Members’ News Update (Aug 2022)

Introduction

We are in the midst of our summer overseas trekking experiences with Amalfi, Via Jacobi and the Camino Primitivo behind us and the Tochar Phadriag and Isole Eiolie ahead of us.

Overall it has been a very rewarding experience in terms of friendships and social interaction and well-being, in addition to the obvious benefits of physical exercise.

We also continue to see growth in paid/registered members. This will help support our initiatives, particularly the Universal Peace Walk. We are also experiencing growth in our social media membership which means XirCammini continues to get noticed even internationally.

Local and Overseas Walks (Upcoming)

This is the link to upcoming events locally and overseas.

I wish to reiterate that – unless specifically listed as such – XirCammini events are only open to XirCammini members.

The following table is a summary of the events between now and October. More information will be provided shortly in respect of the Round Gozo where XirCammini has been requested to assist the Hospice Movement. XirCammini members are encouraged to participate and to donate:

Aug – Oct 2022 Itinerary

For those joining us on the Tochar Phadraig (from next weekend) or in the Eiolie Treks (Sept) and who have not yet collected their XirCammini teeshirts (and shells in the case of the Tochar) during the ‘Blessing of the Shells’ event, you still have a chance to do so during the walk of Wednesday 10th August. We hope to see you “Taht it-Tinda” in Buskett from where the walk will start at 19:00. I’ll be there early to distribute the teeshirts and shells. Thanks.

Camino Primitivo

For Tucc and I, the Camino Primitivo holds a special place in our heart.

It was during this Camino in 2018 that we became grandparents for the first time. It is also the Camino in which XirCammini was conceived. This time, 2022, a return to the Camino Primitivo has also provided a new “lamp to our feet and light to our path” in more ways than one. We hope to be able to share more exciting news shortly with members from initiatives started during this Camino.

A Camino is a microcosm of life and therefore not without its challenges, frustrations and heartaches. However this Camino has, above all, blessed us with several, very positive, experiences as we shared the Way with like-minded brothers and sisters.

We were particularly blessed with the often personal, emotionally or spitirually uplifting experiences that hikers shared along the walk.

It also helped reinforce the seminal believe that challenges make the journey more remarkable.

We also want to thank the group for the beautiful gift which, along with the titular icon of St. James painted by Tiziana last year, will be a valuable addition to the XirCammini chapel project when it materialises later on this year.

Tochar Phadraig

A return to County Clare and County Mayo is also one that has been on the books for a while.

We will be blessed with the addition of Irish Pilgrims who will join us on some of our walks.

The Cliffs of Moher, the Abbey, the Reek, the Chapel on Croagh Phadriag, Lough Carra … await us.

Teeshirts and XirCammini branded Outdoor Clothing

We have distributed teeshirts and caps for persons who have joined our overseas walks this year.

Many members have asked whether they can order more teeshirts, caps, gillets, etc. We will be organising a walk and a stop at the store for members to order (and pay in store) so that we submit a bulk order for printing.

More details on this to follow. It is likely to be on a Saturday afternoon in mid-October. We’ll provide a date shortly after confirming with the store an afternoon when they can make themselves available exclusively for us.

Universal Peace Walk Update

Work on the Universal Peace Walk continues. We will shortly be printing emblems and signs that need to be fixed to the waymarks. I will also shortly be contacting those who offered to donate some of their time.

We also had very productive meetings with the local councils at regional level and we will shortly be holding a pilot walk (Mdina to Zurrieq) with representatives of the local councils. The pilot walk will be open to members and non-members in order to further publicise this project. More information about the Universal Peace Walk is available here.

Once launched, we hope that this will be the first of many that brings in more faith tourism to the island and that puts Malta on the cultural hiking map of Europe.

Membership

As stated earlier, all existing memberships have been extended until December, when we will be issuing a renewal notice to all members. Therefore, we ask members not to send in membership fees until we tell you to. Those who have, we will adjust when we issue the notices. Between now and Dec we only expect fees from newly registered members.

