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Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category

What a fantastic city. Coimbra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and world famous University City is perched high on a hill that just goes up and up and up some more. But the views from the University at the very top are astounding and worth the effort. 

I started out relatively early and took the 08:52 train from Porto-Campanha which is conveniently a 5 minute walk from my hotel. Within a hour we were at Coimbra-.

I walked into the city from there and enjoyed the coolness of the morning ; the temperature changed fairly soon and I got very burned and hot.

The city as I said is perched on a hill. Winding cobbled lanes lead up and up, very steep slopes, the houses balanced haphazardly one in top of the other, so close together you couldn’t fit a sheet of paper between them.

The architecture is fascinating, but I was sad to see do many wonderful old buildings in a complete state of disrepair and dereliction.

There are te dozens of churches, monasteries and a few cathedrals. I managed to visit a few, all of which were wonderful. I’m always reminded that people built these places. The minds that conceived of them… I’m left amazed.

Coimbra is an 11th century city and some of the ecclesiastical buildings go back to the early 12th century. Awesome.

There are dozens of squares each with tables and gaily coloured umbrellas, lots of quirky shops with a delightful array of goods. I bought 2 tea-towels and an oven gloves as mementos. Like I need more weight in my bag LOL

I had a cappuccino and a custard cream pastry at this restaurant. Delicious.

I walked along the riverside. The River Mondego is incredibly wide! There’s a colourful pedestrian bridge I walked across that offered amazing views of the river and city.

I discovered an extraordinary Monastery on the other side of the river. Archaeological ruins offer a tantalising glimpse into the ancient past.

 On the hill is an amazing church and what looks like another monastery. I need to do more research on that.

Before leaving I stopped off at a cafe and partook of a cappuccino and a most delicious custard pastry.

Coimbra is an enchanting city with so much to see.

 Centuries of history in those cobbled streets that play havoc with your ankles. 

And then it was time to go. I took a taxi to the station. By 17:45 my feet, after 15 kms had had quite enough thank you.

Walked 15kms. 32,419 steps from when I got off the train until I stepped into the taxi. 

I mistakenly jumped on the wrong train, but since it was headed to Porto, it was all good and the ticket inspector didn’t come by.

After paying my bill at the hotel in preparation for my early departure tomorrow, I popped in at a local cafe and enjoyed a cheese and tomato omelette. Delicious. 

Tomorrow my Camino proper begins. Wish me luck, hope that the Camino does indeed provide and Buen Camino. 

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After walking my legs into the ground yesterday and a very late goodnight, I slept till 9am today. I did wake as the sun tinged the clouds pink, but fell asleep again. Missed breakfast so bought myself two croissant on the way to the Metro. Golly, what a mission to buy a trip. It’s similar but very different to London’s top up oyster cards….which is way more easy.

I eventually got it sorted and into town. Got off at Trinidades which is meant to be close to the Se Cathedral but isn’t LOL. If I’d been paying attention yesterday I’d have realised that Sao Bento Station is a 5 minute walk away. But on the plus side I got to see parts of Porto I wouldn’t have otherwise. 

Besides the amazing street art I visited an amazing church that left my mouth agape. I needed some touristy information so popped in at a nearby info centre where my questions were answered by a delightful young man, and had my pilgrim’s passport stamped….my first stamp for today. It’s amazing.

After that I went walkabout, recorded the 12noon chimes on the Avenue???? and meandered about till I found the famous Lello Library that everyone talks about. I had planned to visit yesterday but thought the price a tad high. But today I changed my mind and reminded myself that I may never visit Porto again and to make the most of my time here. The Livraria Lello is famous for its staircase which is quite beautiful and an unusual design. A tad pricey at 4.80euro but worth seeing.

From there I stopped off at a small restaurant for a toasted cheese and ham. I needed some iron for energy. Sometimes when you order an old favourite, it arrives and you’re surprised at what you get LOL This is not what I was expecting. It was also very expensive. Lesson learned; check the menu for prices before ordering. 

From there I finally took the first steps on my Camino. I walked back to Catedral Se popped in for a 2nd pilgrim’s stamp 

 and followed through pilgrim’s route down a multitude of steps along a winding route

 to the riverfront and onto Foz do Duoro. I passed the extraordinary Sao Francisco’s Church so stopped to visit. There are catacombs.. Whoa. But sadly no skulls and crossbones, just rows and rows of coffins. 

And then finally I was on my way. Wow, what an amazing walk. Just on 5kms of amazing scenery, an extraordinary bridge and typically traditional Portuguese houses.

I then had the delightful pleasure of meeting my first pilgrim. 😁😁😁 Absolutely over the moon and thrilled to have met Jasmine from Colorado USA!! I saw her walking towards me with her backpack along the pedestrian bridge that juts out over the river. As we drew near I said: “ola! Camino?” and she said “yes!” 😊😊👏👏 OMG I was so delighted I nearly kissed her. My very first bona-fide camiga. 💞💞 She’s just completed the French route from SSJDP to Santiago and then took a bus to Finesterre and a train to Porto where she’s planning to stay for a few days.

 We chatted, exchanged notes and ideas and recommendations of what to see in Porto then hugged and wished each other Buen Camino and waved goodbye.

After that I had a spring in my step and bounced along with a smile on my face. It made my day. The walk was wonderful, the scenery too beautiful – looking back upstream to Porto. 

Foz do Duoro is wonderful and if I’d known just how lovely it was I’d have planned my route differently and stayed a night there.

I saw a tall ship sailing by,

watched fishermen cast their lines, smiled and waved ola at everyone,  stopped for a Nutella crepe and café com leite from Maria Limao ‘love made’… Highly recommended crepe for 3.50. In fact it was so yummy I went back for a 2nd one.

I walked to the lighthouse,

 visited the fabulous fort,

watched the sunset

and then rode the Porto City Tram back into town… Too much fun.

 I had planned on walking to Matosinhos but loved Foz so much I tarried too long.
After all that adventure I walked all over the place just enjoying the evening atmosphere,

then finally jumped on the Metro back to my hotel.

Walked 15kms. 38,500 steps+

I’ve just finished sorting and repacking my backpack in readiness for Monday. Let my Camino begin…

Tomorrow I’m finally visiting Coimbra.. If I wake up in time 😉 

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Walked 14.5 km. 52282 steps. 

I’d ordered breakfast at the hotel for today so before setting out to explore I partook of the typical European Continental breakfast ; bread, jam, cheese and juice. Not my usual breakkie but better than the dried out croissant I had in Venice. LOL

Just after 10am I set off out into a beautiful day. Roads familiar to me now led me back towards the cemetery which I was keen to explore. Wow, there are hundreds if mausoleums, some almost as big as our house.

From there I followed my nose towards the city centre, walking here and there depending on what caught my eye.

I visited a fabulous cathedral where I got my first official pilgrim’s stamp. I was so thrilled I almost cried. The gentleman who stamped my passport told me he had also walked the Camino and wished me Buen Camino. 🙂 it gave me goosebumps. Happiness is.

From there I strode down a very steep hill to what turned out to be the Clerigos church and tower. A 45 minute wait to climb the steps for the most incredible views of Porto.

Afterwards I set off towards another cathedral I had seen; Catedral Se. Cathedral of Porto. Wow, I tell you what, they sure knew how to build churches in those days. 

