All posts by Leigh Hatts

Lavender fields now turning purple

The lavender fields between Lullingtone and Shoreham in the Darenth valley are beginning to turn purple.

They should be in full bloom during the first week of July.

The Pilgrims’ Way runs along the bottom of the fields and close to Castle Farm’s hidden Hop Shop selling lavender products.

There is already a haze of red poppies opposite Lullingtone Roman Villa.

The Roman Villa will stamp your pilgrim passport in the shop. Ye Old George Inn opposite Shoreham Church also stamps pilgrim passports.

Remember as a pilgrim that Lullingstone Church, ‘the Little Church on the Lawn’ just inside Lullingstone Castle gate, is open 10am-4pm for prayer.

Poppies near Lullingstone Roman Villa

Harrietsham’s Good Shepherd Church

This month’s issue of The Pilgrim, the Archdiocese of Southwark’s newspaper, has a feature on the Pilgrims’ Way guidebook.

You will find copies of the newspaper (50p) in Roman Catholic churches south of the Thames in the capital and in Kent.

By chance the paper also carries a fascinating news in brief item on a flower festival at Harrietsham’s Roman Catholic church. The event  marked the publication of a history of the little church.

The delightful black weather boarded church of the Good Shepherd is south of the railway in Rectory Lane ME17 1HS.

It was erected in 1881 for men engaged in building the Maidstone to Ashford railway which today’s pilgrims find so handy.

The tiny chapel was at first Anglican but after many years as a mission church it is today in the care of nearby St Peter’s Bearsted Roman Catholic Church.

Sunday Mass is at 8.45am. Handy if you are staying at The Roebuck in West Street.

Cream Teas at Wouldham

Wouldham Church

On leaving Halling and crossing Peters Village Bridge over the River Medway on a Sunday afternoon you might find tea available at Wouldham.

Turn left, or north, for Wouldham and Rochester.

Cream teas are served at All Saints’ Church Wouldham on Sundays 18 June, 16 July, 20 August and 17 September; 2-4.30pm.

This might also be handy for those wishing to walk south on the path out of Rochester.

Wouldham  Church dates from at least 1058 and has purser Walter Burke, who was present at Admiral Nelson’s death, buried in the churchyard.

Opposite the church lychgate is 16th-century Wouldham Court but note that bed and breakfast has ceased to be available there.

Old Kent Road pilgrim mural listed

Old Kent Road mural

An outdoor mural on the front of the the former civic centre in the Old Kent Road has been given a Grade II listing by Historic England.

The work, completed in 1965, is by Adam Kossowski whose mosaics can also be seen further along the Pilgrims’ Way at Aylesford Priory.

The panels depict pilgrims to Canterbury as well as famous figures who have entered London by way of the Canterbury road.

The initiative for listing has come from the Twentieth Century Society.

Pilgrims’ Way talk at Southwark Cathedral

There will be an illustrated talk on the Pilgrims’ Way from London to Canterbury as part of Pilgrimage Today: Four Ways to become a Pilgrim on Saturday 13 May at Southwark Cathedral.

Four talks will look at different aspects of pilgrimage:

10am
Brian Mooney: Via Francigena: Pilgrimage before Ryanair – On Foot to Rome and Back.

11.15am
Neil Tryner: Boccadillo, Blisters and Baggage.

1.30pm
Leigh Hatts: Following Becket from Southwark to Canterbury.

2.45pm
Guy Hayward and Will Parsons (British Pilgrimage Trust): Reviving British Pilgrimage: Making the Movement Happen!

Refreshments available in Cathedral Refectory and nearby.

£5 for the day – booking with Eventbrite.

Jane Austen’s 200th anniversary service

Those wishing to follow the Pilgrims’ Way for its many associations with Jane Austen may want to start on or just after Tuesday 18 July.

This is the 200th anniversary of her death which is being marked by a special service of Evensong at Winchester Cathedral.

Jane Austen is buried in the cathedral where another is St Swithun whose day is observed four days earlier.

Jane had an affinity with Swithun whose feast falls a few days earlier on Saturday 15 July. Her parents were married at St Swithun’s in Bath in 1764. Jane worshipped there and her father is buried there.

The anniversary service at Winchester will begin at 5.30pm and include contributions from invited guests.

Tickets are free but should be booked in advance.

Pilgrims’ Way guide published today

Publication day for Cicerone’s Walking The Pilgrims’ Way has been rainy. But that is appropriate since Chaucer wrote about April showers.

It has been great fun marking the book’s launch by visiting the London starting point.

First to Talbot Yard where a blue plaque on the site of The Tabard from where one early spring morning Chaucer’s characters set out in The Canterbury Tales.

Tabard Inn plaque in Talbot Yard off Borough High Street

Then a short walk through Borough Market to Southwark Cathedral for a celebratory lunch.

The good news is that today the cathedral shop has sold all its stock of The Pilgrims’ Way and  more have been ordered.

A good sign I hope for interest in the Canterbury pilgrimage.

At Southwark Cathedral with the new book

Thomas A Becket in Old Kent Road now open

St Thomas pub sign

The Thomas A Becket pub at the first ‘stop’ out of London on the Pilgrims’ Way has reopened.

The present Thomas A Becket pub building opened in 1898 on the site of an ancient inn on London’s Old Kent Road.

It is located at a spot known as St Thomas a Watering.

Here a bridge crossed a stream which flowed along the line of Albany Street at the side of the pub.

The bridge and ford was the first stop for pilgrims leaving London.

Geoffrey Chaucer knew the bridge and in The Canterbury Tales he has his pilgrims who have set out from Borough High Street pause here.

“And forth we rode a little more than pace
Unto the watering of St Thomas.”

This is where they stop and draw straws to decide the order of story tellers.

The knight draws the short straw and so tells his tale in the Old Kent Road.

The present pub sign is a reproduction of 13th-century glass in Canterbury Cathedral.

The Victorian pub has long been well-known for its associations with boxing. A blue plaque recalls Henry Cooper who trained in the gym upstairs.

This morning boxing legend Frank Bruno, in the presence of the Mayor of Southwark Kath Whittam, cut the ribbon and declared the building open again as Rock Island at The Thomas A Becket.

[Until the pub has its special stamp ready ask the bar staff to sign and date your pilgrim passport.]

Frank Bruno and the Mayor of Southwark
Frank Bruno and the Mayor joined the first diners tasting the new menu
Tables inside the front windows