Paid up/ registered members are approaching the 250 mark whereas social media members on the XirCammini Facebook community now exceed 1,200. Thank you.

Thank you

I conclude my thanking you all for your continued support. It’s your positive energy that sustains XirCammini. Thank you.

Trek | Swim | |Travel

Valle delle Ferriere, Amalfi

Updated Itinerary

We are updating the itinerary to include our Q3-2022 events.

These are the upcoming events between the end of June and the end of August 2022 in the run up of the last overseas trek for this summer – Isole Eiolie from the 7th to the 14th of September 2022:

For the trek and swim of the 25th June 2022, we can all bring some fruit, nibbles, wine or soft drinks to share after the trek. We can leave these in the car next to Selmun Palace and – those who wish to hang around afterwards – we can spend some time together after enjoying the trek and swim. Those intending to swim, please bring a drybag so that we attempt to cross to the Gzejjer ta San Pawl jelly fish permitting.

In addition to the above calendar of events, we will still be adding other mid-week evening walks like the ones led by Don and John recently. These will be uploaded by them on the XirCammini Group on Facebook. The next one should be on Thursday 30th June since Wednesday is a feast-day. Check the XirCammini Group on Facebook for more information.

Blessing of the Shells | Overseas Caminos

On Friday 15th July we will be celebrating mass and blessing of the shells for the Camino Primitivo, Spain and the Tochar Phadraig, Ireland. Followinig mass we will have a Pasta Night get-together (more information to follow), This event is open to all XirCammini members and their spouses, partners and friends. We will also be distributing the Universal Peace Walk Certificates during this social evening.

On 18th July some of us will embark on the Camino Primitivo and on the 14th August on the Tochar Phadraig,

Our last overseas trek for the Summer season will be the Isole Eiolie.

Because Life is a Journey: Pillow Talk & Icebergs!

Good morning. A short piece on three topics, hopefully succinctly presented:

Pillow Talk

It seems that less people nowadays understand the value of being able to lay our head on a pillow and sleep without worrying that they have cheated, lied or supplanted their way to money or power. Greed, whether for money or power, is addictive and the proportion at which we’ve seen it grow in recent years in Malta is phenomenal. Maybe there are reasons for it, such as a wholesale societal loss of moral compass (dampened by the ‘outbursts of conscience quenching generosity’ whenever there is national charity campaign) or a wholesale breakdown of in the family unit/values that traditionally (in the words of Mons. J. De Piro) provided,”the cradle of one’s education” (“Give me a child for the first 5 years of his life and he is mine forever,” V. Lenin)

The recipe for a good night sleep – for the benefit of those seem to have lost or conveniently forgotten it – contains just eight ingredients:

  1. Matt 22:37-39: Love your neighbour as yourself. If we truly love and respect ourselves, only then can we love and respect others.
  2. Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” Jim Rohn.
  3. Exodus 20:15, “Do not steal.” There are no shades of grey in this statement. Actions have consequences, if not on us, on others. “It is difficult, but not impossible, to conduct strictly honest business,” Mahatma Ghandi
  4. Fortitude is the guard and support of all other virtues,” John Locke. Intestinal capacity is the cousin of faith when “faith is the assurance of things hoped for and conviction of things unseen.” (Heb 11:1)
  5. And the salt – or main ingredient – of this recipe of “sound sleep” is contentment. “True contentment is not having everything but being satisfied with everything that you have,” Oscar Wilde.

Iceberg Effect

What prompted this piece today? I’m tired of a decade-long tsunami of news involving ministers, members of parliament (across the whole Maltese political spectrum), government /authority officials, business people, ‘persons of trust’ (what does this phrase really mean?) and permeating all echelons of Maltese society that exposes crime (murder, theft, money laundering, trading in influence) and glorifies all that is wrong (greed, self-conceit and populist myopia). This is also often hurtful towards others because actions always have consequences. But we do not seem to care.

