Yesterday, I went wandering through Chatham with smif247, because my doctors suggested I walk a minimum of a mile a day in between resting during bouts of fatigue. We were enjoying the short break of sunshine and the promise of spring, loving the fact that we didn’t need to wear coats as temperatures had risen to a lovely comfortable 17C.
As we were casually sauntering through the high street I became very aware of the people around us. I can get very wary of crowds thanks to my illness and the insecurities it brings. I clung to smif’s hand tighter in an attempt to calm myself and become more comfortable with the surroundings.
As a result of my insecurities in town, I’m not usually very observant of the immediate area. I notice the odd store front and the myriad of people from varying cultures going about their own business, but I don’t notice anything else. It is like I surround myself in a bubble, moving from one destination to the next, concentrating only on what I need to accomplish. Yesterday was different though.
Smif and I have recently begun playing Ingress. A geo-location game from Niantic (Google), a game of two sides (enlightened and resistance) fighting to claim virtual portals all over the world. There is a massive back story to the game which I haven’t really followed, but the general idea is that you go out into your local area to capture portals and protect them from the opposing faction. At present Chatham has three of these portals not far from the High Street and Military Road.
The Chatham portals are currently maintained by the enlightened faction (us), and we decided that we would “hack” them for supplies while we were walking and see if we were able to link them to each other. This was when I started to notice the facades of the buildings, the sculptures/statues of relevant local
history, reminders that Chatham and the surrounding towns are predominantly Naval & Military. There was also a small museum tucked away behind Halfords!
I don’t have a high expectation of the town. It is just like any other. Cheap bric-a-brac stores, pound stores, thrift shops and charity shops, an occasional beggar, buskers playing jazz and screaming children with loud-mouthed parents in tow.
But I began to see the beauty underneath, unleashing the memories of history lessons from primary school. Chatham is home to centuries of Naval accomplishments. Chatham Historic Dockyard has preserved the history very well, and not forgetting the military connection, Fort Amherst is also in Chatham. But I don’t want to share those with you today.
I want to share some of the phenomenal architecture of the Victorian and Tudor era’s, the clean lines of the Art Deco period of the 1920s and the Gothic sculptures that adorn the front walls of buildings, squeezed in amongst the modern and minimalistic monstrosities of todays commercial establishments.
I had no idea some of these sights were in our local town, let alone one of them being a museum. The Old Brook Pumping Station hidden between The Pentagon Shopping Centre and Halfords. After having a quick browse on the museum website I discovered that there has been some form of water pumping machinery in that area since the 1500s.
The existing building though was erected in the 1920s and has a modest Art Deco doorway and a beautifully crafted post box built into the fence.
So what I say to you today is, next time you go into town, whether it is for your weekly shop or just to browse, take a look around you. Open your eyes to the beauty beneath the commercialism, take note of what your town offers by way of history, culture and heritage. You may be surprised by what is hidden right under your noses.