Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Spontaneous end to a lovely day

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


  1. Looks like a wonderful place - so full of history. Sounds as if you had a perfect day.
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

  2. This was such an interesting read. I didn't know anything about this place, though I've also read a lot of Dickens. Thank you for sharing, I really learned a lot.

  3. I think they are Jew’s Ear (Auricularia auricular-judae) growing on the tree stump (not that clever, had to look them up!) and apparently edible:(

  4. What a great place to visit - lovely photos from your day. I love to see places where books were set or where authors were from.

  5. What a wonderful day out! Oast houses are such a icon or the Kent countryside. It must have been so devasting for those two families loosing so many children, how sad.
    Sarah x

  6. What a wonderful day out and a trip down memory lane for your husband. I must have seemed funny seeing Leigh from the other side of the river.

  7. Looks an amazing day out, you picked a gorgeous day for it. I love looking around old churches and can you believe those pews are so old? Imagine how many people have sat on those throughout the ages.

  8. It is so nice to see blue skies and sunshine again. What a lovely post especially seeing the church which Dickens used as the meeting place for Pip and Magwitch. Those little tombs are sad reminders of how many children died during infancy.
    The fungi you spotted is called mouse-ear fungi. If you touch them they do resemble skin and cartilage.

  9. What an interesting day out, so sad about the little tiny graves though. xx

  10. What a great and interesting day out- Love the Oast houses and the fungi- Brill photos:)

  11. What a fabulous day out you had, I love the look of the fungi also.

  12. Thank you for such an informative post Patricia. I love Dickens too, and have read Great Expectations many times. When we were visiting DD in England, I was wondering about the marshes and how to see them, but have not heard of Cooling before. We had a great day in Rochester and photographed everything Dickensian. I would love to go to the Church of St James, remembering the story, and see those sad little gravestones. We'll just have to return to England, won't we?

  13. Wonderful old castle, Patricia. I'd love to walk there with you. My favorite Dickens' s book is 'Oliver Twist'. Interestingly that when I read it in my childhood I was interested in the theme and then much later being adult and reading this book I realized a lot of author's humor and laughed very much.So the impression of the 'Oliver Twist' changes over the age.

  14. I've only ever had a couple of short visits to Kent and would love to see more of this lovely county. Cooling looks a lovely village and what a fabulous old church with those medieval benches and the sad little row of gravestones. Lovely post.

  15. Super post, Patricia, very informative and loved the photos. My cousin Keith went to Earith College - many years ago, in fact the same time as David Bowie though of course he wasn't called that then was he? Kent is a lovely county, I spent many happy holidays there with my cousins when I was a teenager. Lx

  16. What a wonderful church and so interesting with the Dickens connection. Those little stones are so sad. Cooling looks a lovely village. I love the Oast houses - we stayed in one that did B&B once when we visited Kent - many years ago now:)

  17. What a lovely day! I enjoyed seeing your pictures of the church that inspired the opening scene of Great Expectations. I was in Kent in 2011 and saw some of the oast houses. My friends told me many of them have been purchased and made into homes. How neat would that be to live in an oast house? :-)

  18. I LOVE days out like this. We discovered Gillingham a while back. We had to take our camper for some work to be carried out and had about 5 hours to while away. What a surprise!! Look beyond the houses and run down town, and you can find treasures you do not imagine. Just like the church you visited. I am not familiar with Charles Dickens but I was struck by the tiny graves, so sad to see them lined up like that. And I love visiting churches, those pews and the light in the window are wonderful. Kent is so close but we do not visit enough. I must make more effort this year, thank you for reminding me of the wonderful things to be found.

  19. A super Sunday Patricia.
    I love to see the old churches.
    I always feel so sad, when i see an English graveyard. I suppose all are not like that,but they seem so neglected in comparison to ours here.
    I commented once i think on one of your posts.. I love Dicken's loved him since I was young.
    What a delight to go out where he used to go.
    I watched a new version of great expectations by BBC last week. I always love it.
    I possibly think there might be a couple of his works we dont have.
    My youngest son has all mine. My eldest son has all his works. We bought them from a second hand book store in Tottenham Court Road. Many Many moons ago. Leather backed and bound.
    Your weather is not bad.
    I went once to Kent when i was very young with my parents.
    Enjoyable post Patricia.
    wishing you the rest of a good week. hugs val xxxx

  20. Your trip to Erith where your husband grew up and stop along the way to visit Cooling must have been a lovely experience. To see the church and area that inspired a passage in Great Expectations is most interesting so thank you for sharing the photos of your time there.

  21. Hı :)) Patrica very nice blog I'm following your page and waiting you to follow me back :))

  22. It is nice to have some fine weather to get out and about isn't it. Lovely post and I enjoyed the history, thank you. Xxx

  23. What a lovely day it must have been wonderful for your husband to revisit his 'home' it brings such a wonderful sense of peace. The fungus looks stunning .Thanks for the lovely walk it is lovely to see Dickens inspirations

  24. What a super day out to such an interesting place, you photographed it all beautifully too.

  25. I found your post very interesting Patricia. I find it fascinating to visit places which inspired writers or are mentioned in their work. My 2 favourite books by Dickens are A Christmas Carol and The Pickwick Papers.


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