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   Inside Out - South East: Monday September 12, 2005

PILGRIMS' WAY

Canterbury Cathedral
End of journey - pilgrims made their way to Canterbury

Inside Out treks along the Pilgrim's Way to Canterbury. Join presenter Kaddy Lee Preston as she follows the route of the pilgrims.

Kaddy Lee Preston sets off on a journey back through time to tell you an amazing story.

It's a story about a murder that shocked the entire Western World... it's a story about a mystery over a missing skeleton.

The Pilgrims' Way is one of the oldest routes in Europe.

PILGRIMS' WAY

Runs from Winchester to Canterbury.

One hundred and twenty miles in length.

Two thirds of the track is still identifiable.

Some historians believe that the route pre-dates the pilgrims and was used by Palaeolithic hunters 250,000 years ago.

The great pilgrimage following the murder of Archbishop Becket in 1170 made the road particularly popular for pilgrims.

Hilaire Belloc wrote the first authoritative account of the Pilgrims' Way' in 1904.

But with so many modern roads and footpaths, how much of that ancient road still remains?

Kaddy Lee Preston sets out to find the real Pilgrims' Way, and see if she can follow the path of those who used the route hundreds, even thousands of years ago.

Her first challenge is to find the authentic route.

The map actually says that there are two Pilgrims' Ways!

To help her investigation, Kaddy meets a number of people who have been associated with the route.

One of these is a man whose family farmed in this area for hundreds of years.

He says a narrow strip of sandy soil marks the real Pilgrims' Way.

Kaddy also visits Chevening, the Foreign Secretary's country house - this part of the Pilgrims' Way isn't open to the public, but she gets permission to cycle through the estate.

Looking for clues

Kaddy also meets David Russell - a dowser. He says the Pilgrims' Way has an incredible 14 streams of natural energy running along its course.

Apparently anyone can dowse - all you need is a coat hangar!

"Walking is probably the best way to appreciate the stunning views of the Pilgrims Way..."
Kaddy Lee Preston
Inside Out presenter

As Kaddy approaches the River Medway, she is suddenly faced with a historical mystery.

Where did the original Pilgrims' Way cross the river?

The story of this river crossing goes back to Stone Age man.

Much later the Roman Army crossed here when they invaded Britain.

Best kept secret

Just a stones throw from the river, Kaddy looks for Kent's best kept archaeological secret.

Kits Coty Stones have been here for more than 5,000 years, although today they are rarely visited.

If only the stones could talk, just think what they could tell us about the Pilgrims' Way?

Modern man

"Some Sunday mornings we have a constant stream of 4 x 4, quad bikes and trial bikes. Recently we had more than 100 vehicles racing up here terrifying walkers and local people. We dread the wet weather when the off roaders come out to churn up the path..."
Peter Bailey, Local resident

The Pilgrims' Way may have changed little since the Stone Age, but sadly parts of it are now under threat from modern man.

Irresponsible 4 x 4 off roaders and trial bikers are being blamed for damaging some sections of the route.

After Lenham the Pilgrims' Way turns north at Charing and travels via Chilham and the ancient Kings Wood towards Canterbury.

Medieval pilgrims would have ridden into Canterbury through the West Gate.

In fact the word "canter" is short for "Canterbury gallop", the gentle pace at which pilgrims approached their destination.

Canterbury's historic heritage

But why did pilgrims come to Canterbury? And what did they hope to see when they arrived?

In 1170 Thomas Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury. But when he argued with King Henry II, the King's knights burst into Canterbury Cathedral and killed him.

He was struck so hard on the head, one of the knight's swords broke.

Reconstruction of murder scene
Murder in the cathedral - Becket was made a saint

Becket was made a saint and stories spread that those who touched his grave were cured of any illness.

But then came the Reformation, and in 1538 Henry VIII ordered that Becket's bones should be burnt.

But were the bones really burnt, or did the monks who had guarded them for hundreds of years hide them?

Is it possible they're still somewhere inside the cathedral?

Kaddy meets a man who has unearthed some startling facts in his hunt for the bones of St Thomas Becket - Canterbury historian Professor John Butler.

In 1888 workmen made an amazing discovery just a few feet from where Becket had originally been buried.

In a stone coffin they found bones laid out in exactly the same way as Becket's had been.

And the skull showed evidence of a sword wound. The mysterious remains were reburied and remain in the crypt to this day.

Canterbury Cathedral says these are not the bones of Becket. But if they're not, then whose are they?

Today Canterbury Cathedral is the most visited tourist attraction in England outside of London.

People come here from all over the world to admire the architecture and see where the bones of St Thomas once lay.

 

See also ...

Inside Out: South East
Mystery of history

On the rest of Inside Out
Forest of Dean

On bbc.co.uk
bbc.co.uk/history
bbc.co.uk/sevenwonders

On the rest of the web
North Downs National Trail
Ramblers Association
National Trail

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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