In May this year we had booked a coach holiday to Chatham to visit the historic dockyard. It was the 8th of May to celebrate the anniversary of VE day.
This was not the only reason, my father was based here in his time in the RN in 1933 and it was to be a nostalgic thing as well. However, because there were only six people showing any interest in the VE annivarsary trip, the coach holiday was cancelled by the tour operators, shame on Bradford.
After some thought my wife and I thought about going by car and booking some hotel. I was at first doubtful because I didn't relish the thought of driving all the way (from Bradford)to a place I had never seen or knew directions for.
This however was soon put to rest with my new acquisition, a Typhoon satalite navigator (see my review).
Next problem was where to stay. I was sure all vacancies would be taken for this special weekend.
I searched the internet and yes, there were places available in Gillingham and Rochester but it would mean commuting each day (we intended to stay for a week).
Then, while searching the Historic Dockside site I found availability right there within the dockyard itself.
I couldn't believe my luck when I emailed Carole Chambers and booked in at their establishment.
Not knowing exactly what to expect, all was arranged and off we went.
Six hours later and not a wrong turn or missed direction (beautiful sat nav.) we arrived at the door of the hotel within the Historic Dockyard.
Carol Chambers greeted us and straight away we felt so welcome and comfortable.
She took us to our 'home' for the week and honestly, that is the only way to describe it. Large bedroom, kitchen, toilet and bath/shower, seperate large private sitting room with patio and barbie if you needed it and all with such fantastic attention to detail. Sherry, chocolates, oh, I could go on forever. The hosts were just brilliant, super conversation and you felt as if you had known them for all your life.
Anyway, the accomodation was such that we felt so at home we could have happily lived there.
The Historic Dockyard!
It was magic, unbelievable, tremendous, fantastic and Oh!!! words alone will not do it justice.
Steeped in history, There are five hangar slips, HUGE like hangars where the ships were built and slipped out into the river Medway. Hangar five was where HMS Victory was built, Nelson's flagship, and just to look inside sends goosebumps down your spine.
There are so many original buildings to visit, the Rope Mill where all the ships rope was made and laid out full length, a massive long building.
The Admirals building, the Church, in fact all the things you would associate with the RN.
As if that was not enough you can go aboard a RN destroyer and check out every room below and above plus, if you are up to it, you can go aboard HMS Ocelot a RN submarine.
I went on both but my dear wife declined the submarine venture.
How on earth any matelot can work and function in those is beyond me, especially when at sea and in working conditions, by that I mean warfare.
There is so much to see and do in the Historic Dockyare that you need more than a week to explore and let it all soak in.
Mr. Chambers told us one day about a part of the Dockyard that has not been touched in all the years. Only a small area but well worth a visit, we went.
Large cobbled stones told us we were on the right road and we went to the red brick walls which were,I believe, the end of the rope factory.
There, inscribed on the red brick were the details of matelots who served in the RN at the time.
Some of the carvings in the brickwork were superb, names of the inscriber in such delicate scroll with anchor and entwined rope including the date, the earliest I saw was late sixteenhundreds. To look at all this, walk the road, see the buildings, sense the history and let your vivid imagination run free, taste the sounds and atmosphere is something that can't be described. You must live it and be there.
For me also it was, as I mentioned earlier, a very nostalgic visit because I could stand in the main area, look up to the clock tower and imagine that my father did the same, perhaps on that very spot in 1933.
We didn't spend all our time in the Historic Dockyard, we did go into Chatham and what a beautiful place it is.
The people are so polite and helpful and the area is gorgeous.
We had various pub meals which were superb and in one the chef came out to see us and ask if the meal was ok and to our liking! Wow, we don't get that often.
I would like to have explored more in Chatham, there was some fort just on the hillside I would like to have visited and perhaps some of the churches.
I would have loved to have had time to see Rochester and Gillingham but we didn't have a year at least) to spare.
Look, if you want a place to visit that offers super places to see that are unique, If you are interested in English heritage then look no further.
There is always someting going on of interest in Chathams Historic Dockyard so just you check it out now.
You will love it.
It is such that my wife and I have said that if ever we should be lucky with the lottery, we know what we would do.
Buy one of those properties within the Historic Dockyard in CHATHAM
The Medway towns are a group of towns at the estuary of the river Medway, which is roughly half way along the north kent coastline. (Interesting fact - the name Medway comes from the Saxon word "med" meaning "middle"). The group is comprised of three main towns, those being the City of Rochester upon Medway (the only town/thing Medway has got to be proud of), Chatham and Gillingham (neither of which are delightful places) in addition with a bunch of smaller crappier towns - Rainham, Strood, Hoo and a number of outlying villages. Medway covers a large area, and has a large population (over 250,000 people). It has been populated since Saxon times, and there are many historic things to see. There are always ongoing rumours that Medway will be developed into one city but I personally think this would suck. Consequences of this would most importantly include Gillingham Football Club changing their name to Medway FC. I am not from Gillingham and still feel patriotic towards them as us Medwayers tend to stick together. Changing their name would be like losing a limb. I don't feel it would gain any more supporters than we already have seeing as the vast majority of Kent support the Gills anyway. What would happen to the seperate high streets? Which one would be Medway high street ? (just saying it sends shivers down my spine). The idea of this ridiculous merge appalls me. We all know and admit that Medway is a dive but we still strangely love it as it is. Chatham *********** Chatham doesn't have much to offer us. It does however have the historic dockyard. The tours here will show you the history of the dockyard, and are very interesting (to some). You can learn about Nelson's ship HMS Victory, which was buil
t at Chatham but is kept in Portsmouth, and the other ships that were built here. In March 1999, the name was changed to the World Naval Base. This was apparently part of an attempt to get it known throughout the world, and thereby attract tourists. Naturally everyone made the connection between this new name and Chatham, Kent, England. After all, you did didn't you? In any case, as of 1st April 2001, common sense prevailed, and it is now back to being Chatham Historic Dockyard. There is also Fort Amherst and despite living in Chatham for the last 21 years I dont really have a clue what it is. Apart from that its a fort. Seeing as I can't tell you much, in the unlikely even you have to pass through Chatham and in the even more unlikely event you would like to visit some old fort then feel free to look at http://www.fortamherst.com/. Unfortunately nightlife in Chatham is practically non-existent, consisting of two normal pubs, a few rough locals only pubs which even I as a local am to afraid to go in, and one club where the bouncers beat people up which has lost its after hours liscence but charges a £5 entrance fee and gives drinks away free after 11. In addition to this all social activity in Chatham is hindered by the prescence of Chatham Girls, who are supposedly the new Essex girl. This breed will be found window shopping after spending all their dole money on jewellery. They will probably wear rolled up adidas tracky bottoms with trainers, their hair up in a big "pineapple" and will be accesorised with large gold hoop-style earrings, various gold rings and most importantly a thick gold chain (or maybe several) with a gold clown hanging from it. Not the sort of girl you want to marry boys! Yes they ruin everyday shopping/drinking etc for us regular Chatham residents.
There is even a website dedicated to them. Try www.chatham-girls.com or www.geocities.com/chatham_girls but it doesnt always work. Shonky! Could be noted that there are a few shops in Chatham High Street. Your regular Woolies, Virgin, Boots etc but no nice clothes shops. Thats why we love Bluewater! All in all its pretty skanky in Medway. I wouldn't recommend a visit but saying that I wouldn't live anywhere else, as home is where the heart is!