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Pilgrim’s progress

Features | By John Walsh | September Issue

Six centuries after Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, pilgrimages are booming. John Walsh joins Christians, pagans, atheists and Buddhists as they make their way along Kent’s holy road 

It’s 7am on a chilly summer morning in the Kent village of Barham. In St John the Baptist Church, things are stirring. Twenty pilgrims have roused themselves from a bone-numbing night, with only blankets and mats between their limbs and the church’s 14th- century, stone oor. One or two have tried dozing on the wooden pews, but the danger of rolling off at 3am has made sleep impossible. We are on a pilgrimage to Canterbury from Saltwood Castle, Kent – home to the late Alan Clark MP. Saltwood was also where the four knights started their fateful journey to murder Thomas à Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. The pilgrimage follows in their footsteps. That early morning, the pilgrims re-packed their rucksacks and grabbed a rudimentary breakfast of coffee and granola bars beside the baptismal font. In the aisle, Gary the teacher has been inspired to write a poem in...

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