It’s fascinating. I bought the ticket to explore the cloisters, the exhibition, sacristy and climb more steps to the ramparts above the cloisters  I found a small wooden statue of St James as a pilgrim upstairs 🙂 I also obtained my 2nd pilgrim’s stamp.

 After my visit I wended my way downhill following the route that marks the start of the Camino from Porto. Then walking back I visited the Sao Bento Station. By golly its beautiful.

From there I walked to and over the Pte Luiz I bridge and made my way uphill to visit the monastery I could see perched above the river.

 It turned out to be linked to St August in which is brilliant. A link to my Way of St Augustine walk in July. It’s an incredible church, the cloisters and church are both round and of exactly the same size.

After climbing the tower (and that is it, I’m not climbing any more towers!!) but the views were outstanding so it was worth the effort.

 I crossed back over the bridge and went to visit the Lello Bookshop. But at 5 euro I decided to wait till Sunday as I don’t want to go over budget.

Instead I visited another 2 amazing churches

 

and then bought a pastry that looked and tasted delicious. I’ve no idea what the filling was and I’m not asking.

While munching I meandered down hill now towards the river front. Magical. Just in time for the sunset, which was beautiful. I again crossed the Pte Luiz

 I and wandered along the waterfront on the opposite bank of the River Duoro.

By now it was getting dark do I stopped at a small restaurant for French fries… Not very Portuguese but they were good. To my delight I noticed a scallop shell and Pilgrim’s sign. I nearly cried again. Now it’s real.

After eating, I  set off back to my hotel and just for good measure climbed another very steep hill.

Then bath and bed. What a fantastic day. I said ola and obrigado a lot today 🙂 

And now I can officially say that I’ve visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the medieval city of Porto  

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I remember the first time I saw Arundel Castle in the distance from the train. I nearly fell off my seat in excitement. Just a quick look as we whizzed past was enough to make me foam at the mouth…I HAVE to go there. That was about 6 or 7 years ago LOL Meanwhile life got in the way and work prevailed and I had so many other places to go to too! But finally, as part of my current Project 101, I set the date and squeezed in a few days between assignments. The market town of Arundel was finally on my horizon.

the Market Town of Arundel; a Domesday Book village

the Market Town of Arundel; a Domesday Book village

Oh my gosh, my excitement as we chuffed into town knew no bounds. I had booked accommodation via AirBnB and my host very kindly collected me from the station…huge suitcase and backpack…we only just managed to squeeze it all into her car!! I had arrived quite late in the day, having come straight from an assignment so even though it was too late to visit the castle, it wasn’t too late to go see it. 🙂 My host directed me towards the riverside and before too long I was on my way.

The River Arun heading upstream towards Arundel Castle

The River Arun heading upstream towards Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle is truly a fairy-tale castle. It is beautiful; turrets, and towers, hidden corners, a moat and all thin windows; you could almost expect to see Rapunzel let down her hair…it is exactly that type of castle. It also reminded me very much of the Disney castle in Florida. Just a different colour. 😉 Just wow.

arundel castle

Arundel Castle

As I walked along the River Arun drawing closer to the town the castle loomed large on it’s rocky promontory, towering over the village and river below. You can believe that it would have been an intimidating sight for travellers of old. How I longed to be able to sail into the town on a boat…how awesome that would be. The River Arun is a tidal river which I didn’t at first realise. As I walked along the riverbank I remember thinking how interesting it was that it flowed so fast….what I didn’t realise at the time was that the tide was going out. Later on after my walk I checked the mapmywalk app and that’s when I realised it flowed into the English Channel at Littlehampton and is tidal as far inland as Pallingham Quay, 25.5 miles (41.0 km) upstream from the sea. A series of small streams form its source in the area of St Leonard’s Forest in the Weald, West Sussex. It’s the longest river entirely in Sussex.

Te River Arun

The River Arun

Within 10 minutes I was in Arundel proper 🙂 whoo whoo. Oh my gosh the houses are lovely. I passed the oldest pub in Arundel; The King’s Arms C1625 wow. I popped in for a quick look but sadly it’s fairly dull with no outstanding features beyond it’s age.

King's Arms, Arundel

King’s Arms, Arundel

I decided to walk up the hill; Kings Arms Hill which is clearly a medieval street with marvellous cobblestones from top to bottom.

Kings Arms Hill, Arundel

Kings Arms Hill, Arundel

At the very top on the hill I could see what to me was an utter surprise….the cathedral!!! I seriously had not see it before..or perhaps I did but was so enchanted with the view of the castle it didn’t register at the time. But oh my word, did it ever register now!!! It is fantastic and reminds me ever so much of the Notre Dame in Paris with pointed arches, steep-sloping roofs and fancy carvings. Gorgeous!!!

Cathedral in Arundel

Cathedral in Arundel

The architectural style is French Gothic (hence the reason it reminded me of the Notre Dame), and the interior is simply stunning. I had no idea what to expect, but when I stepped in through the door I stopped dead in my tracks, my mouth agape and all I could say was wow wow wow. Not one of my finest descriptions!! LOL It is so beautiful that you can’t quite believe what you’re seeing. Not overly ornate as some cathedrals tend to be, it’s better described as exquisite….the cream stone arches soar heavenwards to a vaulted ceiling, light streaming through the windows captured dust motes dancing like delicate fairies on the sunbeams in the otherwise still air.

Cathedral in Arundel

Cathedral in Arundel

I wafted around in sheer bliss just absorbing the elegant stillness and admiring the gentle beauty of the arches and niched sculptures and the large rose window adorned with exquisite stained glass. The Lady Chapel can best be described as serene.

The Lady Chapel, Cathedral Arundel

The Lady Chapel, Cathedral Arundel

I love these churches. So simple, so elegant, so beautiful. I stopped at the shrine to St Philip Howard. Quite an extraordinary story.

St Philip Howard, Arundel Cathedral

St Philip Howard, Arundel Cathedral

I could have stayed for hours, but I had a castle to see….I was saving my first glimpse, savouring the anticipation 🙂

During my walk I noticed a fantastic 14th century church; The Parish and Priory Church of Saint Nicholas Arundel…although the church proper was closed at that time I did explore the churchyard and planned to visit the next day.

The Parish and Priory Church of Saint Nicholas Arundel

The Parish and Priory Church of Saint Nicholas Arundel

I meandered the streets, slowly making my way towards the castle. I passed a divine little cottage; the Bakers Arms Cottage, at the junction of Maltravers Streets and Bakers Arms Hill, is a British listed building with a pitched tile roof, is timber-framed and fronted with red brick. Absolutely fabulous. There are so many wonderful old houses in the town ranging from 15th – 19th century, many of which are British listed buildings. The history in those houses is just phenomenal.

Bakers Arms Cottage, Arundel

Bakers Arms Cottage, Arundel

I stopped to marvel at the Town Hall – just an amazing building that looked more like a medieval gate than a town hall.

Town Hall, Arundel

Town Hall, Arundel

The High Street is home to a darling array of wonderful old buildings, one of which had sections cut out of the facade exposing the original flint wall and beams behind. Amazing!!! I loved the configuration at the end of the street forming a V with a tiny island that played host to an amazing War memorial. I was so pleased to note that there were few of the usual High Street chains; Tesco, Starbucks, Sainsburys and so on. Although there were a few charity shops mostly it was artisan bakers or antique stores, a local butcher and a few bookshops and of course a number of antique stores.

