Having crossed the Medway yesterday I continued with my gratitude walk along the Pilgrim’s Way. It was a day away from the City and towns and back to the countryside and small villages. A day with some spectacular views, reminders of pilgrims and ancient monuments.
I have been thinking about the difficulties of pilgrimage. Sometimes it is hard. Walking day after day long distances is challenging (fatigue and boredom can set in as well as the sore feet and aching back). Unexpected obstacles can be faced along the way. On day 7, a footpath over the M23 was shut, but luckily I had a map and the diversion was short. I changed accommodation one day, but all was resolved satisfactorily. Several times I have lost my way (but always found it again!). Again I can see pilgrimage as an analogy for life – sometimes life is hard, full of compromises and changes. Sometimes we can take action. Sometimes not. What I would love to learn is which is which! Switching things around to a positive attitude and worshipping with thankfulness helps but sometimes we have to work to a point of acceptance of what we don’t like. Sometimes there is pain that needs to be expressed and worked through. One of my daily prayers is:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”.
My walk today was not long but took in a couple of hills that I had hoped to avoid! I missed a turning somewhere and ended up on the heights of the Downs when I did not mean to……….. but the views were grand! On Blue Bell hill there was a memorial to the crew of an air ambulance which crashed here several years ago. Sometimes we just expect the emergency services to be there when needed and we do not remember that they are often putting their lives at risk. The memorial also reminded me of the memorial on Reigate Hill I had passed to the crew of a WW2 USA plane which also crashed into the hill.
I have put below a picture of the terrain for one hill climb. (Laura Nyro – just a little private message for T!)
A more challenging day was needed to remind me of challenges in life and how I have always been held and that everything passes. A reminder that there will no doubt be further obstacles along the way. And mistakes will be made. But that is OK – we can always begin again.
I had to walk, but I had no responsibilities other than that. I passed some beautiful and very interesting places and learned a lot. This area of Kent is known as Kent’s Stonehenge and I passed Neolithic burial chambers at Kit’s Coty House and Little Kit’s Coty House .I missed the White Horse Stone, probably at a similar time I went uphill by mistake! But despite the mistakes there was no need to turn back. The limitless monotony of step after step and the simple discipline of just keeping moving forward allowed me detachment from other thoughts. In fact I have realised that for several days now my head has been very quiet. There are no lingering resentments. There is no fear. The walking today was beginning to open me up to new states. It was a universal motion forward; an endless prayer.
“Does the road wind up hill all the way? Yes, to the very end;
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day? From morn to night, my friend.
But is there for the night a resting place? A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face? You cannot miss that Inn.
Shall I meet other wayfarers at night? Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight? They will not keep you standing at the door.
Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak? Of labour you shall find the sun.
Will there by beds for me and all who seek? Yes, beds for all who come”.
(Rossetti “Up Hill”)
Half way through my walk I dropped down into Boxley, a pretty village with Tennyson connections. This was the only one of the churches that I passed today that was open (and that was for a school visit). It was sad that I could not see inside the others. This is the only section of the Pilgrims’ Way where that seems to have been the case. My “Pilgrim Passport” has not got many stamps on it. Only a couple of the churches have had stamps available.
The Pilgrims’ Way took on its familiar guise of footpaths and holloways and I eventually reached my resting place right on the Pilgrims’ Way at Thurnham for the night. I have a relatively easy walking day tomorrow and then what looks on the map as a more challenging trek along to Canterbury on Saturday and Sunday.
And…. a little musical treat for me tonight. As I walked around some riding stables I captured this beauty and was reminded of one of the things on my “aspirations list” for this year that I have not achieved yet. I was also reminded of my favourite childhood record.
Here is a full index of my post of my Gratitude Walk along the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury
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