Daffodils at Lesnes Abbey

Windows at the viewpoint across the capital

Lent Lilies, or daffodils, are out at Lesnes Abbey as the garden and woods recover from the snow.

Pilgrims from Southwark pass through Lesnes Abbey on their way from Shooters Hill to Dartford on Day 2.

The Abbey, now an outline of stones, is dedicated to St Thomas Becket.

Tradition holds that the daffodils are descendants of those planted by the Augustinian monks. Although daffodils were brought to Britain by the Romans there is no record of when they first appeared  in the Abbey grounds.

The wood round the Abbey’s south side is also noted for its bluebells which will appear shortly.

The monastic farm site on the west side now has a garden and a cafe counter called Abbey Good Coffee (open Tue-Sun until 4pm in summer).

***Pilgrim parties wishing to book lunch or tea should email: [email protected]

Daffodils on the wooded hill above Lesnes Abbey
Daffodils in the wold
Wednesday’s lunch menu at Lesnes Abbey
Lesnes Abbey garden
Daffodils appearing around the Augustinian monk statue

From Cloud to Washing: Doubt to Suspended

Doubt in Southwark Cathedral

With the hint of warmer weather pilgrims are starting to set out from Southwark Cathedral for Canterbury Cathedral.

Those making the pilgrimage in Lent, that is before the end of this month, will see a huge dark cloud in Southwark Cathedral.

This is the Lent installation by Susie MacMurray which is called Doubt.

It hangs over the choir like a heavy rain cloud.

It could represent your feeling of gloom about the future, about the unknown implications of Brexit or something very personal.

It is there to make you think.

On arriving at Canterbury Cathedral pilgrims will find washing hanging in the nave.

This is another Lenten installation to make us think.

Suspended by Arabella Dorman is comprised of real washing.

The items are refugee clothing retrieved from the Island of Lesbos beaches and the makeshift camps in Calais.

The artist has used special lighting which as it dims is intended to remind the viewer that refugees may be left unseen and in darkness if their situation is forgotten.

Doubt is at Southwark Cathedral until Good Friday but Suspended will remain in Canterbury Cathedral until Wednesday 16 May.

Suspended in Canterbury Cathedral


St Mary Magdalene Wandsworth Common: First parish on pilgrimage

Vicar Philippa Boardman in the cathedral shop where passports were stamped

A group from St Mary Magdalene Church Wandsworth Common set out today from Southwark to Canterbury.

This is the first parish party of the 2018 season. They left London, with their vicar Philippa Boardman, two weeks ahead of Chaucer’s recommended April.

The pilgrims received a blessing at the early morning Eucharist in Southwark Cathedral before having their Pilgrim Passports stamped in the shop.

First stop after passing through Borough Market was The George Inn where a large temporary outdoor TV screen was broadcasting a weather forecast featuring some rain.

The party plan to reach Canterbury Cathedral on Sunday in time for Evensong.

The effort is in aid of funding improvements to their 150 year old church building so that it can be a vibrant focus better serving the community.

Standing on the parish’s own stone in the cathedral
Some of the Wandsworth walkers at The George Inn in Southwark’s Borough High Street

Guy Hart Dyke RIP

Lullingstone Church seen from the Castle gatehouse

Expect the flag to be at half mast today at Lullingstone Castle where the funeral of Guy Hart Dyke is being held at the church in the grounds.

He celebrated his 90th birthday a few days before a peaceful death on Monday 12 February.

The church is St Botolph’s, known as ‘the church on the lawn’, and funeral is at 12.30pm.

The family has requested no flowers and suggested donations to the church instead.

Guy Hart Dyke was living at the Castle in 1969 when he unexpectedly inherited the historic property after his brother Sir Derek Hart Dyke decided to remain in Canada after the death of their father.

The Pilgrims’ Way passes the Lullingstone Castle castle gatehouse which has been the home of the heir Tom.

Tom Hart Dyke is well-kown as a horticulturist and plant hunter who created Lullingstone’s World Garden of Plants. He devised the plan whilst being held hostage by guerrillas in South America.

Guy Hart Dyke is survived by his wife Sarah, son Tom and daughter Anya.

Muriel Spark centenary

Muriel Spark’s first novel

This year is the centenary of the Muriel Spark’s birth.

The novelist was born in Edinburgh on 1 February 1918.

She died in 2006.

Her complicated and at first stressful adult life saw her living at many addresses.

One was Aylesford Priory on the Pilgrims’ Way where she arrived in October 1954.

After a short time at the guest house, where pilgrims stay today, she moved to  cottage owned by the monastery at nearby Allington Castle.

By the middle of the following year she had completed five chapters of her first novel The Comforters which is loosely based on Aylesford.

