Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Goodbye Kingswear Castle

This morning the steam paddle steamer Kingswear Castle made her final trip down the River Medway under tow from the tug Christine.

The Kingswear Castle has been a regular sight on the river for the past thirty years operating popular pleasure cruises particularly from the Historic Dockyard at Chatham.

She was built in Dartmouth, Devon in 1924 and plied the River Dart until 1965 when she was saved from the breakers yard and brought to the Medway for restoration.

The process has now gone full circle.The Kingswear Castle is currently heading back home to the River Dart.

She has been chartered by the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company and will be kept busy carrying tourists for the foreseeable future.

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UPDATE 15.12.12 - Kingswear Castle is currently sheltering in Portland due to bad weather in the Channel. She was only built as a river ship so not really ideal for the open sea.

UPDATE 20.12.12 - Kingswear Castle made it safely to the River Dart!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Final Voyage of the Pride of Dover - update

Further to my last post about the Pride of Dover, it appears that she is now indeed on her final voyage to Turkish shipbreakers after all.

She spent several days sheltering in Lyme Bay waiting for a weather window to safely cross the Bay of Biscay.

Any seafarer will tell you that the Bay of Biscay should be treated with utmost respect - especially at this time of year.

The latest report (at around 6 AM this morning) was that she was passing Brest at around 5 knots heading for Tuzla, Turkey.

UPDATE - The Pride of Dover arrived at Aliaga, Turkey on 27th December 2012.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Final Voyage of the Pride of Dover - or was it?

On 29th November 2012 the P & O ferry "Pride of Dover" which had operated the Dover to Calais route between 1987 and 2010 left her lay up berth in Tilbury Docks bound under tow on her final voyage to Turkish ship breakers - or did she?....

First the vessel, imaginatively renamed "Pride" for the delivery voyage to Turkey, was carefully manoeuvred out of Tilbury Docks by three tugs and moored alongside Tilbury Landing Stage so that she could be connected to the deep sea tug "Eide Fighter".

After a short stay alongside the Landing Stage she headed off slowly down the Thames. Here are some pictures taken from the Saxon Shore Way at Gravesend close to my office.

A close up of the 8000 BHP tug "Eide Fighter" registered in Nassau, Bahamas.

Despite the bitter cold, the sun decided to put in a brief appearance.

The last shot of her heading down the Estuary with the "Svitzer Mercia" acting as stern tug to assist with steering. Further down the Estuary the "Svitzer Mercia" left the "Eide Fighter" and "Pride" to their own devices.

The voyage to Turkey was expected to take just under thirty days. Through the wonders of the Internet it is now usually possible to track ships at sea.

The "Eide Fighter" and her tow were making slow but steady progress down the English Channel... that was until today.

On checking earlier today it appears that instead of heading down the Channel in the direction of Turkey, the "Eide Fighter" has made a u-turn and is now heading back up the Channel...

Could the "Pride" have had a last minute reprieve?

It is my understanding that the ferry's engines were in a very poor state which is why she was sold for scrap in Turkey rather than to another ferry company for further trading.

No doubt all will be revealed in the next week or two.

In the meantime, to end this post, is a picture of the "Pride of Dover" in happier times making her way into Dover harbour...


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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tin Tabarnacles in Kent

What is a tin tabernacle?

A tin tabernacle, also sometimes known as a tin chapel, was a "temporary" building constructed from corrugated iron built during the late Victorian era and used for religious worship.

The late Victorian period was a time of religious missionary zeal and the Anglican church sought to spread the word particularly in rural areas such as Kent. Farm labourers and seasonal hop pickers would often find themselves living many miles walk from the nearest parish church.

To overcome this problem, tin tabernacles were built in the countryside as satellites of the parish churches. The minister would travel out to the tin tabernacle to deliver the Sunday sermon to the farm labourers and their families.

Although the tin tabernacles were only intended to be temporary structures in lieu of a more permanent building some can still be found in Kent well over one hundred years later.

The example pictured above was originally constructed in 1897 and located in Cuxton (near Rochester) but was dismantled and moved to the Museum of Kent Life in Sandling (near Maidstone) in 2000 where it is open to the public.

The tin tabernacles were usually very spartan inside as can be seen above.

I came across the St Mary's Church Room in Sole Street by accident during a recent walk. As far as I can tell from looking at old Ordnance Survey maps it dates back to around 1880. Sole Street is a small rural village a few miles from Gravesend which grew up around the railway station which opened in 1861.

Unusually for a tin tabernacle this one has a stained glass window.

Lastly another one I came across by accident on a walk around Halstead. This is not technically at tin tabernacle as it is made from wood but interesting all the same! It is located in Otford Lane and was known as the Mission Church.

At the time the church was constructed in 1891 most of Otford Lane lay in neighbouring Shoreham parish. Until that time the labourers and fruit pickers working on the farms and orchards there faced a walk of two or three miles to their proper parish church.

Eventually in 1938 Otford Lane was brought completely into Halstead parish. The Mission Church remained in use until 1985.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Remembrance Day

A poppy placed alongside a sailor's name... one of the 18500 commemorated on the Royal Navy memorial in Chatham.

