Last updated November 17, 2019

Isle of Sheppey, Isle of Thanet and other old haunts

Sheerness, Margate, Canterbury and more

South East London

Having driven the North Circular Road on the way to Ascot, we decided to brave the South Circular Road to reach southeast London for the next leg of our trip. Apart from the increased traffic density, many parts of the South Circular were much as we remembered them from 40 and 50 years earlier. In general, a great conservation discipline has prevailed regarding green areas such as Clapham Common and Blackheath which seemed unchanged, despite what must have been enormous pressure on building land. Sadly, the same was not the case for all villages and towns. While places like Westerham and Shoreham appear to have kept planning under control, other towns, Biggin Hill and Swanley to name two, seem to have seriously lost it.

By the time we reached Forest Hill we had a mental itinerary to visit Catford, Lewisham, Deptford, Greenwich and Blackheath as well as the Westmount Road area. These visits ended up being crawl-throughs rather than drive-throughs - this was New Years Day and traffic was unbelievable. Catford, like most other areas within London, appears to have lost many of it's pubs and all of it's cinemas. We had wanted to see the Lewisham Clock Tower, but a one way system siphoned us off before we got there and we were almost in Deptford before we re-emerged. In Greenwich our objectives were the Cutty Sark, the Maritime Museum, Greenwich Park and the original Royal Observatory. Forget that! The streets were swarming with pedestrians and traffic moved at a slow walk pace where it was actually moving - the entrance to Greenwich Park appeared to be completely grid-locked. We escaped in a stop-go ride up the east side of the Park negotiating the countless traffic tamers. This brought us out onto Blackheath at the War Memorial which, in times past, was the meeting point for all our bicycle rides with the Blackheath Touring Club. A nice bonus!

Blackheath appeared to be unchanged except for wall to wall traffic that blocked almost every road in both directions. Blackheath village likewise, looked just as it did in 1956 when I started my first job there except every available square foot was now given over to parking.

Where it all began...

Blackheath War Memorial, start point for BTC rides. Marian and I first met each other here in 1955

Montpelier Vale, Blackheath Village

Prior location of Simms Motor Units, my first employer in April 1956. To the left used to be Heath Cafe run by Rosie

Westmount Road Row Houses

The houses in our part of the street were built in blocks of six. Our house was second from the end

381 Westmount Rd

Little changed externally since it was built about 1935

The back yard

What a mess! Even with our little Astra car, the back alleyway was extremely tight

Across the street

Throughout suburban England, people have given their front yards over to parking pads

Heatherbank and Castlewoods

Cars everywhere. The entrance to Castlewoods at the top of the picture was in a poor state of repair

Politically Correct Welcome

Multi-language Welcome at Deansfield School. Too bad that seven feet high steel gates are thought to be necessary for security

Dairsie Road Admin Center

Built in 1905 this building is still doing sterling service

Part of the playground

Over the years 1942 to 1951 Pat, Ken and I all enjoyed the playgrounds at Deansfield

Welcome Inn, Worn Out

Our local pub, the Welcome Inn, had been closed for about six months when it mysteriously caught fire

Now likely history

Traditionally a Whitbread house, the Welcome Inn had been a Beefeater Restaurant for some time. It appeared that it was about to be razed

"Our" bridge

Numerous summer days spent here catching minnows and sticklebacks in jam jars. A 14 mile bike ride each way went unnoticed

Roman Ruins

Right at "our" bridge, Roman ruins were discovered and excavation got under way. The bridge is on a public footpath which is probably why we never got chased off

The ruins today

Now housed in an ugly building, the ruins are open to visitors along with parking charges, entrance fees and the inevitable gift shop

The Jail House Pub

This was the destination of the annual November "Tramps Run" with the Blackheath Touring Club. See photo albums for tramps run pictures

Allington Castle and Aylesford

A cousin of my father lived in the the grounds of Allington Castle with her husband Ernie Bell. It was always an exciting place for us to visit when we were kids - a castle, barns, livestock, a river, houseboats, a lock and a weir - what more could horrid little townie children ask for? At that time (1947-1957 or thereabouts), the castle was home to the Carmelite Order of Nuns although we never actually saw the interior. The river that borders the south side of the castle grounds is the Medway and Allington Lock is right there, the tidal lock for the river. Directly across the river was The Malta Inn, a small, traditional pub accessed mainly by river travelers or occasional road travelers via a dirt road at the rear. By coincidence, the motel chain that we had fallen into favoring had a location at Allington which is how we came to choose it for our stay that night.

