Another update from Kent for 2-14 Aug

Trip Start Feb 25, 2013
Trip End Sep 21, 2013

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We had quite a sociable week (5 – 10th).   We had lunch with a former Wentworth colleague of Robert's (Karen Thompson) who now runs a lovely pub in Surrey.  We visited another cousin of Margaret's who lives in south Kent – we’re staying in north Kent.  Then we had Margaret’s sister and brother-in-law staying with us for 3 days which was lovely – we’ve stayed with them many times but this was the first time we’ve been able to entertain them.   

Since our last update, we’ve continued our sightseeing – there is so much to see in Kent!  We went to Canterbury - another city steeped in history!  It’s probably best known for its Cathedral which was founded by St Augustine in 597AD, is where Thomas Becket was murdered by King Henry II’s knights in 1170 and is now the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Church.  Thomas Becket's murder led to the cathedral becoming a place of pilgrimage for Christians worldwide, which is the basis for Geoffrey Chaucer's, "The Canterbury Tales".  Canterbury is a lovely place and well worth another visit to see all its attractions.

Another outing was to Rochester which is another old city with Roman remains, a Cathedral, a Castle and a very attractive High Street.  Charles Dickens had a country home nearby, wrote many of his novels there, and based many of his characters and locations on places he knew in Kent.
Rochester has really milked this for all it’s worth and there are plaques on buildings claiming a connection to Dickens, businesses named after his characters and books, plus a few Dickens museums in Kent.   We also saw the Swiss chalet from Dickens’ garden where he wrote some of his books.   

Rochester’s original Cathedral was built in the 7th century but the present building was started around 1080 by Gandulf, Bishop of Rochester, who also built Rochester Castle and the Tower of London – busy man!! 

The Cathedral is a very attractive building with beautiful stonework. It has a rare wall painting, described as “one of England's finest” and a rare wooden vestry – both from the 1200s.   The 12th-century Castle keep (or stone tower) is described as “one of the best preserved in England or France” but its floors and roof have all gone.  It’s still possible to climb up to the roof – it was a bit scary but the views from the top made it worthwhile

For something slightly different, we went to Chatham Historic Dockyard.  There was a lot to see, including a display of different types of lifeboats used by the RNLI over the years. There are also three old warships, HMS Gannet, Cavalier and Ocelot.   There was a copy of an article which appeared in the West Australian on 24 Nov 1962 about the arrival of the HMS Cavalier at Fremantle to deliver an injured sailor.  Such a small world!   

There was also an exhibition of fabulous photographs of Scott’s and Shackleton’s expeditions to Antarctica.  We also saw a movie being filmed which was quite fascinating!  It was set around the 1950s, judging by the clothes and cars.  What was interesting was the number of takes they took of the one scene!   We’ve read about that but never seen it in action before!    The Dockyard has been used as the set for many movies, including Les Miserables.

We again went to Dover Castle and managed to get in this time!!   Dover Castle sits on top of the White Cliffs of Dover and overlooks the shortest sea crossing between England and the continent - you can see France from sea level.  Because of its position, the site has long been used in defending England from invaders and is known as “The Key to England”. 

There was once an Iron Age hill fort, and there is still a Roman lighthouse from around 120AD and an Anglo-Saxon church built around 1000AD.  The Roman lighthouse is one of the oldest buildings we’ve ever seen in Britain. We’ve seen ruins that are older but this is still virtually intact though no longer used. It is a toss-up between the lighthouse and Porchester Castle in Hampshire whose walls were built in Roman times.

The current castle was started in the 1160s by King Henry II as a palace designed to impress the European nobility on pilgrimage to Thomas Becket’s shrine in Canterbury.    Soon after it was fortified and has been successively updated with every European war involving Britain until 1945.  It was garrisoned continuously for 900 years until 1958.  

Dover Castle played a key role in World War II (especially the rescue of the British troops from Dunkirk) and its “secret wartime tunnels” and underground hospital (up to 26 metres beneath the Castle) have recently been opened to the public.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see those – long queues to get in - maybe another visit!  There are also medieval tunnels, dug during the 13th century.  The brochure said “intrepid” visitors can still descend into the medieval tunnels but, not feeling sufficiently intrepid that day, we didn’t venture down!
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