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The Secret Garden of England - A Weekend Pilgrimage to Canterbury
Fri, 14 Oct 2016, 19:30 – Sun, 16 Oct 2016, 20:00 BST
Friday 14th to Sunday 16th October 2016.
After the huge success of our first pilgrimage with The British Pilgrimage Trust, on the evening of Friday 14th October we will embark on a journey connecting sacred spaces from Saltwood Castle to Canterbury, 25 miles on foot through beautiful countryside with yoga and meditation along the way.
Guided by Will and Guy we will visit neolithic burial mounds, hilltops, great trees, ancient woodlands, river sources and holy wells, as well as human-made holy places of all shapes and sizes. The path includes Britain's oldest church and her most ambitiously beautiful cathedral, and will feature yoga, meditation, foraging workshops and delicious, organic locally sourced food. We will spend our first night beneath the mulberry tree at the historic Saltwood Castle, where the four knights who killed Thomas Becket in 1170 stayed overnight on their way to Canterbury Cathedral, and the second in the beautiful Medieval Barham Church.
Will and Guy are co-founders of the British Pilgrimage Trust and have been featured on BBC1, Channel 4, Radio 4, The Times, Independent and Spectator etc. They offer traditions to help your pilgrimage come to life including traditional songs, drinking wild water (filtered), and foraged teas. They will guide us on the way and provide delicious organic vegan meals, as well as luggage transfer (optional extra) for people with heavy bags or bad backs.
Yoga, pranayama and meditation will be offered at special places along the way by Christabel and Ruby - yoga teachers and co-founders of Advaya Initiative.
Tickets are from £70/£90/£120 - a donation model with varying price-points, though no actual difference. All money goes to the BPT, a non-profit Charitable Trust, to help its mission to renew British pilgrimage! Book early to ensure your place!
THE WAY TO CANTERBURY
Day #1 (Friday, 14th October 2016)
We meet on Friday evening at Sandling train station, a hamlet one mile from England's south coast.
From here we walk together, via the village church, for half an hour to 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 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 will spend a glorious night under the mulberry tree in front of the Castle tower with evening yoga, music and tales.
Day #2 (Saturday, 15th October 2016)
On Saturday we will awaken with a morning meditation and delicious organic vegan breakfast before journeying on foot 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.
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. After a delicious, heart opening yoga class we will head for supper in an old 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 first day of walking. It's a little over twelve miles, with 90% on public footpaths, and the rest on quiet lanes mostly in and 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 (Sunday, 16th October 2016)
On the final day, after a wonderful organic vegan breakfast and morning meditation, we set off early from Barham church to slowly climb 'Hearts Delight'. Afterwards we will walk under and along the Victorian railway line to Kingston Church, a tiny silent holy palce, and on 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.
And on to Patrixbourne, where an avenue of Yew trees reveals a carved portal of mythical beasts. We ford the Nailbourne - twice - to reach the lost Church of Bekesbourne.
At Bekesbourne we will have a fantasic locally sourced organic feast including locally grown salads, vegetables and grains, delicious home made breads and raw local cheeses.
After lunch 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.
Here our pilgrimage ends - by 6:30 on Sunday 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. £70 is our full concession rate, for people who cannot afford any more. Full price is whatever feels fullest to you. If you donate more for your ticket, you will only gain the knowledge that you helped the BPT to do its work. Please simply pay what you can afford.
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 at Saltwood Castle and a night at a Medieval Church (with indoor toilet and kitchen). It includes fantastic organic breakfasts on Saturday and Sunday morning, organic lunch on Saturday, and a delicious locally sourced organic feast for lunch on Sunday, but please bring some snacks and money for dinner on Saturday night. The price 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. Plus, Kent is home turf for the BPT, so you also have the benefit of deep local knowledge. You will gain exclusive pilgrim access to Canterbury Cathedral's holiest places.
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.
Exclusive overnight accommodation at Saltwood Castle
Organic breakfast on Saturday morning
Organic Packed Lunch at Lyminge Church on Saturday
Exclusive overnight accommodation in Barham Church
Organic breakfast Sunday morning
Local Organic Sunday lunch feast at Bekesbourne Church
Hazel Pilgrim Staff + Stafflight
Full guided walk with history, navigation and planing from two of Britain’s leading pilgrims
Exclusive access to Saltwood Castle and well
Exclusive access to Canterbury Cathedral
Yoga and Meditation
Foraging workshops and herbal tea
Holy well water filtration for drinking
Tent/tarp loans for night #1 at Saltwood Castle
Please bring money for supper in the pub on Saturday night - £10-£15
Luggage transfer if required - £20
It will also be quite a long walk - 12 miles on Saturday and 9 miles on Sunday - 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 25 miles in two 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 2 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 Sandling train station, between 7:15-7:30pm. We aim to leave by 7:35pm.
Sandling station is accessed via Ashford International. The train here from St Pancras leaves at 6:37pm (and takes 56 minutes). Taxis are another potential option. 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 back to Sandling from Canterbury leave hourly on Sunday evening (last train 22:42pm). Taxis back to Sandling are also possible.
When will the event start and end?
The pilgrimage begins at Sandling station at 7:30pm on Friday 14th October.
It ends in Canterbury at 7:30pm on Sunday 16th October.
How far is it? Is the terrain difficult?
We walk 2 miles on Saturday, and 9 miles on Sunday. 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, with safe locked storage at all times between. This service is available for an extra £20 charge (which is a clickable option at the bottom of the ticket registration form).
If you are coming as a pair, you may as well share one extra bag and save £20. Also, 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 contact Ruby 07557193119, or Christabel on 07545988979. Our email is: email@example.com
Or you can contact Will on 07415 223552, or Guy on 07841 518110. Their email is: firstname.lastname@example.org