This weekend I managed to escape the rat race and head down to Rochester to spend the weekend with friends from my Borneo volunteering experience in 2011. The purpose for the visit, besides a general meet up, was to visit one member of the group who has recently bought a house boat (and accompanying berth) on the Medway Marina.
Having always loved being beside the water this was an ideal excursion for me and, though the summer heat wave was taking a slightly disappointing impromptu break, we had a great day lunching on the boat and walking along Baty’s Marsh. At one stage during the walk there were scenes of high drama when we heard a monumental crash and ran back to the main road, to find a hysterical woman who had crashed her Audi into a barrier. Fortunately our Raleigh expedition medic was with us and was able to help calm the woman down until the police arrived.
In the evening we had a barbecue at the marina before walking the half hour to Rochester Castle for a Proms concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (buying tickets for this was possibly the most grown up I’ve ever felt). None of us knew what to expect and we were taken aback by the organisation (almost everyone had thought to bring camping chairs) and the sea of Union Jack flags. We found a spot on the perimeter to lay our picnic rug down and duly proceeded to enjoy the evening’s festivities – in particular the awesome fireworks display at the end of the night (which my brain found somewhat confusing given that fireworks are normally restricted to November).
A night cap at the marina boat yard when we had walked back rounded off what had been a perfect day, and we rested our heads aboard the splendid Sovereign B&B boat. All in all it was a thoroughly British weekend – stubborn weather included – and I loved every second.
This weekend I’ve opted out of London life, preferring instead to soak up the glorious sunshine in the sleepy Hampshire village of East Stratton. I’ll admit the weather’s been a stroke of luck; it wouldn’t have been quite as perfect if it had been grey and rainy, though still not that far off.
East Stratton is a picture postcard village, the kind of place the word idyllic was invented to describe. With beautifully restored thatched cottages, a village hall, church and quaint pub (where I’m staying tonight) opposite the village green it’s got pretty much everything a country village needs.
The pub is called the Northbrook Arms. As well as having all the trappings you’d expect from a country pub (including my particular weakness, a real fire) it has several guest bedrooms upstairs which are designed to a very high spec (think satin bed linen and mahogany furniture). It even has an old fashioned skittle alley located in one of the outbuildings, though I can’t say we’ve ventured in there yet (having been seduced by afternoon tea and a game of Scrabble sitting at the pub tables in the village green opposite).
In short, this place is the antithesis of the frenetic London lifestyle that we’ve come here to escape (albeit just for one night). It’s great to know that places like this exist right on our doorstep (East Stratton’s only an hour and a half’s drive out of London). I’ll definitely be reaping the rewards of this little break for some time to come.