Gillingham – Strood Walk 07.08.2010

Gillingham sounds like a Girls name doesn’t it?  Actually, the town was named after a War Lord, Gyllingas—from the old English “gyllan” meaning “to shout” I have to admit I didn’t really notice much shouting when we reached there (except some market traders maybe!!  Gyllingas was a very notable man in Kent history who led his warriors into battle screaming and shouting – the Braveheart of Kent!!

This walk did not really have any route planned at all  – we thought we would just enjoy the sights and sounds of whatever we came across.    As we wandered through the town centre we found signs to the Medway Park.    So that was the direction we took.   We soon realised we were on the Chatham Defence Lines Heritage trail, when we came across a War Memorial,  and our walk was about to get interesting! Despite taking a loop around an allotment to walk back on ourselves 😦 – we came did discover a sign for the Saxon Shore Way – which eventually was to become our route (more later!) we came a large building…

In fact this building was the Royal Engineers Museum with striking looking vehicles installed outside of the museum.  Vehicles looked very strange – mostly bridge building for tanks in one or another – it may be worth a proper visit at another time.  As we left the forecourt of the Museum behind we decided to rejoin the route of the “Saxon Shore Way” which we had spotted earlier – as we felt it would give us some proper direction to our walk!

It was not long before we made another discovery.  No 1 Dock Road – some very large gates – with beautifully restored Royal Crest on them.   We crossed Dock Road to investigate the building.    The coat of arms in question belonged to George III and had been fully restored in 1994 – This was part of Chatham’s Historic Dockyard.

From 2010 – 07.08.2010 – Gilliingham – Strood Walk

Therefore we decided to divert our route to look around the historic dockyard.  It was very different to the London Dockyards that we had walked around earlier in the year – most of these are mainly residential or with a fancy Marina – Chatham dockyard seems to have kept it’s original Dockyard feel – machinery is still around the yard, original warehouses are still around and unlike London there was not a luxury apartment in sight! However we did not have time to visit the historic trust so maybe next time?

Leaving the dockyard behind we rejoined the Saxon Shore Way – although this route was officially opened in 1980 was originally from fortifications along the Kent coast from roughly 1500 years ago!! (Still could have done with a few more signs though LOL!!)  The path took us past Fort Amherst –  at which point we decided to sit in the park and enjoy the view over the medway river.  We did not get to go into the actual Fort – but we could see the entrance to some strange tunnels – but again perhaps we should return as it contains some intriguing history since it is Europes largest surviving Napoleonic fortress!! (Although we did spot some lovely bee hives but the cafe was not open to buy any local honey!)

From 2010 – 07.08.2010 – Gilliingham – Strood Walk

Leaving the Fort behind, we continued our walk past the shopping area (stopping for the essential tea :-)), we picked up the trail again down the New Road, with a beautifully constructed Bridge and the Old Courthouse from 19th Century (so not very new then!!).   The pavement had led us into Rochester.  We decided to take a small diversion up a hill onto “Fort Pitt Gardens”.  This gave us a another lovely view over the River Medway.  Fort Pitt is also the location of the duel between  Mr Winkle and Dr. Slammer in the Charles Dickens novel Pickwick Papers!

We continued our journed onto Star Hill, which came across the most unusual Clocktower, which I am still struggling to find information on – it looked very odd – and out of place –  it was looked part of a bus stop! but was not even next to the road! Any help appreciated!!  As we walked further into Rochester, we were again confronted by yet another place where Charles Dickens had written one of his novels! Not only was Pickwick Papers written here (as mentioned earlier) but Edwin Drood! Charles Dickens obviously travelled around Kent as well – as we found his house in Broadstairs too!

From 2010 – 07.08.2010 – Gilliingham – Strood Walk

Rochester was proving to be full of history whereever we turned, a Mathematical School where the actor David Garrick attended – he was an 18th Century actor – but now he would be remembered for the Garrick theatre in London.   Rochester also boasts a beautiful Cathedral and a Castle.  I have to admit the Castle is a very imposing building – sadly we didn’t get a chance to go in as it was not open by the time we reached it!

We left Rochester behind to continue follow Saxon Shore Way across the Rochester Bridge and followed the Saxon Shore Way along the River Medway.   A little shock lay in store along the river, the usual boats were moored along the way – but I could not believe my eyes when I saw a Submarine!!!  In fact it is a Russian Submarine – the “Black Widow” ex Russian Foxtrot B-39 (U 475) Hunter Killer Class Submarine built in 1967 – I dont think Sean Connery would have been Captain of this Submarine – it certainly wouldn’t have been used for Hunt for Red October!!  Simply Amazing!  Any information from anyone would be appreciated!

From 2010 – 07.08.2010 – Gilliingham – Strood Walk

Walking past some old lock gates – we the path diverted us uphill. Again giving us lovely views over the Medway – it was rather nice to see where we had been walking.  The path brought us to the tiny village of Upnor.  Despite it’s one cobbled street – it had one post box, two phone boxes and two pubs – but I couldn’t see any shops!  But it did have a Castle!  It seems that the shores of the Medway needed a lot of defence Upnor Castle, Rochester Castle, Fort Amherst  the MOD was everywhere we walked!! – Even though these were all at different times – Even the Saxon Shore way we walked was the a result of ancient defence lines of the Kent coast!

The path took us uphill again behind Upnor.  The way took a sharp turning between houses and onto farm land.   The way was became more like a road.  The signs were very small and attached to telegraph poles – very difficult to spot.  We ended our walk at this point, as the path came to a barrier – saying “Private Road- Footpath Only” – yes we could have carried on as this was an official footpath, but it did not really feel comfortable – sadly as a walker it felt like we were invading farmers land.  We felt we had no choice but to take a short cut to the road.   If you this walk this part of the Saxon Shore Way hopefully you will not feel the same!  Our Journey then took us through Chatterden and onto Wainscott and then to Strood our journeys end.  We hope to return.  The one good thing about taking road back though we managed to spot some Kent Oast Houses 🙂

From 2010 – 07.08.2010 – Gilliingham – Strood Walk

All the photos from the days walk are as follows –

2010 – 07.08.2010 – Gilliingham – Strood Walk

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