Saturday : Hike Norfolk Walk St. Augustine’s Way and a Night at Bills

20220716_082047

Our longer walk for the weekend was the 17 mile expedition along the St. Augustine’s Way, although we only did the Minster to Canterbury section. Dave, Steve, Richard and I enjoyed a little pre-walk walk, along the Great Stour river.

20220716_083416

My pre-walk meal of Avocado muffins at the West Gate Inn, one of two JD Wetherspoon outlets in Canterbury.

20220716_091812

After some arranging of people into little groups to buy Group Saver tickets for the railway journey to Minster, we cluttered up the platform. Gordon questioned what he was doing in terms of the walk, but we were confident that he could complete the expedition, he’s a very brave man. But, despite that, he thought that he’d better have a little sit down before the main event started.

20220716_093000

And off we go, 21 of us on the train. I should mention of course that the LDWA have a page about this walk, at https://ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Way+of+St+Augustine.

20220716_094626

Safely in Minster and I liked how the train guard came out to check that’s actually where we wanted to get off, as I think he had been expecting us to get off at Ramsgate. That is where the St. Augustine’s Way actually starts (or ends) but that distance would have been a bit much for the group to have got done in the time that we had. Note Steve’s awareness that a photo was being taken, whilst others were rather less prepared.

20220716_095022

Minster Abbey which came to an end following the Dissolution of the Monasteries and after being taken over by the Crown, it became a residential property. That might have been the end of the religious connection to the site, but in 1937 a group of Benedictine nuns took it over and it has remained a nunnery since then.

20220716_095333

The Grade I listed St. Mary’s Church in Minster where there has been a Christian building since 670. That’s certainly some hallowed ground there.

20220716_095443

The obvious Norman features aren’t later copies or inserted by the Victorians, the nave dates to the middle of the twelfth century.

20220716_095525

The chancel, which dates to the thirteenth century.

20220716_095614

The church’s muniment chest and as the sign notes, it’s from the medieval period, although the oak lid is older than the elm chest itself.

20220716_095623

The font and the cover behind it are both from the fifteenth century. If any member of the congregation from that time had somehow walked in over 500 years later, they’d find very little had changed, I’m sure that they would be most reassured.

20220716_100802

With that we were off on the main part of the walk, led by Steve as he had completed the entire route the previous year. He pointed out the little Camino stickers we needed to look out for.

20220716_103015

Richard got his bag stuck in a tree, but I helpfully assisted him out of his predicament. Richard blamed poor Liam for the situation who wasn’t even on the weekend, but I didn’t get involved.

20220716_104827

A slightly rickety bridge, but it was sufficient for our group to get across.

20220716_113107

It was too hot, so having a pub open just after 11.00 was particularly useful, this is the Dog and Duck in the beautifully named village of Plucks Gutter. Wikipedia give the etymology of the village’s name, although I have no idea whether this is true or not:

“The hamlet is named after a Dutch Drainage Engineer called Ploeg, whose grave is in All Saints Church, West Stourmouth. Ploeg, being the Dutch for a plough, the hamlet takes its origins from the Dutch Protestant tradition of draining marshland by creating a ploughed ditch”.

20220716_112734

A quick half, this was the Master Brew from Shepherd Neame which was well kept although unexceptional, but given the heat, it was sufficiently refreshing. I haven’t seen American Express hand sanitiser before, which seemed a little odd in terms of branding. Someone from American Express pondered what they could brand in a pub and they went for the hand sanitiser….

20220716_113053

Relaxing in the beer garden, I tried to get in the shade.

20220716_115322

The next stage of the adventure, after walking through the beer garden, involved walking along the river which was ideal with some tree cover and breeze from the water. Although it was still too hot, but I didn’t moan about that and just got on with it of course.

20220716_124229

Some more information about St. Augustine’s Way, or the trail as this sign refers to it. Woodland areas were a real boon during the walk, the open sweeping Kent plains were rather less delightful when there was no shade. Susan had decided to take an umbrella around with her, which was one of the most sensible decisions of the day as far as I was concerned, she was entirely in the shade all day and I was quite jealous. I suggested to Richard that he carry around one of the pub’s parasols to keep us shady, but he refused for reasons unknown.

20220716_134402

The Red Lion in Stodmarsh, a pub which offered a very friendly welcome and which as a food based pub I had expected to be full on a Saturday afternoon. The reverse seemed to be the case and they could have served food to our entire group if we would have had time, but some decadent crisps did instead. They’re from the Taste of Game range and the options at the pub were:

Grouse and Whinberry

Smoked Pheasant and Wild Mushroom

Wild Duck and Plum Sauce

Wild Boar and Apple

The aim of the crisps is to encourage people to try game, which hasn’t worked for me as I’m not exotic enough to start ordering grouse and the like, it’s not something that Greggs specialises in. Anyway, I seem to have now got myself distracted writing about crisps. The pub has quite an exotic and adventurous menu, something a little different and they deserve to do well.

