Our day in Canterbury was a busy one.
It was sunny and gently warm – an English sort of sun and warmth. Not very intense.
Our day began with a simple breakfast at the hostel, nothing to write about other than to say we found a coffee place afterwards.
We set off in search of historic Grey Friars Chapel. Fascinating history, a chapel, a house, political intrigue, a poet – Lovelace. While seeking this place, we stopped on a small pedestrian bridge over a tributary of the River Stour. We chatted with some punters who told us the river was flowing twice as fast and twice as deep as usual due to all the rain.
For reasons that aren’t too clear to any of us, Marianne somehow managed to let one of her trekking poles fall through the railing and away it sailed under the bridge and off down the torrent. The fellow we’d been talking too made a valiant effort to retrieve it but the pole swept, Pooh-Sticking, away to some distant place down stream.
We aborted the original mission. (There was a tall wall blocking our progress.) Marianne went off to buy a new pole, Sally and Pat found good coffees, I took pictures then rounded up Marianne, now with new pole.
Our next stop was St Dunstan’s Church. This is where Henry II is said to have removed his boots to walk the final stretch of his penance pilgrimage bare foot. The distance is not far between the two – he didn’t suffer much hardship I’m sure. The were a couple of people cleaning the church, I think this is the only reason it was open. It was an underwhelming visit. No stamp, no acknowledgement of it’s role in the Pilgrims Way.
We went back to Grey Friars via the right route – through a lovely garden. Marianne kept control of her poles as we wandered around pretty, in places flooded, grounds.
Next stop, the train station to meet Liz. This accomplished we went back through the city’s one surviving ancient gate. Nowadays it sits surrounded by signs and traffic lights in the centre of a busy intersection and vehicles roar through its time-worn arch.
We enjoyed lunch outside by the river, taking great care to not play anymore Pooh-Sticks with purses and bags.
Then, the cathedral. Pat told the ticket people that Liz was our support person, which she was, so she too entered for free. Canterbury Cathedral is a vast place. This is where Tomas Becket was murdered by Henry’s knights. Besides the shrine to Becket, there is an interesting art installation there at the moment. An array of clothing found in the Calais Jungle, left there by the refugees who waited there to cross to the UK.
At first, I was put off by the hypocrisy. They waited in Calais because the British refused them access. A Reverend came along – alerted by the entry people that there were pilgrims in the cathedral – and asked us what was the focus of our walk. We told him we liked walking with a purpose. That was my attempt at politely sidestepping any religious connection. The Reverend was respectful of that take and we ended up sitting and talking with him for some time about the refugees, the decline of church attendance, reasons, global humanitarian issues. An insightful conversation, a highlight of our visit.
During the conversation we told him how when we’d arrived in Winchester, the bells had pealed during bell ringing practice. In Rochester, the cathedral bells had pealed for Sunday service. He asked a church warden fellow, and we were told no bells would ring in Canterbury Cathedral until later in the evening. We expressed disappointment. A few minutes after leaving the Reverend to his duties, we were walking in the cloisters and the bells pealed for a short sequence! The time wasn’t in conjunction with any service, or time. We are sure those bells rang for us!
A coffee stop. Then we saw Liz off and returned to the hostel for a few minutes before setting out again to meet Sally’s son Kindred and grand dog Rhintra. This we did in a beautiful park. Kindred arrived with two large back packs. We climbed a hill commanding a view of the cathedral and he unpacked the bags. Out came five crystal champagne flutes, a bottle of fine champagne. (Worthy of royal gifting.) Kindred had also made a loaf of remarkable bread. Folded within into centre were all sorts of surprises such as eggs, ham, cheese, olives, red peppers…. and other delights. The thing was a meal! We sipped the champagne and munched on our bread and enjoyed the last warmth of the evening sun. A perfect end to our Pilgrims Way!
Stay tuned for our next adventure. Pat, Marianne and I are walking the Cornish Coastal Path. We take the train west in the morning.