As I was walking home, the Sun was finding it difficult to break through at a quarter to nine this morning, but there was autumn colour nonetheless. We are in the city centre, at the site of a corn mill that burned to the ground eighty years ago. Top picture is looking upstream; the cathedral is behind the houses on the left; the building on the right, obscured by trees, was once the Dominican Priory.
Looking downstream, the steps, right foreground, take you across the main river over the sluice gates that control the flow – still vital when there is too much or too little rain. The old bridge is called after St Radigund, a princess-abbess from the so-called dark ages when so many noblewomen found openings for themselves and others to be something other than wives, mothers and domestics. There is a pub with rooms called the Miller’s Arms just visible behind the trees to the right. They fed us well the last time we visited.
The road name Pilgrims Way appears in various places around Canterbury. This one, six or seven miles west at Chilham village carries the pilgrims’ scallop shell badge as another reminder of the ancient ways that led to Canterbury and beyond, to Rome or Compostella or even Jerusalem.
Clearly the only way from here is upwards!
The second picture, taken by the Pilgrims Way just beyond Chilham, shows the first view of Canterbury Cathedral in the distance. The discerning eye – meaning one that knows what to look for – will spot the Bell Harry tower almost dead centre behind the trees that follow the downward slope left to right.
The sight must have put a spring in the pilgrims’ steps, and no doubt they were further encouraged by a long drink in the inn whose wall appears in the first picture. As Chesterton once said, Let a man walk ten miles steadily on a hot summer’s day along a dusty English road, and he will soon discover why beer was invented.
We walked rather less than ten miles on this occasion, but we agree with GKC!
A flying visit to Saddleworth, where the moorland fires are now out, allowed NAIB and I to walk to Diggle along the Canal, We managed a very little foraging, just to be able to say we had done it: a few tiny bilberries, raspberries almost as small, and a handful of blackberries between the two of us.
We turned around at the Western or Diggle Entrance to the Standedge Tunnel. Narrow boats may pass through in one direction at a time behind a pilot boat. No more were moving yesterday so the gates were closed for safety.
Note the sculpture of the leggers. In the days of horse power bargees walking, or legging, along the sides or roof of the canal was the only means of propulsion for 3¼ miles. No wonder there was a pub at either end!
The blue plaque commemorates Thomas Telford, engineer of the Menai Bridge and many other surviving structures, whose intervention enabled the tunnel to be completed in 1811. The date on the later portico is misleading.
Sometimes Mrs T and I need to get out of the city and breathe fresh air, so we took a walk, or rather a wade – across muddy fields – on raised paths built by mediaeval monks – to a pub lunch. We were walking mostly beside reeds like these, behind and amidst which were swans and assorted ducks, blue, great, willow and bearded tits (chickadees), robins, wrens, finches; overhead crows, gulls, cormorants and – believe me – or not – a pair of parrots. They are established about 20 miles away, allegedly escaped from a film set in the 1950s – but rarely seen that close to Canterbury.
In the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, lies the village of Bodsham: barely a village really, but once again it is blessed with a pub. Mr and Mrs Berry have moved their Kaos Blacksmith’s business up here and are reopening the pub, the Timber Batts on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to begin with.
On their second day of trading we found a warm welcome, cold Kentish Gadd’s beer and cold Dudda’s Tun Kentish cider, both designed for the end of a warm walk through fields of barley growing for Gadd’s future brews. Crusty baguettes were well filled and presented; we enjoyed them looking across the valley. Kent’s beauty is all its own and on our doorstep.
Two years without a pub, and now this! The quirky interior looked most inviting, but perhaps next time. The sun was shining, we sat outside. I’m sure we’ll be back.
Those finds set my memory going. Years ago I used to care for a garden behind some offices; the building had been a private boys’ school until about 1920. From time to time I would find glass marbles or copper halfpennies, sometimes Victorian ones with both lighthouse and sailing ship behind Britannia on the reverse, but the find that stays in the memory was easily overlooked, more prosaic yet more poignant.
When clearing St Tydfil’s churchyard forty years ago I was struck by the number of clay pipe stems in one corner, till Trevor told me that the shop next door had been The Three Salmons pub. Pipes were sold cheaply to patrons, or given away with tobacco, so one that was drawing poorly would be snapped and tossed over the wall.
This one that turned up in the office garden must have had a story to tell, for it bore the legend ‘St Omer’. My predecessor, I guess, would have returned from the Front in 1918 and resumed his gardening work. When his pipe broke, he thought little of it, but took a short walk to The Three Tuns, where a beer would have been most welcome, and a new pipe waiting for him. Did he feel that throwing the French pipe away was another short step away from the trenches?