High Street shops in Arundel

High Street shops in Arundel

From there I made my way over to the castle entrance….To my intense disappointment the castle gates were already closed but I did walk along the avenue of trees on the perimeter and managed to get a fantastic image of the silhouette with the sun setting behind. My daughter was due to visit and spend a night with me in a couple of days and we agreed to visit at that time; wow, what an extraordinary place.

Arundel Castle, Arundel

Arundel Castle, Arundel

I crossed over towards the river and noticed that it was now flowing in the opposite direction….ahhh, a tidal river 🙂 I explored the remains of the Dominican Friary and then crossed the old town bridge.

Blackfriars Dominican Priory, Arundel

Blackfriars Dominican Priory, Arundel

Arundel was registered as a port in 1071 and by the mid 19th century the Arun was linked by canals to London and Portsmouth. By the early 20th century the port was moved to Little Hampton. On another day, when the tide was way out, I noticed the remains of the wharves sticking up out the mud. Intriguing.

Arundel Bridge and the River Arun

Arundel Bridge and the River Arun

On the other side of the bridge I noticed a now well-recognised wooden stake with a couple of discs nailed to it…hah! On closer inspection one of them hinted at what looks like a brilliant walk (?) The Monarch’s Way – a 615 mile walking trail following the escape of Charles II after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. oh my gosh. I need another lifetime LOL The Monarch’s Way is one of the longest of all English long distance footpaths. The Way follows the path taken by Prince Charles II as he fled to France following the sound thrashing of his army at the Battle of Worcester in 1651 in the English Civil War. At my current pace I should be able to walk that in ….oh maybe 41 days or 2 months. Hmmmm

I had a fab view of the castle as I crossed the bridge. On my way back to the B&B I noticed the Arundel coat of arms on the riverbank ‘Antiqua Constans Virtute‘ – Steadfast in ancient virtue. In case you’re interested here is a link to the details of the coat of arms.

Arundel coat of arms

Arundel coat of arms

I waked along Tarrant Street and noticed a fabulous old building; Belinda’s 16th Century Restaurant. A friend of mine on instagram, Pete and I had arranged to meet the next day for tea and cake…this seemed like the perfect venue, and so it was. We enjoyed a delicious tray of scones with jam and cream and a large pot of tea.

Belinda's 16th Century Restaurant, Arundel

Belinda’s 16th Century Restaurant, Arundel

I had the most perfect weather that evening so decided to walk downstream along the river to the town precincts where I had earlier notice an intriguing looking house and then home to bed.

River Arun Arundel

River Arun Arundel

After a bit of a lie-in the next day, I made my way back along the river into town and enjoyed a most wonderfully relaxing day meandering around the town, taking hundreds of photos, popping in at the antique shops, the Castle Chocolate shop where I bought some delicious chocolates and met Clive with the lovely smile, then over to the castle (seriously I could not wait to visit), then made my way over to the fabulous Swanbourne Boating Lake.

Swanbourne Lake, Arundel

Swanbourne Lake, Arundel

I had just intended a brief walk, but it was so beautiful out and the lake looked so lovely, the shady green trees inviting and since I had much time on my hands I decided to walk right around the whole lake….I’m glad I did, it was wonderful. ‘Amidst a backdrop of chalk cliffs & trees you’ll find Swanbourne Lake which has been in existence since pre-doomsday and is home to waterfowl of many varieties.‘ Apparently in 1989 when the lake dried up one summer, they discovered the remnants of a WW2 plane that had been shot down over Arundel. A German Ju88A01 was shot down on 13th August 1940 at 6.30am. Two of the airmen baled out and survivied, one baled out but die and the 4th baled out but was mortally wounded and died of his wounds a couple of days later. If you’re interested here are some facts about Arundel.

After my lakeside walk I crossed over the road and decided to walk back to town along the riverbanks. From the river, across the fields of green, you have the most amazing view of the castle on it’s hill with the town nestling at the foot.

Arundel Castle West Sussex

Arundel Castle West Sussex

I met up with Pete in the early afternoon and we had that most enjoyable tea and a lovely conversation at Belinda’s after which I walked him back to his car….for which I was rewarded with a lift back to the town 😉 After saying goodbye I set off downstream of the river once again and walked and walked, leaving Arundel far behind…such a gorgeous day.

Looking back upstream towards Arundel Castle

Looking back upstream towards Arundel Castle

After a very late start on the 17th I set off once again to explore the town and to visit the 14th century church; the Parish church of St Nicholas. Phenomenal. I’m always amazed that these places survive for so long and often remain a hive of activity in the community. The church was hosting a number of sculptures when I visited; part of a week’s events with sculptures around the town – a trail you could follow. The Priory Alms Houses next door were stunning and I was dying to get behind the gates and into one of them to see!! The Domesday Book records that a Church, dedicated to St Nicholas, existed during the reign of Edward the Confessor between the years 1042 – 1066.

Parish Church of St Nicholas, Arundel

Parish Church of St Nicholas, Arundel

I spent a fascinating 30 minutes exploring the church. There are remnants of some fabulous medieval paintings on the walls, which like many others I’ve seen in the churches on my Southwark to Canterbury walk, are quite simply amazing.

Parish Church of St Nicholas, Arundel

medieval paintings and brasses Parish Church of St Nicholas, Arundel

It’s incredible that they have survived at all. From inside the church you can see through a full-length glass wall into the The Fitzalan Chapel which is only accessible via the castle grounds and wherein are buried family members of the Dukes of Norfolk and Earls of Arundel. (we visited that side of the church during our visit to the castle).

Parish Church of St Nicholas, Arundel and the Fitzalan Chapel

Parish Church of St Nicholas, Arundel and the Fitzalan Chapel

My daughter arrived later that night and after a cup of tea and a chat we went into town for supper. It was so much fun having her there with me. We visited the castle the following day and bought the Gold ticket which gave us access to the gardens, the Norman keep, the Castle and the bedrooms.

Arundel Castle in one word : amazing!!! Sadly we were not allowed to take photos inside the castle, but I managed to slip in one or two before being told off LOL The grounds of the castle are huge with incredibly beautiful gardens you can lose yourself in.

Arundel Castle, West Sussex - home to the Dukes of Norfolk and Earls of Arundel

Arundel Castle, West Sussex – home to the Dukes of Norfolk and Earls of Arundel

We saw a most extraordinary sight in one of the formal gardens; The Collector Earl’s Garden – conceived as a light-hearted tribute to Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel (1585-1646), known as ‘The Collector’ who died in exile in Padua during the English Civil War, the gardens are beautifully laid out with the grand centrepiece a rock-work ‘mountain’ planted with palms and rare ferns to represent another world. This supports a green oak version of ‘Oberon’s Palace’, a fantastic spectacle designed by Inigo Jones for Prince Henry’s Masque on New Year’s Day 1611. Flanked by two green oak obelisks, the rock-work contains a shell-lined interior with a stalagmite fountain and gilded coronet ‘dancing’ on top of the jet.

