this and worshipped at Canterbury makes it feel more important. As Christian said in “Pilgrims’ Progress” – “There also you shall meet with thousands and ten thousands that have gone before us to that place” – what a thought is that! I have heard described the act of pilgrimage itself as “a spatial prayer”, and with each step I take this makes more sense to me.
This pilgrimage is as all pilgrimages “about the journey” – the places with spiritual significance I pass on route, the things I learn and the people I meet – as much as the final destination. Each day I have tried to feel and express gratitude to the people I meet. Brother Ramon said “Unless God is to be found within their own experiences, such pilgrimage is useless.
Some appropriate evening music………………T and I were privileged to see Eric Bibb play at the Stables in Wavendon last year – if you ever get the chance to see him……… GO!
Here is a full index of my post of my Gratitude Walk along the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury
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