All posts by Leigh Hatts

Concern over Hampshire incinerator near PW

Concern is being expressed in the Wey Valley area and nearby Alton in Hampshire over a proposed multi-million-pound incinerator near the Pilgrims’ Way.

The possible impact on visitors including walkers along the Pilgrims’ Way was highlighted during Thursday’s BBC South Today programme.

No Wey campaigners are calling for the plan to be decided by the Secretary of State ‘because of the serious long-term impact its potential approval would have on nationally important issues such as climate change’.

The planning application by Veolia is due to be considered by Hampshire County Council this autumn.

The incinerator, being called a waste-to-energy plant, with 260 foot chimneys would be visible to the south as you walk between Holybourne and Upper Froyle.

The site is less than half a mile away between the A31 and the railway.

The Final Review of Environmental Statement takes issue with the applicant by highlighting the potential impact on the Pilgrims’ Way, known locally as St Swithuns’ Way.

‘The proposal will significantly affect visual tranquillity from St Swithun’s Way,’ writes Fiona Sharman of Indigo Landscape Architects in a report for Hampshire County Council.

‘I would also consider that the scale of the proposal would evidently detract from one’s appreciation of key characteristics such as the ‘distinct flat valley’ landform as the proposal would be out of scale with the small scale valley characteristics in which it sits.’

AYLESFORD: Little Gem reopens

Door opened again

The Little Gem pub in Aylesford has quietly reopened after being closed for ten years.

The tiny building dates from 1106 which is fourteen years before the birth of Thomas Becket. Prior to becoming a pub in 1968 it was a cafe. It is now Kent’s smallest pub.

Today the PW almost passes the door as it turns up Mount Pleasant from the church.

Maidstone brewer Goacher’s stepped in to save the pub which according to the Kent Messenger has ‘no pool table, no darts, no fairy lights, no jukebox, no TV screen, no games, and above all, no pretension at all’.

The inglenook fireplace is ready for a log fire in winter.

Forty days after St Swithun

Otford Church: Pilgrims can continue down the south side on a direct parallel path to Kemsing.

Tuesday 24 August is St Bartholomew’s Day and forty days after St Swithun’s Day.

It seems that global warming may have upset the old August pattern of consistent weather. Although the period which began in sunshine is ending in good weather there was a lot of rain in the middle.

However, there is a saying for today which suggests a dry autumn:

All the tears St Swithin can cry,
St Bartholomew dusty mantle wipes away.

Swithun is associated with rain for apple trees and at this time of the year you will walk across fallen apples in various places on the PW in Surrey and through a lovely Kentish hillside orchard on the last day into Canterbury.

Canterbury Cathedral’s attractions once included an arm of Bartholomew as well as Becket’s shrine.

There is a St Bartholomew’s church at Hyde Abbey as you leave Winchester.

Another is at Otford in Kent which is visited by pilgrims coming from both Winchester and London as the routes converge at the village pond.

The way ahead continues down the south side of the church to take in St Edith at Kemsing. Try Otford church in the morning for a pilgrim passport stamp.

Woolpack’s new inn sign

The Woolpack at Chilham has a new sign featuring the Pilgrims’ Way.

The Woolpack at Chilham, which claims to have been in existence since 1480, has a new inn sign.

The image on the hanging sign has changed at least five times during the last century.

The latest painting is by Julian Kirk and depicts the pack horse passing a milestone on the Pilgrims’ Way which runs through the village just seven miles from Canterbury.

The Woolpack is a Shepherd Neame pub offering refreshment, including the PW ale Bishop’s Finger, and accommodation.

Being over 500 years old it has unconfirmed claims to a ghost and a secret tunnel leading to Chilham Castle.

Pictures of the inn and its changing signs can be seen here.

St James’s Day weekend

This year St James’s Day 25 July falls on a Sunday which means that 2021 is a Holy Year in Santiago de Compostela.

Many seek to be a pilgrim to Santiago in a Holy Year and due to the pandemic this special year is going to continue into 2022.

The Pilgrims’ Way from Southwark to Canterbury is not just the way to St Thomas Becket but the first leg of the Camino which reaches across France and Northern Spain to St James the Great in Santiago.

The familiar yellow arrow of the Camino will be projected on Southwark Cathedral’s east end exterior on Friday evening 23 July.

This is part of a light projection to mark Holy Year and is best viewed from the south end of London Bridge or a train entering London Bridge Station.

The Camino Pilgrim office where pilgrims to Santiago visit before setting out is just half a mile from Southwark Cathedral.

The Camino shell which has become the badge for other pilgrimages including Canterbury where you enter the cathedral by way of the door with a shell at the Christ Church Gate.