Oberon's Palace and the Dancing Crown, Arundel Castle

Oberon’s Palace and the Dancing Crown, Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle has been the seat of the Howard’s ancestors since 1102. A snippet of interest: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed in Arundel Castle from December 1 to 3, 1846. Victoria notes in her diary for December 2 that year: “After breakfast, Albert and I sallied forth by a back way and walked along a path below the castle, commanding an extensive view, which put us in mind of the slopes at Windsor. The garden is very pretty and full of evergreens, which made Albert extremely jealous for Osborne House.”

We spent a few hours meandering around the gardens, visited the Fitzalan Chapel, the Norman keep,

views across West Sussex from the Norman Keep of Arundel CAstle

The Norman Keep, Arundel Castle

where you have the most amazing views across the castle grounds, the town, the river and far across the fields. Stunning.

views across West Sussex from the Norman Keep of Arundel CAstle

views across West Sussex from the Norman Keep of Arundel CAstle

The castle is still home to the Duke of Norfolk and most of the rooms are used on a daily basis…except when visitors are about. The private chapel is absolutely astounding, the library was incredible and some of the bedrooms just fabulous. We even saw the bed and bedroom where Queen Victoria slept during her visit. The halls and rooms are filled with paintings, statues, a Faberge sculpture, magnificent tapestries and some of the most interesting artefacts. There is a photocopy of a letter from Elizabeth I and some absolutely fabulous treasures.

a peek inside Arundel Castle

a peek inside Arundel Castle

Although not very big, and easily managed in a day’s sightseeing, Arundel is chock a block with oodles of history and you must set aside at least 3 hours for a visit to the castle, there’s so much to see.

And thus endeth my journey to Arundel to see a castle. With this trip I have added to 4 categories on Project 101; which now brings the totals to : Castles: 39 Cathedrals: 27 Rivers: 39 and Domesday Book villages: 106. 🙂

I’ll write more about Arundel Castle, the Fitzalan Chapel and The Parish Church of St Nicholas at a later stage. I’m preparing for my Camino 2017 and must focus on that.

 

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol5/pt1/pp10-101

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Day 2 of my Way of St Augustine walk dawned bright and cheerful; blue skies and fluffy white clouds 🙂 Yayyy. I had been so blessed with the weather on both my walks. Most of the days were lovely blue skies and fluffy white clouds and not too hot. Perfect for walking. I guess one can excuse the heat and rain if one had good weather otherwise 😉

way of st augustine

You are here….yayyy 🙂 Bright sunny day and I’m off for a walk

I slept so well that night at The Rising Sun Inn… the bed was so comfy I could quite easily just have stayed in bed the whole day. LOL But adventures awaited and breakfast would soon be on the table. I dressed, tidied the room, packed Pepe and set off. First stop: dining room. Nary a soul joined me…apparently I was the only guest that night. Besides the ghosts that is.

Breakfast was a splendid affair….’Full English’ please preceded by cereal, tons of fruit and a cup of tea. I had to eat well since it wasn’t likely I would eat again that day till Canterbury. Anyway I needed the energy.

And then it was time to go. Bill settled I got some last minute instructions from the landlady and at 08:35 I was on my way…first a bit of an explore of the hamlet then onto School lane and across the fields…..it’s along this lane, through the gate and directly across the fields, just head towards the church spire! Hmmmm. Nope.

After much backwards and forwards and walking through a farmers farm 😉 which was actually a bonus since they were picking raspberries and I got to taste some (delicious), I finally decided to ignore the direction to walk through the gate, checked map my walk and set off…once again creating my own ‘way’ and St Augustine will just have to deal with that! So there!!

way of st augustine

lovely open fields but nary a church spire in sight

I did finally spy the church spire and although it definitely wasn’t direct, I eventually found my way. The houses were so quaint and quintessentially English it was hard to bear it! As I passed close to the church I saw one house that I just loved. I remember thinking that it looked a bit sad and that if I lived there I’d be out in the garden enjoying the flowers and the roses. When I read the visitor’s book I noticed a heart-felt request to pray for the health of a lady, someone’s Mother….turns out she lived in that house, but a little notation above the original request mentioned that she had sadly died just the week before. It was so heartbreaking, and then I understood why the house looked sad.

way of st augustine

a beautiful house with an air of sadness. I love the roses and the red phone box. quintessential English houses

All Saint’s Church, West Stourmouth was just wonderful to visit. An absolute gem of a church, so much history within those walls. The first incumbent 1281!!! Just wow. Reading the memorials is truly eye-watering…some of the dates are just incredible. I spent some time there just absorbing the serenity and peace and then set off once again….I could not find the route. After walking back and forth I finally spotted two gentlemen chatting nearby and asked them…they showed me where to turn and I wasn’t mistaken, it really just wasn’t clear and there were no markers. Perhaps because I had come a different route straight from the inn instead of from Plucks Gutter, I probably came in at a different angle and therefore the map didn’t make sense.

way of st augustine

these little churches are absolute gems. a real treasure house of history

Walking through the Kent countryside was such a treat. I crossed channels of water and walked through fields of ‘something or other’…sorry no idea…I’m not an expert, but it was lovely anyway 😉

way of st augustine

channels of water and fields of crops

My next destination was Grove Ferry and the marina. A gentleman suggested I head towards the house with the boat on the roof? Okayyyy. It took me just over an hour of walking and I was there….blissful green grass and lots of lovely water. Pity I couldn’t have a swim!! I spotted a pub, The Grove Ferry Riverside Pub, and stopped off for tea and a piece of cake and the all important rest. Chatted to a family who were driving through. Nice.

way of st augustine

house with a boat on the roof! paths of green. Grove Ferry Marina and the pub. another gate

And then it was the long stretch through Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve in the Wickhambreaux Valley. I loved the many gates I passed through.

What a treat it was walking through the nature reserve. Over an hour of peace and quiet, just me and nature; miles of grasses, channels of water, birds, butterflies, bees, dragon flies and blue skies with fluffy white clouds; blissful.

way of st augustine

Stodmarsh Nature Reserve

8 way of st augustine

As I neared the exit I noticed a wooden bench with the word DAD sculpted on the back. I rested there for about 10 minutes and thought about my Dad who has also done a number of ‘Caminos’.

way of st augustine

DAD – nice

Shortly afterwards I found St Mary’s Church in the village of Stodmarsh. Another wonderful little church. To my surprise there was a story board featuring the Way of St Augustine 🙂 Magic. I’m on the right road! This hamlet too was just gorgeous; ancient buildings and so much history it’s hard to take it all in.

way of st augustine

a dainty little hamlet – Stodmarsh

way of st augustine

St Mary’s Church Stodmarsh

As I left the village I passed some amazing farms; wide open spaces with the river in the background. Such a beautiful day I could barely believe it. And so goodbye to Stodmarsh. This country is beautiful.

way of st augustine

Goodbye Stodmarsh

way of st augustine

I love a good tree

From here I set off through some pretty remote countryside, through forests of trees, some old, some newish, along lonely pathways, past lakes and occasionally I spied other walkers through the trees…usually disappearing before I reached them. It was weird, but interesting.

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The Way of St Augustine – I’m pretty sure these trees are not the same he saw!

