Day 1 – Canterbury to Barham 14.85kms

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Setting off this morning, Thursday 7th April from our accommodation in Canterbury, feeling excited about the journey ahead but also a little apprehensive. There are so many unknowns on such a long walk. But the sun was trying to shine despite the bitterly cold wind that seemed to cut through us every which way we turned.

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Kipps was a modest sort of accommodation attracting lots of backpackers from around the world, but mostly groups of young people from France. We all met up in the hostel for a lavish continental breakfast this morning. There’s none of the full English breakfast offered here. Suspect we’ll not be offered that option for the duration of our walk as the French are not known for offering much more than bread and jam and coffee.

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Canterbury Cathedral was our starting point this morning. It’s a magnificent historic building and it’s the spiritual home of Anglicans worldwide. People have worshipped at this site for over 1400 years.

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The remains of the Abbey can be seen close by the Cathedral. The Abbey was developed around 600AD by St. Augustine who was charged with establishing Christianity in England.

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There are many different signs we need to watch for and follow. The symbol of the Pilgrim appeared soon after St. Augustine’s Abbey. We also located signs of the North Down’s Way.

Unfortunately our blessings given the night before by Cannon Claire failed to stop us getting lost. After walking up a steep hill we noticed the absence of any signage so pulled out the smart phone and checked out our location
Sure enough we’d missed a turn and it was at the bottom of the hill so down we went retracing our steps to where we had failed to follow ‘the path’.  We had no more serious mis-turns today till we got to our destination at Barham.

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As can be seen there are many different signs and way-markers. These all go to Rome, but some go even further onto Jerusalem – perhaps another Camino???

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These colourful cascading flowers are growing in the smallest amount of soil lodged in the crevices of the flintstone wall outside of the Norman Church at Patrixbourne.

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After the Cathedral this was the first church along the way in the village of Patrixbourne. Here the church was open- many Pilgrims walking the Via Francigena have visited the church before us. There is even a Via Francigena stamp left
on the table inside to stamp your Pilgrims Credential (passport).

This village, and many others, has no services or shops. If you don’t drive a car then life in Patrixbourne can be quite isolating.

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There was a simplicity about this old Norman Church with it’s beautiful stained glass windows and in keeping with Norman times, the church itself was very cold.

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This fresco was done for the Conyngham’s, a well to do family of the region. We had always thought this name was Irish but clearly it comes from old England.

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Back on the path again and there’s a pile of rocks as seen often on the other caminos we’ve walked in the past.

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A very kind soul has placed a small bench and a chair – for very small people to rest on along the way. So far there have been very few seats along the path and no shops to buy drinks or food at.

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Glimpses of our target destination, Barham can now be seen but the sky was darkening and rain was imminent. Unfortunately we were not fortunate to get to the Duke of Cumberland pub dry!! Raincoats were christened just 200 metres from our lunchtime stop. Inside the pub we found about 25 Ramblers who’d walked that morning to Barham. It was rather a noisy but happy lot of customers we mingled with who were keen to know where we were walking, where we came from and why we were doing the Via Francigena. Sometimes today we wondered that too.

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The sign on the facilities is pretty clear and confirms what women have always known!!!

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