My Big Walk - Day 4 - Arpinge to Dover Castle

I'm finally getting a chance to write a post about the fourth and final day of my ChYps charity walk from Northfleet to Dover Castle back in August.

Unfortunately my PC has been out of action for some time but I've finally got the old girl back up and running again.

Following on from my day 3 post, I left the guest house at Arpinge early after a hearty full English breakfast freshly cooked by Mary the landlady. The guest house is located only a short distance off the North Downs Way (NDW) so I was soon back on track.

This final section of the NDW closely follows the coastline giving great views over the English Channel - on a clear day the coast of France is clearly visible about twenty or so miles away.

During the Second World War the coastal area of Kent was particularly heavily defended and many of the fortifications are still in place like this pill box above slowly being reclaimed by nature in a field near the guest house.

My first major landmark of the day was Cheriton Hill which overlooks the Channel Tunnel rail complex. The site covers a huge area and the scale of the operation is impressive. For readers not based in the UK, this is where cars and freight vehicles are loaded onto rail waggons for transit via the Channel Tunnel to France.

The NDW undulates over a number of steep hills like Castle Hill above - quite hard going when you have already walked nearly sixty miles over the previous few days.

The Normans built a castle on top of the hill shortly after the Conquest in around 1100. The information board shows an artist's impression of how it would have looked at the time.

I was a bit surprised when I came across these fine ladies but fortunately they were friendly!

The view from inside another Second World War pillbox overlooking Folkestone. The weather was good the day I passed by but I would not fancy spending a night on duty there in mid Winter.

A welcome sight as by this stage my feet were finished. I had blisters on top of blisters and every step was an effort. The last day was definitely proving to be the hardest.

The views made up for the pain and I was also spurred on by the knowledge that I wasn't far from the Battle of Britain memorial at Capel le Ferne where I could get a restorative cup of tea and bite to eat.

The memorial was opened by the Queen Mother on the 9th July 1993 as a permanent tribute to the almost 3000 aircrew who served during the battle. The centre piece is a statue of a pilot looking out over the English Channel.

Full scale replicas of a Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire are on display outside the cafe.

As I went in to get my tea I overheard a member of staff very patiently and politely explaining to some American tourists that the Battle of Britain was in 1940 and the Second World War had actually started in 1939 and not 1941....

I would have liked to have spent more time looking around but had to press on as my wife and son were meeting me at Dover Castle and I didn't fancy walking home again...

Just outside Capel le Ferne is a concrete sound mirror which was erected in the late 1930's. Before the introduction of radar, sounds mirrors were used as a crude early warning system to detect enemy aircraft. The sound of the aircraft's engines were amplified by the shape of the mirror.

Unfortunately the system did not prove very successful.

When the mirrors were first conceived aircraft were slow biplanes which could be detected in sufficient time for fighter aircraft to be scrambled or AA batteries alerted.

However, by the Second World War fast monoplane fighters like the Bf 109 could only be detected with a few minutes notice. Luckily radar was developed and introduced otherwise the outcome of the Battle of Britain may have been different.

My first view of Dover Western Docks in the distance. Only a few more hills to go...

The NDW descends from Shakespeare Cliff down into Dover then passes under the A20 and through the grounds of the Western Heights, fortifications built to defend us from our Gallic friends.


Finally journey's end in sight and one last hill to climb.

The castle was hosting a Roman re-enactment event so it was packed out when I finally arrived on Bank Holiday Monday.

My wife and son were waiting for me. He had apparently been charging around like a lunatic for a couple of hours which probably explains why he looks redder than me in the photo.

He had also managed to acquire an authentic Roman looking spear for good measure with which to terrorise the cats when he got home.

I was pleased to have completed the walk.

In the most part it was a very enjoyable experience and with the help and encouragement of family, friends and business colleagues we managed to raise over £ 800 for the work of ChYps children's hospice.

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Big Walk - Day 3 - Hothfield to Arpinge

After arriving in Hothfield and checking into my hotel for the night I wandered across to the neighbouring pub The Hop Pickers for something to eat and was pleasantly surprised to see that they had a ChYps collection box behind the bar even though they are 35 miles from the hospice.

The service and food in the pub were both very good and I can recommend a visit if you find yourself in the area.

After a good night's sleep and a hearty full English breakfast I was raring to go the next morning. This was to be the longest and most pleasant day of the walk. 

Setting off from Hothfield I walked along very quiet country lanes to Westwell where I rejoined the Pilgrims' Way/NDW passing the camp site and resident chickens at Dunn Street....

then across the fields to Eastwell manor which is now a country house hotel and golf course. The NDW passes through the grounds of the hotel and on to Boughton Lees.

I nearly trod on this little chap hiding in the long grass. I think it may be a grouse chick. Boughton Lees is a small village with a well manicured cricket pitch on the green. The green is also home to the immaculately maintained village war memorial.

The next village on my route was Wye on the River Stour. I walked over the bridge and stopped off at the Tickled Trout for a couple of pints (of orange juice and lemonade!).