My next destination was the Domesday Book village of Fordwich that I reached just before 3pm. Stunning place. As I entered the village I passed a house named ‘Monks rest’ – too divine!!!

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Fordwich; a Domesday Book Village on the Way of St Augustine

The church again was just amazing!!! I love these churches, they are so extraordinary. This church like the others, an absolute gem of a stop on my route, was open but again sadly, no pilgrims stamp. You can feel the aeons of history thick in the air; as early as 620AD with remnants of the Saxon building. And I just loved the donation box!! Stunning. I had never seen one like it before. I spent ages here and got to speak to quite a few people as they came in to visit. I signed the visitors book and was delighted to see that a couple from Shawnigan Lake, Canada were waking the Way of St Augustine on the same day as me 🙂

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Church of St Mary the Virgin Fordwich

16 fordwich church

Before I left Fordwich I crossed the river over the bridge and took some photos. Definitely going to have to visit here again..so much to see and so little time.

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Fordwich; a Domesday Book village on the Way of St Augustine. The Town Hall is awesome! loved the houses

It was by then already 15:30 and if I still wanted to visit St Augustine’s Abbey and Conduit House, I had to get moving.

Things get a bit hazy from here onwards. I was already very tired. The previous two days of walking had worn me out. Thank goodness I had decided to do these 2 walks prior to my Camino in Europe. I have learned so much about distances, timing, and carrying the backpack. Invaluable lessons that allowed me to adjust my Porto to Santiago route considerably.

As a result of my tiredness and the map not matching what I was seeing, I very definitely went off-route!! I asked for directions but the people I spoke to hadn’t heard of St Augustine’s Way so I simply asked for directions to Canterbury…and ended up having to navigate a golf-course and finally ended up on the Roman Road into Canterbury rather than following the final stages of Augustine’s route. 😦 But on the plus side, I found a cafe for some much needed chocolate and a sugar-rush…a can of Coke. I seldom drink the stuff but these were desperate times and I really needed the energy.

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countryside and reading maps….LOL

And as a major bonus I managed to visit St Martin’s Church…even though it was closed by the time I eventually got there. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe that I managed somehow to end up visiting this church. Although it was securely locked, I did get to walk around the grounds for a few minutes and rested there before my final push into Canterbury.

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St Martin’s Church Canterbury – oldest church in continuous use in the country

St Martin’s Church was the private chapel of Queen Bertha of Kent in the 6th century before Augustine arrived from Rome. Considered to be the oldest Church in the English speaking world still used for worship, and has been for over 1,400 years. It was here that Queen Bertha welcomed Augustine, who with his 40 companions, set up his mission when he arrived from Rome in 597 AD to convert the Saxons. Here they remained until King Ethelbert granted him the land for the abbey and the cathedral which, with St Martin’s, now form the Canterbury World Heritage Site.

And so to Canterbury Cathedral. Footsore and weary beyond belief I passed through the city walls at just on 17:00! Hoorah. I would be in time, only just, to get my Pilgrim’s Passport stamped at the Visitor’s Centre. Once again it was supremely fun at arrive at the gate to the cathedral as a Pilgrim; the folks on duty at the gate are marvellous and made a great fan-fare of my arrival 🙂 – Make way – we have a Pilgrim coming through. Hoorah!! By 17:15 my passport was stamped and I was having my photo taken in front of the cathedral. What a blessing. What a journey. I still can’t quite believe that I actually walked for 3 solid days. Wheww.

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Finally through the city walls and so to Canterbury Cathedral

The staff invited me to stay for the Choral Mass which I did. But first a bit of an explore. I visited the cloisters and the Chapter House where I photographed the stained glass window featuring Archbishop Chichele for my client. They had a fantastic exhibition about pilgrimage to Canterbury featuring the route from Winchester…next on my list me thinks 😉

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Canterbury Cathedral – journey’s end The Way of St Augustine

As I left a verger came along to lock up and I asked her to direct me to the tomb of St Augustine. She went one better and unlocked the area for me; usually closed to visitors so that I could take some photos and pay homage. I can’t describe how fantastic that was.

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The shrine of St Augustine at Canterbury Cathedral

After the choral service I went walkabout through the gardens and almost got myself locked into the grounds for the night LOL But fortunately I discovered to my relief that the entrance to the cloisters was still open. Not that I would have minded staying there overnight, but I had places to go and people to see….and work the next day!!! blergh.

It seemed such a let down to be heading back to work after such an amazing 3 days. But needs must; I have a Camino to save up for!

I did a quick tour of Canterbury to take some photos and then I was off to the station;

The River Stour in Canterbury - looking towards the East Bridge

The River Stour in Canterbury – looking towards the East Bridge

no time for a pancake treat this trip but I shall make up for it next visit! I reached Tonbridge (my accommodation for the night) at just after 9pm. Seriously ready for a shower and bed.

And so endeth my pilgrimages to Canterbury; the Roman town of Dvrovernvm.

In case you missed it: Day 1 The Way of St Augustine

Medieval pilgrimage: a pilgrimage is a journey to a holy place connected with the stories of the bible. People have made pilgrimages for centuries and thousands still do so today, but it was especially popular in the medieval period. Early churches were built over the tombs of saints. The bodies and relics of saints, famous miracle-working images and statues , and holy wells, all attracted pilgrims. Apart from major holy cities such as Rome and Jerusalem, there were many thousands of major and minor pilgrimages sites across Europe and hundreds in England.

Why is Canterbury so important?Canterbury is where St Augustine, who reconverted parts of southern England to Christianity founded his cathedral in 597 AD. The cathedral always attracted pilgrims as a special holy place, but it was only after the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170 that large numbers of pilgrims began to come to Canterbury. Canterbury has one of the largest collections of holy relics; bones, clothes and other items associated with saints in England. Most pilgrims only visited Canterbury once in their lives, so it was important to make it as memorable an experience as possible. Pilgrims, then as now, liked to take a souvenir of their journey, and Canterbury had many different badges that could be bought in the town, and which would identify the wearer as a pilgrim to Thomas Becket’s shrine. 

 

 

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St Augustine’s Way from Ramsgate to Canterbury.

The Way of St Augustine aka St Augustine’s Way – I first learned about this particular walk on one of my many Camino 2017 practice walks between Broadstairs and Cliffsend last year. Frankly I’d never heard of St Augustine before then but by all accounts he was quite an adventurous fella. I did some research and decided to do the walk.

way of st augustine

St Augustine

I’d made a list of walks I wanted to do in the UK so added this as it was quite short at 19 miles from Ramsgate to Canterbury and seemed eminently achievable.

As it turned out I actually walked 28 miles (?) and the hours are only my walking hours, not rest periods during the day. I was able to tag the walk on after my Southwark to Canterbury finale that ended on 29th July.

Day 1 : Walked 24.03 kms (15.02 miles) – 8 hours and 24 minutes
Day 2 : Walked 20.93 kms (13.08 miles) – 8 hours and 04 minutes

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Broadstairs to Ramsgate

 

The Way of St Augustine; my journey from Ramsgate to Canterbury started really from Broadstairs, at which time I walked from Viking Bay to St Augustine’s Shrine in Ramsgate.  I’d had some really amazing help from Hunter and John of Friends of St Augustine, who prepared maps for me and answered my questions about the route and where to stay etc.

