After another very comfortable stay at the Bowl Inn at Charing Hill we set off back down the south slope of the downs to rejoin the Pilgrims Way / North Downs Way passing some interesting mined ground on the way – probably chalk for lime slaking. Bathed in spring sunshine we headed east crossing the busy A252 in the direction of Westwell Woods. With some regret, we decided not to detour to the church and Archbishop’s Palace at Charing, since we had an appointment to keep with a BBC Radio Kent reporter at Boughton Aluph at midday. East of Charing we passed a massive vineyard occupying hundreds of acres on the lower slopes of the escarpment. What grapes/wine we wondered?

Vineyard at Pett Place

A little further along we chatted to someone painting the exterior wall of a cottage. Who’d have thought of doing that in March? He didn’t rise to the suggestion he might do ours next!

In Westwell Woods we met an elderly couple walking with a cute little Patterdale Terrier. They told us it belongs to their neighbour but prefers to go out for a walk with them! He’d grown up on a farm close by and although they now live some distance away, they come here several times a week for exercise. Tom and he exchanged views on how much this part of Kent had changed in recent decades.

Past Dunn Street we came upon Eastwell Park, a massive estate stretching from Challock almost to Ashford with correspondingly huge areas under cultivation mostly with broad beans under the current rotation, according to an estate worker we met. We asked him if it was for fodder and the answer was no, for the food market.

Beans for Britain!

At the heart of the Eastwell Park Estate is the ruin of St Mary’s Church. Hit by a stray bomb in WW2, only the 15th Century tower and part of the south transept remain intact. It now overlooks a large lake dammed in the 19th century. An open tomb is reputed to be the tomb of Richard Plantagenet son of Richard III who it is said worked as a gardener at Eastwell Manor.

Ruin of St Mary’s Eastwell

Further up the hill we passed Eastwell Manor. Originally Tudor, it was largely rebuilt in the early 19th century. Jane Austen reputedly visited it in 1805. It was subsequently home to Queen Victoria’s son Alfred and is now an upmarket hotel.

Eastwell Manor

At Boughton Lees we found St Christophers Church locked, but were intrigued by the name of the vicar – the Rev Ravi Holy.

The path from there to Boughton Aluph passed through a glorious tunnel of cherry trees in full blossom – early spring in all its glory!

We met our BBC reporter, Jo on the approach to All Saints Church, Boughton Aluph. After finding a convenient seat in the sun in a corner of the churchyard, she recorded an interview with us about our pilgrimage and the difficulties we were experiencing with P&O Ferries over honouring our booked channel crossing. Meanwhile a call to one of the church wardens gave us access to the church where we were able to stamp our Pilgrim Passports and have a look around the church. Sadly, it is now only used in summer as it is too expensive to heat for the diminishing congregation. Interesting features include a fireplace in the south porch said to have been used by pilgrims gathering to safely traverse the Godmersham Forest.

All Saints Boughton Aluph

From Boughton Aluph a steep climb up to the top of the escarpment brought us into the Godmersham Forest: now an extensive Forestry Commission plantation. Occasional glimpses across the Stour valley to the Wye Downs reminded us of the great beauty of the Kent landscape which was so attractive to Tom’s father, who in his retirement walked every inch of these downs.

At 1552 hrs we caught our first glimpse of Canterbury Cathedral on the skyline. Fourteen days’ walk from Salisbury, that was a welcome sight indeed!

Yes, Canterbury Cathedral is there somewhere there on the skyline between the trees!

Soon after we found ourselves dropping off the escarpment and out of the forest to Mountain Street. Onward with Chilham Castle, its ornamental lake, barbed wire and “private, keep out” signs, we arrived in Chilham and the Woolpack Inn, our billet for the night.

High points of the day? The tunnel of honey scented cherry blossom near Boughton Aluph has to be one. Then there were the sights of a peacock butterfly and a camellia in full bloom. But, the first glimpse of Canterbury Cathedral after so long, has to take the biscuit!

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  1. Many thanks Christine. We have just worked out how to do replies! Today has been a much needed rest day in Arras. Excellent museum about the Wellington tunnels. Cathedral closed, as have been most of the churches, even those in the EU open churches scheme. Several long days ahead….Hope all is well with you. Our best wishes, Julie and Tom

  2. So pleased to hear you have been able to resume your pilgrimage. Looking forward to reading your daily blogs.