A three-day pilgrimage to Canterbury, 35 miles on foot from Ham Street to England’s great established sacred centre, Anglia Mater – Canterbury Cathedral.
As well as human-made holy places of all shapes and sizes, including marshland remote churches, our pilgrimage vists neolithic burial mounds, hilltops, great trees, ancient woodlands, river sources and holy wells. The path includes Britain’s oldest church, her most ambitiously beautiful cathedral, and a night’s sleep in a Castle and a Medieval Church.
This pilgrimage is open to all. Bring your own beliefs. All are welcome.
Guided by Will and Guy – singing pilgrims with many miles experience, and co-founders of the British Pilgrimage Trust. They offer traditions to help your pilgrimage come to life. Including traditional songs, drinking wild water (filtered), and foraged teas.
Will and Guy offer full navigation, unique accommodation and great breakfasts, as well as luggage transfer for people with heavy bags or bad backs.
A journey guaranteed to make you re-encounter Britain in new (and very old) ways. As featured on BBC1, Channel 4, Radio 4, The Times, Guardian, Independent and Spectator etc.
Visit www.britishpilgrimage.org to learn more about the movement of British pilgrimage.
Tickets: (including two nights accommodation and two breakfasts + full guidance & luggage transfer)
£230 (£140 Concession). All proceeds go towards British Pilgrimage Trust, to pursue our charitable goals (and if you pay tax, you can add gift aid on top). Accommodation and breakfasts and lunch on Sunday and Monday are included, but not dinner. If you would like to not carry your backpack, luggage transfer is available (one bag per person).
THE WAY TO CANTERBURY
Day #1 (Saturday, April 29th 2017)
We meet on Saturday morning at Ham Street train station.
From here we walk together, via the Royal Military Canal, along the edge of the ‘Fifth Continent’, Romney Marsh. We dip in to ancient marshland churches, to arrive in the evening at Saltwood Castle, where the four knights who killed Thomas Beckett in 1170 stayed overnight on their way to Canterbury cathedral. We have special permission to sleep in the castle grounds under some marquees, and to sing by a campfire under the Queen Mother Mulberry Tree.
Day #2 (Sunday, April 30th 2017)
First, after a wonderful breakfast and pack away, we draw the water from the ancient well at the heart of the castle, to carry as our connecting gift all the way to Canterbury.
We journey on foot (no swords or horses) from the “first and last hill” of South East England, up onto the North Downs, bumpy with the burial mounds of Bronze Age heroes.
Through the ancient domain of Beachborough Manor, along Saxon hollow pathways in the chalk, we walk to the flowing source of the river Nailbourne, and the site of England’s only basilica (long gone) in Lyminge.
Along the river Nailbourne, we follow the Elham Valley to Elham, with her vast Church and picture-perfect pubs. We sample local milk and honey in Elham.
Then we follow the singing avenue of Black Poplar trees away from Elham, along the track of the long-dismantled Elham Valley Line railway, one of the world’s first passenger train lines.
Via ancient hilltop holy springs, we walk through secret valleys and ancient woodlands, green places littered only with rare wildflowers. Then we head for supper in a village pub, before we have the amazing privilege of sleeping in a Medieval Church at Barham.
‘Dream incubation’ in churches was a big part of the Medieval British pilgrimage tradition, with special significance being placed on such unconscious experiences encountered in such places.
That’s the second day. It’s a little over twelve miles, with 90% on public footpaths, and the rest on quiet lanes mostly in & around villages. So as long as your shoes fit and knees work, you’ll feel it, but you shouldn’t hurt. If you hit a wall, it’ll be a low one. We go slowly and stop a lot. There’s little sense in rushing. And after an early ascent, the path mostly flattens out. This is East Kent. Even the big hills are gentle.
Day #3 (Monday, May 1st 2017
On the third day, after another wonderful breakfast, we set off early from Barham church to slowly climb ‘Hearts Delight’, then under and along the Victorian railway line to Kingston Church, a tiny silent holy palce. Then through the estate land of Charlton Park, an ancient family estate full of ancient trees.