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The St Augustine Trail

I’d decided to attend the Sunday morning service at the shrine and so at 07:11 on July 30th I set off with Pepe; my fully loaded backpack, heading for Ramsgate. The service started at 08:30 and I figured I had loads of time since it usually took me just on 45 minutes to walk the distance…Hah!! I hadn’t factored in the weight of the backpack slowing me down and forgot that I still had to climb the hill on the opposite side of Ramsgate Harbour and walk to the shrine…as a result I slipped into the church with 2 minutes to spare and sweating profusely from rushing to get there on time.

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St Augustine’s Shrine in Ramsgate

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Shrine of St Augustine

After the service I took some photos (of course) and then joined the parishioners for tea and biscuits and a wee chat, and at 09:44, following the map that John had kindly printed for me I set off from The Shrine heading for the 2nd of what was to be many stops; St Augustine’s Cross.

I passed through familiar territory walking along the clifftops at Ramsgate and stopped for a swing in the park…how can I not? It’s my favourite 😉

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stopping for a swing 🙂

From there it’s a short walk to Pegwell Bay

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Pegwell Bay – I wonder how it looked in AD 597

and taking the clifftop walk I soon passed the Viking Ship and Cliffs End village signboard,

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Viking Ship at Cliffsend

then a right turn and within no time at all I found the cross….I can’t believe I didn’t know it was there!! Managed by English Heritage, it’s free to visit.

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St Augustine’s Cross

After taking some photos and getting my bearings on the map, I found myself walking along secluded lanes and farmlands. One field in particular was really amazing…sunflowers as far as the eye could see.

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sunflowers; a touch of sunshine on a cloudy day

I had got a wee bit lost just before this as the map didn’t show the massive arterial roadway that crossed over the railway and so I missed the turn under the bridge…but thankfully some fella was walking towards me so I didn’t go too far off course. He directed me back to the bridge and mentioned that he had done this many times before!! hmmm. I also missed the crossing of the railway line, but after finding myself in a cul-de-sac of trees, I again retraced my steps and hopped across quick as a flash…I loathe railway crossings.

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the railway crossing I missed…

I got to chat to a lovely elderly gentleman at this point and he was quite impressed at my endeavour. Actually most people looked at me like I was quite insane when I told them what I was doing. LOL Nonetheless I was on the right track and soon I could see the spire of St Mary’s in Minster. I found the abbey quite easily. Oh my word. What a delightful surprise.

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Minster Abbey

Quite different to what I was expecting, but just amazing. I summonsed one of the Nuns who live and work there, and she kindly stamped my Pilgrim’s Passport for me 🙂 Of course I took loads of photos and then visited St. Mary The Virgin Church.

St. Mary’s Church, founded in 670AD is known as the ‘Cathedral on the marshes’ and is the mother-church of western Thanet. Fantastic place with oodles of history. Sadly there was no stamp for my passport.

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St Mary’s – cathedral on the marshes

Quite hungry by then I stopped off at The Bell Inn for Sunday Roast 🙂 A hearty meal very much appreciated.

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The Bell Inn, Minster

The Bell Inn was built during the reign of Elizabeth I in the year 1576 and is apparently a pub with ghosts……The earliest recorded occupant of the property is one Thomas Calfe who is mentioned in a sale document of 1611. In 1715 the rector of the parish held the first tithe supper at The Bell and in 1718 with his help and persuasion a 7 day licence was granted on condition that no liquor be administered between the hours of divine service. The penalty for doing so was a day in the stocks, a heavy fine or in some cases a flogging. In 1864, The Bell was lit by gaslight for the first time.

After a rest (I took my shoes and socks off and revelled in the cool wet grass) and the delicious meal, I hoiked Pepe onto my back and made my way back to the abbey. While at the shrine in Ramsgate earlier I had noticed that there was a Gregorian chant event at the abbey in the afternoon, so I decided to pop in. Getting there a tad late (45 minutes) I slipped quietly through the door…LOL – I only entered right next to the speaker and with a huge backpack…quietly I was not!! However, it seems I had stumbled into what was a semi-private event and there was a fee to be paid?? eeee. Oh well… But the organiser chap kindly let me off since I had got there very late and wasn’t staying for the 6:30 event at the church…which was the chanting part of the event. Duhhhh. So I just stayed as long as it was polite to do so, had a cup of tea and a delicious slice of chocolate cake baked by the nuns, left a hefty donation in lieu of my entrance fee and at 5:30 I set off once again. Destination Plucks Gutter. Seriously? Plucks Gutter??  I thought I’d have a quick squizz at wikipedia and here is their description: “The hamlet is named after a Dutch Drainage Engineer called Ploeg, whose grave is in All Saints Church, West Stourmouth. Ploeg, being the Dutch for a plough, the hamlet takes its origins from the Dutch Protestant tradition of draining marshland by creating a ploughed ditch”. I’m really not sure how that converts to Plucks Gutter…but there it is!! Although just a hamlet it has an interesting history with links to King Alfred and the Vikings, smugglers and of course was part of what was then the Isle of Thanet on the Wantsum Channel (now built over).

Most of the Way of St Augustine walk was through farmland and along streams and what was once Saxon Shore, although I warrant that Augustine would find things very different to his time!

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channels of water and fields of crops

Whenever the going got tough, I reminded myself that they didn’t have it any easier…I think! The land has been pushed back so far since then that you can’t even see the shoreline from that point, so maybe they walked along the beach whilst I was dragging myself through a jungle LOL

Traipsing across farmlands and recently cut fields that left horrible spiky stalks that crunched underfoot I was in danger of being pierced at the ankles!!

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spiky stalks…horrible to walk in this

Barring my first misdirection, I had so far managed to follow the map quite easily with the help of some signs attached to either gate posts or barriers etc…but somewhere, in the middle of nowhere I lost the trail.

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signs…..here there and everywhere…and anywhere

The map indicated to head inland at one point which I did and followed a narrow channel (there were a LOT of channels and streams in this area; salt-marsh works and farmland as far as the eye could see) but the crops were so high and so thick that I simply could not find ‘The Way’. I tried walking along a particular pathway, but that was making me double back and there was no way to cross the channel which appeared to go on for miles…that I could see anyway. Eventually after walking back and forth a few times and carefully looking for the pathway, I gave up and walked back to the river. I could see from the map that it lead towards Plucks Gutter so figured I would walk along the riverbank till I reached the bridge. Hah!!Great plan….or so it seemed.

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sigh

Firstly the riverbank was exceptionally narrow and I walked (dragged myself) along long grass with just a few inches between me and the river. Mindful of the weight of the backpack, I was having nightmare visions of falling in and not being able to surface due to the weight of the pack…but thankfully I had my walking poles. They really came into their own at this point and saved me from many a stumble on uneven ground and a possible tumble into the river. Eventually my luck ran out and the grassy riverbank ran into thickets of weeds and nettles as tall as me!! I was confounded as to what I should do. It was getting later and the sun was setting. Fortunately said sun was ahead of me so pulling on my ‘big girl panties’ I plunged into the fields of corn! Never mind ‘Children of the Corn’ – I am ‘Woman of the Corn’ hahahaha

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Woman of the Corn…no snakes!!

