On 1 March we set off North from Dover beach on foot, the first day of our pilgrimage.
Dover was windy and cold. Isabel had met Caroline at Samphire the day before, a charity which supports migrants nationwide who have faced detention. Caroline works with communities to build awareness respect and support for migrant groups. They spoke of the “hostile environment” for refugees, cultivated deliberately somewhere in government? Bubbling up fearfully in the media echo chambers?
The man who sold us fish and chips was 38, disillusioned about the decline of Dover, muttering about “immigrants” but saving his rancor for “the council”, whom he blamed for his woes. We mentioned last year’s riots when far-right and far-left clashed on the streets. “That was a bit of fun,” he quipped. The rioters, he asserted, were out-of-towners.
A homeless man in the underpass by Dover beach begged for money for lunch. He was from Rome. He wanted to go back. The cold wind cut through the underpass and gulls cried. We sympathised and I gave him a two pound coin and smiled, “Arrivederci”. He smiled too and replied, “Arrivederci Roma”.
Leaving Dover via St Mary’s Church and the “Maison Dieu”, an ancient Pilgrim’s Hospital, we passed the Pilgrim’s Hospice Charity shop sandwiched between vape suppliers and struck the sunny banks of the crystal clear River Dour, busy with trout and plastic rubbish.
It was a day of churches, muddy ploughed fields, friendly dogs, bread and butter, showers and sunshine. Stained glass and playgrounds, a ducking pond, ornate Norman carving, cows and calves, Britain’s largest virgin oak, “Majesty” (see above), yew trees, tawny owls, The Wrong Turn micro pub, hunger, daffodils, St David’s Day, Ash Wednesday, belated pancakes, a late arrival, a hearty dinner in The Duke of Cumberland, a warm welcome by Church-Warden Brian and his dog Molly, a deep and wonderful sleep in St John the Baptist’s Church, empty but for us and the bats and the bodies beneath.