Photos to follow, so just an overview of our week away.
Despite dull weather for a few days, we made the most of our time. Staying with our dear friend Christine, in Gravesend, on the estuary of the Thames. It was important to get away from this industrial town as unfortunately, it has become little more than a commuting suburb of London, which is only 25 miles away. The former riverside port and heritage centre has been swallowed up by the huge Greater London conurbation, with the accordant traffic, busy urban motorways, and hectic rush hours usually associated with the capital.
Julie got to meet up with a friend and former work colleague. She drove over to meet her at Bluewater, a swish shopping complex near Dartford. I dropped Julie off, and as she enjoyed lunch with her friend, I took Ollie to Jeskyns Nature Park, close to Gravesend. This is a substantial area, with various country walks, a lake, and nature reserve. Ollie loved it, and was unaware of how incongruous it seemed, surrounded on one side by the Eurostar rail line, and the other by the busy M2 motorway.
So, we made the most of the road network, and explored further afield. We returned to the delightful town of Sandwich, not far from Canterbury, and also went to the areas around Maidstone, the busy county town, as well as the country parks in and around the Medway area. One day was spent visiting my cousin, Keith, in the lovely old seaside town of Whitstable, famous for oysters for centuries. He has lived there for over ten years, and we have enjoyed visits there previously. We went on our sixth wedding anniversary, and he kindly treated us to a fresh fish lunch at a seafront hotel, followed by a stroll along the beach to The Neptune, a pub with sea views. The sun came out that morning, and we had a memorable day.
On the previous Saturday, we met up with ten members of my family, for lunch at The Bo Peep pub and restaurant, in Chelsfield. We brought family photos along, and spent many happy hours reminiscing over them, and enjoying some much-needed family time. It was so good, we returned there on Friday evening to take Christine for a meal, and to show her how nice it was. If you are ever anywhere near that area, I can recommend it, unreservedly. We also spent a pleasant day at White Horse Country Park near Maidstone, followed by a nostalgic trip to Sheerness, on the north coast of the Isle of Sheppey. This is now a run-down industrial wasteland, and has little appeal. However, we were able to spend a late afternoon as the only people on a deserted beach, and I was left to think back to my youth, when this was a desirable holiday destination.
During the whole trip, Ollie behaved impeccably, and was loved and admired by all who encountered him. He sat quietly in the car, and enjoyed his forays into Sandwich, Whitstable, Sheppey, and Maidstone. He was an absolute pleasure to have around, and even accompanied us on our anniversary meal, as well as the evening out to the Bo Peep, where he was no trouble at all, on both occasions. When he was left with Christine on the Saturday, he also accounted for himself well, and was very pleased to see us later that evening.
The last three days were sunny and warm, as was our journey home, earlier today. Despite two nights of overnight showers, we were untroubled by rain for the whole eight days. Coming from the supposedly driest county in England, that was a great relief. Many of the photos are taken in extremely dull conditions, but we were also lucky to enjoy some bright days, so they should look more pleasant.
If we had any downsides to our trip, they would be the sheer mania of the fast urban motorways. After three plus years in Norfolk, I am now unused to this relentless wall of fast-moving, determined traffic, and I confess that I found it very stressful at times. Then there was the unaccustomed noise to consider. Neighbours, local traffic, the distant drone of non-stop motorways, motorcycles, and general comings and goings, all a thing of the past, since living in Beetley. And the litter. It has to be seen to be believed. Every inch of open space, all verges and pavements, every nook and cranny; it is all filled with discarded rubbish. Everything from complete furniture suites, to broken glass, nappies, drink cans, and bin bags full of unwanted garbage. Just dumped on the street, often outside of the actual homes it came from. Sad to see, and sobering in its intensity. Beetley became more attractive, with each passing day.
Still, none of this lies at Christine’s door, and we were more than happy to stay in her comfortable house, and to see her into the bargain. It felt as if we had been away longer than we had, always a good sign of a successful trip. More posts will follow, with those oft-requested photos too. In the meantime, here are some links, if you want to explore further.