Monday 10th. November, 2014 – A day travelling 

My first view of the Cathedral Guest House nestling in the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral and as luxurious as a five-star hotel

I was up just after six, in time to shower and walk Mix (in the half-light) before Rachel drove me to Berwick Station for my train to Canterbury. My train arrived on time just after eight and I had a totally uneventful journey down to King’s Cross Station where I arrived about twenty to twelve. There was an hour before my connecting train from St. Pancras but as I was quite engrossed in my book (which I was reading on the kindle given to me by my God-mother) I was happy to get on the train which was waiting for me at the platform and continue reading until the train set off. The journey to Canterbury was not a long one and soon I was walking through the streets of Canterbury, through the city gate and along a rather medieval street from which I turned off to walk not more than a few yards down to the cathedral entrance.

It may have been a blustery Monday lunchtime but the cathedral was busy with everyone paying large sums to go into the cathedral precincts (as I was a guest of the cathedral I didn’t have to pay)! I made my way to the cathedral guest house where I booked into my ground floor room overlooking the cathedral itself. The room was as comfortable as any hotel I have stayed in and included all of the usual facilities.

I didn’t have to present myself until three o’clock so I went out in to the town and as I happened to pass a branch of KFC I popped in for something to eat. Back at the cathedral I walked down to Diocesan House, in the Board Room of which our meeting was to take place. As well as the staff of the Green Pilgrimage network, I met friends from Norway, from Sweden, from Spain and, of course, from England.

We spent the first part of our two-day meeting discussing all that was going on in our own different countries. There was a great deal to report from Scotland, from the work on new paths – Glasgow, via Paisley to Whithorn, St. Andrews to Iona, the new Fife pilgrimage route, work in the north east; the existing routes such as St. Cuthbert’s Way and the recently opened John Muir Way. I reported on my involvement with the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum, on the recent Scottish Pilgrim Gathering in Dunfermline (with a major contribution from Green Pilgrimage’s Chris Baines) and on the growing support from the Scottish Government seen, in part, by the presence of a minister at that Gathering.

I listened with interest to the happenings in other parts of the network, from Norwich and Canterbury (a huge partnership network has been created around Canterbury), from Santiago de Compostela, from Trondheim and from Sweden. Alison reported to us on some of the other work which was developing in such places as Bethlehem and in France and Italy.

One of the major themes of our conference became clear. Next year it is programmed that the Green Pilgrimage Network should move on from its comfortable position under the branches of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation and establish its own identity, with its own staff and administration. Our task is to work out how to facilitate that transition, our responsibility being for the European Chapter of the network, but working closely with the Indian Chapter with whom we shall share responsibility for Green Pilgrimage Global. These will be exciting times and it is appropriate that once set up and running, organisations should be encouraged to stand on their own feet.

These were the matters which we discussed at length until shortly after five when it was time to move into the Cathedral for Evensong led by the Cathedral choir. I enjoyed the tranquillity of the service enormously.

After the service we set off for Waterstones Bookshop not far away where we attended a pilgrimage book launch – recounting a walking pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome – before going to a very up-market restaurant as the guest of the Diocese of Canterbury where we met in a private room with many of the staff of the Diocese and of the Council over a very special meal. It was after eleven by the time we finished and I walked back to my room in the guest house with Peter, the Canon Librarian at Norwich.

I made a quick call to Rachel (and was glad to hear that Mix had been behaving well) before bed. I was quickly asleep.

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