Long time ago I read a book I don’t remember the title anymore, and I don’t even remember what it was about. The only thing left in my memory was that the main character, a teenage boy had to help his family to open locks and the sluices so that the boats could pass. The whole mechanism described in details in this novel seemed extremely complicated to me.
Why am I writing about this? Because of this amazing River Medway which flows very close to my house. It has spring in East Sussex, then flows through my town, through Chatham and after making about 113 km it goes into the Thames near Sheerness. Formerly Medway was a busy river, explored by locals in various ways for example in Chatham, a shipyard was built on it for Queen Elizabeth, or the river was used to transport paper from factories in nearby Loose and ragstone from Kent. Medway was a capricious and moody river and often flooded on the surrounding villages and towns. At the end of the 18th century, when the paper industry flourished, in the suburbs of Maidstone, the first attempts were made to regulate the river and the first locks on the river were built.
In 1937 Maidstone council decided to use newer technical solutions and take the river even more under control. The locks were expanded, a new bridge was created under which ships could pass freely. Apparently it cost 18 thousand pounds. Along the river, houses workers were built, also, a small brick booth for customs collection, and inn for those who wanted to stay here overnight.
Quite recently I went there with my doggie for a walk. The area is very picturesque. Along the banks are boats and barges, with beautiful names, mainly female, they are pleasantly decorated with flowers or paintings. Some are permanently inhabited. The charming stone houses of workers are still standing there.
Even a customs booth has survived, although now you can order a delicious coffee there and sit under one of the many weeping willow trees, which are leaning forward like a hunched old woman, touching the ground with their green hair.
On the banks of the river stands a large pub-restaurant used to be called Malta Inn, run by the Beefeater company. I tried to find some information about this pub, on the Dover-Kent Archives I found information that the pub was built here in 19 century and first licence was given in 1851 to John Barlett. Until few years ago was still called Beefeater Malta Inn but recently after a refurbishment the name Malta In disappeared from the front of the building.
The food in the pub is ok, typical pub food. But i would highly recommend to sit with a pint or glass of wine at a table along the river, the view is just fantastic.