GRAVESEND
to SOLE STREET

12th February 2017


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Our February Walk in Gravesham Country

Our walk this Sunday was ably led by Helen. After showing us some of Gravesend's historical heritage, she skilfully led us out of town, avoiding the 1½ mile stretch of the busy A227 which was the official start of the Weald Way. After crossing the A2 and the High Speed Channel Tunnel rail link and negotiating the open spaces of a new and already quite busy country park, we eventually reached Henley Street. Here we had a pleasant lunch time stop at "The Cock Inn" pub. Then on to Cobham we went, where we soaked up the history exuding from every pore of this conservation village. We re-crossed our original path to reach Sole Street Station, from whence some of us returned directly to the Capital, while others returned via Rochester to the east. The day was a tad misty, but it stayed dry. Another successful CLOG day out - socially and culturally and of course providing us with good exercise.




"The Cock Inn" in Henley Street makes for a pleasant lunch stop.
The wide range of beers garnered the praise from the devotees amongst us of the hop.

So here is what these pages have in store for you. Even if you were not able to join us, here's your chance to find out how we enjoyed our exhilarating mid-February Sunday CLOG walk.

Enjoy your browse!


We Arrive

We came to Gravesend, the start of our walk this Sunday, with the high speed line from Saint Pancras, the "slower" line from Victoria, and by car via the Dartford Crossing from Essex. Gravesend was reasonably easy to get to.




For those coming from Essex (thanks Ralph for the lift), the graceful outline of the Dartford Crossing's QE II Bridge made for a fitting entry into the Garden of England. The effect was enhanced by the morning mists swirling around the Thames Estuary.

Following the description of recent CLOG sorties into Kent from Essex, we all know about the construction of the bridge. It is NOT a suspension bridge. It is NOT a cantilever bridge.




We meet up at Gravesend Station with its mix of elegant Victorian platform awnings on platform 2 and those of a more modern age on platform 1. And what's the third platform beyond? Well, it's platform 0 - yes, zero. Never seen a platform zero before. The numbering scheme probably avoided the need for the hassle of changing the descriptions on train timetables.


A Walk around Old Gravesend

Helen had the nice idea of starting our walk with a cultural and historical dimension. We learnt about Pocahontas and saw the time-honoured parish church. A short stroll along the Thames promenade introduced us to yet more - for most of us - new aspects of Gravesend's past.




Visitors to Gravesend arriving by train are greeted by the story of Pocahontas on the brick wall opposite the station entrance. You just can't miss the picture, which (with frame) is about 15¾ feet long and 7½ feet high, at least, according to my humble estimates.




Helen treated us to a brief exploration of Gravesend's heritage.
On the trail in downtown Gravesend was the church.
Why would anyone wish to put a modern building right in front of the church? Perhaps this happened in the days before the word "heritage" was writ large in everyone's consciousness.




How about drawing the historical threads together?
Well this is neatly done by a wooden plaque outside the church. I think the well written plaque does the "thread pulling" job eminently well without me trying to repeat things!




In the nearby "Pocahontas Gardens" Helen shows us the statue of Pocahontas and treats us to a mini history lesson.




Pocahontas (1595-1617) rises up in style over the - perhaps less stylish - modern building development that has sprouted in this part of downtown Gravesend.




A quick look in the church reveals a typical 18th century interior. Out of respect to the assembled Sunday worshippers, our look is no more than fleeting.




One of the two piers jutting into the Thames Estuary is flanked by a "gaming café" to the left and the Three Daws (Jackdaws) Pub to the right.




The gaming café is called the "Mug and Meeple". In case you are wondering, a "Meeple" is a game piece in the game of Carcassonne which was invented and first marketed in Germany
as late as 2000 AD (the year of the Millennium).




A steam powered lightship spends its retirement as a tourist attraction.




It can be reached from the pier whose entrance we saw above.




As we leave town, we scale Windmill Hill from which we should usually get
a good view across to the other side of the Thames.


The Cock Inn - Henley Street

We leave Gravesend by cleverly avoiding the busy A227 - thanks Helen! We cross the A2 and the High Speed Channel Tunnel rail link and negotiate a busy country park. Eventually we reach Henley Street where "The Cock Inn" awaits us for lunch.




"The Cock Inn" has a good range of beers and appears to be a flourishing concern despite - or because of - not admitting children and not taking advance bookings for lunch.
The interesting interior decor certainly does not escape visitors' attention.
However, to use a colloquial turn of phrase, the pub food did not "grab me".




The name of the pub seemed to suggest that we were in "game bird" country.




We were suitably "wined and dined" and were rearing to go on the next "leg" of our walk.




Here are some more of us at the ready!


And So to Cobham

The undulating North Downs country which we traversed was given a special air of mystery by the swirling mists which lingered on through the day. Mist but no rain. Some snowdrops caught our attention as we neared Cobham.




The wide open landscape ...




... starts to close in ...




... until it seems to have us in its grasp.




It's the open road again. Sign of rain, but no rain.




Hardy snowdrops greet us as we get close to Cobham.
Spring is in the offing, but not quite here yet.


Cobham Exudes History

And so we finally reach Cobham, the conservation village, where the two aspects spiritual hold sway, as they have done for centuries. The church and its associated college are well worth a visit. Traditional watering holes beckon those seeking more earthly food.