20220716_142631

St. Mary’s Church in Stodmarsh, not a church that we went in, but it dates from the twelfth century with a major restoration having taken place at the end of the nineteenth century.

20220716_145509

St Andrews Church in Wickhambreaux, a Saxon name for the village, from ‘wic’ which is a fortified town and ‘ham’ meaning homestead, which was its Domesday name, Wicheham. The ‘breaux’ bit is later, named after a local family and to avoid confusion with two other locations with similar names.

20220716_145730

The interior of the Grade I listed church and it’s notable because of the glass, with the listed building record noting:

“The east window has Art stained glass of the Annunciation dated 1896 and signed Arild Rosenrrantz. The New York Times of 1896 reported that this was the first commission in Europe to be given to American glassmakers.”

20220716_150333

The nave with its coloured roof, with much of this interior being from the late Victorian period.

20220716_175149

Back in Canterbury and this, St Martin’s, is the oldest parish church in the English speaking world, having first been used for prayer in 597. It was relevant to our walk as it was the site where St. Augustine had his mission headquarters and King Æthelberht was baptised here.

20220716_175219

The church’s tower and there’s bits of Roman brick that were used in the construction.

20220716_175341

Inevitably there have been many structural changes over the centuries, although some of the early core of the building from the pre-conquest days does still remain. The tower is much later and it’s evident how bits have been added on to the building, fortunately without the Victorians trying to unify the whole arrangement by standardising windows and the like. Along with Canterbury Cathedral and St. Augustine’s Abbey, this church is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

20220716_175425

The Hike Norfolk group having a little rest at the entrance to the church. Everyone had done very well, especially given the heat that we had all endured. Gordon had been very brave, and although Richard was limping around a bit, he had also done marvellously. Indeed, he has been inspired to take part in an LDWA challenge event, so very exciting! Jonathan and Richard had got separated from the group towards the end of the walk, but with a little bit of me shouting and Jonathan using his exploration skills, we met up again soon enough.

20220716_180637

All that’s left of the St George the Martyr church in the city, notable for being where the playwright Christopher Marlowe was baptised. Unfortunately, it was hit by a bomb on 1 June 1942 which destroyed most of the building and also the nearby house where Marlowe was born. The remains of the structure remained standing until 1955, but rather than keep them, it was decided to pull them down and only save the tower.

20220716_180830

And the end of the walk and our little pilgrimage, we had reached the locked doors of the gateway into Canterbury Cathedral. Richard tried to get a taxi back to the B&B, but couldn’t find one, so he came back with a small group of us, where we enjoyed a couple of hours peace and quiet following our brave adventure. If you complete the pilgrimage route you can visit the cathedral for free, but since we had only done part of the route and the cathedral was shut, it was fairly evident we wouldn’t be getting in for free.

20220716_225142

The evening meal was at Bills in Canterbury and I’m glad that they could cater for a group of 21 people with what seemed complete ease. We had to wait ten minutes after our booking time whilst they cleared down the previous table, but all else was efficient.

20220716_210000

The beer choice wasn’t exceptional, but there were a least a few options so I can’t overly complain and it was certainly reasonable for a chain restaurant. The restaurant didn’t seem surprised and delighted with my announcement that I didn’t want put drinks putting on the tab, which is a common policy with Hike Norfolk to ensure that nothing is left over at the end as someone has forgotten it. The restaurant wanted what would likely be 50 drinks placed on a bill which we would later identify who had ordered what, but they in the end let us order from the bar as we went along. That little issue aside, the service was friendly and engaging for the rest of the evening and the staff were always personable.

20220716_211923

The starter of spiced crab cakes and that green chilli dip was rather delicious. I was impressed that they got all 21 dishes out on time and at the appropriate temperature with no issues. We had pre-ordered, although I had managed to forget someone’s main course, although the restaurant coped admirably with adding that. I like to think they get even more demanding customers than me…..

20220716_213809

The main course of half a roasted chicken, which was slightly unusually served with fried potatoes, instead of the usual chips, which seemed a rather good idea. The garlic aioli added some extra taste to the whole arrangement, which was more filling than the photos suggested.

20220716_222324

I probably didn’t need a dessert, but as I had pre-ordered one, I forced myself to eat it. I’m unsure why they’re using the same plates as Wetherspoons, but that’s a different matter. This is the Eton Colada with fresh pineapple, coconut, cream, meringue and ice cream and a cherry on top, served in a 1970s type pineapple thing.

It had been a long day and it was nearing 23.00 by the time we left the restaurant, so we meandered back off to our various accommodation options. It was still slightly too warm in Canterbury and it was clear that I had managed to get a sunburnt neck, but fortunately we were distracted by all of Richard’s ailments to think of our own.

20220717_085619

Some of the classy design arrangements at the B&B.

20220717_085630

And it looks like I’ve done the handiwork in the bathroom, although Richard, Steve and Dave commented that they had similar grouting which looked like it had been laid out with a trowel.

Thanks to Steve for organising the walk and thanks to me for organising the trip, I thought it was a very enjoyable day and there were no fights, so that’s a win.