Day 15 – The Pilgrims Way

My final night using Maidstone as a hub
It wasn’t a place I got to know well. On the corner of High Street as I left, I saw a plaque commemorating seven people who were burned for their faith near that Spot in 1577.

Today, with the sunshine and a seat upstairs, I enjoyed a great view from the bus. It felt like sightseeing with half-timbered buildings, village greens, churches and church barns, and a forest nature reserve.

I changed at Ashford. I aimed to get from stop L to stop J at County Square, thinking they’d be close together. I had a few minutes before the 666 bus (the one I missed yesterday after getting lost). The bus driver’s instructions for stop J weren’t clear. I found stops M and N, but not J. Eventually, with someone else’s help, I located it, but by then, I’d missed the 666 again. So, just like yesterday, I ended up taking the B bus. I then walked about a mile on a busy road to find the Pilgrim’s Way at Boughton Lees.

There, I found a beautiful open church called St.Christophers. It’s an old secular building converted into a church. Window ledges on both sides held jars of flowers, creating a pleasant aroma. The door kept swinging shut due to the wind, and unfortunately, when I left and closed it, it wouldn’t open again.

Continuing the way, I followed instructions from my guide and found the path leading to Canterbury. As I walked along a narrow path, two Germans approached me going the other way. They were confused, asking if this was the way to Canterbury. I pointed them in the right direction. They were the first people with the same destination but were on the secular North Downs Way.

The path led to another church at Boughton Aluph, which was closed. I sat on the rustic seat near the yew tree before following another path that led through a farmyard.

At the top of the hill, I was about to open a gate when a group of BMX motorbikers approached from the other side. They seemed friendly, and I let them pass through.

It was soon my turn to get confused. I had to cross a large field with crops planted on the guidebook’s footpath. I backtracked and walked all the way around the field. It had high fences and I was glad to find an exit. Today the walk felt more fiddly and there was no chance of getting into a fine meditative state.

I walked for a mile or so on a narrow path by a busy road with views across the Stour river.

At Godmersham, I found another church, which was open. I stamped my continuation pass sheet. I searched for a supposed relief picture of Thomas Becket, but couldn’t find it. There was only a photograph of one, so perhaps it had been removed. However, I did see a pilgrim tile similar to the one in Canterbury (possibly a reproduction).

Next to the river, I sat for a while in the churchyard before continuing my journey. The path followed what used to be the old Canterbury Road, running alongside a country
estate with a high wall and avenue of trees.

The path then led through a high gate into the grounds of Godmersham Park, and continued along a track that became Mountain Street, eventually ending in Chilham, where I’m staying tonight. It has lovely old buildings, and a carving of pilgrims.

From my window, I can see trees with pink blossom, filling the frames, as I type this one fingered on my phone. Tomorrow will be the last day and I’ll reach Canterbury, God willing. But it is the journey I enjoy not getting there.

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