What is even more scary is the iceberg effect. Statistically, the persons serving time for their crimes are only the tip of the iceberg. The overwhelming majority of criminals cross our paths and share our path on a daily basis and do so often with an air of inpunity because there ins’t enough evidence or fortitude to convict, or they they have law or justice in their pockets or because they ‘gentrified’ themselves through layers of legal oblivion.

Conclusion: Because Life is a Journey ..

Very often I find it hard to believe Proverbs 21:21, “Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honour.” But, I do not have to, because I believe that our purpose in life is not to seek prosperity and honour. Our purpose in life is to add value. It is to leave the world a better place than we found it. Whoever learns this lesson in hindsight generally learns it too late!

And, in trying to walk the talk I also try to learn from the best,”Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalms 119)

Because life is a journey | keep walking | keep smiling | do good | have faith.

12th March 1543 AD: Universal Peace Walk

www.universalpeacewalk.mt

On the then feast of St. Gregory in 1543 Bishop Domenico Cubelles instituted a peace walk, Pro Pace Universali, at a time when Europe, the old world, was in the throes of war.

The cammino was from the old city, Mdina or Citta Notabile to the Southern most parish known as le Terre di Santa Caterina, or Casale Santa Caterina (current day Zejtun); a 28km procession.

There was an order of precedence to the procession. The Cathedral chapter stood at the back and the newest parish stood at the front. According to the 1436 Rollo de Mello, Malta had ten parishes being Naxxar, Birkirkara, Qormi, Bir Miftuh, Żebbug, Siġġiewi, Żejtun, Żurrieq, Hal Tartani and Mellieha. In addition to these parishes there were other populated areas with their churches and communities such as the inner harbour area, Rabat, Ghaxaq (a suburb of the terre di Santa Caterina) and Zabbar (the sub-parish of St. James which was also part of the Zejtun parish). Furthermore there were the confraternities of lay people, among them the one of Santa Maria (Attard) started during the reign of Bishop Giacomo Valquarena and the one of St. Joseph in Rabat which preceded that of Attard. There were also confraternities of friars most of whom had convents in or around Rabat. Malta, then also had Greek Christian churches. All of these took part on the Universal Peace Walk, all carrying their crosses and banners.

Guns were fired in Mdina signalling the start of the walk in the morning.

Giovanni Franceso Abela (1582–1655) writes about this Cammino in his book Della Descrittione Di Malta. The procession is again mentioned in 1847. By then the number of parishes had increased substantially and some were also elevated to collegiate churches which altered the order of precedence on this Cammino. Zerafa also mentions the hymns that were sung during the procession. Also, the structure of the Cammino changed with parishes meeting in Marsa and continuing towards Zejtun.

Later books, such as the 20th century autobiography of Ganado, Rajt Malta Tinbidel,  also mentions the procession. This once grand and historic Cammino, a part of Maltese heritage is being reintroduced by Maltese hiking NGO, XirCammini on its original anniversary date, 12th March. With the help of Malta Tourism Authority, XirCammini will be engaging with local councils enroute to instal permanent waymarks. A dedicated website with relevant information www.universalpeacewalk.mt has been rolled out in beta format.

More information is available from XirCammini (information@XirCammini.org)

Universal Peace Walk 1543

Some of you remember that we were planning to walk the Universal Peace Walk in March 2020 and had to postpone our plans due to Covid-19 and lock-down.

Work on this project continued unabated and – with the lifting of health measures we will be walking the Universal Peace Walk 1543 this year on the 12th March which happens to be its anniversary date

You can read more about the origins and significance of the Universal Peace Walk 1543 here.

Registration for the 2022 walk is now closed.

Local Walks Oct – Dec 2021 | Registration UPDATED 25th October 2021

As promised, we’ve put together the itinerary of local walks between now and the end of the year.

The table is included below.