She went to Aylesford at the suggestion of Graham Greene who she never met although he sent her money to help her recover from nervous collapse.

Aylesford Prior Fr Francis Kemsley recently wrote in The Tablet that Muriel Spark was captivated by his predecessor Fr Malachy Lynch.

In later years she often visited Aylesford when returning to England from her home in Italy.

Most centenary events are being held in Scotland where there is  special exhibition at the National Library.




Practical Pilgrimage in the 21st Century

Old Kent Road mural

Pilgrimage can be made in many ways, by luxury group travel, on foot or by bike. But it does not need to be expensive or painful.

A free one day event at Southwark Cathedral on Saturday 24 February will offer advice from experienced pilgrims on  how to prepare yourself physically and practically with suitable kit, how to pack a rucksack and how to prevent blisters.

Pilgrim routes to be discussed include the Camino de Santiago in France and Spain.

During the morning there will be a showing of the film The Way: Camino de Santiago.

An illustrated talk on the Winchester to Canterbury Pilgrims’ Way route, by Pilgrims’ Way author Leigh Hatts, follows the lunch break at 2pm.

Free places can be booked via the Southwark Cathedral website.

Royal Oak stamping passports

The Royal Oak in Tabard Street

The Royal Oak in Southwark will now stamp your Pilgrims’ Way passport.

The award-winning pub, on the corner of Tabard Street and Nebraska Street, is popular with real ale enthusiasts. Food is available every lunchtime.

The Pilgrims’ Way passes the Royal Oak main doorway as Tabard Street was the continuation of Old Kent Road.

Passports can be obtained from Southwark Cathedral shop.

**** Although the Royal Oak is a Victorian building it can be said to have an interesting connection with early pilgrims to Canterbury.

It is the only central London pub belonging to Harvey’s Brewery of Lewes in Sussex which is the successor to the Lewes Priory brewery.

The Priory owned a Southwark inn where London-Canterbury pilgrims could have spent their first night before setting  out foot or horse.

End of day 1: A Red Lion Shooters Hill stamp in a passport

St Thomas Becket Day at Canterbury: Friday 29 December

St Thomas A Becket pub sign, based on Canterbury window, at Rock Island  in Old Kent Road

On the fifth Day of Christmas 847 years ago Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral.

This Friday 29 December the anniversary will be kept with a special evensong at 3.15pm.

Becket died as Vespers was starting.

So during sung evensong at Canterbury Cathedral there is a procession to the Martyrdom where a few lines from TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral are read. Afterwards the procession continues to the crypt where Becket’s body was first laid.

His eventual shrine upstairs became the object of the great pilgrimage along the Pilgrims’ Way.

Vespers is sung in the crypt at 8pm by Canterbury’s Roman Catholic Church.

The day begins 12 hours earlier with an Anglican Eucharist for St Thomas Becket Day at the Altar of Sword’s Point on the martyrdom site in the north transept.

A chance to look at the Kelmscott Chaucer

In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay,
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
To Canterbury

This appears on the first page of The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer published in 1896 by the Kelmscott Press.

The 87 wood-cut illustrations are by Edward Burne-Jones.

Folio Society facsimile edition is available for visitors to leaf through as part of the May Morris: Art & Life exhibition at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow.

May’s father William Morris founded the Kelmscott Press and his Kelmscott Chaucer was published just a year after Julia Cartwright’s book The Pilgrim’s Way from Winchester to Canterbury appeared.

Both were part of the rediscovery of Chaucer and the ancient road which gathered interest during the 20th century.

The exhibition at the William Morris Gallery (Forest Road, London E17 4PP) is open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am – 5pm; admission free.

Kelmscott Chaucer

Morning mini pilgrimage

Old Kent Road mural

With pilgrimage expert Marion Marples I shall be leading a Saturday morning mini pilgrimage from Southwark to the Old Kent Road on 21 October.

It will be a walk from Southwark Cathedral attempting to go in the steps of Geoffrey Chaucer, and many others, a couple of miles into Old Kent Road.

We shall look at the site of the Tabard Inn, call at St George the Martyr to get a pilgrim stamp and hear about its history, and then down to the Thomas A Becket pub for another stamp and a chance for refreshment for those who want it.

On the way we can think of links with places further down the route into Kent.

After the Thomas A Becket those still with energy can walk a little further to the old Civic Centre in Peckham to view the murals which includes medieval pilgrims on the same route.

The walk is on Saturday 21 October starting in Southwark Cathedral at 9.45am, after the 9.15am Eucharist.

Tickets £5 from Eventbrite and Cathedral Shop.

To Canterbury from Winchester and London / Leigh Hatts