A fine September day and with no need for coats or hiking boots we took a trip to Canterbury on the pretty route via Charing, Chilham and Chartham to the park and ride at Wincheap. The route is better than the M-Way or the A2 although you still have to queue a little at Wincheap. Ho, hum.
We clambered aboard the bus after getting our ticket and parking the car, with sister nursing the ticket to keep it nice and flat and clear of greebies. It was nice not to go shopping. Blokes don’t like shopping. We walked under the road admiring the local artists’s work on the walls – ‘whatsit was here’ – and mused on the idea that the graffiti was much like dogs piddling to mark their presence, but a little cleaner.
We passed the Two Sawyers pub in Ivy Street and agreed to have a lunch there, and on the way admired the older buildings, surprised at the bits and pieces used to open windows etc. However, we reached Saint Augustine’s Abbey, showed our cards and had a look around the museum before wandering out into the grounds.
It is not until you walk on the actual ground, wander around the remains, and read the literature and signs do you get a clear idea of what was there. The dates start to mean something when you relate the names to them. Augustine established the monastery in or around 598 when King Ethelbert was in charge and favoured the idea of Christianity, because his wife, Bertha, was a practising Christian. Wonderful how wives can influence a husband, isn’t it?
We thought the buildings were grand, and the drawings of what they may have been like helped a lot. I liked the Anglo-Saxon bits mostly deciding that Wulfric’s Rotunda was the best and St Pancras Chapel was very good. However, the Norman stuff seemed so damned pretentious, so overwhelmingly grand I almost cheered when I learned that Henry VIII gave it a bashing. The only trouble with that was we lost most of the best bits.
It is impressive, and if you have the time afterwards take a walk around the College buildings, you catch glimpses of them from the Abbey grounds, and walk around and look for the remains that dot the Christ Church College University Campus. The Abbey is even more impressive when, once you have absorbed the history and visualised the original buildings, walk up the hill to where there was once a bell tower and view the site. Take your time to enjoy it.
The Cathedral tends to dominate. It sneaks up on you. We thought it was stalking us. You can imagine the huge building suddenly appearing over the walls like a sandstone Godzilla grabbing tourists and forcing them to visit the Cathedral before being allowed to leave Canterbury. Scary.
We returned to the Two Sawyers and had lunch as planned. Wandered off replete to do a little shopping and returned to the park and ride. We paid our money, located the car, drove to the barrier, inserted the ticket. Ticket refused. Tried again turning the ticket around. Refused. Twice more and then suddenly it worked. We nipped out and back on to the pretty route home.
The visit was long overdue having passed by the Abbey many times and not having the time to see it. It was worth the wait.