We will have fortnightly weekend walks (alternating between Sunday morning and Saturday afternoon) and we will continue with our Wed Walks in the evening. These help us break the weekly work routine with a mid-week evening walk. We have also included some full-day walks (these are in bold in the table below):

With the gradual opening up of Covid measures we will not be maintaining a prior, online registration system.

The ones that require registration due to say transport accommodation etc. (Comino, Victoria Lines, Gozo or December overseas) are now closed.

Please check with the list above and turn up at the appointed place for a departure at the indicated time.

Please wear masks while waiting or stationery and also observe a 6-group cluster. Thanks.

We look forward to meeting all of you in some or all of the walks. Life’s a journey | keep smiling | keep walking | Keep safe | God bless.

Caminho Português Done and Dusted! What Next?

Now that the Caminho Português is done and dusted, we can concentrate on

1. the calendar of local walks; and

2. the overseas travel itinerary for Oct 2021 – Sept 2022.

Regarding local walks, we continue to watch the Covid-19 situation more closely as restrictions ease and in the coming days we will announce the Oct – Dec walks. In September we still have the following walks (which are already over-subscribed):

P85 21st Sept Mellieha | Ramla tat-Torri | Armier Loop (19:00 – 22:00)

P86 23rd Sept Manikata | Pwales | Mizieb Loop (19:00 – 22:00)

P87 28th Sept Selmun – Mellieha Loop (19:00 – 22:00)

Regarding the overseas walks, this is what is provisionally planned for next year (please note that dates are tentative and may change):

  1. 5th – 13th Dec, 2021: Cammino Di San Giacomo in Sicilia from Caltagirone to Capizzi. 130km
  2. 6th – 10th Feb, 2022: Trekking in Sicily, details to be announced.
  3. 26th March to 2nd April, 2022: Camino Ingles (from Ferrol to Santiago de Compostela)
  4. 4th – 11th June, 2022: Costiera Amalfitana and Matera
  5. 18th June – 2nd July 2022: Camino Primitivo 340km from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela
  6. 11th – 18th September, 2022: Isole Eiolie Trekking and/or Swimming on 6 of the 7 Volcano Islands.

Most local and and all overseas activities are open only for XirCammini members. To become a member please follow this link: https://xircammini.org/get-involved/membership/

A poll will be issued shortly and circulated to members to register their interest for the above overseas trekking activities

One dreams, but a team achieves

In March 2020 we were all set to walk the Universal Peace walk 1543® on the Sunday closest to the 12th of March, the original pilgrimage day from when it was first walked in 1543.

But, it was not to be and we reluctantly postponed the event to March 2021 hoping that the pandemic would by then be behind us. During this year we worked at improving the walk in terms of the experience it can offer to those who will walk it.

As we postponed it yet again in 2021, I am pleased to share that with the Universal Peace Walk still on the ‘drawing board’ and so much more ideas and enhancements are flowing into it as more people and parties start to share our enthusiasm for it.

While we patiently wait to be in a position to launch we thought of sharing with you a reminder of the walk.

Xacobeo Webinar, March 20th, 2021

We have received the following message from the Association of the Friends of the Way which we are happy to share with you:

Dear friends of the Jacobean associations, foundations and brotherhood and of the Galician communities abroad:

As you well know, we are preparing as best as possible the arrival of the pilgrims to Santiago, in this Compostela Holy Year 2021 that Pope Francis has extended to 2022.

One of our priorities is to preserve the safety of the pilgrim, both along the Camino -of all the Jacobean routes in Galicia-, and in the city of Santiago. Health security and personal safety measures that are taken along theWay of the St. James and in the public shelters along the route in Galicia. In the same way, we are also focused on rescheduling cultural and festive activities, from the curatorship of Xacobeo 21-22, which complement the spiritual sense of the Compostelanean Jubilee.

To disseminate these concepts, we have designed for next Saturday March 20, starting at 12 noon (Spanish time), a round table in a “webinar” format, in which the main specialists in reception, hospitality and security will participate, for which we request your active participation online. After the interventions of the speakers there will be a question time in which you can comment and ask any questions that may arise.