As I arrived in Wye, the village fete was in full swing. I got chatting to an elderly gentleman and he told me that his 102 year old mother in law was going to be cutting the ribbon on the village sign later in the afternoon. She had lived in Wye nearly all her life and was the oldest resident.

Unfortunately I didn't have time to stay and watch as I still had a lot of miles to cover. Leaving Wye the NDW climbs up steep hills called the Wye Downs. A crown symbol was cut into the hillside in 1902 to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII.

The views from above the Wye Crown have to be some of the best in Kent. It was so clear I could see as far as Romney Marsh.

The NDW passes a natural geological feature called the Devil's Kneading Trough which was formed around 10000 years ago during the last ice age.

The sides of the valley drop away steeply several hundred feet. I continued on the NDW for several more miles heading for the village of Stowting where I discovered an excellent watering hole called the Tiger Inn. Here I stopped for a few more pints of orange juice and lemonade. 

The pub was absolutely heaving and the food being served looked really good. I would imagine that most of the people in the pub had travelled some distance to get there as the village only consists of a few houses.

After leaving the pub I had several more steep hills to climb. The area is about 550' above sea level - this is high by Kent standards. 

My next landmark was the radio transmitter on Tolsford Hill at Etchinghill. 

Near the transmitter tower the NDW passes over some heathland used for military training and then passes under one of the remaining bridges of the Elham Valley Railway which used to run from Canterbury to Folkestone. The line was dismantled in the early 1950's.

After passing under the bridge I climbed my last hill of the day and finally made it to my B & B in Arpinge at about 7 PM. I had been walking for nine and a half hours and covered 21 miles.

The B & B is called Pigeonwood House and was built in 1769. It is run by a very friendly lady called Mary. The rooms are comfortable and the place is kept spotlessly clean. If you are looking for a quiet place to stay in the country look no further. 

Total miles walked since leaving the hospice on Friday - 56 miles.

Number of blisters - far too many!

If you would like to help ChYps look after seriously ill Kent children in their own homes, you can make a donation here....

Thanks for your continued support. 

UPDATE - for the last day of My Big Walk please see here

Saturday, August 25, 2012

My Big Walk - Day 2 - Detling to Hothfield

Day two of my big walk started off this morning where I had finished off yesterday at the Cock Horse Inn at Detling parts of which date back to the 17th Century.

Things did not get off to a good start. The weather was atrocious with constant drizzle. To make matters worse the first part of today's walk was along the Pilgrims' Way to Thurnham. The Pilgrims' Way at this point is nothing more than a country lane not even wide enough for two cars to pass each other and with no pavement.

I spent the next 30 minutes or so dodging cars and then some dinkle decided to drive a 7.5 tonne truck up the lane. I leave the ensuing chaos to your imagination!

In Thurnham I rejoined the North Downs Way (NDW) and headed steeply uphill past the ruins of Thurnham Castle to the top of the ridge. All the time the rain continued unabated and to make matters even more depressing the wind picked up to virtually gale force.

On a clear day the views would be great but as you can see....

The NDW winds through the woods at the top of the ridge and undulates up and down. Due to the rain the going was muddy and slippery.

After what seemed like forever I finally made it to Hollingbourne. A distance of only 5 miles from Detling. I think it had actually taken me just over two hours. The traditional Kent finger post showed I still had another 15 miles to go to Ashford close to my destination for the day.

The NDW passes the Dirty Habit. I was going to go in for a tea or coffee to warm up until I noticed a sign making it clear that muddy boots were NOT welcome!

The next town en route was Harrietsham which I could see in the valley below. On the outskirts of Harrietsham the rain finally started to ease off slightly.

I continued on towards Lenham passing around the back of the Marley works and Stede Court nature reserve where I came across this carving of a weary pilgrim sitting on a bench.

By this stage I was very wet and a bit fed up.

Finally after about four hours of continual drizzle the sun came out. However, the wind continued to gust. Not much fun when you're walking into it.

I stopped to take some pictures of the Lenham Cross cut into the hillside in 1922 like the one at Shoreham to commemorate the fallen of the Great War (and later Second World War).

The next leg of the walk was through to Charing where I planned to find a cafe for a cuppa. When I did eventually get to Charing it looked like the whole place was deserted. I half expected to see a clump of tumbleweed blow along the High Street. No cafe. No cuppa.

Looking at my map I could see it was only another couple of miles on to Hothfield just outside Ashford where I was staying the night so I gave up on Charing and headed straight there.

The last bit through to Hothfield was beside the busy A20, not the best bit of the walk so far.

Total miles walked on day two - 16 miles. Number of blisters - too many! Number of sponsors today - not enough!

Total miles walked since leaving the hospice yesterday - 35 miles.

The halfway point has been reached.

Tomorrow's walk will be through to Arpinge near Folkestone. Lots more hills for me to look forward to. .

If you would like to help the ChYps kids get the care and support they need, please sponsor me now at -


Many thanks for your continued support.

UPDATE - for Day 3 of My Big Walk please see here