Saturday, June 3, 2017 Dover-Canterbury (actually Sturry about 3 miles from Canterbury)
We rode up the cliffs to Dover Castle, a very imposing and immense group of buildings most of which are still in use either as a museum or administrative offices.
On a clear day you can see France from the castle grounds, a distance of about 23 miles. We purchased an English Heritage Pass good for the year in about 200 locations in Great Britain, a real bargain. We toured one of the three underground passages at the castle which were built in 1942 and served as a hospital as well as command post for Operation Dynamo. This was the code name for the rescue of the 338,000+ troops from Dunkirk and the invasion of France on June 6, 1944. The tunnels have three levels and hundreds of yards of passage. . The top most one is more than 30’ below ground level and withstood the German shelling during WW II. Dover was the most bombed and shelled city in England since the German cannons could reach it from Calais, 22.5 miles away.
After visiting the fort we rode the GPS guided route to Canterbury which should have been about 20 miles but turned into more than 35. We are not quite sure why, because the GPS had the correct location to our Warmshowers hosts. It may have been because it avoided all of the roads that begin with the letter ”A” even though some are not major highways. We arrived with our host Tim’s help who rode out to help us find us and guided us in. Tim, his wife Emilie, and their 4 year old daughter Lisa made dinner for us. Tim and Emilie are teachers in a The King’s School, a very exclusive private boarding school located in Canterbury at the cathedral and in Sturry, where they live. Tim is a music teacher and head of the department. Emilie teaches Latin, Greek, French, and various other subjects. After dinner we talked to almost mid-night mostly about their and our bike travels and the horror stories of airline travel that we all experience.
Sunday, June 5 Stully
We rode to Canterbury with Emilie, Tim and Lisa (all three were on their tandem) and walked around the old city which has many quaint and very old buildings including a small church which was started in the early part of the 11th century. Then we walked to one of the back entrances of the Cathedral. Since both Emilie and Tim are working at the King’s School which is associated with the cathedral and in fact uses the cathedral in some of its music programs, our admission was free.
As with so many of the churches and cathedrals of Europe, there is much history associated with Canterbury Cathedral, principal of which was the Murder of Thomas a Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, *in the 14th century. His shrine was destroyed during the reign of Henry the VIII when the Catholic Church was stripped of its power in the United Kingdom, and the king became the leader of the church and proceeded to destroy many of the edifices belonging to the Catholic Church. The church has put a memorial candle at the spot of his shrine.
The cathedral is a very large and impressive building with great stain glass windows and intricate carvings.
The crypt below the alter is very well preserved and houses the remains of many of the notables of the church. There is one chapel with original religious artwork dating to the 13th century.
We next visited the St. Augustine Abbey which dates to the end of the 6th century. Some of the original foundation as well as the outline of the church dating to a few centuries later survive and are in quite good condition. St. Augustine was an emissary of the Pope in the 7th century and is credited with establishing Christianity in the United Kingdom. We rode back to our hosts’ home and then to a pub in the smallest town in England for an authentic English Pub meal.
Monday, June 5, 2017 Stully-Faversham
Our hosts rode off to work and pre-school at about 7:30. Tim and Emilie do not own a car and in fact neither has ever driven. They rely on their bikes and public transportation. We said good bye as all three pedaled off and then pedaled off ourselves toward Faversham via the coastal route #15 and the historic sight of Reculver Towers, a religious sight dating to the 7th century. Not much left and some that has been added in the 19th century re-creation.
Our route took us through many sea side villages for the intrepid English, some of whom were swimming in the sea.
We arrived in Faversham about 4, had our coffee and found a neat pub/inn for the night. The weather to this point has been quite good, but was about to change as signaled by the strong headwind we encountered most of the day. It started raining about 9 p.m. when we were on our way back to the Railway Inn from dinner.
Tuesday, June 6, 2017 Faversham-Chatham
We set off in a pouring rain accompanied by a very stiff headwind. We made one lap around Chatham looking for Cycling Route #1 and then headed straight for the train station where we caught the next train to Chatham. We got settled into our room then took the bus to Rochester to visit the castle ordered by William the Conqueror shortly after he came to England in 1066. The Keep, the most fortified place in the castle, was completed in 1136. It stands about 125’ high with walls about 10 feet thick and many, many rooms. Despite the ravages of time, with a little imagination, it is very impressive.
The Roman arches are decorated and pre-date the gothic pointed style which had not yet been invented.
Although the rain had stopped before we got to Rochester, the wind came up again and was howling through the many open arches of the castle.
We walked across the street to Rochester Cathedral whose construction also began shortly after the Norman Conquest in 1066 but was not completed until after gothic architecture came into use.. There is a line of demarcation between the two architectural periods in the church. The cathedral is big and, around the choir and organ, quite ornate.
The crypt, which has been freshly restored and almost appears modern, is completely original. On exhibit is the oldest written code of English law (which pre-dated the Magna Carter by 95 years) together with various documents bearing the royal seal and the seals of some of the local officials. Again, with just a little imagination, you can see the authors putting their seals on the documents.
We strolled down the walking street then took the bus back to our room in Chatham, but not before there was another cold squall. Despite the dire weather, with a little thought we managed to overcome adversity and enjoy the day.
Wednesday, June 7, 2017 Chatham, UK
It was another very windy day but no rain. We spent the entire day from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. at the Chatham Historic Dockyards, a British Naval shipyard which was first used in the 17th century. Victory, the flagship of Admiral Horatio Nelson and on which he was killed during the battle of Trafalger was designed and built here. We toured it two years ago when we visited Plymouth.
Today we visited every building (many), every ship,
2 museums, and a rope making factory.
There was also a hologram walking presentation about design and construction of ships, and display cases of model ships which were made from the 18th century to the present. There was a seaside rescue boat exhibit with many actual boats involved in rescues together with descriptions of some particularly difficult rescues made by individuals and crews.
There is a dry dock that was covered by a structure that appears to be the rids and bottom of a ship turned upside down
and a moving memorial to many who have died on the sea. There was a small area of railroad locomotives and a few carsand a large area filled with various pieces of heavy equipment. including trucks, farm equipment, motors and engines, cranes, pontoon and other make-shift, portable bridges and various and sundry other large, non-descript objects gathering dust while waiting for the hands of the many volunteers who will restore tham.
The presentation of all of the museum was excellent and our time went by very quickly. We were fascinated by the rope making exhibit which was explained and demonstrated very well by our guide. Four of us on the tour helped make a rope. and took home a piece as a souvenir. The Ropery is almost a quarter mile long and reputed to be the longest brick building in Europe. We picked up fish and chips and ate in the dining area of our temporary abode before tackling tomorrow’s route. It was made more difficult by the fact that the bicycle ferry we were going to take to cross the Thames is out of service due to damage to its pier. What would a bike adventure be without a few challenges?