Today starts with a visit to the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey and the Church of St Martin. We then pass through woodland and meadows to Fordwich where the Church of St Mary the Virgin holds what could be the remains of St Augustine’s tomb. Then we walk through orchards and coppice to Stodmarsh and the very welcome Red Lion Inn, followed by a meander through the nature reserve down to Stourmouth.
Non Angli sed Angeli (not English but Angels) are the words attributed to Pope Gregory on coming across English slave boys in the market in Rome. This chance meeting prompted him to send Augustine to convert the English to Christianity. They had such a fierce reputation that at Aix en Provence his monks sent Augustine back to Rome to beg Gregory to release them from their duty. But Gregory urged them on, wishing to share in the joy of their labours in the “eternal country”. As it happens they were well received, partly due to the influence of King Ethelbert’s Christian wife Bertha. She had been given permission by Ethelbert to use an old roman chapel outside the walls of Canterbury which she renamed after the patron saint of her home, St Martin of Tours. When Ethelbert was baptised by Augustine he gave him the land between the city walls and St Martin’s to build a monastery and it is here that both the Kings of Kent and the early Archbishop’s of Canterbury were buried. The monastery was named St Peter and Paul until the reforms of St Dunstan since when it has been known as St Augustine’s.
Directions – 8.5 miles
From the Cathedral Gate head down Burgate to the ring road and then left along the city wall to a pedestrian crossing on your right. Cross here and head straight on past the statues of Bertha and Ethelbert to the imposing entrance to the King’s School (originally part of the Abbey). Here turn right and then first left up to the Abbey entrance on the left. The stone marking the original resting place of Augustine is in the nave of the ruins. From the Abbey continue up Longport, past the University buildings and the old prison to North Holmes Road on the left. This leads up to St Martin’s Church (open from 11am most days). Now continue on past the church up St Martin’s Avenue, by the Conduit House (source of the water for the Abbey) and through the alleyway to Chaucer Road. Cross over and head to the far side of the green opposite where there is a stile into woodland. Now continue through the wood and over the meadows for a mile and a half to Fordwich, keeping straight ahead and to the left where the path branches. The George and Dragon is opposite and the Fordwich Arms round to the right by the Church. Either pub would be a good place to stop for lunch. Straight opposite the entrance to the Fordwich Arms car park is the path which turns left round the back of some houses. This footpath leads out of the village and into the woods. Keep to the lower edge for a mile before the path heads up and out of the trees to the right and across a field to the lane.
Follow the lane to the left for a couple of hundred yards before taking the footpath in the field alongside and then back onto the lane into Stodmarsh. Both the church of St Mary and the Red Lion Inn are worth visiting. The lane between the Church and the pub heads down to the nature reserve. Cross the car park and take the path at the far right hand corner, turning right at the T junction. This path crosses the marsh to the Grove Ferry Inn. From Grove Ferry the path heads right downstream through the car park and picnic area for 200 yards. At the distinctive tall boathouse the path heads left then away from the river through the fields to a bridge over the Little Stour. Here head straight on up the track to West Stourmouth, turning left at the lane for the Church of All Saints.
Canterbury is a major transport hub with regular fast trains to London and the rest of Kent.
Bus numbers 8, 8A and 8X run regularly between Canterbury (Whitefriars) and Upstreet which is five minutes walk down the hill to Grove Ferry.
The number 11 bus runs between Canterbury, Stourmouth and Westwood Cross (near Ramsgate).
There is accommodation available at Stodmarsh, Grove Ferry and Stourmouth.
There is a full range of shops in Canterbury, a grocer’s in Sturry (next to Fordwich) and pubs at Fordwich, Stodmarsh, Grove Ferry and Stourmouth (The Rising Sun, half a mile up the path through the churchyard of All Saint’s Church).