Day 12 – The Pilgrim’s Way

Today’s walk was unlike any other on the Pilgrim’s Way. It began at a promontory over the winding River Medway. Across the river, was a sandy / muddy shore with reeds. Beside me, a long flight of steps led down to where there was once a ferry.

A large new bridge over the Medway took me to Peter’s Village. The village wasn’t in my outdated 2018 guidebook, and a lot of new housing had sprung up along the riverbank. Unsure if the route had changed significantly, I pressed on.

Consulting Google Maps, I discovered another version of the Pilgrim’s Way which seemed to cross the river at nearby Snodland where there used to be another ferry. My guidebook offered one version, perhaps the revised standard version, while the original authorised version was no longer possible.

I left a road to take a bridleway that looked correct. Unfortunately, the path beyond was blocked by a large pile of dumped asbestos in two spots, taking up most of the width.

Moving past that obstacle, I soon came upon a deserted church called St Mary’s at Burham. The village moved and when they built a new church further up, this one was closed. Surprisingly, it was open for visitors and well-maintained by volunteers. The interior was whitewashed with plain glass windows. Although services are no longer held here, it had a peaceful puritan atmosphere. Floor memorials from the 1700s were still in an unworn condition.

Feeling the urge to embrace the pilgrim spirit, I started singing ‘To be a Pilgrim.’ But upon hearing voices, I stopped. The voices came from people working nearby, not within the churchyard itself. So much for being valiant!!!

Following the paved and sometimes flooded bridleway, I walked past farmland on one side. The other side offered a curious mix of landscapes – horse pasture, an industrial area with a chemical plant, a solar farm and giant battery facility, and a water treatment works. For stretches, the land was flooded and it seemed the river was near, but I wouldn’t see the Medway again until I reached Aylesford.

Before Aylesford, I came across Aylesford Priory. It houses a priory and a handful of friars, with plenty of accommodation for retreats, conferences, and even the occasional funeral (which I witnessed on my way out). The priory has a large alter area, half indoors and half outdoors, with numerous outdoor benches that could seat large crowds for mass.

Inside a priory chapel, I lit a three day candle for £5. Dedicated to my mum after her recent 90th birthday. She is a Carmelite like the priory.

The priory has a long peace garden with flowers on both sides and tiles with the word “peace” written in hundreds of languages. Following that, I explored the rosary garden with some impressive pottery Stations of the Cross.

After collecting a pilgrims stamp at the reception, I crossed an ancient bridge over the Medway (no longer used for traffic) and took a picture of the picturesque town.

The train station turned out to be another three-quarters to a mile away and I was limping. My Achilles was quite sore, but with some rest, I’m hopeful for another walk tomorrow.

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