Monday, 29 August 2016

Day 29 Faversham to Rochester

18th August 2016

I have to be honest and say that this was not the most enjoyable day of the journey so far. It wasn't helped by having to pay £4 to Arriva for the short, but pre-0930, ride from Faversham to Sittingbourne, which itself was not the most exciting of towns in which to spend nearly an hour waiting for the next bus.
A double-decker to Sheerness from Sittingbourne
It wasn't as if I had to go to the Isle of Sheppey in the first place. As an "out-and-back" my self-imposed rules allowed me to miss it out, but any island has an attraction and it wasn't an area I knew well. Nor did having an out-of-date map help. I like to follow my route on the 1:50,000 OS map as I go along, but despite my copy of the relevant sheet being only 15 years old it was hopelessly out-of-date as far as the road network between Sittingbourne and Sheerness, the main town on the Isle was concerned, making it difficult to follow my route and work out where I was.  At least the bus to Sheerness was a double-decker in which I could grab the front seat upstairs.

The original schedule required an out-and-back from Sheerness to either the village of Warden or the small resort of Leysdown-on-sea, but either would require me to stay on the bus at the terminus and return immediately. This is something I don't like to do, so I was interested to see, in the timetable case at the bus stop outside Sheerness railway station (rare transport integration here!), that  there was a different bus going to "Warden Point" and due to leave in a few minutes. I assumed that "Warden Point" and "Warden" would be much the same place and didn't have time to check before the 368 hove into view. It was only whilst en-route that I had time to check the map and discover that the two terminals were too far apart to walk between and that if I went to Warden Point I would have to return immediately from there as well.

Aviation Memorial, Eastchurch
The compromise was to alight at the junction of the two routes - the small village of Eastchurch - and then return from there on the original bus - that from Leysdown-on-sea.  Before getting to Eastchurch both routes follow a double-run to a complex of at least three prisons. The first looked a relatively benign and presumably "open" prison, but the other two were surrounded by high walls and obviously had a great deal of security.

Like some prisoners perhaps, my time at Eastchurch was extended to longer than I expected by the bus from Leysdown being 20 minutes late, but this did give me time to discover that what I originally took to be a war memorial was in fact a memorial to the early days of aviation.  Early experiments in flying took place near the village in 1911 and the UK's first aircraft factory - Short Bros, - was set up locally shortly afterwards.

Crossing the bridge back to the mainland from Sheppy
Highlight of the day?
The driver of the 362 attempted to make up for lost time by omitting sections of the route back to Sheerness but we were still very late on arrival and my connection back to Sittingbourne had gone.  It didn't matter - I merely substituted more time at Sheerness for yet another stay in Sittingbourne although I still had time to kill there before the penultimate bus of the day on to Chatham. Strictly speaking I should have alighted in Gillingham and followed a slightly more coastal route into Chatham but I just couldn't be bothered and hoped nobody would notice!

After a brief stop in Chatham I continued the short distance on to Rochester, with its castle, cathedral and historic High Street that set it apart from the modern-day sprawl of the rest of the Medway towns, although given the number of - and the wording on - the many signs that adorn the doors of the numerous pubs and restaurants on the High Street it looks as if the town could be Party Central at weekends. Thankfully it was only Thursday.

Day 28 Margate to Faversham                                          Day 30  Rochester to Grays

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