Arrival in Canterbury & the End of the Via Francigena

Day 87 - Dover to Shepherdswell

We could have probably walked the remaining miles to Canterbury in one day, but we were trying to maximize our anticipation of finishing the walk. Though we’d been on the path for nearly four months, it seemed incredible that were nearing the end.

Grace, our host at Priory #7 Guest House, fed us a great breakfast then saw us off at the front door.

Grace, our host at Priory #7 Guest House, fed us a great breakfast then saw us off at the front door.


We found our way to the path and began our first walk in England. The VF followed the North Downs Way path, one of England’s national trails. It was well maintained and well-marked. We still managed, however, to stray from the trail now and then totally due to inattention.

The first of many trail markers for the VF in England

The first of many trail markers for the VF in England

We walked through cow pastures, complete with cows and bull, through cornfields and hayfields, along forest paths, along country roads. Brambles lined the trail in several sections and we managed to nibble on huge, ripe blackberries as a treat, our fingers displaying the telltale purple stains of berry snatchers.

The path also passed through the churchyard of the 12th century All Saints Church in Waldenshare. We stopped for a rest and explored the old church graveyard before entering the church for a quick look.

The day was beautiful for walking and we enjoyed the varied terrain of the path. All too soon it seemed, we arrived in the quaint village of Shepherdswell with its single pub, the Bell Inn and one village shop. Our lodging for the night was in a re-purposed 1870 Wesleyan Chapel, beautifully remodeled and very comfortable.

Bell Inn Pub … As a sign proclaimed ‘Our village pub is the hub!"‘

Bell Inn Pub … As a sign proclaimed ‘Our village pub is the hub!"‘

St. Andrew’s Church in Shepherdswell

St. Andrew’s Church in Shepherdswell

We stopped at St. Andrew’s Church for a pilgrim stamp and then, because there were no restaurants in the village, we walked to the village shop. We gathered supplies for a picnic dinner and a bottle of wine and enjoyed a fine evening in anticipation of the day to come.

Day 87 - Dover to Shepherdswell

11.13 miles walked / 26,055 steps

Leg distance: 12 miles / 1 walking day to Canterbury


Day 88 – Shepherdswell – Canterbury Cathedral

Our host, Joe, fed us a great breakfast then made us fruit smoothies for extra energy to tackle our last day on the Via Francigena. Here we are pictured in front of an 1870 converted Wesleyan Chapel, our digs for our last night on the path. Photo credit: Joe Flavin

Our host, Joe, fed us a great breakfast then made us fruit smoothies for extra energy to tackle our last day on the Via Francigena. Here we are pictured in front of an 1870 converted Wesleyan Chapel, our digs for our last night on the path. Photo credit: Joe Flavin

We returned to the path and, much like yesterday, we navigated through pastures, kissing gates, cornfields, hayfields and forest paths. It was cool and comfortable walking and the English countryside is beautiful.

We passed through a horse pasture where two draft horses were grazing. I had picked up a sugar cube at a restaurant recently and dug it out of my pocket for this most appreciative fellow, who then followed me around until we left the pasture.

Sorry, big fella, no more sugar; it’s not good for your teeth.

Sorry, big fella, no more sugar; it’s not good for your teeth.

A covey of pheasants scurried along the path in front of us, clearly startled by our presence, but seemingly unable to get off the path and out of our way … or each others, for that matter.

A covey of pheasants scurried along the path in front of us, clearly startled by our presence, but seemingly unable to get off the path and out of our way … or each others, for that matter.

There were several centuries old churches along our path today and we stopped to visit. St. Mary’s Church at Patrixbourne dates back to the 11-12th century and is considered Norman architecture. Of particular note is the ‘wheel window’ which we admired from inside and out. Inside was the best, with the morning light shining through the stained glass.

As we neared Canterbury and turned onto Pilgrims Road, the spires of Canterbury Cathedral peeked through the trees. What a sight! It took our breaths away.

As we neared Canterbury and turned onto Pilgrims Road, the spires of Canterbury Cathedral peeked through the trees. What a sight! It took our breaths away.

It was still a couple of miles to our destination with several other landmarks en route including St Martin’s, the oldest church in continuous use in the Engish-speaking world. The oldest part of the church was built during the Roman occupation of Britain and there’s debate as to its actual use back then … a church, a mausoleum? Bertha, a Christian princess from France, arrived here in 580AD and her husband, Ethelbert of Kent, an Anglo-Saxon, refurbished the church for her. When St. Augustine, the famous Benedictine monk, arrived in 597AD, he preached here regularly. A docent there stamped our passports for us.

And finally, we walked through the streets of Canterbury to the Christ Church gate, the portal that led to the Cathedral.

We made it!

We made it!

Our hotel for the night was the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge on the Cathedral grounds. Rather than waiting to enter through the long lines, we took a shortcut to the Lodge, checked in and immediately went to the Cathedral where a church official stamped our passports and an Anglican priest gave us a blessing.

We noted the final (or the first) marker of the Via Francigena just outside the Cathedral. We were done.

We noted the final (or the first) marker of the Via Francigena just outside the Cathedral. We were done.

Day 88 – Shepherdswell – Canterbury Cathedral

Miles walked: 12.99 / 30.199 steps

Leg distance: 11 miles / We’re there!

Okay, be honest. Who out there didn’t think we’d make it? Come on, all you readers, lurkers, casual observers, friends, relatives … let us hear from you. Help us celebrate!!!

Next time, we’ll tour the Cathedral and Canterbury town, then head to London and Windsor before catching a flight back to Las Vegas.