London’s main St James’s Day Mass is 24 hours early at noon on Saturday 24 July at St James’s Spanish Place W1 where Cardinal Vincent Nicholas will be the celebrant. But due to the virus there will not be the usual party afterwards.

***Churches dedicated to St James the Great on the Pilgrims’ Way are in Surrey where the path passes the door at Shere (14th-century glass in the east window) and nearby Abinger Hammer although here a visit to the church requires a diversion up to the Common.

***St James, patron of Spain, is one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus and brother of St John.

St James’s as a pilgrim with the shell on his bag.


Charing’s loss is Otford’s gain

The great hall of Charing Palace

Ambitious plans to save and make accessible the Archbishop’s Palace at Charing have been abandoned.

With no prospect of being able to achieve its objectives in the foreseeable future it has been resolved by the trustees to wind up the Charing Palace Trust .

This is a blow to all who are aware of the important role played by the building known to Thomas Becket and Henry VIII as well as many other significant figures.

Charing was an overnight stop for archbishops and VIPs on the London-Canterbury road.

Another was Otford. The Charing trustees have very generously transferred their remaining assets to Otford’s Archbishop’s Palace Conservation Trust.

Otford is today a pivotal resting place on the Pilgrims’ Way since it is where the Winchester and London routes merge.

The remains of Otford Palace, also known to Becket and Henry VIII, are impressive. Indeed Otford inspired Wolsey’s Hampton Court Palace.

Meanwhile there must be continued concern about the future of Charing which has recently lost pubs and teashop.

A corner of Otford Palace

St Swithun’s Day ONLINE

St Swithun’s Shrine seen between chantries of Bishop Fox (left) and Cardinal Beaufort.

It’s a special day at Winchester this week.

Thursday 15 July is St Swithun’s Day when choral evensong and the procession to the shrine will be broadcast online from Winchester Cathedral at 5.30pm.

The body of St Swithun was until the Reformation in Winchester Cathedral.

However, pilgrims from Winchester would have found St Swithun’s head at Canterbury. The precious relic survived the Reformation having been taken to Évreux Cathedral in Normandy where it remains.

The custom of wondering if St Swithun’s Day will be followed by forty days of rain or sunshine takes us to St Bartholomew’s Day on Tuesday 24 August. A good period for a slow walk to Canterbury.

An image of St Swithun printed in London by Wynkyn de Worde (c 1500)

Winchester Friends look back over centuries

Rain depicted on St Swithun’s shrine. Sunshine is on the other side.

The Friends of Winchester Cathedral’s 90th anniversary festal evensong on Saturday looked back to St Swithun and the beginning of the cathedral .

The service, broadcast online to Friends unable to be present, included impressive camerawork featuring unusual views around the building.

After a procession to St Swithun’s shrine there were prayers of thanks invoking names we meet along the Pilgrims’ Way including Richard de Lucy, Richard Fox and Jane Austen.

Former BBC presenter and Friends Chair Bruce Parker laid flowers not only at the shrine but also on Swithun’s original outdoor grave. It was the translation to inside which gave rise to the forty days of rain or sun story.

The service is available to watch online.

St Swithun’s Day is Thursday 15 July when the weather is expected to improve.

Translation evensong live from Canterbury

A candle burns on site of Thomas Becket’s shrine

Choral evensong is being broadcast online live from Canterbury Cathedral on Wednesday the Feast of the Translation of St Thomas of Canterbury.

Before the pandemic the annual service was in the choir and followed by a procession of canons to the shrine in a pre-Reformation tradition.

At present services are sung in the nave.

This is the 801st anniversary of Thomas Becket’s body being moved from the crypt to his new shrine upstairs. Archbishop Stephen Langton presided in the presence of King Henry II’s grandson Henry III.

Cathedral Cats Day

David Guest, vicar of Otford, is coming up the Pilgrims’ Way to host Southwark Cathedral’s Stories of Cats day.

Cathedral cat Hodge is expected to be around on Saturday 7 August to welcome visitors joining the day event.

Speakers include George Hoyle (aka Cunning Folk) on The Folklore of Cats, Dr Kathleen Walker-Meikle on Literary Cats in History and Celia Haddon on How to Read Your Cat.

Anita Kelsey is calling her talk Claws: Confessions of a Professional Cat Groomer.

Julia Bird is speaking on The Poetry of Cats.

Pilgrims often had Hodge’s famous predecessor Doorkins on their of what to look for list before setting out for Canterbury.

Tickets are £18. Full details and booking are here.

**David Guest is vicar of St Bartholomew’s Otford where the Pilgrims’ Way paths from Winchester and Southwark converge. The village has associations with St Thomas Becket and The Bull pub has a Becket seat.

Otford church seen across the duck pond roundabout.