Friday 22 May 2009

Canterbury, Chatham Docks ... and home

On the final day at the Canterbury site we set ourselves a real challenge - to get to Chatham Docks by public/sustainable transport – bus, walk, train, walk, bus, walk. Now, with hindsight, we could have taken the motorhome, because we discovered there is a HUGE car park at Chatham Docks and no height barriers, and indeed there were several large motorhomes already parked up - but we didn’t know that at the time. Anyway, the way we did it was an adventure as we don’t often use buses or trains.

The 09:00 hours bus was already running 10 minutes late when it arrived, and was almost full, so things were already getting stressful regarding catching the train on time. However, we were allowed on the bus, and after alighting (don’t you love that word?) at Canterbury Bus Station, we had a brisk 10 minute walk to Canterbury East Railway Station, via the road bridge, where a return ticket to Chatham was £9.00 each. A short walk round the corner from Chatham Railway Station took us to the bus stop where an Arriva bus took us to Chatham Docks on the outwards journey, the Dockside Shuttle was used on the return journey. Door to door, the journey took a total of two hours each way.

Getting into Chatham Docks cost us nothing - we used our Tesco Deals Vouchers to pay the entrance fee of £13.50 each for adults. However, this buys an annual ticket allowing unlimited visits during the year (not much use if you live in Derbyshire and not the South East.)

This is a large, spread out site and some walking is required between the various parts. It was hauntingly quiet when we were there midweek, so we were able to see and do what we wanted without delay. Now regarding dogs, we’d already checked on their website that dogs were allowed on site, however, different parts of the site had different policies. In some places she was allowed with us, and made a fuss over, in others she had to wait outside. Or we had to take it in turns. The whole issue of dogs in public places is a real gripe with me, and will be the subject of a future blog. There are two café/restaurants with plenty of outside seating (for dog owners and smokers), the prices were reasonable, quality of food was good and staff were friendly and helpful.

The Ropery Tour is absolutely fascinating, in fact, the highlight of the day, and is conducted by staff in period costume, and we got roped in (!) as volunteers for the rope-making demonstration. All I can say is that it must have been a HORRENDOUS place to work all those years ago. Many phrases which are common in every day use come from the rope-making trade including “Not enough room to swing a cat”, “Give him enough rope and he’ll hang himself” and “Let the cat out of the bag”. And did you know that it is 31 miles between Canterbury and Chatham and that’s how many miles of rope was used on an old-fashioned sailing ship??

Canterbury was our last stop on our grand 2008 tour, and the next day, it was up early to head for home in Derbyshire. The end of another fabulous tour.

Now – where shall we go next year?

Above image - The Ropery, Chatham Docks. Copyright 2008

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