In the village of Bishopsbourne, another tiny but perfectly preserved living village, we find a vast church full of blazing colour.
Then into another parkland, the ‘wilderness’ of Bourne Park, and its hilltop Bronze Age burial complex with mysterious hedgerow stones. Then to Bridge Church, a Medieval church with a modern take on a holy well.
We cross over the A2, the busy ‘original’ pilgrimage route from Europe to London (via Dover and Canterbury).
At Patrixbourne, an avenue of Yew trees reveals a carved portal of mythical beasts. We ford the Nailbourne – twice – to reach the lost Church of Bekesbourne.
We pass by the house where Thomas Cranmer wrote the Book of Common Prayer (and where Ian Fleming wrote Octopussy, arguably the most ‘pilgrim’ of the Bond films).
Then we reach Britain’s oldest Church. St Martins, where Augustine stayed when he first arrived in Britain. And also here, Canterbury’s last holy spring, still flowing freely into the city, and almost entirely un-noticed.
Then our destination arrives. Canterbury Cathedral is one of Europe’s most incredible pilgrimage destinations, a justifiably famous place of beauty and wonder. We will follow the path of the 4 knights, to the martyrdom and the deep centre of the crypt, and then listen to the glorious musical service of Choral Evensong at 5.30pm.
Here our pilgrimage ends – by 6:30 on Monday evening. Some may gather at a local Belgian beer house – others may go their way more quickly…
What you get for your ticket…
The ticket price is based on a tiered-donation model. £140 is our full concession rate, for people who cannot afford any more, and the full price ticket for the three days is £230.
All donations go straight into the British Pilgrimage Trust (HMRC Reg: EW38990), a charitable trust which seeks to open up Britain’s pilgrimage tradition in newly inclusive and exciting ways.
The money helps us buy kit for pilgrims who cannot afford their own, and helps develop our web-resources to make British pilgrimage more accessible, as well as networking diverse pilgrimage routes and groups. The BPT is also working to restore Britain’s pilgrimage infrastructure, to help long-forgotten routes be walked once more, and to encourage the rebirth of a church-based low-cost accommodation network to help pilgrims rest in peace.
Your ticket includes a night’s accommodation in a Castle and Medieval Church (with indoor toilet and kitchen) and a really good breakfast. It also includes full guidance, navigation, support and arrangements. Having someone to take care of all the details – and there are a lot – can help you relax into your pilgrimage, which is epecially important if it’s something you’ve not thought about or done much before. On our thousands of miles of British pilgrimage, we’ve made many mistakes, which hopefully means you don’t have to. Plus, Kent is home turf for the BPT, so you also have the benefit of deep local knowledge. And you will gain exclusive pilgrim access to Canterbury Cathedral’s holiest places. And each participant will be give a pilgrim staff – to support and connect their journey, and take home at the end (or give to the river if you so feel!).
It will be fun. It will be an adventure. It will be a lot of time spent outdoors, moving steadily toward a wonderful place, via lots of other amazing places.
It will also be quite a long walk – 12 miles each day – but slowly with lots of stops. Your fellow pilgrim companions are usually a mixed bunch. Those who come usually share a certain questing glint in their eye, albeit with varied ages, background and beliefs. Pilgrims tend to have very little, and almost everything, in common. You’ll see what we mean when you come. You’ll make friends, learn songs, meet plants and animals. You’ll feel good about yourself and other people, and you’ll feel closer to the land and story of Britain. You’ll change your relationship with holy places, and feel more freedom to meet them in your own way.
Of course, you’ll also be challenged, in significant ways. Your legs might get tired. Someone might say something that’s difficult for you – or vice versa. It could rain and be windy. It could be too hot. And you’ll basically sleep on a stone floor in an ancient church – though if you’re worried it’s going to be creepy, be prepared to find the precise opposite. And it may open up vistas of possibility that you had not encountered for a while. Your well-set notions might become slightly shaken, in the best possible way.
