Thursday, August 23, 2012


On one sunny Sunday* in July, we set off on another adventure.

(*Do you like how I always say “one sunny Sunday”? The London definition of that phrase is “A Sunday that was mostly grey and cloudy, but with occasional spells of glorious sunshine, high levels of humidity, and at least one shower of rain.  – i.e. if you didn’t take your jacket you’ll get soaking wet, and if you did take your jacket you’ll end up roasting hot”. Aah, English weather!)

This was the day that we saw the Olympic Torch up close and personal, but it was also the day on which we visited the lovely Rochester. Located beside the Medway River, Rochester has amazing historic connections – it was inhabited by Neolithic tribes (as evidenced by remains which have been found there), invaded by the Romans, and occupied by Celts and Saxons. Its cathedral and castle were built between 1080 and 1343.

Because of its prime location, Rochester has played an important part in history. A bridge over the river Medway was fought over during the Roman invasion, the city was sacked and besieged three times before the Normans arrived, its castle was built especially to guard the river crossing, and the wider Medway region had two circles of fortresses protecting it. These were built during the 1800s to help defend the area during the Napoleonic wars, and to defend the Royal Dockyard. (Which was located at Chatham, 1.8km east of Rochester).
Can you see what this is? A cold-war sub. Yep.
Gad's Hill Place
Rochester was one of Charles Dickens’ favourite places, and was close to his house in Gad’s Hill Place. Dickens used the Rochester area as inspiration in some of his novels: descriptions of the town appear in Great Expectations and The Pickwick Papers; in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Cloisterham is loosely based on Rochester; and Great Expectations' Miss Havisham’s house is based on Restoration House, a local Elizabethan mansion. Each year, Rochester holds a Dickensian Christmas festival to celebrate its links with the author - the festival has been highly recommended to us, so we may see if we can go this year.
Restoration House, the model for Satis House. Picture from Wikipedia
Rochester was lovely – cobbled streets, old houses, lots of antique stores, some specialist craft shops, and some great leafy, green areas. It reminded me of Lyttelton in the sense that it was beautiful and quaint, and seemed the sort of place you could happily visit once a month to roam around and have a poke through the quirky shops.
Aah, crooked houses. Just like being at home!
Erwin Drood's house was based on this grand building
The day we visited just happened to be the day of a (loud) concert in the grounds of the castle. There were hundreds of people sitting on the lawns around the castle, and as the sun was shining brightly (at that point) we spotted many shirtless or scantily-clad Brits looking a bright shade of lobster-red. We enjoyed wandering around the castle and looking out over the Medway region as the (loud) music played in the background.
Afterwards, we ate icecream and explored the historic streets of the Rochester town centre. Bliss!

We then decided to go for a drive and see the sea, but we soon grew bored with that (it wasn’t as close as we thought) and ended up here. (Wherever that is – somewhere past Gillingham)

And then you know the rest of the story – on our way home, we got caught up in the 2012 Torch Relay. We arrived home late that afternoon, hot, tired, and happy. I think I should like to return to Rochester one day at have a look at Restoration House, and imagine Miss Haversham haunting its rooms.    

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