Chatham historic dockyard

Call the Midwife, Chatham dockyard
Call the Midwife!
This was my first coach trip since Bletchley Park last April, booked by Coach Trip chum Chrissie, with Worthing coaches, not too early (8.55am), but no pick-up at Preston Circus, so I cycled down to Pool Valley. We were the only two waiting and after a pick up at Patcham, the half empty coach set off to The Historic Dockyard Chatham, via a coffee stop at Clacket Lane services on the M25.

View from HMS Cavalier, Chatham dockyard
HM Submarine Ocelot, HMS Gannet and No 3 Slip from HMS Cavalier
Collecting our maps from driver Martin, we made our way to the entrance and not looking where I was going, tripped on a manhole cover and bruised my knee - and ego! We were advised to call in at No 1 Smithery first to book places at the Ropery demonstration and on the HM Submarine Ocelot tour. We declined the sub tour on the grounds of sore old knees and claustrophobia, plus there'd be lots of climbing up and down stairs etc in the course of the day!

HMS Gannet, Chatham dockyard
Sloop HMS Gannet (1878)
First stop was HMS Gannet, an 1878 Victorian sloop, with hammocks, cannons and rigging everywhere. No engines or boilers to see. We were followed through the day by a party of school kids in what looked like sportswear. Then it was to the Ropery, via a Call the midwife photo opportunity. After an introduction by a shouty Victorian lady we got to see a three-strand rope being made by a very noisy twirling machine in the longest brick building in the world at 1/4 of a mile. Best bit of the day!

HMS Cavalier, Chatham dockyard
Destroyer HMS Cavalier (1944)
Next to the Ropery was a general exhibition on the history of the dockyard, entitled Steam, steel and submarines with figureheads and lots of ship models, including those in the Battle of the River Plate. After eating our sandwiches by the steam cranes, we wandered back past the Nelson Brewery where they make beer with suggestive names, such as the Pursers Pussy Porter, a bottle of which which I bought for £2.70. It was time for a coffee in the Railway Workshop and I was attracted to a spicy butter bean pie on sale from Kent Pies, but resisted. There were only two steam locos in the shed: Ajax and an unnamed 0-4-0ST (Peckett  No. 1903 built in 1936, maybe). I knew they wouldn't be in steam on a Monday.

0-4-0ST Ajax, Chatham dockyard
0-4-0ST Ajax
Destroyer HMS Cavalier (1944) was next, with lots to see above and below decks, lots of ladders to climb up and (facing the ladder) back down again. Here the sailors had bunks, and proper toilets! Its a huge ship with great views from the top, although the man with the wheel had no view at all! HMS Cavalier and HM Submarine Ocelot can both be toured virtually on Google Maps.

Slip cover 1838, Chatham dockyard
No 3 Slip roof
No 3 Slip looks like a modern structure from the outside but it was built in 1838 so that ships could be built under cover. Inside houses all kinds of vehicles and machines, including a section of 'Boring Machines'! You can take the lift or stairs up to look at the amazing wooden roof. Next door is a big collection of RNLI lifeboats. The dockyard closed at 4pm, but is well work a visit - and with an entrance at around £20, the coach trip at £33 was very good value. Then it was straight back, no stopping until Patcham.
Worthing coach
Worthing coach
 There's a steam and blues festival on over Easter. More photos on Flickr.