We left Sylvia and Bridport on April 5th and headed to Cliffe, a small village about 1 hour (by train) out of London. Here we stayed with Sanford’s cousin, Judith, and her husband, Pete.
Judith and Pete live in a three-story row house. At this time of the year the temperature outdoors is mostly around 10 degrees at day and below 5 degrees at night. It is probably about 15 degrees indoors. I don’t know if perhaps I’m starting to adjust to a lower indoor temperature or if it is perhaps a bit warmer than when I was in Australia last year, but for the most part I’m pretty comfortable. Although they have central heating, Judith and Pete rarely use it because it is just soooooo expensive to run. They will occasionally turn it on in the morning if the house is too cold, but it is off during the day as they both work. In the evening they rather put on a fire in the living room hearth than turn on the heating. This was actually quite nice. We spent our evenings sitting around the fire chatting while getting toasty warm before heading to bed. When home in the afternoons, they have a wonderful sunroom located on their second floor; the sun making this the warmest spot during the days. So between finding warm spots to sit and my cashmere long johns and layering my clothing, I’m keeping warm.
The village they live in is located about 3km from the Thames Estuary. From their sunroom on the 2nd floor I can see the fields, filled with sheep, from behind the village to the banks of the river. When ships sail down the river it appears they are sailing on the farm land. Quite a neat site.
Unlike Bridport, where Sylvia kept us busy all day, here we are on our own while Judith and Pete are at work. There really aren’t any sites in Cliffe, with the exception of walking through the fields to the Thames, which we did spend a couple of hours doing one day. So, Sanford and I decided to venture further afield and took a bus to Chatham, a small town 11km from Cliffe. Here we visited the War Memorial Obilisk, saw the remains of Fort Amherst, a Napoleon-era fort with battlements, cannon, siege guns and tunnels, and walked along the Thames.
We then decided to walk to Rochester, another small town adjacent to Chatham, only about 1 km away. Here we explored Rochester Castle. This castle is mostly in ruin, but it was quite interesting to view the interior and read the history and engineering detail of the castle. It was here that Henry the Eighth met his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, for the first time in 1540.
Our last day in Cliffe, I took a “day off”. I needed a rest from our hectic pace of sightseeing and from constantly being around people. I still wanted to meander around, but I also wanted some free time to just sit and read. So I decided to head out on my own and took the bus into Chatham and went to the local mall, got a latte, and just sat in the food court and read for a while. When tired of reading, I wandered around the stores for a bit and then walked to Rochester. I took in two other sites I wanted to see, the Rochester Cathedral and the Guildhall Museum, which has displays about the history of the area and about Charles Dickens, who used to live in Rochester. I also stopped for a nice quiet lunch and sat and read another hour. I had a great day on my own and felt refreshed by the time I got home. Sanford had an equally great day wandering the fields behind the village and explored some old quarries and came across a bird sanctuary.
On our last evening with Judith and Pete, they took us out for a buffet meal. The place was called World Buffet and there were all kinds of ethnic foods there; Indian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Western, Italian, etc. It was an evening of great food and great conversation.