T. S Eliot had a nasty experience at Margate. I found it boring. But come back towards the Thames and things get a bit more interesting. Whitstable and Faversham are charming little towns, full of interest, and they are both vibrant places.
I’ve been to Faversham a couple of times, as Julian, who used to be the drummer in The Mockers – Check out the video – , the band I fronted back in the eighties, moved there. There are whole rows of old fashioned terraced houses. There is the beauty of Beech Court Gardens, with its collection of azaleas and rhododendrons in spring, and glorious maple trees in autumn.
Kent being the garden of England you can expect masses of stuff for the garden, including fruit trees. Brogdale is the home of the National Fruit Collections, with over 2,000 apple varieties, 500 pear varieties, 350 plum varieties, 320 cherry varieties and many bush fruits, nuts and vines.
For anyone interested, Plum Day is set for 15 August. There is also a cider festival 25-26 September, and an apple festival 23-24 october.
Of course, to someone like myself who is serious about food and drink Faversham is a rather special place. For more than 850 years beer has been brewed here. Indeed, the current brewery, Shepherd Neame, is Britain’s oldest brewery, dating back to 1698. And you can take a tour of the brewery, which includes a tasting. There’s a chance to taste natural mineral water from the brewery’s well; try some malted barley; smell locally-grown Kentish hops; visit the modern Millennium Brewhouse with its magnificent stained glass windows, see bygone delivery vehicles, and view a recreated cooper’s workshop.
Another interesting fact is that this town is almost the home of gunpowder making in the UK. It dates back to 1560. “Chart Mills is one of the very few fully restored gunpowder mills in the country and, given a suitable water supply, is fully working.
Chart Mills is an incorporating mill, the process where the ingredients, saltpetre, sulphur and charcoal, having been mixed together, are incorporated together to become an explosive mixture.
Incorporating was the most vital process as it determined the quality, power and evenness of burning of the powder; in all there were 11 processes in the whole manufacture of gunpowder.”
(The section in quotes is taken from the town’s website.)
You can chart a Thames sailing barge and cruise along the Thames estuary, taking in the old forts. There are some amazing old buildings, including Maison Dieu. A significant fragment remains of the medieval hospital and hostel for Kings, built early in the 13th century. And down by the estuary is a fascinating old building with some great patterns of Flemish brickwork, including a rather nice pattern with a circle done out in bricks. I’d have photographed it if I hadn’t mislaid my camera.
I’ll move on to Whitstable next week.