This is pilgrimage, in a British tradition, modern but also very old indeed. We hope you’ll find something wonderful to take home…
If you are interested, book a ticket and come along. If you’re unsure, book two tickets and bring a friend.
See you on the path. We look forward.
“What Guy and Will are doing through The British Pilgrimage Trust is truly epic and incredibly inspiring. Everything was organised and made so easy…What I thought was so amazing was how they guided us and clearly have a philosophy behind their passion yet there was no expectation for the walk to be anything to anyone or for a site to have any particular meaning…Everything about our trip was perfect and I feel unbelieveably nourished, refocused and uplifted. I also feel so connected to this amazing and under-appreciated land in which live, and its history and spirituality which we never hear about.”
Christabel Reed, Founder of the Advaya Initiative, and BPT pilgrim
“We started off the walk not knowing anything about each other, yet at the end of the trip, it felt like I’ve known these people for so long. It’s amazing how you open up to people under such calm and natural circumstances… I will definitely do another pilgrimage in the near future:)”
Cathrine, BPT pilgrim
Who can come?
Anyone over 18 (or over 16 with parental guidance).
Is this religious?
All and no-faiths are equally welcome. We operate a “Bring Your Own Beliefs” policy. We ask that all participating pilgrims tolerate one another’s spiritual choices.
Why are tickets different prices?
So people can pay what they can afford.
Are there fitness limitations?
Pilgrimage is moderately intense. If you struggle to walk all day, this type of pilgrimage may be an unsuitable activity for you right now. If you are unsure whether you can walk 35 miles in three days, there are plenty of escape points en route where you can jump on a bus. But we will walk slowly, and start early, so we believe this is a very manageable distance for the majority of people.
Due to the stiles and off-road access along much of this route, unfortunately this pilgrimage is not suited for mobilty-impaired people or those requiring wheelchair access. Sorry. We’re working on good alternatives…
What should I bring?
You will need to bring your own sleeping kit – an inflatable roll-mat and sleeping bag. You will also need adequate warm and waterproof clothing, in case of inclement weather – but we suggest you pack for the weather report a little ahead of time. You will need spare clothing sufficient for 3 days’ walking. And you’ll need shoes that fit. And some money to buy your lunches and supper – though breakfast will be provided. More detail on what to bring will be sent to you in your order confirmation email.
What are my transport/parking options getting to the event?
We ask all participants to meet at Ham Street train station, between 9:30-9:45am on Saturday 29th April. We aim to leave at 10am.
Ham Street station is accessed via Ashford International. Parking is also possible in the train station car-park, and can be topped up by mobile phone on Sunday morning. Parking all weekend should cost no more than £3.50.
Trains and taxis back to Ham Street from Canterbury are possible.
When will the event start and end?
The pilgrimage begins at Sandling station at 10:00am on Saturday 29th April.
It ends in Canterbury at 6:30pm on Monday 1st May.
How far is it? Is the terrain difficult?
Each day is a little over 12 miles walking. This is not especially far, but nor is it entirely easy. You’ll feel it, but not too badly. Most of the walking is lowland and flat, along mud and grass tracks. There are a few mild ascents and descents, but nothing really beyond very moderate. For the distances, we require all attendees to have minimum walking fitness and confidence that such distances are unlikely to prove excessive.
Is luggage transfer available?
There is luggage transfer, which will pick up your main bag on Saturday morning, drop it off at the church in the evening, pick it up on Sunday morning, and drop it again on Sunday evening, and on Monday too, with safe locked storage at all times between.
If you think you have light enough sleeping kit and simple enough needs, we really recommend you carry your own backpack, for a fuller sense of self-sustainablity.
Where can I contact the organiser with any questions?
You can email the organisers on: info (at) britishpilgrimage.org