In a few days you will receive the registration link.

I bid you farewell and wait to see you in this “webinar”; wishing you health and serenity!

Ildefonso de la Campa Montenegro

Director of Administration and Relations with the Associations of Friends of the Camino de Santiago

S.A. Xestión do Plan Xacobeo. Xunta de Galicia

AN AUTUMN WALK ALONG ST AUGUSTINE’S WAY

By Priscilla White, Confraternity of St. James, UK and Camino Aficionada

Introduction | Historical Background

Augustine, Disciple of Britain

A bit of background history: Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) wished to convert the heathen tribes of Northern Europe to Christianity and despatched St Augustine to carry out his mission.   Augustine set off for England but was so worried about the fierce reputation of the English that he and his forty monks begged to return to Rome.   However, the Pope was determined that Augustine should persevere and in AD597 he landed at Ebbsfleet (near Ramsgate) on the Isle of Thanet to begin his ministry.  

He was aided by Queen Bertha, a Frankish princess who was already a Christian, and she persuaded her husband King Ethelbert of Kent to meet Augustine.   This meeting took place in the open air as the king was fearful about the possibility of witchcraft.  Fortunately, Augustine made such a good impression on the Kentish king that he gave him the old Roman church of St Martin, named after the saint of Tours where Bertha originated from and where she worshipped.   This is the oldest continually-used church in the English-speaking world.

The great abbey of St Augustine was built on land between St Martin’s and the city walls and until the Reformation would have rivalled the Cathedral in size and importance.   Little of it now remains, apart from the stone walls, following the destruction of the monasteries in 16C.

Objective

One of the reasons for following St Augustine’s Way, apart from its historical and spiritual significance, is that in order to gain a Compostela when walking the Camino Inglés, (which I hope to do in the spring of 2021 unless prevented by Covid-19 restrictions) you need to walk at least 20kms in your home country.   St Augustine’s Way is some 30kms from Ramsgate to Canterbury so well fits the bill, and where better to arrive than at Canterbury Cathedral, where Augustine became its first Archbishop?

From Ramsgate to West Stourmouth

Here is the starting point of the Way.  This picture shows the corner of Pugin’s house, The Grange, where he lived with his family next door to the Chapel he designed and built in the mid-19C in the Gothic style.   It is in this house where he designed the present House of Lords after the medieval Palace of Westminster burnt down in October 1834.

(You can get a stamp for your credential from the Pugin Centre before you set off along St Augustine’s Way.)

Setting forth on a windy October day with mask in place and endless layers to keep out the cold and rain.   As you leave the town of Ramsgate behind, you walk along the cliff top down and round to Pegwell Bay with magnificent views over the Channel.  

The shore is an important bird sanctuary with scores of wading birds poking about in the mudflats – redshank, shelduck, oyster catchers, a little egret and a lone curlew. Seals bask on the strip of land in the distance.  A man is digging for lugworms way out on the flats with a wooden contraption to stop him sinking into the mud.   As you pass through Pegwell village with its two adjacent pubs, one of them, the Belle Vue Tavern, boasts of a long history of smugglers with their contraband hidden in nearby caves.   It reminds me of Kipling’s A Smuggler’s Song – “Brandy for the Parson, ‘Baccy for the Clerk”.  

The cliff path follows the contours of the bay until you reach the village of Cliffsend.  Perched above the cliff is a replica Viking ship, “The Hugin”.   It is a reconstructed longship that sailed from Denmark to Thanet in 1949 as a gift from the Danish government to commemorate the 1500th anniversary of the arrival of Hengist and Horsa, leaders of the Anglo-Saxon invasion, at nearby Ebbsfleet. (King Ethelbert was a descendent of Hengist)

Leaving the village, you turn inland and shortly reach St Augustine’s Cross set by the side of the road near a golf course.   An undistinguished setting for such an important moment in history.

