Staying near London and visiting Rochester & Chatham Docks

After North Kent we headed towards London for a few nights as we wanted to catch up with a couple of friends and family.  We found a site near Sidcup (it was actually just on the edge of Bexley Village) called Kelseys , a lovely site with an adjacent farm shop and café/restaurant.  You really don’t know you’re so near to London 🙂

We had the same thing happen to us again though, whereby we were the only campers in the field and when someone else arrived (again an older couple), they pitched right next to us rather than taking their pick of all the space available!

We still weren’t well but on our 1st full day we headed off towards Rochester (we’d seen it from the motorway on our way in and decided it was worth a look), with a view to carrying on to Chatham Docks after.

Parking in the Cathedral short term car park we paid (via phone) for 2 hours – a mistake, nowhere near long enough!  Coming out of the car park and turning left it was such a surprise what a lovely view we had of a gate entering the city and the lovely old buildings in this old part of Rochester.  (Top tip – always head for ‘the old town’!)

After a quick spot of lunch we headed for the cathedral.  This is free to enter (although I did put a fiver in the donation box), and there are guides dotted around who will chat to you and give you information on the history.  We discovered that this is both the 2nd oldest and the 2nd smallest cathedral in the country.  It was very open and, as in Canterbury (the oldest cathedral in the country), the crypt was large and light.  Here we found out the reason for this.  It was all due to the hardness of the ground – they were unable to dig any further and therefore the crypts remained slightly above ground!

From here we headed onto the Castle, an English Heritage property where you are able to visit using a self-guided tour around the inside of the castle walls.  Bearing in mind the inner area of the keep is inaccessible there really is quite a lot to see – definitely worth a visit (shame about the drunks in the castle park grounds.  Like at Portchester the grounds are completely open to all as a park).

We headed up the High Street from a different route and passed by the Guildhall museum, (free entry).  As we only had about 20 minutes left on the parking we hesitated about going in but eventually decided to.  I tried to extend our parking on the phone but as it was short term (4 hours allowed though) the app wouldn’t allow it.  Therefore we had to cut short our visit to avoid a parking ticket!  This was a real shame as it was a good little museum (actually not so little) and we would have very much liked to spend more time exploring it.

By now we realised that we really didn’t have enough time to visit Chatham Docks, and we were really tired (again!), so we headed back to the van and an evening date with some family who live fairly near to the campsite, Jak & Rich.  And a very lovely evening it was too.  They are now in Menorca on holiday and Calv is jealous (as the sun’s gone in again today!)

So the next day was dedicated to Chatham Docks.  Unfortunately I couldn’t take a ‘Call the Midwife’ tour (that I’d found on their website), as they’re limited to certain dates and the next available is in June (they also all seem to be at the weekend).  I am determined that I will take this tour though, one day!

The ticket price is quite pricey at £24 each, but this does give you a year’s membership and unlimited visits in that time.  Unlike Leeds Castle (which we missed out on due to this same system and price), we believe that we probably will visit Chatham again as there really is so much to see.

We managed to visit all 3 of the warships (this includes a submarine, HMS Ocelot – on a timed ticket), but because we were enjoying the visit on HMS Cavalier so much we missed our timed spot in the Victorian Ropery.  On the submarine I was proud that I managed to perfect swinging through the hatches onboard, rather than trying to climb through 🙂  I was so disappointed when we came to a hatch that it wasn’t possible to swing through!  As with any visit to a submarine I was left unable to comprehend how anyone could live in such cramped quarters for any period of time..

We also toured (self-guided this time) both the HMS Cavalier and HMS Gannet.  These are both very well laid-out with a wealth of information and, on the Gannet, many interactive displays including trying to tie knots (I failed) and getting into and out of a hammock (pretty easy to get into; not so easy to get out of!)  HMS Cavalier has an audio tour, which is very comprehensive and very interesting.

We had some lunch in the Waggon Stop Canteen, although it was a bit disappointing that there were so few sandwiches out bearing in mind what time of day it was.  We then had a wander around a little more of the site, including taking in the Steam, Steel & Submarines exhibition.  Then a meander back to the covered slipways; all covered at different times and therefore in different styles.  The earliest has a magnificent wooden trussed roof, and the later ones cast and then wrought iron were used.

The earliest is now known as ‘The Big Space’ and houses an eclectic mix of exhibitions, including the largest collection of lifeboats I have ever seen!

We had arrangements again for the evening, this time with a lady that I haven’t seen for at least 10 years!  We were meeting quite early in a pub in Chislehurst and it was wonderful to see you Zari! (and to meet Steve, of course 🙂 )

Before leaving for Essex (Maldon) in the morning we did a little shop in the Farm Shop on-site, including burgers and sausages 🙂 And then we were off again for the next part of our adventure.  See you soon x

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Author: MandoraTheExplorer

I'm a middle aged accounting tutor looking for my own mild adventures with my other half before it's too late..... I've taken the plunge and organised a year long sabbatical (a year with no pay!!), sold the house and my car and am ready to go :)

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