On 7 October, 2017 the second charity walk, organised by CPR Canterbury Representative Julia Peters, in aid of Save the Children, took place on the Via Francigena UK (Canterbury to Dover). The event raised £770 including gift aid for Save the Children, supporting their important work in providing essentials such as food and clothing, as well as education, for many vulnerable children across the world.
Pilgrims arrived at Canterbury Cathedral at 7.45 am where they were given a wonderful send off by the Lord Mayor of Canterbury, Rosemary Doyle. The Lord Mayor expressed her particular interest in the event, as she been involved in the development of the Via Francigena and its promotion over 10 years ago when the zero kilometre stone of the Via Francigena was placed within the Cathedral Precincts. Other notable attendees included: Velia Coffey of the Canterbury Council and Vice-President of the European Via Francigena Association, who has twice cycled to Rome, also came to wish the group well, Luca Faravelli of the Via Francigena Association who had travelled from the Association’s headquarters in Fidenza, Italy, and CPR member Philip Singleton, who has walked the entire route from Canterbury to Rome. After an inspirational blessing by Canon Clare at the Zero Kilometre stone, the group of 20 pilgrims set off on the Via Francigena, just as Archbishop Sigeric would have done in 990 AD as he began his long journey to Rome.
The charity walk aimed to give pilgrims an immersive experience of pilgrimage and so included a visit to each of the churches the route passes on the way to Dover. These included St. Martin's, Canterbury, and the churches of Patrixbourne, Womenswold, Shepherdswell and Whitfield. An organisation of volunteers known as the Dover Greets also opened the doors of the lovely St. Edmund's Chapel in Dover, where the walk officially ended.
This is the second charity walk, but the third pilgrimage walk that Julia has organised along this section of the route. As a result of these organised pilgrimages, Julia now has established a network of local people who are interested in promoting the Via Francigena and who are willing to support events such as these. On 7 October, the churches gave talks on the architecture and history of the buildings, they provided coffee, tea and cake, and Womenswold served a lunch of homemade soup. There was clear enthusiasm expressed for the events and for the Via Francigena by the parishioners who volunteered in the churches for the charity walk. By building on this interest and willingness to support the VF, Julia hopes to see further local engagement along the route from Canterbury to Dover in the future.