Day 11 began where we left off, in the village of Otford, north of Sevenoaks. We paid a visit to the Church of St Bartholomew, which we found not only the church open, but also the church office and a magnificent timbered church hall, where we chatted to one of the congregation, and stamped our pilgrim passports.
Thomas a Becket was associated with Otford, where the manor at that time belonged to the archbishop. As chancellor, he lived here in 1162.
Aged around 13, Tom remembers visiting Otford, when he and a friend camped in a family friend’s garden. He recalls spending hours staring into the village pond at the huge carp which swam there, wondering how he could sneak in and catch one! The carp are still there and so is a large No Fishing notice!
From Otford our route skirted the foot of the chalk escarpment, passing north of Kemsing. Eventually the tarred road gave way to a rather more pleasant track and into White Hill Wood.
At Wrotham (pronounced rootem for those not of Kentish extraction!) we found a signpost bearing the European E2 badge, marking a European long distance path from Galway to Nice, which shares the route of the North Downs Way through this part of Kent. We shall see this badge again when we cross paths at Lausanne in Switzerland!
One of the badges appeared to be broken. Was this an act of defiance against the EU? Parts of Kent were strongly pro-Brexit.
We lunched on a conveniently located bench overlooking Wrotham village green. As we ate the sun began to show through at last. From here we crossed the M20 motorway, heading more northeast now as our route turned into the Medway Gap, where the river cuts through the North Downs chalk ridge. More keep-off-my-land notices: oh dear, they are so offensive, and so utterly pointless. We passed just north of Trottiscliffe (pronounced Trozzlee). What fun it is teasing people who don’t come from Kent, about the pronunciation of Kentish place names!
As our route turned northward the landscape becomes dominated by abandoned chalk quarries and remnants of the once extensive cement industry here.
At Halling (pronounced hauling – Tom got this one wrong!), our destination for the day, we paid a visit to the Norman Church of St Bartholomew, but sadly it was closed. We chatted to a passer by who was drawn to our Salisbury to Rome banners. A member of the congregation, she is a keen walker and told us about the other churches worth visiting on our route. We were able to see the remains of the Bishop’s Palace can be seen in the churchyard: built in 1086 by Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester.