Thursday, November 19

Rochester, Kent

After my brief visit to Rochester on Tuesday, I returned today for a longer exploration of this lovely town.

Rochester is only about 40 minutes' drive from Deptford, and it is in a rather idyllic location on the edge of the River Medway, which meanders north to meet the Thames estuary just a few miles away. Sadly this ancient town is hemmed in by rather charmless estates of housing, light industrial units and supermarkets which crowd up to the opposite edges of the river, however it is still possible to be captivated by the town as you wander through its historic heart.

Today I was on tour with the Curse, so we left our walking boots at home - after all, he's already done one walk this week; two would be pushing it!

There was plenty to amuse us, starting first with the impressive castle, from the top of which the above photograph was taken. This view looks over the Medway towards Strood. The road and rail bridges cross the river right next to one another while further upstream and not visible on this photograph are the much bigger Medway Crossings which carry the motorway and the new Channel Tunnel Rail Link across the river. The bridges on this photograph are interesting, particularly the old road bridge which is a bit of a mishmash of arch and truss bridges, along with a 'new' bridge which was built later to increase capacity. Unusually they are funded and managed by a trust.
You can see a lot more detail on the photograph by clicking to enlarge it; detail such as the Russian submarine Black Widow which is currently moored just downstream of the bridge (and looking far from seaworthy in my opinion!)

We spent a pleasant half an hour or so mooching around the castle along with several classes of school children - although they were noisy they were incredibly polite! The Curse was most impressed when one of them addressed him as 'sir'.
We wandered the pretty streets which house Rochester's posh school. Not being au fait with the world of public schools (that's private schools for my US readers) I don't know how its fees compare with other independents, but they are certainly eye-watering.

The cathedral - second oldest in the country after Canterbury - kept us amused for a further hour or more. We were shown around by Jools Holland. To tell the truth he wasn't actually there, he was just narrating the audio guide which we decided to use. But seeing as we've seen him drinking in our local in Deptford, and he has strong links with our part of the world through his former band Squeeze, it was quite a nice connection!

The cathedral is beautiful both inside and out, and features some fantastic medieval graffiti as well as a great 13thC wall painting of the wheel of fortune. I find that although the main purpose of cathedrals, churches and so on is obviously a spiritual and religious one, they are so closely tied to British history and also to local events and personalities that they are much more valuable as such for aetheists like me!

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