The sun struck rainbows through the millennial stained glass window. We woke and washed and drank tea and discussed the benefice with church wardens John, Brian and Stephanie. Will Parsons arrived, original British Pilgrim and our guiding angel for the day. Will took photos of us, and fed us with local granola, raw milk and hard-won, freely given knowledge from his powerful fountain of wisdom. He really believes in pilgrimage, as you can see if you contact him through The British Pilgrimage Trust. Flatteringly, he really believes in us too. With his fold-away saw I cut myself a hazel staff for the journey, to keep me in touch with the earth in spite of my rubberised shoe-soles.
At Bishopsbourne we met Liz and Andy, beaming in their sun-kissed allotment, now burgeoning with Spring life. Liz is a therapist who has just returned from working in Malta to ease the arrival of African refugees who find themselves there, often in the belief that they have arrived in Italy. Read more about her remarkable insights here.
More churches, pre-Raphaelite and medieval art, saints and holy wells, skinnydipping, singing, striding out over fields and through parks and forests and over burial mounds of Saxons and Jutes and every age of man and woman. More chance encounters: a genealogist fresh from Canterbury, our destination that night. A conservationist contemplating trees and fields under the doom of future housing. Elephants and a leopard. Spring lambs. A man and his daughter in an empty church, playing piano and enjoying the acoustics. Swinging from an ancient beech tree riven with initials of lost generations of youth.
We arrived in darkness, the lit cathedral looming orange between black trees. The Cathedral garden smelled of blossom. The empty cloisters echoed in the darkness. Tales of knights and poor Nel buried alive. A final circumambulation and then home to London, 60 miles an hour on the old pilgrim road feeling very strange indeed.
So much to reflect on. So many connections made. We look forward to picking up where we left off and walking a three cathedral route from Canterbury to Southwark via Rochester and Medway, City of Sanctuary.
To be continued…
Thanks to all those who are making this journey possible: Projects for All, The British Pilgrimage Trust, Kati, Monika, Roland, Ellie, Will, Brian, and all our supporters.
Thanks to Isabel, my fellow pilgrim, and to the Way.
Onward to Iona.