St Augustine’s Cross was commissioned by the Earl of Granville in 1884 at that time Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.   He was inspired to erect it after a massive oak, known as the Augustine Oak was felled in a storm; according to legend it was under this tree that Augustine converted King Ethelbert and baptised him in a nearby stream (Stour) that was afterwards known as St Augustine’s Well.   Tradition holds that the baptism was carried out on Whit Sunday AD597.  The cross is carved in the early Christian style, modelled on 8C stone crosses at Sandbach in Cheshire.  It stands quietly by the side of the road with farmland stretching out behind it.

Following along the river for a mile or so, you cross over the railway line and walk through fields along a footpath until you reach the village of Minster and Minster Abbey, founded by Domneva of Kent in AD670.   She was succeeded by her daughter Mildred, a much loved prioress who became the patron saint of Thanet (Feast Day 13 July).   The Abbey was largely destroyed in the 16C during Henry VIII’s Reformation.   St Mildred’s Priory, adjacent to the abbey is now owned and run by Benedictine nuns who escaped from Germany in the war and set up their convent here in Minster.   You can visit the Abbey in the afternoon and services are held there on a Sunday.   (This is of course in normal Covid-free times.   At the moment, it is closed to all visitors).

Just down the road from the Abbey stands the church of St Mary the Virgin, with the original building dating from AD670.   Rebuilt by the Saxons and enlarged by the Normans, the present building dates from 1150 and the nave remains in its present form since that date. You can see St Augustine’s stone that he is said to have used when he preached.   Traditionally called the “Cathedral of the Marshes”, it is a beautiful church with a great sense of peace and tranquillity set in village once on the edge of the Wantsum Channel.   A lovely spot to sit and reflect awhile (and get a stamp for your credential)

Having stamped my credential and offered me a cup of coffee, I was joined for a stretch of the way by the Rev. Richard Braddy, vicar of St Mary’s who filled me in on the local history and showed me the path down to the River Stour.  The hedgerows are full of berries, both hips and haws and dark purple sloes.   A kestrel hovers overhead and pair of swans with their signets glide by along the stream at the side of the path.  Up to the right at the edge of the field is the Abbots Wall, a mediaeval earthwork to stop the water from flooding into Minster during heavy rain. In St Augustine’s day, the land would have been under water so he would have sailed towards Canterbury across the Wantsum Channel.  

The path follows the river and ahead of me on a stubby bush sits a stonechat with his mate; they flitter ahead of me as I approach them.   Cormorants are drying their wings on a large tree by the river and a solitary marsh harrier quarters the ground looking for small prey.   Richard leaves me to return home and I continue on to the hamlet of Pluck’s Gutter, apparently named after a Dutch drainage engineer called Ploeg, which is Dutch for plough.   The Dutch were renowned for draining the marshes by digging ditches to create farmland.   The rain sets in just as I arrive at the Dog and Duck pub and as my boots are muddy and my jacket is dripping, I eat my packed lunch outside on a bench outside the pub.   The friendly waitress braves the rain to bring me a drink and stamp my credential.   I could see spire of the church at Stourmouth ahead of me as I walked by the side of the river in the afternoon.   The path was muddy after all the rain but the walking is easy underfoot and I made good time.

I soon reached the small village of West Stourmouth with its ancient and beautiful Anglo-Saxon church of All Saints  It is no longer in use as a place of worship but open to visitors and is worth a visit to look at the beautiful stained glass windows.  The sun came out at this point so I sat on the bench to enjoy a few minutes sunning myself.

Stained glass window showing saints Philip and Thomas. You can book a night in the church for the experience of “champing”.

From Stourmouth to Canterbury

From West Stourmouth, you continue along a well-trodden path by the river bank until you reach Grove Ferry, so called because it was used to ferry traffic across the Great Stour.   The Grove Ferry Inn is a converted manor house set by the river and looking over Stodmarsh. In earlier times it held the rights to the ferry crossing and farmed 17 acres of lavender, creating a popular day trip destination, as there was a railway station nearby.

