Pilgrims sometimes wandered off the main route in bad weather to seek less muddy tracks. In some places it became general to take a parallel path in order to visit a holy place or accommodation such as Boxley Abbey.
It is for such reasons that the guidebook will in future advise walkers to take a new way out of Otford despite the main road being proudly called Pilgrims Way. This change will spare pilgrims the need to take a busy road without a pavement.
But it also makes sense to use the direct route through Kemsing rather than having to drop down to visit St Edith’s holy well and the lovely church with its ancient door marked by medieval pilgrim staves.
This alternative is no modern substitute but an ancient road dating from Roman times.
New directions out of Otford:
At the Otford pond roundabout walk over to the church.
Go down the the right, or south, side of the church and follow the path ahead.
This soon runs past roses below a long brick wall (left) to leave the churchyard at a gate. The way at once double bends before continuing east as a hedged path. Later there is a view (right) across a meadow where St Thomas Becket’s well is located on the far side.
At the end of the path go ahead only for Otford Station forecourt.
The route continues sharp right on a still enclosed path. At the next junction go left over a stile leading to the railway line. (Before crossing the track look and listen.) On the far side a passage leads to a road. Cross over to find the way continuing.
The metalled way is enclosed before running along the edge of Oxenhill Woods (right). Ignore all turnings and stay on the path which eventually joins Dynes Road.
Still keep forward to reach, after almost a mile (1.49km), St Edith’s Well at the junction of High Street and St Edith’s Road (left) by the The Bell in Kemsing.
Take the footpath north of the well to climb up to the church.
Leave the churchyard by the lychgate and turn left through a gateway. Pass a playground (left) and walk ahead over the grass expanse with trees on both sides. Pass tennis courts (right) to reach the far corner where a short woodland path leads to steps. Go left to the road which is the Pilgrims’ Way and turn right.
The PW continues ahead and over a crossroads. At a second junction there is a view of St Clere.