On the last day of the Camino we cross to the Isle of Thanet and Minster Abbey before returning to St Augustine, first to the spot where he came ashore and finally to his Church and Shrine in Ramsgate.
The morning is spent either side of the River Stour, an area that used to comprise the Wantsum Channel which separated the mainland from the Island. Minster was a port on the Wantsum and the site of an important monastery. Legend has it that the foundress, St Domneva, was granted all the land around which her pet deer could run. The first three abbesses were all princesses and saints, often depicted together in stained glass. St Mildred, the second abbess, is the Patron Saint of Thanet. Her shrine was so popular that in 1030, after the Abbey had been abandoned due to Viking raids, her remains were translated to St Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury. In 1937 Benedictine nuns, fleeing Nazi persecution, re-founded the community and dedicated it with a Shrine to St Mildred.
St Augustine’s Cross was erected in 1884 on the spot where Augustine came ashore and first met Ethelbert. The King was not sure what to make of his visitors so he bade them wait in Thanet. When he came to visit he insisted on meeting them outdoors under an oak tree for fear of witchcraft. However, the King was impressed with their message and allowed them to proceed to Canterbury and preach to his people. The monks sung prayers on their way to the city, the first Gregorian chant heard in England.
Augustine succeeded in establishing Christianity amongst the English people and also brought written law, sacred music, monasticism and the link to the wider western church. The monastery and cathedrals he founded were centres of learning for nearly 1000 years. St Augustine’s in Ramsgate has just been renovated thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and in 2012 the official shrine to St Augustine was re-established there.
Directions – 13.5 miles
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.
From All Saint’s West Stourmouth continue down the lane and on along the track at the side of a drainage ditch. This flows into the river at Pluck’s Gutter (The Dog and Duck does a good breakfast). Here cross the bridge and follow the road for 50 yards before taking the footpath beside the road as far as the Abbott’s Wall. This is a raised track which heads off to the right across the fields for just over a mile. When you reach a track heading sharply right take this down to the river. Turn left along the bank for half a mile before taking the footpath to the left which after ducking through a hedge to the left, follows the fields around to Minster.
St Mary’s church belonged to the Abbey at one time as evidenced by the stone vaulting above the Chancel. Take time for lunch because the Abbey opens for visitors at 2.45pm (1st May to 30th September). The Abbey is down Church Street from St Mary’s, entered through a gate in the wall on your left. From the Abbey continue along Church Street for 25 yards to Durlock where you turn right and then straight on across the field to a crossing over the railway. Now turn left and follow the tracks for a mile, crossing a lane and passing under a main road before coming to Cottingham Road by St Augustine’s Golf Course. The cross is 25 yards on your right. From the cross continue into the village along Cottingham Road, turning right down to the coast on Foads Lane. Cross the road and turn left up past the Viking Ship and across the green space by the cafe. The footpath is in the top right hand corner through the bushes. Follow this over the old access road to the Hoverport and along the cliff top into Pegwell. At Chilton Lane turn right past the Sir Stanley Gray and the Belle Vue Tavern, both of which have terraces with magnificent views over the Channel. Follow Pegwell Road up to a track at the side of a terrace of large Georgian mansions. This heads down to the promenade. Just past a low circular building there is a path to the left down to the beach. Alternatively turn left along the cliff top until you reach the Lookout Cafe which is at the corner of Pugin’s house, the Grange. St Augustine’s is next to the Grange up on the road to your left.
The number 11 bus runs between Canterbury, Littlebourne, Wickhambreaux, Stourmouth, Minster and Westwood Cross (near Ramsgate). Bus numbers 8, 8A and 8X run regularly between Canterbury (Whitefriars) and Upstreet which is five minutes walk down the hill to Grove Ferry.
Ramsgate has regular fast trains to London via Canterbury and slower services via the North Kent coast and also through Dover.
Ramsgate has a variety of hotel and B&B accommodation.
There is a full range of shops in Ramsgate, a grocer’s in Minster and pubs at Grove Ferry, Pluck’s Gutter, Minster and Pegwell Bay.