Friday, 20 June 2014

The Franciscan Way

I've been meaning for ages to put these photo's up from a stroll I took along the Franciscan Way.
Where I grew up, there were loads of Green Chain Walks - pathways linking the fields and woodlands together in the heart of South East London.
It was perfectly possible to walk from Bromley to Downham and back via Beckenham without hitting a single road, as long as you followed the signs.  My sister and I, along with Jan (whose internal sat nav would somehow mean we would never get lost for too long), would get home from school in the summer, have dinner at our respective houses then jump on our bikes and head off into the fields and woods for a couple of hours until it got too dark and we had to come home to go to bed.  Every so often we would go further than normal and reach the mansion in the centre of the parkland. 
Other times we would borrow Becky, the Boxer dog who lived next to Jan and run to the park at the bottom of the hill and then go walking along the River Ravensbourne until we got to the tire swing.  Most of the time we made it across in one piece; not always though!  We would spend hours outdoors, just walking, playing and chatting and not once did it occur to us that we were exercising or being healthy - it was just fun.  It sounds so Enid-Blyton-twee looking back on it, but it really was a fabulous way to spend an evening.
Canterbury is a bit different.  The walks are everywhere - essentially you step out of the City and you are in the middle of the countryside until you reach the next town or village so the walks don't need to be signposted as they were in my childhood.  In the city center though there are a few (small) signposted walks that revolve around the ancient gardens and the River Stour, which, in the spring and summer, are wonderfully peaceful places to relax.
They are all located incredibly close to the High Street, and when you are sat relaxing in one of the parks, it is sometimes surprising just how close you really are to the bustling heart of Canterbury.  Only the Cathedral spires soaring over the top of you give you any real indication of exactly where you are.
One of my friends swears by the Franciscan Chapel Gardens as one of the best picnic spots in Canterbury; you work your way up the high street, purchasing various sumptuous delights from each of the street vendors, then head to the gardens with your bag of treats to sit with your feet dangling over the river, basking in the early afternoon sunlight.
The gardens and walk here are a lot tamer than the ones I remember from my childhood - those were uncared for, overgrown and the river was frequently full of litter, shopping trolleys, children's shoes and occasionally the odd door off a car.  In a strange way, that was part of the beauty of it though and I have extremely fond memories of climbing over and through twisted steel gates and fallen trees.  Here, everything appears immaculate in comparison, clean and well loved.
It has a very different beauty; an archaic one that speaks of a bygone era when monks would have tended the river and the grounds to provide sustenance for their brothers.  It still has that air of tranquility about it; a haven in the midst of a busy, bustling city.
They are a sanctuary away from the pressures and stresses of modern life, taking me right back to when I was a child playing games by the river with my sister and my friend.
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