Excerpts from 1,200 word article which ends with "If You Go" information


For reasons obvious to everyone who comes here, Kent is known as England's Garden County. But to his millions of fans around the world, this is Charles Dickens country. Dickens' happiest childhood memories stem from the time he lived in Chatham and tramped with his father through the glorious Kent countryside. His favourite seaside resort, "one of the freest and freshest little places in the world," was Broadstairs. For 13 years he lived at Gad's Hill, in a house he had dreamed of owning as a child. On the evening of June 8, 1870 he died there. Dickens wanted to be buried in nearby Rochester, with a simple ceremony having "no scarf, cloak, black bow, long hat band or any other revolting absurdity." The ceremony was simple enough, but the venue was London's Westminster Abbey - a far cry from the little graveyard in Rochester Castle's moat ...

Even if you are not a true blue Dickens fan, you will enjoy the old world atmosphere of Rochester. Less than an hour by rail or road from central London, its history predates Roman times. It has a castle and cathedral, quaint old pubs and tea shops, a Saturday antique market, even cherubic looking schoolboys who wear straw boaters and frequent the local tuck shop. Tourist attractions are mainly around the High Street, a short walk from coach and car parks and the railway station, so you can easily explore on foot.

There are dozens of places around Rochester associated with Dickens. Chatham, immediately to the east, and Strood, on its western boundary, are just two. Gad's Hill is a school. The cliff-top home at Broadstairs in which much of David Copperfield was written is called Bleak House now, and is open from March to November.

IF YOU GO: Rochester is southeast of central London, reached via the A20/M20. Less than an hour away by train, there is a regular service from Victoria Station.

TRAVELLER'S TIPS: For even more of Dickens join a London Walk to the haunts of his boyhood and working years, and the London house on Doughty Street where he lived with his young family. It is now a museum.