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Our annual reunion was at Lady Joanna Thornhill School at Wye, which is adjacent to the Wye Village Halls which provided our overnight accommodation as we left Canterbury for Winchester this summer. Our host, Mark Yeomans, had been super-efficient with the arrows, marking the route in from the A28 a mile away, and round the village's one-way system, despite the efforts of local youths to disrupt things. (Thanks too to James, the one-man road marking system).
A select group of 25 or so gathered on Friday evening, sharing a soup, bread and cheese supper, and several found themselves later in the evening in the Tickled Trout - vying for the title of "Pub with the earliest Christmas decorations". And so to bed...
We awoke to a clear, crisp morning, and hoped it would last (the forecast suggested it would rain before nightfall).
It had been a bit cool in the hall - and clearly colder outside, for there was frost on the cars (as John Chenery put it: "The car in frost is a Toyota")
Did I say "We awoke to a clear, crisp morning..."? Well, our leader just about awoke. (No, she didn't notice the flash going off). But of course she's "off duty" this weekend, just a regular pilgrim enjoying Mark's organisation (just as Frances is enjoying Mary and Imelda being in charge of catering for the weekend).
Others were more alert and preparing for the day's walk
Mary prepared us for the walk by including porridge on the breakfast menu. This proved to be a surprising hit with the punters, and was followed by cooked breakfast. More pilgrims arrived to join us in time to have some breakfast before we set out.
So, duly fed, we set out to our first stop,
From the church we retraced our route from the summer, back up onto the downs
Mark in the lead again
with the others following
Some paused above Wye Crown - far better weather than August!
We passed across the top of the Devil's Kneading Trough with views to the coast
We followed the North Downs Way, then cut off north...
... to drop down to
With muddy boots, we used overshoes to keep the church clean. But "one size fits all" didn't account for Patrick!
An odd experience looking down at your feet!
In the church the font cover recalled our theme this year, the Holy Spirit. (This had been a major influence in our making the deviation from the North Downs Way to come here).
Here we were joined by Bill & Kate (clean boots - they'd driven!)
And prayers were led by Patrick who discussed the breakdown in trust that can occur when the church authorities want to close a church despite the opposition of the local congregation and the evidence that many people drift away.
Between Hastingleigh and Brabourne we met the hunt (apparently pursuing a sock on the back of a quad bike!)
At Brabourne we lunched at the
Then back through the fields - some form of brassica
A single poppy reminded us it was nearly Remembrance Sunday
As the afternoon drew on we passed through sheep
and arrived at Brook Church, where the shoe covers came out again
Mark's mum, churchwarden here, welcomed us to the church, before Mark led a brief reflection.
Then in failing light we made our way the final couple of miles back to Wye (we were all safely in before it was really dark). A few drops of rain were sensed as we completed this leg, but not enough to wet us. We all made a prayer of thanksgiving for such a glorious day and the chance to enjoy the countryside in this corner of Kent.
Back in the school, cleaned up and refreshed, we celebrated a shared Eucharist led by Fr David and Rev Dickie Cleveland (who had joined us in the summer at St Christophers, Boughton Aluph, for a similar service).
Even without Peter to organise us, we had our procession of "pilgrim" gifts as well as bread and wine: David brought water, Joan a torch, and Bill an arrow.
After the Eucharist we had a slideshow of digital pictures that went on the website this summer (I think this is the first time that we've achieved this at a reunion, after 5 years of "Pilgrims Live" diaries). In response to the question asked at the time, yes you can order quality prints of this year's pictures via online photo-sharing service ICD Photos. Use the button below to order from this day's pictures; our ICD Photos album will open in a new window.
The slideshow was followed by supper served by the dinner ladies. A relaxed meal was enjoyed by all - given Mary's miscalculation of quantities, you could say we were vegged out!
The 30-year reunion's Sticky Toffee Pudding was repeated, this time "as designed" rather than the "Stuck Toffee Pudding" which caused much amusement in certain quarters last time.
A very pleasant meal, with time to chat (and just about enough time to teach Pat the "I like food but I don't like drink" riddle) was followed by David Cosham's annual slideshow marathon. (No, I lost count of the crosses seen in unexpected places). By that time, lights out was only minutes away, so I uploaded this page with minimal words - now remedied.
Sunday morning up with the lark - well, not quite apart from a few who slipped away early because of other commitments, and some who attended the 8.00 Eucharist at Ss Gregory & Martin. The rest of us staggered bleary eyed to breakfast - porridge again, with no leftovers, and an undeserved cooked breakfast to follow. Some then attended Mass at St Ambrose's RC church, while others started to tidy the place up.
A brief informal committee meeting followed, discussing the proposed route and a theme for our 2006 pilgrimage from Chester to Lincoln, then we all scattered, our "pilgrim batteries" recharged.
Photos: Aidan Simons, Bridget Simons, Danny Thomas, Fred Adilz, John Chenery, Louise Chenery
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