Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Canterbury (Chartham Hatch)

We took the Ashford bus out of Canterbury station, getting off at the bottom of Howfield Lane, and walking up the hill to the Hatch. It was a overcast day, threatening rain, but warm enough to take off my jacket. The lane was busier than I remembered but comfortably familiar with the high hedges on every side, fruit orchards and wet lush fields ready to burst with flowers behind this wall of green. Grandpop's old brick house, 1 Primrose Villa, soon came into view and memories flooded me as I looked up at it. I could see in my mind the outhouse standing invitingly behind the kitchen window, the old shed full of rusting tools and cans of nails, the small potato garden and the leafy plum tree near the walkway. The very last time I saw my grandfather was in 1966, shortly before he died, after spending the summer of my 16th year with him. We cheered wildly that July when England won the World Cup, sitting together around his tiny back and white TV as Geoff Hurst scored three times and England beat West Germany 4-2. I was living in France then so in September had to return to the continent and back to school. I shall always remember the last sight of Grandpop, crying and looking frail and lonely leaning on his cane, as I waved goodbye and set out to catch the coach back to Canterbury. It has been one of those indelible memories imprinted on my mind...

walking up Howfield lane

Across from 1 Primrose Villa

the old corner store

Chartham Hatch Village Hall (former village primary school)

Marie and holly bush, Bigbury road

Bigbury woods


 Before leaving Canada I had received an email from a long forgotten friend who had seen a blog I was doing about my life in Europe and remembered me. Her name then was Jean Bradley, now Cutting, and we immediately made plans to meet when I visited Chartham Hatch. Marie and I had the morning to explore and revisit some of the places I played as a child before getting together with Jean in the afternoon. We continued then up the lane to where the corner store used to be. It was here I would buy my ice creams and stamps for Grandpop. There are no more stores in the Hatch but you can still get a pint of beer and a light lunch at Chapter Arms, the inn a few minutes walk away. It was spitting rain then so we stopped there for a beer and something to eat. The oast house, where the hops were brewed, was nearby so we went over to take a few pictures. I also wanted to walk about Bigbury wood where I used to play in the heather and gathered hazel nuts from the woods, but most of that was gone now. We were waiting for the arrival of Jean for 2pm at the old primary school I had attended for a year and when she stepped out of her car I recognized her immediately! It was a great reunion - she had even brought for me a souvenir book and DVD about the history of the Hatch. We visited her mother Jessy, the  oldest resident on the Hatch at 95, and had a nice chat about my grandparents whom she remembered. Afterwards Jean drove us down the hill to Chartham where we said goodbye. It was here Mom and Dad were married in 1948 and I was baptized in 1950 at the beautiful old St Mary's church. I have a painting of the church Mom had given me years ago that I cherish. I will post this visit tomorrow, before we say farewell to Canterbury and head west to Salisbury.  gws

Chapter Arms

hoppers oast house, Hatch Lane

Me and Jean Cutting (Bradley)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Canterbury (the Cathedral)

Way back in 597 AD Pope Gregory the Great sent one of his monks, a fellow named Augustine, to England as a missionary. Monk Augustine established his seat (Cathedra) and monastery in Canterbury and became England's first Archbishop. Much later in 1170 Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in the Cathedral and , when soon afterwards miracles were said to take place, the Cathedral became one of Europe's most important pilgrimage centres. I had been here often over the years, having been born at the old Canterbury hospital, but was eager to show Marie this still working and living church that had stood here for more than 1400 years. It was a grey, blustery day with periods of sudden heavy rain as we walked through the cloisters and past the ruins of the ancient infirmary, a reminder of the Cathedral's monastic past. The grounds though were still alive with tourists and pilgrims from all over the world who had come to see the Martyrdom where Becket was killed over 800 years ago on orders of the King, Henry II.

Work was being done on some of the stained glass windows but there were still many beautiful and detailed examples all around us to marvel at. The choir was just finishing when we arrived but we were able to enjoy a few minutes of their marvelously uplifting voices rising up to the have. We stopped by the royal tombs of King Henry IV and Edward, Prince of Wales, known as the 'Black Prince' before picking up a few souvenirs in the gift shop on our way out. I said goodbye again to this great church within the old city walls and silently wondered if it was for the last time....The next post will be from Chartham Hatch. Happy St George's.....gws

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dover - Canterbury (Day 22 thru Day 25)

A man of Kent returns home to Canterbury!
We left Dover by train the next morning, arriving at Canterbury East station to a beautiful sunny day. First thing to do was have breakfast at a cafe that was recommended by two friendly pilgrims that we discovered served free range eggs from Chartham Hatch and then hail a taxi to the Old Gate Inn that we would call home for the next four days. Then to take advantage of the good weather - which wouldn't last - we set off to explore. I wanted to show Marie all the places I remembered from my childhood -  the Dane John, the River Stour, the bus station, the ruins of Canterbury castle, the Roman walls, the High Street and clock, Westgate, and of course Canterbury Cathedral. I had planned the following day for a trip to Chartham to see St. Mary's church where I was baptised and Grandpop's home in the Hatch. We also popped in on Aunt Betty, mom's best friend from the war years and had a chance to see one of her daughter's, Pauline, and her husband Rob. Her son Stuart came over with his little boy, Frank, while we were visiting one day, the first time I had seen him since 1978. My cousin Pat and I also met up after many years and our last night in Canterbury had dinner together, with her friends Val and Bob. Val was a wonderful help in getting Pat and I together and we were amazed at her tales and knowledge of Chartham Hatch.

first breakfast in town with Chartham Hatch eggs!

the Dane John

Enjoying a scone and a cuppa!

View of the city from Dane John

We also took in a show at the Canterbury Tales, an old building on the High Street which humoursly recreated some of the colourful characters created by Geoffrey Chauser on their pilgrimage from London to the shrine of St. Thomas in the Cathedral. We spent a very interesting visit to the Greyfriars Chapel, the oldest Franciscan building spanning the River Stour, walked back through the Dane John Gardens and, as the rain began falling, ducked into a tea room for scones and tea. It was a nice break from the overwhelming crowds of tourists, cars and buses that jammed the streets, and the rather grumpy locals who seemed to be fed up with it all as well! Our inn was nice to come back to each evening as the pub was friendly and the food very good, the big bed comfy and the water hot! Next blog I will post the tour of the Cathedral, the Mother church of millions of Anglicans worldwide, the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the site of the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170. gws

Outside Canterbury Tales
Roman wall

Canterbury Cathedral

Marie relaxing , Dane John

Pub at Old Gate Inn


me and cousin Pat

Pat, Val, Marie, me and Bob

me and Aunt Betty at Orwell 

St Augustines

St Mildred cemetery

 Me and Aunt Betty

Marie and Pauline

Rob, me, Betty, Marie and Pauline

12th century painting, St Augustines

River Stour

Canterbury Castle

River Stour and Old Weavers