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Things to Do in Chatham

Chatham is an area of great importance and prosperity in the South East of England. Officially first recorded in 880 AD, the town was established as a Royal Dockyard by Elizabeth I in 1568, and although it is now a successful business and residential community, its roots lie in being an important area for many of the British Armed Forces. If you are visiting Chatham, or even live nearby and have not yet discovered the range of things to do and see in the area, this guide should go some way to help you find out what’s to offer and how to get there.

Visit the Chatham Naval Memorial

The Naval Memorial in Chatham was set up after World War I to commemorate the numerous members of the Royal Navy who died at sea and had no fixed grave. As the years went by it was clear World War II was going to require a similar memorial, and in 1952 the Duke of Edinburgh unveiled an extension to the original monument. The current structure commemorates 8,517 sailors of the First World War and 10,098 of the Second World War. Causalities can be found on the War Graves Commission website here

How to Get There

Directions can be found on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Website:

Spend a Day in the Great Lines Heritage Park

At the heart of the Medway, the Great Lines Heritage Park is a plateau of more than 70 hectares of open grassland. The flat expanse commands fantastic views across Kent – much of Gillingham and Rochester can be seen and the recreational use of the park means cycling, running, football and firework displays are all popular. In 2008 investment was secured to upgrade £2m of infrastructure around the park from the ‘Parklands’ fund.

How to Get There

Step Back in Time in the Historic Dockyard

The enormous naval heritage of Chatham lends itself to this excellent maritime museum – celebrating nearly 450 years of facilitating the Royal Navy’s warships and associated personnel. It is officially the world’s “most complete example of a historic dockyard from the age of sail” and charts the history of Britain’s naval success through the years.  At the museum there are 3 warships, a number of exhibitions, reconstructions and galleries – overall the original site stretches more than 400 acres. It’s well worth a visit; the continually changing exhibitions and events also add some diversity to the site.

How to Get There

The dockyard is a short distance from the M25. Using the postcode ME4 4TY you can easily find its location. There is more information on the Dockyard website

Walk the Saxon Shore Way

Kent is one of the most historical counties of the United Kingdom, and nothing exemplifies this more than the Saxon Shore Way and the line of Roman fortifications which are visible for 160 miles from Gravesend to Hastings in East Sussex. It’s a beautiful coastline walk tracing the route of the cliffs as they would have been in Roman times, offering a diverse range of things to see from countryside landscapes to seaside vistas

How to Get There

Guides and maps can be printed from the Kent County Council website.

The Saxon Shore Way

Join the F1 Greats at Buckmore Park

In terms of fun for all the family, Chatham’s Buckmore Park Carting circuit is the place to go in the area. The circuit is famous for being Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button’s proving ground – there are often a number of events and they also cater for large parties and groups.

How to Get There

Buckmore Park is situated on Maidstone Rd just off the M2 south of Chatham. For Sat Nav’s, the postcode is ME5 9QG

Buckmore Park Karting Track

Discover Chatham’s Town Hall

Chatham’s town hall was at the time one of the most ambitious civic projects in the area. Taking two years to build, it was completed in January 1900 and now provides a home for the popular Brook Theatre. The towers and ornate Victorian architecture add to the ambience – plays, comedy, jazz and folk are often performed in the building.

How to Get There

Follow the signs for Chatham town centre. Find out more about The Brook Theatre

chatham old town hall

Be Creative: Nucleus Arts Chatham

Billed as the creative heart of the Medway region, Nucleus Arts was set up for local artists to meet, develop, discuss and exhibit their work. With funding, a café has been established and resident artists are able to show regularly and put together work in studios and dark rooms. Their website offers a run-down of current exhibitions and events, and the café is open for lunch and afternoon tea.

How to Get There

By the way its constructed, Nucleus Arts actually has a number of locations under one name. Their Chatham base is at 272 High Street, ME4 4BP.

Nucleus Arts Chatham

Visit Chatham’s Protection – Upnor Castle

Upnor Castle is an Elizabethan Artillery Fort which was built to protect Chatham and the warships which were being built and repaired on the River Medway. In 1667 however, the Dutch Navy managed to sail past it to burn and capture the English fleet at anchor. Today, it functions as an excellent English Heritage tourist destination situated in tranquil grounds.

How to Get There

Upnor Castle Directions

Upnor Castle is situated on the river north of Chatham and Rochester. For more information and directions, English Heritage have a section on their website dedicated to it:

Dickens World

Charles Dickens was briefly a resident of Chatham in his childhood, and this privately funded attraction is a monument and celebration of his life and the time he lived in. Visit and book a tour slot, and then get transported back in time to an exceedingly lifelike representation of life in Dickensian Britain.

How to Get There

Dickens World is located in the heart of the dockyard area. Follow the signs from the town centre, and contact them via their website for more information. 
Investigate Fort Amherst

The origins of Fort Amherst begin at the aforementioned raid on the River Medway by the Dutch. The Chatham Dockyards had grown considerably in size since their construction, and it had become apparent that there were no defences in place for protecting the Dockyard against a land based attack. In 1755 work was started on a ditch and rampart fortification – with gateways, tunnels and a number of underground gun positions. Although many are sure Fort Amherst would have put up a formidable defence in the event of another attack, luckily it was never needed.

How to Get There

Fort Amherst has its own website, Facebook and Twitter for more information and directions.

Take a Medway River Trip

The Medway is a fascinating and potentially under explored area of the UK. West of London, it is an often forgotten expanse which is home to a wide variety of places from nature reserves to shipwrecks. The best way of exploring what it has to offer is by boat, and there are a number of trips available from each of the coastal towns in the region. One of the most well-known is the X-Pilot, which was once a working vessel in the area and has been operating the River Medway since 1967.

How to Get There

Before you arrive in Chatham or any Medway town, it’s best to look up the options in advance and decide on what type of sight you’d like to see, where you’d like to go and what each package has to offer you. The Medway website has more information on a wide range of river and sea trips.

XPilot Chatham