So after 26 miles over 3 days, we began our final day of this inaugural walk of the Royal Saxon Way beside the Little Stour at Wickhambreaux. The river flows beside flooded gravel pits, so there are great expanses of water and a landscape that is very green and lush.
As we approached Preston we dropped down from what was the old shoreline, when the Wantsum Channel still separated the Isle of Thanet from the mainland. As we walked towards the church of St Mildred, we were walking over what had been a small inlet on the estuary of the Great Stour, surrounded by banks that preserved the line of the ancient sea shore.
Beyond Preston, the land becomes very flat and the river flows in dykes through reclaimed salt marsh that has long-since been drained and turned into farmland.
The only church on this section of the route is the now redundant church of All Saints at West Stourmouth, now managed by the Churches Conservation Trust.
Beyond Stourmouth, the Little Stour joins the Great Stour as it flows from Canterbury towards the sea near Sandwich.
The day was still warm but there were some dramatic cloud effects and a sense of the vastness of the sky over the flatlands as we walked the last few miles along the river to Minster.
At Minster, we were greeted by Richard Braddy, vicar of St Mary’s, the original church founded by Princess Aebbe (also known as Domne Eafe or Domneva), who was the great niece of Queen Ethelburga who founded the church at Lyminge. We then walked along to Minster Abbey, where we were warmly welcomed with tea by Mother Nikola, Prioress of the Abbey. The abbey was dissolved, along with every other religious house, at the orders of King Henry VIII in the 1530s, but it was restored to use by a benedictine order of nuns in 1937.
A relic of St Mildreth, daughter of Aebbe, was returned to the abbey from Deventer in the Netherlands in 1953, where it had been held since being gifted in the 11th Century.
Our walk finished with Evensong in St Mary’s. This was the end of our 4 day pilgrimage, covering just over 35 miles. The walk took us through a cross -section of East Kent, from the coast at Folkestone, up onto the North Downs, and from there along the Elham Valley to the valley of the Little Stour and finally to the flatlands of the former Wantsum Channel and Thanet. The landscape is not dramatic wild country but it is still spectacular for its great variety and its gentle beauty. You can read more about the route and see more pictures on this website. We intend to produce more material over the coming months to help walkers and to provide more information about what you can see along the way. The pilgrimage route of the Royal Saxon Way is now officially launched. For more information, watch this space.