The stalks were taller than me and for at least 30 minutes of plunging and shoving my way through, I could not see anything other than green corn stalks and a faint glimmer of the sun. Walking through these stalks was eerie and a tad unnerving. I was reminded of when I was about 7 or 8 following my grandfather through a small field of corn that he had grown on their property in South Africa. I was casually strolling along behind him when I looked up and right there before me, with head poised to strike was a thin green snake! Fuck! I can tell you that never have I been so terrified. I screamed, the snake snaked and my grandfather came up with a stick and whacked it into kingdom come…or gone! As the case may be. So yeah, walking through this particular field was rather unpleasant. Fortunately I didn’t see any snakes…but perhaps they saw me and scarpered. I was kinda hoping that like Ireland, this particular field didn’t have snakes!

After what seemed like forever, with all sorts of greenery tangled in my hair and poking through my clothes, I stumbled out of the field and voila the bridge was ahead of me 🙂 Hurrah!! Only problem was that I ended up in a boatyard of some sort so had to find my way through a maze and then do some serious climbing of fences and gates. Forget the signs that say ‘Keep Out’ …mate, I’m leaving, no worries.

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Plucks Gutter and the River Stour

I have also learned that I can climb a gate with a fully loaded backpack in situ!! Something I had to do quite frequently on this walk. LOL

Once I reached the bridge over the River Stour it was so much easier; tarmac! Yayyy. I was in Plucks Gutter…but thankfully not in a gutter. I stopped to read the history board outside the Dog and Duck Inn; fascinating stuff!! Then my feet hit the mac and I was off…only a few more minutes of walking to be done and I would be able to have a cuppa and put my feet up, but first I had to navigate this road. It was however quite scary since the road, if you can call it that, was narrow and had no sidewalk or place for pedestrians. Once again I sucked in my breath and set off….The Sun Inn according to the map at the pub was within a 25 minute walk.

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You are here….Plucks Gutter and Stourmouth

And what a treat Stourmouth proved to be, lots of lovely quaint houses greeted me…although frankly I was too tired right then to be more than a little impressed. Suddenly as I rounded a corner there it was….. The Rising Sun Inn – my accommodation for the night. And once again, exhausted and dusty, but not wet (thankfully), I stumbled across the portal and traipsed across the reception area. A lovely young lass showed me to my room, and brought me a much needed cup of tea. The landlady soon came by to say hello whereupon I ordered a platter of sandwiches and crisps – delicious. The room at the Inn was absolutely fantastic. A gorgeous big bed and an ensuite shower.

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The Rising Sun, Stourmouth

Within no time at all I had my shoes off, my very dirty hiking pants hanging up to air, and with my feet up on the comfy couch I settled in for a bit of telly. 🙂 Exploring would have to wait for the morrow…for now, I wasn’t going anywhere except into the shower and then bed!! It seemed perfectly apt for me to be staying at The Rising Sun since one of my ultimate favourite songs is ‘House of the Rising Sun’ (The Animals). I still have the 7-single 😉

A spot of history: “Originally a bakery owned and worked by the Monks of the Diocese of Canterbury, the first part of the building was erected in 1372 during the reign of Edward III. Continuing as a bakery and passing through a number of different owners, the building eventually came into the hands of Edgar Rake; baker and brewer in 1682!! Said gentleman applied for an ale and cider licence that was granted on April 4th, 1695. He carried out some building work in 1708 & 1709 but died before this more modern structure was completed. One Jeremiah Bedley; baker and beer seller took over the premises in 1709 and granted a licence to sell liquor and named the premises “The Rising Sun”….probably coz his patrons saw the sun rising after a heavy night!! LOL From 1709 onwards till 1865 all the Inn Keepers of The Rising Sun were bakers, working the old bakery and running the Inn, except for Thomas Lucke who in 1776 was described as a ‘beer seller, baker and ferryman’. The inn was for many years also known as the Ferryman’s Inn as the men who worked the ferries across the mile-wide estuary to the “Crown” (Cherry Brandy House) at Sarre, met here.”

I was hoping to see the rising of the sun on the Way of St Augustine walk and so to spend the night at a 14th century inn called The Rising Sun is superbly brilliant.

And so to bed…perchance to dream. I slept really well that night….the bed was amazing.

Day 2 The Way of St Augustine

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Day 2: From Gravesend to Rochester – 7.1 miles – again this proved to be inaccurate 😉 and in fact I walked 21.96 kms / 13.72 miles…give or take a few detours LOL

The second day was from Gravesend to Rochester where apparently Chaucer and his ‘press’ gang of hardy souls spent the night. Again I searched and searched and although I did find one very likely ‘inn’, after leaving 3 messages on their answering machine about wanting to book for a night, with no reply…I said “oh to heck with it ‘off with ye heads, ye daft bugas” and booked at another location that was close to the Cathedral.

Day 2 was without doubt hard. Although a much shorter distance, I was tired from the day before and really struggled to get my act together in the morning, and yes, EVERYTHING HURTS.

everything hurts

my daughter bought this t-shirt for me some months ago….apt! LOL

I had decided I wanted to get some more stamps in my Pilgrim’s Passport before setting off, so at 07:30 I walked back down into the town to look for an open church….the first 2 were a washout, but to be fair they were Anglican so their reply “we don’t have pilgrim stamps” was in retrospect, not surprising. After that I gave up and spent a few minutes walking around taking photos of the town whilst it was still quiet, bought a bowl of cherries and some bananas. The history of these towns is extraordinary and the more layers you peel back, the more you discover….I mean seriously 1568!!! Just wow.

History of Gravesend, Kent

History of Gravesend, Kent

Finally at just after 9am I set off along Old Road East towards Rochester 🙂 Hoorah! I was on my way. Shortly after setting off I reached a roundabout which had a mileage marker showing distances to various places; one of which was Rochester : 7.5 miles 🙂

Rochester 7.5 miles :)

Rochester 7.5 miles 🙂

Okay well that shouldn’t be too difficult….Hah!! famous last thoughts….it took bloody forever, but at that stage I wasn’t yet too tired, albeit still stiff from the day before and still excited about the walk. My post on instagram:

2017-07-10 08.58.33 1555696645857184093_231798962

Walked 4.21 kms and 80 minutes and I haven’t yet left Gravesend 😂😂😂
So just in case I hadn’t punished myself enough already, I decided I wanted to see my beautiful Thames one more time before I left and find some churches to get more stamps in my Pilgrim’s Passport.
Churches = 2
Stamps = 0
Cindy = 😡😢
Gravesend = fail!!! 😂😂😂 But oh the river, it is gorgeous. On my way I bought a bowl of cherries; it’s life after all, innit😉 
I’m now back from whence I started #OldPrinceofOrange and wishing I’d left Pepe at the pub and just checked out later 🤔🤔🤔🤔
The reason I’ve come back this way is coz the road I’ll be walking along; Old Road East, used to be the old road from London to Rochester, and I’m trying to be as authentic as possible 600 odd years later…I’ll pick up the Rochester road proper just a short way along. So I’m now on my way, I’ll try to not sit down anywhere coz by jove, it’s difficult to get back up again. And I’ve remembered why I wanted to leave early this morning….its already as humid as 🌋 Goodbye Gravesend, it’s been fun.’

