I slept with the light on in my room at the Harrow Inn. I didn’t finish the dry, yet watery, scrambled eggs at breakfast. I didn’t go out of my way to say goodbye to the proprietor, who was glued to his computer screen in a corner of the bar. It was a relief to leave. I felt as though something in the place had given me a tickle in my throat. Mould, perhaps? The feeling of needing to clear my throat left me later in the morning.
The sunshine of the last week or so gave way to overcast skies today. Fortunately, the rain held off until the last 15 minutes of my walk, when a brief shower prompted me to put on my rain jacket and cover my rucksack. The quality of the paths made up for the weather, though. For most of the day, I walked on dedicated footpaths with good surfaces.
The distance from Warren Street to Canterbury is 23km as the crow flies, but the Pilgrims Way is an L shape here. It goes south east, almost to Ashford, and then turns north east toward Canterbury. I decided to aim for Chilham, about 10km short of Canterbury, rather than pushing myself to do a second long day in a row.
At one set of houses that I passed, I met a man who had recently installed a new, five litre, Chevrolet engine in an old, GMC suburban car; a vintage, seven-seater, lump of American steel that might (I think) have inspired the design of the PT Cruiser. I admired his ability to take on such a project, and I appreciated his willingness to chat and “pop the hood,” to show me the engine. Unfortunately, I know next to nothing about engines. It was impressively shiny with a big, round, air filter thing.
Since the footpath was so good, I decided to stay on it, rather than dropping down to visit the town of Charing, so I can’t tell you how it’s pronounced. At lunch time I made a diversion into Westwell. There, I got a stamp for my pilgrim’s credential in the “Cathedral-like,” village church, but I gave up on the pub. At first, I couldn’t understand how a pub with a full car park could be so quiet. On entering, I found that it was full of people in funeral suits. They assured me that they didn’t mind me coming in, but there were no free seats, no food (as far as I could see), and a long wait for service at the bar. I decided to walk to the next pub on the Pilgrim’s Way; the Flying Horse at Boughton Lees, where I had a good chilli.
After Boughton, I was excited to see another walker with an osprey rucksack (like mine but smaller) on the same path as me. I caught up with her as she was coming out of the graveyard at All Saints church in Boughton Aluph, and asked if she had been able to get into the church. Her curt response and swift departure made it clear that she wasn’t interested in meeting a fellow traveller. I let her get ahead of me and eventually lost sight of her.
I passed a sign that highlighted the first point on the path from which Canterbury Cathedral is visible. In the cloudy conditions, I couldn’t see it. The sign also explained that there has been an annual pilgrimage for the last 28 years from St. Martin in the Fields, in London, a church that focuses on helping homeless and vulnerable people. I was glad to see that this group has maintained or revived the traditional pilgrimage. I also noticed a sign near here that mentions that the route has been designated as a Grand Randonée (GR) by the EU. I assume that this refers to the continuation of the route as the via Francigena to Rome. I haven’t seen any of the traditional red and white GR route markings yet, but I have seen quite a few scallop shells, which surely have nothing to do with this route.
And here’s another trivial observation about signs and arrows. I’m not sure where to fit this in, really. For the last few days, I’ve seen yellow arrows, painted on the ground, in places – like the ones on the Camino in Spain. Until today, the arrows all pointed in the direction that I was walking in. But at some point around Westwell or Boughton, they started to point against the direction that I was going. I can’t see why there would be arrows pointing to Boughton. Perhaps these arrows are there for people from many places, who are going toward Dover?
Tomorrow, I might try to include a few words about Thomas a-Becket, Geoffrey Chaucer, Henry VIII, and the history of this route in my final update. Or I might share more thoughts about packets of ketchup. Watch this space.