You can’t get a stamp but you can spend the night and it is a good place to end the first part of your journey.   I ended my first day’s journey here and took the bus back home.

Retracing my bus journey of yesterday, I returned to Grove Ferry to complete the walk to Canterbury. The river Stour meanders calmly along the edge of Stodmarsh, once farmed by the monks of St Augustine’s Abbey in the Middle Ages and now home to rare birds and butterflies.

For this second day of my journey, I was joined by a fellow CSJ member, Dominic Kempson, who lives nearby.  The weather was warm and sunny and made for a pleasant day’s walking along the banks of the river.  Small boats chug up and down the river taking advantage of the good weather. 

A herd of belted Galloway cattle were grazing in the distance and they help to keep the pastures cropped in this wild life haven.

Autumn berries glowing bright red in the sunshine along the path through Stodmarsh.   This is a particularly beautiful part of the Way to Canterbury and you feel you are walking through history as you follow the old paths towards the village of Stodmarsh.

Leaving the marsh, you walk through a car park used by walkers and bird watchers, and up a track to the hamlet of Stodmarsh with its small flint stone church of St Mary’s originally built in the 12C.   The church was open as the verger was doing the flowers for the altar.   Although the church doesn’t have a stamp, the verger kindly signed and dated my credential.

These strange looking crossbeams support the bell turret and are believed to be unique in Kent. 

 Ahead is The Red Lion, a 15C pub where you can eat a meal and spend the night.   A good place to stay if you are bird watching on the marsh, or another place to break your journey to Canterbury.

As we climbed the hill out of Stodmarsh along a quiet country lane surrounded by fields with the river flowing gently below us, we came across these tempting apples but reluctantly left them in the box as there was insufficient room in our knapsacks.

We continued on to the top of the hill and climbed over a stile into a muddy field.   The path was unclear at this point and once we had left the field we found ourselves walking down the winding road to Fordwich, somehow missing the footpath that leads through the woods to the town.   No harm was done, but a path through the autumn woodland would have been preferable to the road.

The town of Fordwich boasts as being the smallest in Britain.   We stopped to eat our lunch on the bench in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin.   Unfortunately, the church was closed and a young woman dressed in black is expressing her annoyance as she finds the porch door locked.   Shakespeare’s plays were performed in the Town Hall here during his lifetime and the actors used the upper room of the mediaeval hall unchanged to this day.

Autumn colours by the river Stour, and before the bridge was built, this is where the river was forded, hence the name of the town.   We crossed the bridge and turned left to follow the river into Canterbury.  A wooden fingerpost directs you along the path through water meadows and woodland until you reach the outskirts of Canterbury, passing by the church of St Martin’s, used by St Augustine, with the agreement of King Ethelbert, when he arrived in Canterbury to begin his mission.

Canterbury

As you pass by the Abbey, you come across the statue of Queen Bertha walking down Lady Wootton’s garden.   Her husband is beckoning her to join him after she has attended Mass at St Martin’s.

This is a particularly beautiful view of the Cathedral standing high above the city walls with the Caen stone glowing in the late afternoon light as you cross over the road and walk down Burgate to the main entrance.  

The Cathedral precincts are closed at the moment and the front of the building is covered in scaffolding whilst restoration works are carried out. 

There was a long queue of visitors waiting to enter via a side entrance.  My credential was stamped and we were welcomed into the Cathedral.   I had completed the 20kms required for my Compostela.

Arriving at the Cathedral, credential in hand with my fellow pilgrim, Dominic Kempson. 

The site of St Thomas Becket’s martyrdom with the arresting sculpture by Giles Blomfeld above the altar stone representing the knights’ four swords; two swords and two shadows.

We sat for a while in the main body of the cathedral, contemplating the journey from Ramsgate to Canterbury and feeling very much part of the history of earlier times with past centuries seeming very present as we followed in St Augustine’s footsteps.

October, 2020