GILLINGHAM – A FEW POSITIVES

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.

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A few attractive houses stood out:-

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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 Smith (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.

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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.

9 thoughts on “GILLINGHAM – A FEW POSITIVES

  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!

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  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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