Box Hill grape harvest

Passing through Denbies vineyard on the Pilgrims’ Way you may notice that grape picking has started.

The first day was Thursday 7 September which is the earliest in the estate’s history.

Concerns about a late frost and a hot June followed by poor weather have proved unfounded. “The quality is quite outstanding,” says  Denbies CEO Christopher White.

Denbies lies below Box Hill with south facing slopes enjoying a micro climate.

Accommodation for walkers is available at The Farmhouse.

Water bottles have arrived in Borough Market


Borough Market water bottles

You need several vital items for your walk from Southwark in London to Canterbury.

Your pilgrim passport and the guide book can both be obtained from Southwark Cathedral shop.

And you should not forget to carry water.

Your water bottle can be filled free from water taps and fountains in Borough Market which you will pass through on leaving the cathedral.

The Market is phasing out the sale of water in single-use plastic bottles and now selling a lightweight refillable water bottle made from recycled plastic for £2. Perfect for a pilgrimage walk.

Try the market office behind one of the prominent taps.

Free water tap and fountain outside Market office

Fill your water bottle free at Borough Market

Drinking fountains with two streams of water, for drinking or filling a bottle, are being installed in Borough Market.

Borough Market is alongside Southwark Cathedral so the new amenity will be ideal for Canterbury bound pilgrims starting out from the cathedral.

At present you must bring your own bottle although it is planned to have reusable water bottles on sale later this year.

One of the taps on a new freestanding pillar can be found outside the Market Office near the main gateway.

Doorkins the Cathedral Cat

What should you do at Southwark Cathedral when setting out on your walk to Canterbury?

Get your passport from the shop; buy postcards for your friends; look at figures on the great screen behind the high altar and find St Thomas Becket and St Swithun; say a prayer and light a candle.

And of course look out for Doorkins the cathedral cat.

A delightful book called Doorkins the Cathedral Cat is being launched on Sunday 20 August at 12.30pm in the churchyard. All are welcome to enjoy coffee, sparkling wine and cat themed biscuits.

Author Lisa Gutwein and illustrator Rowan Ambrose will be signing copies.

Will Doorkins, often seen walking through the cathedral ignoring a sermon, attend her own party?

Jane Austen anniversary day

Tuesday 18 July is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death in Winchester.

The novelist, who is buried in the cathedral, will be remembered at Choral Evensong with music familiar to her and a hymn based on a prayer written by her.

Earlier in the afternoon, Bank of England staff will be in the cathedral to unveil the new £10 note featuring Jane Austen.

Visitors will be allowed to handle the note which enters circulation in September.

The design features places associated with Jane Austen along the Pilgrims’ Way: her Chawton house writing table and her brother’s home Godmersham Park, near Canterbury, which became the inspiration for a number of her novels.

To visit the bank note exhibition (2.30pm-5pm) and attend evensong (5.30pm) on this special day it is necessary to book free via the cathedral box office (01962 857275).

Godmersham Park seen from the Pilgrims’ Way


St Swithun’s Day at Winchester

St Swithun’s Shrine site in Winchester Cathedral

Next weekend is good time to start out from Winchester on the Pilgrims’ Way. Saturday 15 July is  St Swithun’s Day.

At Winchester Cathedral the First Evensong of St Swithun will be sung on Friday evening 14 July at 5.30pm.

On Saturday 15 July, St Swithuns’s Day, there are celebrations of the Eucharist at 8am and noon.

The main St Swithun observance is Choral Evensong at 4.30pm when the new Dean, The Very Revd Catherine Ogle, is the preacher.

The service climax is a procession to the Shrine of St Swithun.

The calendar name for the day is The Translation of St Swithun. It was this moving of the saint’s body to a new grave which has given rise to him being associated with rain.

Walkers will find that the forecast for Saturday is no rain.

St Thomas Becket’s Day

Friday 7 July is the Translation of St Thomas of Canterbury.

Translation refers to the moving of Thomas Becket’s body in 1220 from the Canterbury Cathedral crypt to his new shrine upstairs in the main church.

So Friday’s observances at the cathedral are like his feast day in December except at a more convenient time and in warmer weather.

The eve of the Translation, Thursday 6 July, is the anniversary of the execution of St Thomas More who, like Becket, was killed for opposing a King.

More’s anniversary is marked, as always since 1971,  by a lecture at nearby St Dunstan’s on the Pilgrims’ Way in Canterbury.

This is where Henry II started his barefoot walk to Becket’s shrine.

It is also where now the head of St Thomas More rests in a vault. The gateway of his daughter Margaret Roper’s house is nearby.

A descendant Anne Roper gave one of the first talks. Other guest speakers  have included Archbishop Michael Ramsey, Elizabeth Longford and Tim Tatton-Brown.

This year’s address is being delivered by St Dunstan’s former rector Maurice Worgan who in 1993 encouraged the publication of past addresses which have built a picture of St Thomas More’s life.

Fr Worgan’s talk is called ‘The Polarity of Sir Thomas More: Saint or Sinner?‘.

Early on Friday morning, the Translation,  the Eucharist will be celebrated on the spot where Becket was murdered in December 1170.

In the afternoon choral evensong is followed by a procession to the Shrine site.  Here the chapter, the monks’ successors,  and congregation gather round the place which drew so many pilgrims until the shrine’s destruction in the conflict of Henry VIII’s reign.

The Roman Catholic Mass is celebrated at 8pm.

On Saturday 8 July there is the second annual Canterbury Medieval Pageant commemorating Henry ll’s pilgrimage to Canterbury in 1174. This is mainly for families with young children but the programme includes Canterbury’s Gregorian Music Society singing the Angelus at noon in St Peter’s Church.


Canterbury Cathedral programme for the Translation 2017

Thursday 6 July

5.30pm First Evensong of Translation of St Thomas

7.30pm St Thomas More Commemoration at St Dunstan’s Church

Friday 7 July

8am Eucharist at Altar of Sword-point

12.30pm Festal Communion Service in Trinity Chapel

5.30pm Choral Evensong and procession the Shrine site

8pm Roman Catholic Mass in cathedral crypt

A window in St Dunstan’s: St Thomas More and family

Teas at Abinger Hammer’s Old Post Office

Abinger Hammer in Surrey was recently listed as one of the most idyllic English villages.

The pub has closed and its church is two miles away from the main street and the Pilgrims’ Way route.

But the village is attractive and just near its famous hammer clock, where the trail turns uphill, is Abinger Hammer’s Old Post Office.

It still has a lovely wall post box and at the doorway there are fishing nets for children to use in the Tilling Bourne across the road.

This is the village newsagents open from 6am to 5.15pm with a tea room attached.

You will find homemade cakes in the front room overlooking the green.

Picnic sandwiches can be made on the spot.

With the sub post office part of the shop having been closed in 2004  there is no stamp available for stamping pilgrim passports but staff will sign and date a square for you.

Abinger Hammer is just east of Shere. The Old Post Office is the last refreshment stop before Box Hill.

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.

To Canterbury from Winchester and London / Leigh Hatts