The Darnley family once held sway here and this is the entrance to their estate.
Their country house is now a school. Sic transit gloria nobilitatis.




The war memorial, unusually, is at one end "of town" away from the church.




"The Ship", with its curious inn sign, is the first of the watering holes to greet us.




We proceed along the narrow high street, past the village shop, and reach "The Darnley Arms".




Lord Darnley, as the pub sign shows, had a lovely coat of arms, but his Latin motto has been weathered out of all readability.




Towards the end of the high street, opposite the church, is the "Leather Bottle".




The sign commemorates the fact that Dickens used to come here from his residence in Rochester. He liked coming to Cobham, where, apparently he completed half of "The Pickwick Papers".




Cobham's Thirteenth Century parish church holds sway at one end of the high street. Click on the picture and join us as we visit this venerable, time-honoured, building.




As we leave the church, its crenellated tower reminds us that churches, in mediaeval times, also had a defensive function. The idea was, of course, that archers, shooting from the top of the tower to ward off attacking marauders, were afforded some protection by the crenellations.




The church is on the left, the College on the right.




The College used to be for visiting priests.
It is now a retirement community for those who have lived in Cobham.




A lady from the administrative staff is on hand to show us around and explain a few things.
We get to see the refectory, presided over by a splendid painting of Lord Darnley, one of the more recent (in Victorian times) benefactors of the College.




As we leave Cobham, this decorative porch seems to bid us goodbye.



To Sole Street

As we head for journey's end, Sole Street Station, we cover part of the route we took this morning. Well pruned apple orchards and open countryside characterize the final stage of our walk today through this attractive corner of the Garden of England.




Our path traverses any number of apple orchards. Here, as we look back, we notice that the frieze of apple trees has been so precisely pruned, it looks as if part of the picture had been chopped off diagonally. Very skilful, these apple tree pruners.




On our walk we encounter a pylon at close quarters. Pylons may not be regarded by many of us as having aesthetic appeal. However, this upward shot from (of course) ground level suggests that the symmetrical aspect of these structures is not without its engineering interest.




Close to our journey's end is the Railway Inn. Now Sole Street was firmly in Southern Railway country (Southern as before nationalization). So what is a Great Western Manor class 4-6-0 doing here? These locomotives never "set wheel" in this area south of the Thames. I humbly suggest that someone did not do their homework!
Anyway, the sign looks nice, even if out of place!




And here is Sole Street Station in all its Victorian glory. The old GPO makes its presence felt - red letter box and red 'phone box. The platform lights have come on and tell us that it's time to head for home, fortified by the memories of a nice and interesting day.


Homewards

Sole Street on a Sunday seemed a sleepy sort of place. However, after a short while our party split, some of us going west (not metaphorically, I may hasten to add) to the Capital, and some going east, to return via Rochester and thence to Gravesend and London. Platforms on Rochester station are very exposed to the elements, and today were very windy; however, from the platforms we were rewarded by a splendid view of the town's Norman heritage in the form of the Cathedral and the Castle with its typical, four cornered, keep. It took a few hundred years for the Norman square keep to yield to the more practical round construction as (e.g.) at Windsor. The utilitarian concrete and plate glass impact of Rochester's station is softened by the historical motifs inserted into and onto the plate glass. Studying these motifs made for an interesting wait at the station.




It's a short wait on Sole Street Station for the London-(West) bound train in one direction and for the Rochester-bound train in the other. In Rochester it's a train and platform change.




We arrive in Rochester just before "candlelight", so we enjoy this marvellous view of the Cathedral and Norman castle bathed in the twilight of early evening.




Rochester Station has become a plate glass and concrete affair. However, perhaps as an antidote and not to disappoint the visitor, some of the plate glass has been decorated with copies of typical 18th century road maps as well as a collection of these 9" roundels, all depicting some aspects of Rochester's rich history.



Thank You All for a Nice CLOG Day Out!

And now it's time to say: "Thank you Helen for suggesting and leading this walk, and for 'modifying' the start of the Weald Way to good advantage. Thank you everyone for your company. Thank you to the weather gods for bringing good walking weather, a tad misty but dry". In a way, the mistiness added a touch of mystery to the proceedings! So, another successful CLOG day out!



Footnotes

  1. Pocahontas Picture Dimensions. The original "photograph", before I applied perspective and cropping operations to it, showed that around the wall-mounted Pocahontas picture (with frame) there are 30 and 21 bricks in the vertical and horizontal directions respectively. I then measured - offline - the size of a "British standard brick", which, with its surrounding mortar, is about 9" long and 3" high. The framed picture's width (or length) and height are thus 15 feet and 7 feet respectively. Of course, this gives an aspect ratio of 15 to 7, or 2.100; as a cross-check, the corresponding pixel dimensions of the digital picture of the resultant framed Pocahontas picture are 768 by 376 pixels, yielding a digital aspect ratio of about 2.043, which in turn - allowing for my measurement imperfections - is reasonably close to 2.100! So there! Probably too simple, even as a class example for primary school! However, the calculation might, in its modest way, help to keep my own "little grey cells" in business!

  2. Pub Food. The food itself seemed to have a lot of chips and white bread and little evidence of the "5 a day" recommendation; unfortunately, it is well known that diets characterized by these three aspects have generally had an adverse airing in the media in recent years.