I started the final day of this gratitude pilgrimage of walking the Pilgrims’ Way very early. I wanted to make the most of every second of this day.
A few miles out of Wye, I soon entered the 5,000 acre Kings Wood. Pilgrims would have congregated together before entering the wood so they could pass through the place in company as it was notorious for robbers and vagabonds. Today I was alone but for several roe deer and some pheasants. Until I smelt a delicious smell of cooking. It was coming from some lads who had cycled up from Wye.
Through gaps in the trees I had glorious views over Godmersham Park (where Jane Austen spent a lot of time – many of her novels are said to be inspired by “society” life here). I could see the Georgian Mansion in the distance. And then finally the moment I had heard about and been waiting for…….
A long, long way in the distance, but there it was, the place I had spent almost the last two weeks walking towards. You can just see it through a gap in the trees on the left.
This was my first “moment” of a very emotional day. Just as I was putting the tissue back in my pocket I received a phone call from a lady who calls me regularly and it reminded me what a blessing recovery is for both myself and others.
Hard on to the pretty village of Chilham. I didn’t have time to look closely at its castle and mansion and just took a quick picture by the statue.
And on up to Old Wives Lees. I had read the names of these villages many times over and it was great to finally pass through them.
The Pilgrims’ Way went on past the early Iron Age hill fort of Bigbury Camp, I reached Chartham Hatch and finally Harbledown. This was nicknamed “Bob-up-and-down” in Chaucer’s “Manciple’s Tale Prologue”……”Ther stant a litel toun Which that y-clepped is Bobbe-up-and-down, Under the Blee in Caunterbury weye.” The blog post 100 Things to Do in England mentions Canterbury as a “must visit” City – I wondered how different my experience on reaching it would be to all the other visitors who would be there today and who would also have visited since Chaucer’s time.
I had been making good time and somehow didn’t want to enter back into “reality”. I found myself walking up a lane right alongside the noisy A2. I realised then how close I was to Canterbury and stopped to appreciate the lane and birdsong and the leaves beneath my feet. Almost two weeks had passed since the start of the walk – although the weather had been so summery it was now definitely Autumn; I had witnessed the changing of the seasons at firsthand. The noise of the road didn’t bother me. I switched off and took in the ground beneath me.
And so, to leave the rural landscape I had been immersed in for so long and start to enter the built up area of Canterbury through St Dunstan’s. There is so much history to read around The Well of St Thomas, the leper hospital, and the church of St Nicholas on approaching Canterbury and also Canterbury itself that there is not space to post about it here. I would recommend C J Wright’s Book “A guide to the Pilgrims’Way and North Downs’ Way” . Just as I was walking along the approach road to the centre of the City, who should pull up alongside me but T offering me a lift (he had made good time from Harlington). I declined the offer!
I went into St Dunstan’s Church and stayed a while and prayed. I took off my socks and boots.
Walking the last half mile to the Cathedral I was oblivious of the people around. I turned down Mercery Lane, saw the Cathedral Gate and sobbed in Gratitude.
I was very fortunate to arrive in time for Evensong, which I attended with T. I felt very privileged to be sitting so near to the Choir. The music was beautiful. I was mentioned by name at the start of the service, which I had not expected. The general hymn which was sung was “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, forgive our foolish ways”. This is the hymn which Pearl, our organist at St Mary’s Harlington played at my request when I first took Holy Communion. (T tells me that when he arrived the busker outside the Cathedral was singing “Desperado” by “The Eagles” (the words to which I had stuck up on my bedroom wall as a teenager)).
After the service Canon Clare (who I had met before) took me to Chapel of Our Lady Undercroft. We chatted about the pilgrimage and prayed together. I felt incredibly humbled and privileged.
And so it finished. I haven’t quoted Hardy yet (except on the “Ramblings” programme !) and I am rather obsessed with him! So it must be about time:
“Well, it came to an end; Quite silently – stopped without a jerk; Better close no prevision could lend; Working out as One planned it should work, Ere it came to an end.” (T Hardy)
And it seemed fitting to end with this:
“The people who are in the mad rush today, increasing their wants, senselessly suppose that they are enhancing their importance and real knowledge. A day will come when they will exclaim: “What have we been doing?” One after another many civilizations have risen, flourished, declined and disappeared, and in spite of their big boast of human progress, I am inclined to ask: “To what end all this? What’s the purpose? Darwin’s contemporary, Wallace, has said that despite the various discoveries and inventions during the last fifty years the moral height of man hasn’t increased even an inch. Tolstoy has said the same thing. Jesus, Buddha, Prophet Mohammed, all have said the same thing”. Mahatma Gandhi.
During the next week I will be posting my reflections on my pilgrimage and how I have adapted back into daily life. To anyone who has not yet sponsored me and wishes to do so can I please remind you of my Just Giving link (click here). The Mencap Summer Club is wonderful fun for the children, helps the parents and gives great experience to the teenage volunteers. I have been so privileged to do just a little to raise some money for this charity.
I thank everyone who has read my posts, commented on them, phoned me, sent me texts, walked with me, given me gifts, donated to Mencap, to Derek Bright of Walk Awhile (my guardian angel for the last two weeks), to James for his technical expertise, to those who have remembered me in their prayers – you have all carried me. God Bless you all xx
For Trevor: My Heart, My Soul and My Blood. Thank you. x
Please add your e mail address in the box at the foot of this page to receive further posts about my walks in Beds, Herts and Bucks; my ongoing Birthday Pilgrimage along the Hertfordshire Way; walking in Dorset and my trek along The Ridgeway National Trail.
My book about my experiences along The Pilgrims’ Way, “The Woman Who Walked Through Fear” has now been published by Sitting Duck Press. I am also available to give talks about my experiences along The Pilgrims’ Way.