Pilgrimage of the Chough
Join a two-day journey of transformation through Kent with the British Pilgrimage Trust, exploring Becket and his emblem, the Chough, on two iconic routes.
- 23 Sep 2022
23rd September 2022
The British Pilgrimage Trust‘s Dawn Champion guides a special pilgrimage from Dover Castle to Canterbury Cathedral along the Old Way and the Via Francigena, with a one-night stay sleeping in a church.
Legend tells of a crow which witnessed Thomas Becket’s martyrdom, and was transformed into a Chough, with a blood-red bill and legs, as Becket was transformed from Archbishop to Saint. These charismatic birds disappeared from Kent centuries ago, remembered only by the heraldry of Canterbury and old stories. Today, the Wildwood Trust are reintroducing the birds to the White Cliffs of Dover as part of a project to transform the land for nature. As well as the familiar churches and heritage landmarks, this route includes rare wild birds, veteran trees, chalk streams, bronze age burials mounds, legendary ancient battle sites and pilgrim graffiti.
Day One – 13 miles
We begin in the chapel dedicated to Thomas Becket in the Great Tower at Dover Castle. Built under the orders of Henry II himself, this intimate chapel offers stark contrast to the impressive scale of Canterbury Cathedral, our final destination. We’ll discover more about Choughs from the Wildwood Trust and see the birds themselves before setting out on the Roman roads of the Via Francigena, where we consider nature as a mechanism for recovery, both for the landscape, and also ourselves.
Onwards through open fields and stopping at parish churches, we’ll join the Old Way to follow a chalk stream whose waters spring from a holy well, before taking our evening meal in Barham’ local pub and our night’s rest at St John the Baptist church in Sanctuary.
Day Two – 9.5 miles
We continue on the Old Way, walking in the wild spaces between the roads, seeing what wildlife we can find along the way, discovering ancient sites and traces of the pilgrims who have journeyed centuries before us. We will visit the oldest church in continuous use in the English speaking world before heading on to Canterbury Cathedral, where we will lay a Chough feather at the martyrdom before ascending the steps worn by thousands of pilgrims to conclude our pilgrimage at the site of Becket’s shrine.
Open to All (Bring your own Beliefs)
This Pilgrimage will include:
- Evening meal, breakfast and packed lunch for Day Two
- 1 night in Sanctuary (church sleeping)
- Pilgrim admission to Canterbury Cathedral
- Donations to churches and other charities supporting the pilgrimage
- Fully guided pilgrimage on parts of the Via Francigena and Old Way
- Stories, songs and folklore
- Opportunities for silence
- Barefoot walking
- Wild water drinking and plant foraging
- Baggage transfer £5
- Sleeping bag (including silk liner)and self inflating roll mat hire £20
- Taxi share from train station to start point (book now and pay on the day)
What to bring
Appropriate footwear, sun protection, waterproofs or umbrella; Waterbottle and packed lunch for Day 1 and a backpack to carry it in. Anything required for wild loo stops. Sleep wear, sleeping bag and roll mat (also available for hire). Change of clothes, washbag and travel towel. A staff or walking stick are not essential but are a recognised symbol of the pilgrim.
Who can come? Anyone over 18 (or under 18 with parental guidance, bearing in mind the walking distance).
Is this religious? All and no-faiths are equally welcome. We operate a “Bring Your Own Beliefs” policy. We ask that all participating pilgrims welcome one another, whatever their beliefs.
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. There are always plenty of escape points en route. But we will walk slowly, and start early, and the terrain is manageable for the majority of people. There are some steep hills at the start, with stiles and steps in some places. Unfortunately this pilgrimage is not suited for mobility-impaired people or those requiring wheelchair access.
Can I bring my dog? Sadly not . However, if you have a registered assistance dog, they are welcome.