As a young lad I used to sit on the seawall that ran behind my home and gazed out upon the River Medwayand observe (learn) about the natural historyof the place whilst my my imagination would place me in times and events long past. Watching the ebb and flow of the tides, the comings and goings of mammals, birds, seals and the occasional dolphin and seeing the weather patterns roll across the landscape all taught me to love and appreciate the ever changing seasons and understand the delicate balance and flow of the environment. My environment.
At other times, especially when the mist rolled in with the tide, I was taken back to the times of Anglo-Saxon ships carrying materials to build Rochester Cathedral(first version), to when the Romans built nearby Watling Street and a fort to defend the bridge at Rochester, marauding Vikings, Duke William of Normandy and his troops making their way to London via Rochester (where they went on to rebuild the Cathedral and Castle), the Battle of ‘Medway’or ‘Tocht Naar Chatham’in Dutch. These are just a few
of the times and events that my local environment had passed through and I continue to experience. My intention is to write more in depth posts on as many of them as I can, but for now those I have mentioned will I hope have given you a good understanding of what I experienced as a lad (and still do).
This is why I encourage everyone to discover ‘where they live’ to get out there, observe it, investigate it and above all else; Get your kids involved, get them to love where they live enough to preserve and protect it for the future. Even a bricks and tarmac housing estate has history, it just needs a little more digging to discover it but it’ll be worth it to sense and appreciate it that much more.
One of the early memories of my schooldays is of the history lessons I had, although the subject was my favourite I was always being told off for not paying attention and being a bit of a smart-ass by answering any question with a lengthy monologue way beyond what the question needed. Not surprising really when you consider that outside of school I made history come to life, experiencing it to the full. That musky smell that you can almost taste and sends a shiver running through your whole body when visiting a historical building. The visions your imagination produces when standing in the footsteps of all the famous and infamous people who had walked the creaking floorboards centuries before; all that and much, much more excited me in a way that those text books I had to endure and all those lists of Kings and Queens I had to learn off by heart could ever do.
History was all around me, the Medway Towns was and is full of it; the River Medway itself along with its Sea Forts, Chatham Royal Dockyard, Fort Amherst, Upnor Castle, Rochester Castle & Cathedralwere all virtually on my doorstep. Then there were the family days out to places like Dover, Reculver, Hever, Leeds and Walmer castles; Chartwell, Knole and Penshurst Placeto mention just a few. All had intriguing stories to tell and to a young boy they told them load and clear. No wonder the schoolroom couldn’t hold my attention for more than a few moments at a time.
Of course I haven’t yet mentioned the landscapes of our countryside available for free to each and everyone of us. They hold a wealth of hidden history just below the surface. Those man-made hills we take for granted when out for a walk deserve more than a cursory glance, the earthworks of hillfortsand sacred burial mounds are there holding secrets to be discovered right beneath our feet.
Wow, what history classroom our wonderful island is. I suspect things have changed a great deal since I was a lad in school and I appreciate that there are so many wonderful history documentary series and dramas on television these days but just as when connection with Nature there nothing like getting physical with History and filling your senses, mind and imagination with the real thing.
So click away from this blog right now and get on with planning your next trip into the living past. Go on …. just do it!