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Healthy Heritage Walks

18 January 2018

Did you know that we now do heritage walks every Thursday in association with Medway Council?

Discover Chatham’s exceptional naval and military heritage with our free for all heritage themed Health Walks. There are two trails, walked alternatively, which take in three miles of historical landscape and has been hugely successful thus far so will be continuing throughout our 400th anniversary!

Starting from the discovery centre (by our main entrance) the walking trail takes in local heritage with volunteer leaders and supporters guiding the route, each historical theme varying from different eras to the architecture etc. The walk takes around 1-1 ½ hours in total to complete and will pass sites from here at The Dockyard to HMS Pembroke, Lower Lines Park to The Royal Engineers Museum. These health walks intend to combine heritage and exercise to encourage local people to become more physically and socially active. Anyone is welcome to join on the walks and numbers have been consistent every Thursday with many returning to keep healthy and see Chatham’s exceptional story by foot.

The walks take place every Thursday from 10am starting from The Discovery Centre (inside the Main Visitor Entrance of The Historic Dockyard Chatham). There is no need to book just turn up and there’s free car parking in the visitor car park also.


We spoke to David Alexander, a volunteer here and a Medway Health Walk Leader to find out how the health walks have benefited him…

“Helping to set up and lead Health Walks along Chatham Historic Dockyard’s defensive “Lines” has added substantially to my understanding and love for the area and it’s history.  I’m happy to be able to encourage others to get out into the open air and enjoy seeing the way the area developed around one of the main Naval barracks and dockyards in the Country, whilst walking in green spaces with excellent views.  The walkers have included some who find this a physical challenge, but have returned for more, and we’ve been able to include a visit to what was the Drill Hall in HMS Pembroke, currently the university library.

With the help of research findings from local students, we have been able to commence each walk with a look at what happed in the Dockyard “on this day in history” during previous years and centuries past.

Because of the length of the defensive lines, we have been doing two walks, one from each end and we intend to vary these routes with the cooperation of others in the locality (eg crossing College grounds, etc). The walks alternate on a weekly basis.

So we are providing healthy exercise walking in an area full of history and historical buildings together with many green spaces and I am glad to be able to contribute to this.

Examples of snaps of history include details of ships launched, refitted and scrapped, together with listing their victories, and dates surrounding the development of working conditions in the Yard.  Then during the walk, we aim to introduce the walkers to the history of the buildings, ditches, gun emplacements and the defensive structure of the surrounding area, together with thoughts on how this affected the lives of the residents, e.g. the founding of Gillingham Football Team.

For instance, on 1st Dec. 1588, the Chatham Chest was founded as an early pension fund for the relief of distressed seamen – the chest is still on site today”

  • 19th Oct 1903, HMS Pembroke moved ashore to newly built barracks (now Universities of Kent and Greenwich), enabling new recruits and men awaiting transfer to ships some “respectable” accommodation rather than a berth on a hulk in the river,
  • 14th Dec 1799, a 5th rate ship, HMS Active, was launched – see painting,
  • 19th Oct 1972, sailors from HMS Prembroke marched through the streets of Chatham and Gillingham led by a Guards Band, as befitting Freemen of the Borough.

HMS Active in combate (the ship on the right of the painting)

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