Sunday was such a gorgeous day that we took ourselves off to Kent to visit the place where John was born - Erith. We visited his father's old shop, the school, Sunday school and a plethora of memorable places. It was good for him to re-live his childhood and we both enjoyed it. Now many of you will know that I just love the work of Charles Dickens and have a fair collection of his books. One of my favourites is Great Expectations. With this in mind and as we weren't too far away we made our way to the tiny village of Cooling in the midst of the beautiful Kent countryside
passing on our way many of the lovely old Oast Houses or Hop kilns with their distinctive cowls - designed for drying the hops as part of the process of brewing beer.
I particularly wanted to visit the medieval Church of St James
Charles Dickens loved to walk here from his home at nearby Higham
Dickens used the churchyard of St James as his inspiration in the opening chapter of Great Expectations where the hero Pip meets the escaped convict, Magwitch. This site on the Hoo Peninsula is dramatically bleak in winter, recalling the opening scenes of the book.
It is here that we find what has come to be known as "Pip's Graves" the forlorn gravestones of thirteen children aged between 1-18 months old - that Dickens describes in the chapter as ...five little stone lozenges each about a foot and a half long which were arranged in a neat row.....and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine..."
These graves belong to the children of just two families who died in the late18th century. Dickens reduced the number in the book to five to make it more believable.
These two sets of medieval benches at the rear of the church, complete with woodworm were probably installed in the 14th century
Loving the sun through these windows
As we entered the churchyard I spotted what I though were flowers on a tree stump but soon discovered it was fungi and oh so pretty.
Just along the lane stands Cooling Castle - which was a bonus as I didn't know this existed. Built in the 1380s the main part of the castle is in ruins with a private house inside and where the barn is licensed to hold marriage ceremonies.
A lovely spontaneous trip to a place I'd longed to go to one day.
Just out of interest, we drove a mile or two towards the coastline of the Thames Estuary and I was amazed to see (through the zoom lens on my camera )- that we were in fact exactly opposite Leigh on Sea where my son and his family now live. Probably as the crow flies about 3-4 miles across the river but because we had to travel to the QE2 bridge and then come back on ourselves a trip of 37 miles.
Have a great week