I was hoping to arrive early enough to be able to visit the cathedral and obtain my pilgrim stamp and since Chaucer visited it would be entirely remiss of me if I didn’t!!! I was keen to see if I could find any traces of Bishops of the time or references to Chaucer.

My Pilgrim's Passport - duly stamped and a reference to Thomas Triller; Bishop of Rochester 1365-1372 who would have been Bishop at the time of Chaucer's pilgrimage

My Pilgrim’s Passport – duly stamped and a reference to Thomas Triller; Bishop of Rochester 1365-1372 who would have been Bishop at the time of Chaucer’s pilgrimage

I soon spotted another likely looking church, but no, it was not only locked, but they too didn’t have a Pilgrim’s stamp!! So a tad disappointed with the churches in Gravesend I mosied on and shortly reached what was a dual-carriageway and the real test of my resolve began…it’s horrible walking next to a busy road and by the 3rd day my throat was sore and scratchy from the care fumes. A young woman saw my backpack and asked me what I was doing 🙂 So lovely of her. We chatted for a while and then crossing the roundabout I saw what was the ONLY faint resemblance to a scallop shell that I was to see during my whole 3 days except for the sculpted glass doors at Rochester Cathedral.

Rochester Road.....the landscape at least was beautiful

Rochester Road…..the landscape at least was beautiful

The landscape across the fields and farmlands was really beautiful, the weather marvellous albeit already heating up considerably, and in the distance I could just make out the Thames estuary and shipping lane. Good to see so many windmills utilising natural resources.

A few kilometers later I saw a  sign for Chalk Village and decided to investigate.  Down Church Lane I found a scattering of houses and a church!! What a surprise 🙂 St Mary the Virgin aka Chalk Church was unfortunately closed but I decided that this would be a good place to rest a while.day 2 - higham The time was now just on 10am. The graveyard was, as most of them are, just lovely; restful and peaceful. I posted a couple of photos to instagram with these words ‘My current view; parish church Chalk Village – no pilgrims stamp 🤔🤔🤔 Today is about pain and endurance and endurance and pain, and energy sapping heat.
Bloody hell. It’s hot. I’m quite literally dragging my feet and just focusing on putting one in front of the other. I now know what it’s going to be like by day 3 on the Camino. It feels as if some gremlins have added another 10 kgs of bricks to the backpack; Pepe and I are not friends atm and I’d happily leave it right here if it wasn’t too expensive to buy another one 😆😆😆 Atm I really must rest. There’s no deadline. 5 miles to go 😐😐😓😓😓 The cherries taste good. 🍒🍒🍒’  and ‘Okay so I’ve caved in…decided to lie down in pastures green and have a proper rest; after all there’s no place like a graveyard for having a rest, right!! 😂😂😂 I shall commune with the souls of the dead for a wee bit 👻👻👻’

There has been a church in Chalk for well over a thousand years, but I stayed there only an hour; frankly I could have stayed right there the whole day!! About 30 minutes after setting off again I saw a welcome sign in the distance….food at The Copperfield!! I was famished by now, not yet having had breakfast besides the cherries.

Full English at The Copperfield, Rochester Road, Gravesend...or thereabouts

Full English at The Copperfield, Rochester Road, Gravesend…or thereabouts

I ordered the full-english and the ice-cream sundae as per the billboard advert Hah! You never get what you ask for….but I was so hungry that I wolfed the food down in no time at all. A pot of tea and a pee later and I was once again on my way.

Next amazing village was Higham where I discovered to my delight that not only had Charles Dickens lived there, but it was a Domesday Book village!! Awesome 🙂 At that stage I continued along the A226 towards Rochester but as I got to the roundabouts my nerve failed. There were no grass verges or sidewalk for me to safely continue my journey, so with a quick look at map my walk I notice a lane; Crutches Lane going off to the left further back, that looked a much better idea. I had walked a fair distance from Higham by then and it was a real slog to walk back again. But, to my delight as I neared Higham I notice a sign ‘Ancient church’…what??? How could I have missed that?

Higham. Domesday Village and once home to Charles Dickens

Higham. Domesday Village and once home to Charles Dickens

I promptly set off to investigate and leaving the main road I walked in the general direction of the church. By this stage I was thoroughly sick of having Pepe on my back. It was hot and the backpack felt like it weighed a ton! So you can imagine my delight when I saw a post office! I immediately made the decision to post some of the items from my backpack home; sandals: 385 grams, rain poncho: 395 grams (I was to regret sending this away the next day!!)  a note-book, a set of keys and a couple of other odds and ends – 1.5kgs later and Pepe felt much lighter. Hoorah! Then it was off along Hermitage Lane (don’t you just love that name?) to find the ‘Ancient Church’. Well as it turns out the ‘Ancient Church’ was another 4 kms away and I was NOT in the mood to be adding another 8 kms to my journey, so instead I knocked on the door of St John’s Church…..hellloooo!! A wonderful lady answered my call and after telling her my story she graciously provided me with loads of information and pamphlets with the history of the church and let me take photos. She also signed my Pilgrim’s Passport 🙂  Wonderful!!

St Peter's Church, Higham - a wonderful discovery

St Peter’s Church, Higham – a wonderful discovery

And then it was time to go…Rochester beckons and my energy was slipping away. I made my way back to the A226 and onto Crutches Lane (the names of the lanes are terrific). Crutches Lane provided me with very welcomed shade and although quite a few cars and vans passed me by, it was quiet and green and just a lovely walk. Sadly though the amount of garbage littering the lane, the bushes and embankments was dreadful. We really are swimming in a sea of rubbish.

Crutches Lane from one end to the other was in fact swimming in rubbish...although the landscape was beautiful, the garbage really spoilt it

Crutches Lane from one end to the other was in fact swimming in rubbish…although the landscape was beautiful, the garbage really spoilt it

By 14:50 I was on the A289 to Rochester. But it was still a fair way to go and a full 55 minutes before I finally saw the Medway and reached the bridge crossing to Rochester! Just before that whilst walking downhill I spied Rochester Castle through the trees in the distance and promptly burst into tears LOL. I was so tired, and so overwhelmed to be within spitting distance of my destination that I cried all the way down the hill and across the bridge!!

Rochester and the River Medway

Rochester and the River Medway; on the opposite bank is Rochester Castle

I had noticed, on the many facebook pages and blogs I’ve been reading, how people say they break down and sob when they reach Santiago…I now had an inkling of why. It’s overwhelming. I had by then been on the road for 8 hours and walking for 6 of those. Whew. At least I now know more or less what to expect when I’m walking the Camino in September, which was partly the reason for doing this walk; to see if I could actually manage. Well I can, but by jove it’s hard work. I love walking and walk a lot…but it’s a completely different ball-game when you have a 7.5kg backpack on your shoulders!

I had found a lovely place; Greystones B&B via booking.com; a Victorian Terraced house on the hill, and although it’s not in the same league historically as the other venues, it looked nice, got great reviews and was most importantly only 8 minutes walk from the cathedral.

Greystone B&B Rochester.

Greystones B&B Rochester. A lovely Victorian Terraced house. The proprietor Bill was very welcoming….I really enjoyed my stay

Rochester. Oh how much I do love thee…..and I shall tell you more about lovely, wonderful, amazing, extraordinary Rochester in my next blog.

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