Lesnes Abbey Procession 2019

Two people entering the chancel from the nave.

The annual Blessed Sacrament procession at Lesnes Abbey takes place on Sunday 30 June.

The tradition of a Corpus Christi procession here goes back to the beginning of the last century when the abbey was still being excavated. Then the procession included Bostall Woods.

Although the Corpus Christi feast day was last week it is always kept on a later date at Lesnes Abbey.

It is the occasion when you can see the outline of the 12th-century church being used again as a church.

The Lesnes Abbey Procession is at 3pm followed by Benediction.

The Abbey is on the second section of the Pilgrims’ Way out of London. Abbey Wood Station is nearby.

A reconstruction of the Lesnes Abbey church.

Becket weekend

St Dunstan’s at the entrance to the Canterbury city centre

The 2019 Translation of St Thomas Becket day falls at the 6/7 July weekend and marks the moving of the saint’s body from Canterbury Cathedral crypt to the shrine upstairs in 1220.

The main events and services in Canterbury are below:

Saturday 6 July, Eve of Translation

11.15am Pageant enters West Gate to pass along High Street.

12 noon Angelus at St Peter’s Church: Canterbury Gregorian Music Society.

3.15pm Choral Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral.

7.30pm St Thomas More Service at St Dunstan’s Church
This annual ecumenical service marks the anniversary of More’s execution in 1535. The saint is a martyr in the tradition of Becket.

Address by Prof Jackie Eales, Director of Research for Canterbury Christ Church University’s Faculty of Arts & Humanities, on The education of Margaret More and the Humanist context of support for female education in the early 16th century.

Followed by refreshments  in hall.

Sunday 7 July, Translation of St Thomas

3.15pm Choral Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral followed by procession to shine site.

7pm Roman Catholic Mass at Canterbury Cathedral.


Translation of St Thomas’s body in 1220. Detail from early window at Canterbury

CeCilia Baker pilgrimages

A highlight of this month’s Canterbury Pilgrims Festival was hearing author and walker Cecilia Baker speak about how she became a pilgrim.

She told of arriving at Canterbury Welcome Centre having walked without any guidebook or even leaflet along the rough route of the Pilgrims’ Way.

“Are you a pilgrim?” asked the person on duty.

“Well, yes, I suppose I am,” replied Cecilia after a pause.

Since that life changing moment Cecilia has walked many more routes as she recounts in Walking with the Saints: Footsteps on ancient paths.

After hearing her considered and original answers to questions during the Pilgrims Festival workshop it was time to read the book.

Her description of walking the Pilgrims Way before the guidebook was available is especially interesting and even inspiring.

The St Swithun’s Way and North Downs were Cecilia’s guideline to follow the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury.

Her description of familiar places, how an early stretch was overgrown (not now), the beach experience near Guildford, flooded stepping stones, a deserted station, bad weather and relief at arriving at key stages will resonate with readers familiar with the way.

The book also includes following St Augustine in Kent and St Hilda in Yorkshire. A good starter pilgrimage is the very short but so rich in faith and heritage Walsingham pilgrim path involving an old railway line.

The final chapter takes us back to the Pilgrims’ Way to recognise that Southwark next to London Bridge to Otford via the delightful Darenth Valley is also the ancient road to Canterbury.

Cecilia is a trustee of the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome.

St Dunstan’s has a stamp!

St Dunstan’s Church, the last church on the Pilgrims’ Way before Canterbury’s West Gate, now offers a pilgrim stamp.

This is a landmark church holding the head of St Thomas More who emulated Thomas Becket.

It was here, outside the porch, that Henry II removed his shoes to walk barefoot to St Thomas Becket’s temporary shrine in Canterbury Cathedral’s crypt.

St Dunstan’s will hold its annual Thomas More Commemoration Service on Saturday 6 July at 7.30pm when a wreath will be laid on the burial stone.

The address will be given by Prof Jackie Eales.

The day is the anniversary of Thomas More’s death and the eve of the Translation of St Thomas.

Pilgrims will find the stamp on the table to the right on entering the church.

Godmersham Park open again

Godmersham House, as on the £10 note, seen from the Pilgrims’ Way

If you are walking the Pilgrims’ Way through Godmersham this Sunday afternoon 16 June you can stop for tea in Godmersham Park.

Teas are being served in the Orangery in aid of the church which has a small sculpture which may have come from Canterbury’s Thomas Becket shrine.

The garden is open 1pm to 5pm; admission £5 (in aid of nursing charities).

TV Pilgrimage: Walk to Rome with Alison’s book

If you have been watching Pilgrimage: the Road to Rome on BBC2 you may be interested in reading the guide.

The Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome is the continuation of the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester or Southwark.

Alison Raju’s The Via Francigena Canterbury to Rome – Part 2 has the route being followed on television by Les Dennis, Dana, Lesley Joseph and their companions.

Like the Pilgrims’ Way guide, Alison’s book is published by Cicerone. This month there is a 20% discount here.

Otford-Kemsing ‘new’ path

St Edith at the well window in Kemsing church

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:

Footpath crossing railway at 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. 

Ancient route between villages of Otford and Kemsing is quieter than the higher main road

Godmersham Park GARDEN open this Sunday

Godmersham House seen from the Pilgrims’ Way

If you are walking the Pilgrims’ Way on Sunday afternoon 7 April heading for Chilham you can stop for tea at Godmersham Park.

The PW runs through the parkland and this Sunday you can also look around the formal gardens next to the mansion known to Jane Austen.

Teas and refreshments in the Orangery are in aid of the church which has a small sculpture which may have come from Canterbury’s Thomas Becket shrine.

The Heritage Centre nearby will also be open free to garden visitors.

The garden is open 1pm to 5pm; admission £5 (in aid of nursing charities and Godmersham Church).

There will be a second opening on Sunday 16 June also as part of the National Garden Scheme .

Royal Oak under new team

The Royal Oak in Southwark’s Tabard Street

Royal Oak landlords Frank Taylor and John Porteous have left after years of playing a pivotal role in the community by supporting the arts, heritage and Pilgrims’ Way.

The Royal Oak in Southwark’s Tabard Street now starts the new year with a new team.

This is the first pub out of Southwark on the Pilgrims’ Way. Its address may be Tabard  Street but the road is really the start of the original Old Kent Road trod by travellers and pilgrims to Canterbury and the continent. 

The Royal Oak, as  a Harvey’s of Lewes house, is the successor to a pilgrim inn on Tooley Street owned by Lewes Priory.

You can get a pilgrim stamp at the Royal Oak’s bar.

Harvey’s is 2017 and 2018 UK Brewer of the Year.

The new team is headed by Ryan and assistant manager Adam.

Frank is front page news in the London Drinker
Frank (centre) receiving the Greater London Pub of the Year Award ion 2012

Our Lady of Walsingham in Southwark

The statue of Our Lady of Walsingham from the Slipper Chapel in Norfolk is at St George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Southwark until Saturday 23 February.

This is a rare event and the accompanying exhibition has much resonance for those interested in the Pilgrims’ Way.

Other centres of pilgrimage are highlighted including Aylesford on the PW.

Also, in a Walsingham painting by Alan Sorrell, can be seen St John Fisher and St Thomas More who we meet on the PW.

For this special occasion, St George’s Cathedral has on show its little ‘Holy House’, or chest, containing the relics of four saints including St Thomas Becket.

St George’s Cathedral is opposite the Imperial War Museum.

Our Lady of Walsingham in St George’s Cathedral on Thursday night
Holy House contains Thomas Becket relic

To Canterbury from Winchester and London / Leigh Hatts