Last leg of the Kent trip, and a first visit to the poor relation of Medway since a memorable pint in the Conservative Club 4 years ago, which shows how static the town’s Beer Guide entries have been.

Gillingham looks a bit like a scruffy South East London suburb, without the cultural diversity and Antic pubs. The heart was rather ripped out of the economy by the closure of Chatham Dockyard, and I rather doubt World Heritage Status or Dickens World will compensate.  The residential streets were grim and uncared for, a different world from Dover, though with even more kebab shops.

It’s worth looking at Medway on a road map; it sprawls over a vast Potteries-sized area, and my walk from one side (Twydall) to the other (Chatham Docks) took a good hour, and left a vast swathe south of the M2 still unexplored, rather like Wythenshawe is for me.

I was surprised to find some really pleasant country lanes just south of the eastern suburbs, and to be fair Lower Rainham near here has some good weather-boarded pubs locally. It’s the sort of urban walk I enjoy most, particularly in the micro-climate here.

A few attractive houses stood out:-


Although its a riverside town, you can’t actually see much see river.  Views of Isle of Grain power stations are an acquired taste.

For many years its offered lower league fans a reliable pre-match back street crawl – Will Adams, Dog & Bone, Frog & Toad and the Barge.  All good free houses meeting the 1974 Beer Guide definition of  a working-man’s pub.  Priestfield Road itself was always a slightly scary experience, even when Brighton were exiled there for a while.

It was always going to be a candidate for a micro-pub or two, with a pub-going culture close to that of Thanet, and plenty of empty buildings.  The newish Past & Present impressed me greatly, both on atmosphere and quality of the Wayland Smithy (NBSS 4).  You always get some good chat in a micro-pub, even if you don’t want it, and the discussion on cloud-walkers was worth the £1.50 for a half alone.  Is £3 a pint fixed by Martyn Hillier ?

I took a look at The Barge (closed lunchtime) for old times sake; it is the only pub where I have been attacked by a sheep, which was still safer than Paul’s kebabs on the Strand.


Gillingham isn’t getting gentrified any time soon.  A Wetherspoon would do wonders, as it has done in Sittingbourne and Sheerness.  The new Premier Inn at the small marina is a good sign.


  1. It’s difficult to know where Chatham ends and Gillingham begins, Martin. I can’t say that any of the Medway towns are on my list of favourite places to visit; although Rochester with its castle, cathedral and the river close by is undoubtedly the best of the Medway towns.

    It’s along time since I spent time in the conurbation and probably longer since I stopped for a drink. The same could be said for Dover. The town still bears the scars of cross-channel shelling from World War II; and the roads in to the docks don’t exactly add to its appeal. Dover’s saving grace is its magnificent castle, which overlooks the town, and is a favourite place from my childhood.

    The Maison Dieu is also well worth a look, as you discovered Martin. It is also home to the Dover Winter Ales Festival, which takes place each year at the beginning of February. With no beer at less than 5%, it’s also a rather “dangerous” festival; especially as many winter beers seem to slide down so easily. Many times I’ve returned rather the worse for wear, from that festival!


  2. Canterbury was bombed on three occasions between May 31st and June 6th 1942, with the city suffering considerable damage. This was a result of the so-called “Baedeker Raids”, carried out by the Luftwaffe in retaliation for the bombing, and almost total destruction, of the historic city of Lűbeck carried out a couple of months earlier by the RAF.

    The Baedeker raids were named after the Baedeker travel guidebooks used by the Germans to identify their targets; historic old English cities – much the same as Lűbeck had been.


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