|We set off from High Lane- the Fair Maids and a few Squires– on our journey to Kent.
We stopped for coffee at Wyevale Garden Centre on the outskirts of Derby, with their newly modernised cafeteria. Later , we paused for lunch in Warwick with time for a quick look round. On our journey to the hotel in Tonbridge we hit the stop start of the M25 which delayed an otherwise comfortable journey.
The accommodation in the hotel was satisfactory and comfortable and Tonbridge appeared to be a pleasant town but because of the full programme few of us had the opportunity for a good look round.
Our first outing was to the Royal Dockyard at Chatham, once the largest dockyard in the country, but now completely closed after at least four hundred years of service to the Royal Navy. Nowadays it is available as an open air Naval museum with splendid ship exhibits available to tour.
Part of the site was closed periodically in the afternoon as there was a film crew taking shots for including in a film The Golden Compass part of a fantasy trilogy thought to eventually replace Harry Potter.
Before lunch most of us visited some or all of a submarine, a destroyer and a sailing ship which were all available for inspection. Those visiting the submarine were required to employ some gymnastic ability and, to their credit demonstrated the old magic was still there when called upon. In the afternoon we had a choice of two slightly different guided tours by two enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides-- male and female– who gave us a comprehensive insight into the functions and history of the dockyard and particularly of the people who had worked there over the years.
Day two brought a visit to Canterbury complete with guided tours of the Cathedral. Once again we were taken round by enthusiastic and well informed guides who showed us parts of the Cathedral that we would probably have missed if left to wander round on our own. The guide for our group was a lady who had a sharp sense of humour and punctuated her narrative occasionally with some very amusing comments. The rest of the day was spent seeing the sights in the city and possibly spending some money in the bustling main street.
Leeds Castle was the destination for the third day. Rain was threatening and the day was a little chilly at first.
Most of us spent the morning walking in the nice well kept Castle grounds and visiting the maze and, when the rain eventually arrived about midday we went inside for lunch and a tour of the Castle in the afternoon.
An extra bonus was an Autumn Gold flower festival in progress in all the rooms and on many windowsills. The rooms were gloriously decorated in different ways. We were invited to vote on which display was the best, for some of us it was impossible to separate one from the other in terms of merit. Apart from the flower festival the Castle appeared to be an ancient building which had been adapted for contemporary use without effacing it's historical associations. A splendid Mott and Bailey Castle.
Our homeward journey began in rainy weather although the M25 was clear. Our lunch break in Marlow was marred by a little rain. Fortunately the sun came out for a drive through parts of the Cotswolds, which ended with afternoon tea just outside Broadway. We then set off for Birmingham and the inevitable Friday night traffic on the M6, but fortunately this turned out to be better than it can often be.
Our thanks for this interesting and enjoyable trip are due to Grace Shaw and Margaret McDermott , the main organisers, and to others who made their contribution to the smooth running of the trip,
Was it a success? Undoubtedly! Will we go on the trip next year? Of course,
Click here to see the Kent Picture Gallery