Recently my work took me for a few days to the town of Chatham in Kent, about 30 miles SE of London. Chatham is a town associated since long ago with the (British) Royal Navy. It is a place that Lord Horatio Nelson would have known well. Until recently there were big navy dockyards there. These days I don't think there is much maritime work taking place there. However, there is a tourist attraction called the Chatham Historic Dockyard, in which old ships and maritime artifacts are displayed.
Since the place I was working was very close to the Historic Dockyard, I booked into a hotel right next to it, in the hope that I might be able to see some interesting things.
This is the hotel.
In the interests of avoiding the possibility of libel action, I won't mention its name, but anyone who has stayed here will know which hotel I'm referring to. After, all, who could possibly forget such an architectural gem? Actually, I think if our esteemed Prince Charles had ever set eyes on it, this would certainly be one of those places he allegedly refers to as a "monstrous carbuncle". I think it has nothing whatsoever to commend it.
The hotel stands next to the Mast Pond. This is an artificial lake formerly filled with sea-water in which timber for making ships' masts was seasoned.
Apparently seasoning the timber in salt water rather than in air made it more supple and less prone to snapping in a gale. Today, the pond is disused and evidently tidal. At all times that I was near it, the pond was simply a stretch of mud, full of things like this:
I did think this walkway across the pond was quite photogenic, even though I didn't really understand its purpose. Maybe people used to walk out over it to inspect the masts being seasoned?
On the opposite side of the Mast Pond to the hotel is the carpark for the Historic Dockyard. Around its periphery stands an array of old workshops and warehouses. Today they seem to be empty and disused.
One of the few vehicles in the carpark was this old bus. I wonder if it takes tourists around on tours of the area, or whether it is just a display?
I tried to get to a place from which I could see ships, but the site was fenced off and all the gates were locked. I just occasionally got a tantalising glimpse of the masts of a sailing ship, or the turrets of a 1950s frigate.
I did manage to get fairly close to an old RNLI lifeboat:
Failing to see any ships at close quarters, I had to content myself with examining the miscellaneous array of old bits and pieces arranged round the edge of the carpark. This is something we Brits seem to do well. We have such things in the carpark of EVERY tourist attraction. Exhibit A: a pile of rusty old chains (maritime chains, you understand).
Exhibit B: (You know what this is of course..?)
A helpful notice advises the visitor that it is (was) a Punch and Shear machine - for making holes in, and cutting metal (for ship repair work). Most impressive! (But dull. I wanted to see ships.)
So near, but still so far:
Back to the hotel then... At least it was a beautiful sunny evening, so the walk wasn't totally wasted. This is what often happens in my line of work. I go somewhere which sounds nice, but actually all I get to see is a hotel and a training-room. At the end of the day's work there is little opportunity for proper tourism (even if I had the energy - which I often haven't). Oh, and to make matters worse, the hotel in which I stayed this time had a very poor WiFi arrangement, so I wasn't even able to do much blogging! (This is reason why I haven't been able to read, still less comment on, many blogs these last few days.)