The motel chain is owned by the Whitbread Company that also owns the Beefeater Restaurant chain, and thus a Beefeater is often paired with Premier Travel Inn. Amazingly, the Malta Inn was now a much enlarged Beefeater and the tiny parking lot that used to be at the rear has been greatly expanded to include both the motel and parking for both establishments. What a stroke of fortune!

Following a nights rest, which included a trip into Aylesford for fish and chips, we were ready to reprise our Maidstone memories. Ignoring the Malta Inn, which bore little resemblance to it's former namesake, most other features were more or less sanitized versions of their earlier incarnations. Gone were the grungy houseboats along with various items of abandoned equipment near the lock, in other places, upgrades had replaced the utilitarian original with more stylish design, such as the brick facing on the lock gate walkways. Overall, nicely done. We were, however unsuccessful in getting to see Allington Castle or #2 Red Cottages where Jean and Ernie had lived. It seems that Carmelites had long since moved on and the castle had been acquired by a wealthy American who had either earned or bought himself a knighthood or other mention in the Queens List and the grounds had been thoroughly sealed off. The snapshot of the driveway from the Gate House was taken through a crack in the fence.

Neither of us had ever been to Aylesford until the previous evening and hadn't known how close it was to Allington. Even at night in the rain, we were quite taken by the quantity and quality of great looking buildings in the original part of the village and so it was on our list of must do things for the following morning. We still can't believe all of the times we had cycled or driven past this treasure trove in years past and yet had never left the highway to investigate. Further confirmation that youth is wasted on the young.

"Our" Hotel Chain

The Premier Travel Inns are owned by Whitbread and are one, of at least two, low cost servicable chains in England

The Malta Inn today

Now a Whitbread Beefeater restaurant the only thing left of the original pub is the name

The riverside face of the inn

To increase diner throughput there aretables along the river and in a large yard at the side

The Allington Weir

Built in 1939 the electrically operated sluice gates are used to regulate the river level

Allington lock

Looking toward the tidal side

The Medway

Marshalling area just above the lock

Allington lock

This time looking up river

Lock Keepers House

Built in 1830 and still in regular use

Weir and Malta Inn

Looking back from the lock area

Boats by the Malta

Pleasure boats moored at one of the docks adjacent to the restaurant

The Secret Garden

A glimpse of the driveway down to the Allington Castle inside the fortifications

High Street Aylesbury

Permanent stop lights are installed to control traffic because road id too narrow to pass

The Chequers

Pub turned restaurant in Aylesford High Street

Chequers again

View back down High Street

Aylesford Village

From a foot bridge over the Medway

More Alyesford

A mixed bag of architecture, pretty much all genuine

...and again

Just one more time...

Little Gem, Aylesford

Another pub in the short high street

Detail on the Little Gem

Even though it was retored in 1958, 1106 is a pretty good pedigree

For the remainder of the day the plan was to stop by numerous locations around Kent for which either of us had childhood or teenage memories. Essentially our route from Aylesford was Sheerness, Sittingbourne, Margate, Cliftonville, Ramsgate, Canterbury, Sevenoaks, Westerham, Biggin Hill, Shoreham, Eynsford, Green Street Green and Badgers Mount. All of this and more was accomplished although a number of the visits were brief almost to the point of non-existence due again to the absence of anywhere to park and gawk. Some pictures from this odyssey follow.

Sheerness

Stopped in questionable area, climbed the seawall and walked partway back to town

Dreamland at Margate

The Margate Icon for decades has fallen on hard times

Bingo anyone?

As the Kursaal is reduced to a Bowling Alley, Dreamland is now a Bingo Hall

Amusement Park no more

All but one non-functional roller coaster has been replaced by a parking lot

The Front

We always enjoyed Margate in winter. Marian's folk lived in adjacent Cliftonville for several years

Margate Clocktower

An enduring landmark of Margate

Looking West

From a small park on the front, the clock tower and Dreamland can be seen

The Naked Beach

It was extremely windy and quite cold. The pier has vanished as did Marian a few seconds after this picture was taken

The Dane Road House

The former Watson house on Dane Road in Cliftonville

Dane Road

Looks as it was except now lined with cars. This was midday on a week day

Restaurant in Ramsgate

We parked on double yellow lines for a while and snapped a couple of pictures

The Harbor

Ramsgate always managed to exude an air of a fishing port

Ramsgate again

Another view of the harbor

Sarres Windmill

On the ride from Ramsgate to Canterbury we came across this smock mill

Canterbury Cathedral

Our only glimpse of the cathedral as we drove around looking for parking

A Canterbury Street

A typical street near the downtown area

Blind Dog Pub

One of numerous pubs around town

Another Pub

Note the narrow street that is just part of everyday life

Another street, another pub

Curved streets are fairly common and can make navigation quite confusing

 

 

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