Too many places
My first world travel was at the expense of the British Government when I enlisted in the RAF and they sent me to Malaya to sort out some rebels who wanted to take over. While there I spent time in Singapore, up country in Malaya, Tan son Nhut, Vietnam, FIC, and Pulau Labuan, British North Borneo. Other places stopped off by troopship were Port Said, Aden and Colombo. By liner from Australia were S Africa and the Canaries.
My next foray was into Scotland to pick up a wife - still my best pal - to live in Lincolnshire. Together with our two boys we spent two years in Adelaide, S Australia. Returned to Britain and lived in Scotland for 27 years before we joined our youngest son and his wife in Dorset. Our eldest son married a German and now lives in S Germany near Heidelberg, which we have visited to see our granddaughter. Our younger son took our two granddaughters and younger grandson to live in New Zealand. Which we have twice visited.
When I visit places I paint.
Gillingham in Kent (NOT Dorset or Norfolk!)
"Gillingham in General"
It is perhaps unfortunate that I commence my first excursion into the realms of 'Virtual Tourist' with a place for which I have very little regard, despite having chosen to live here twenty three years ago!
Housing was was cheap at the time, and many of my friends lived here, yet I'm unable to muster up any enthusiasm for the place which, arguably, is rich in military history and on the doorstep of more notable towns such as 'Naval' Chatham and 'Dickensian' Rochester. My house is one of thousands built in 1903 specifically for the local workforce employed at Chatham Dockyard. It is a twenty minute walk away from home to the main town centre, but located in a generally quieter and hilly part of Gillingham.
"Gillingham Town Centre"
The first thing a visitor to Gillingham sees as he/she leaves the railway station is a hotch-potch high street, a mixture of old and new (but mainly old) shops snaking into the distance. The roads are narrow, but exceptionally busy with traffic passing through between Chatham and Sittingbourne. There is an alternative route, of course, the equally as busy Watling Street which by-passes the town centre entirely.
High street shops consist of all the usual trade outlets although there are some strange omissions. There is nowhere to buy a suit, car parts, electrical appliances (although the Co-op supermarket offers a small selection of cookers & fridges), no proper toy shops, sports shops - I'm sure there are others, although they don't immediately spring to mind. However, if it's kebabs your'e after, then look no further!
Saturdays and Mondays are market days, and stalls selling the usual tat practically line the whole length of the high street making negotiation extremely difficult at times. Incidentally, the high street was pedestrianised some years ago, but this doesn't stop the occasional motorist from passing through.
At the far end of the high street can be found the library, and just beyond, the well appointed Black Lion swimming baths.
... range from the attractive to the downright ugly. Starting with the latter category first, Parr Avenue to the north of town must possess some of strangest people within the Medway Towns. Here, you will find scores of large tattooed women (with the ever-present 'fag' dangling from their lower lips) seated en masse at all times of day and night on their front doorsteps. Whilst I am sure they do no harm, their mere presence is intimidating and only adds to the plethera of 'boy-racers' passing through, and stray pit bull terriers with nary an owner in sight. It is not a nice area to walk. Likewise Richmond Road, with it's omnipresent 'hoodies' hanging around in gangs on every street corner.
Other aesthetically unpleasing areas include The Strand, once a popular Victorian watering resort, and the main road between here and Frindsbury, widened in recent years to carry traffic through the 'new' (but leaky and often closed) Medway Tunnel.
Now the pleasant things:
Between Gillingham and Chatham lays the small locality of Brompton, known mainly for its association with military instalations within the towns. The road leading off to Kitchener Barracks displays a fine terrace of three-floor Georgian houses, well cared for by their present owners. The 19th century drill hall nearby is also worthy of inspection, as is the Royal Engineers museum on the opposite side of the road.
Gillingham, Rainham Marshes
"Lower Rainham Road"
A continuation of the road leading from Chatham to Sheerness via Otterham Quay, known as Saxon Shore Way. It runs adjacent to the River Medway, so affords some fairly tranquil and pleasant views of the estuary. Only one ever-present eyesore along this stretch, and that is Kingsnorth Power Station on the north side of the river.
Having passed the Strand (mentioned on my "Gillingham" page), the landscape becomes noticeably rural. Housing is sparse and interlaced with farms and riding schools. Lower Rainham Road has some attractive houses, many of which date from Tudor times - like the one pictured.
... the name given to the island at the end of this man-made causeway. Now a conservation area, it was formerly a cement factory, although the remains of very Victorian looking brick buttresses rather belie the fact. The causeway was constructed about 100 years ago, and materials were transported via a small horse drawn railway to the factory. The factory closed during the 1930s.
My photo does not do the actual scene justice, so it is necessary to fill in some detail here. The footpath in the foreground arcs round to the left and continues past the trees in the background. Horrid Hill is represented by the tight group of trees on the right. Also in the background, to the left, can be seen Kingsnorth Power Station. Just discernable to the right is the former Anglo-Iranian Oil Company's refinery on the Isle of Grain.
Early morning walks around the peninsula are very pleasant, although I find that there are too many dog walkers for my liking. I don't like dogs!
"Rainham Marshes "
In this view, it is not hard to imagine Abel Magwitch running across the mud flats in a desperate attempt to evade the police. The whole area has a "Dickensian" atmosphere, in fact, it is tempting to think Charles Dickens had Rainham Marshes in mind when he wrote the opening scenes for "Great Expectations!"
"Rainham Marshes "
The mudflats and saltmarshes play host to a variety of birds, including this curlew seen to the left of the photo. Among resident curlew and gulls, visiting species include redshank, whimbrel and oystercatchers.
"Rainham Marshes "
This photo serves as a reminder that warship hulks housing French prisoners of war were moored here. Although these examples are of a much later era, forlorn remains can be seen littered at various places along the foreshore.