Industrial Explorer Weekend
North Kent
Maidstone to the Thames
1st - 4th June 2017
One in a series of unique tours, developed from the City Safari, where a traditional Safari pattern does not work for the principal town but, with other settlements, the surrounding industrial areas and our own transport, presents a group of sites well worth exploring.
Led by Sue Constable
3 nights, from £430
Book online now
This year’s Explorer will be looking at the River Medway from Maidstone to the confluence with the Thames. The area is not thought of as being a significant industrial area but actually houses a range of interesting sites.

The lower reaches of the river has important maritime history, the most obvious survival being Chatham Naval Dockyard. There were also naval and other military installations on the Isle of Sheppey including gunpowder works. Chatham has also been the home of the Royal Engineers since 1750 and there are many buildings associated with this.

As well as the naval ship-building there were other boatyards in the area where Thames barges and other ships were built.

The whole area was home to a significant paper making industry. Newsprint for the daily papers was made here as well as better quality paper. We shall be looking at the remains of this industry including an industrial railway.

Faversham was important for the manufacture of gunpowder and other explosives and will be included in our itinerary.

The tour will begin on the Thursday evening and will finish mid afternoon on Sunday.

We will be staying in Gillingham and will travel out from there in a comfortable mini-coach to sites in the surrounding area.

There may be up to 5 miles of walking, in short sections, on each of the first two days, mostly on hard surfaces although we may also use other paths which could be muddy depending on the weather.

If you are interested in joining the tour on a non-residential basis please contact us for further information:


Thursday 1st June
Assemble at our hotel in the early evening for the group dinner (included).

At the end of dinner Sue will give a short introduction to the weekend.

Friday 2nd June
Friday will be spent looking at the lower Medway valley and the town of Maidstone. We will visit Aylesford where there was an important paper mill and will continue to look at Allington on the river Medway.

We will then explore Maidstone looking at the development of a County Town including the buildings associated with the jail built in 1810. We hope to finish the day with a walk to look at some of the older mill sites just outside Maidstone.

There will be a break for lunch (own expense) during the day.

Evening at leisure

Saturday 3rd June

On Saturday, we will move closer to the Thames Estuary. We plan to visit Faversham and include a visit to the the 18th century Chart Gunpowder Mills said to be the oldest of their kind in the world, powder from which was used at the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo. Shipbuilding will also be included and then Sittingbourne including a visit to the Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway. Unfortunately, the line will not be in steam but we should still be able to look at the buildings and track. We will finish the day on the Isle of Sheppey discovering what is left of the military installations and the steel works.

There will be a break for lunch (own expense) during the day.

Evening at leisure.

Sunday 4th June

Sunday will be spent exploring Rochester and Chatham finishing with a visit to the Naval Dockyard. We will look at the bridge crossing the Medway and at the effects the development of the Dockyard had on the town of Chatham.

Lunch with the group is included.

The day will finish by about 15:30

Note: Detailed planning is still in progress and whilst we expect to be able to visit all these sites, the itinerary may be subject to minor amendments. If you need to leave earlier than 15:30 please let us know when booking and we will try to make arrangements.


Sue Constable will be well known to anyone who came to the Ruhr or Moravia with the AIA or has joined one of her City Safaris or previous Explorer Weekends. She was born in Buckinghamshire but moved to Hastings at an early age. She read History and Archaeology at Liverpool and also has a qualification in museum studies. She may have started out as an archaeologist but soon changed to being a social and industrial historian. She has worked in museums for most of her life, apart from a spell teaching and a break when her daughter was small. Much of her work in museums has been with industrial collections, ribbon weaving, nail-making and shoemaking. With her husband, Mike, she has explored much of the British and European waterways network. As a social historian she is also interested in how people live and how they organise their living spaces and environment.


We have had considerable difficulty in finding appropriate accommodation for this weekend. We usually look for a comfortable but modestly priced hotel with a reasonable restaurant which is close enough to our main town centre allowing group members to explore other locations for eating, drinking and entertainment in the evenings. We have been unable to locate an hotel which had availability and which fulfilled all the other requirements and it is the location on which we eventually had to compromise.

We will be staying at the Premier Inn, Gillingham Business Park, Gillingham, Kent ME8 6BY

The hotel has an associated “Beefeater” Restaurant where full English breakfast is served and which has a good menu for evening meals.

With the joining instructions we will circulate information about local public transport links and other possible locations for evening dining.

“Twin bedded” rooms at Premier Inns make use of a sofa bed as the second bed.


The tour starts at the Premier Inn, Gillingham on the Thursday evening and ends at about 15:30 after the Sunday afternoon activities when the coach returns to the hotel in Gillingham.

We leave you to make your own travel arrangements to and from Abingdon to suit your own convenience and use of alternative departure points.

There may be up to 5 miles of walking, in short sections, on each of the first two days, mostly on hard surfaces although we may use other paths which may be muddy depending  on the weather.

When not on foot, travel during the tour is by luxury mini coach and this cost is included.

Detailed joining instructions will be supplied about two weeks before the start of the tour.


The cost of the tour is £430 per person sharing, single supplement £80. The single supplement is entirely accounted for by the additional costs charged by the hotel for single occupancy. With a high proportion of singles on these tours it is not possible to avoid this.

The cost includes:
  • 3 nights bed & breakfast accommodation
  • Dinner on Thursday, Lunch on Sunday
  • Luxury air conditioned mini coach transport and driver tip
  • All entrance fees
  • Expert guiding and services of an experienced tour manager throughout
  • Research for the visit
  • Professionally produced, comprehensive tour notes
Excluded are:
  • Lunch on Friday & Saturday
  • Dinner on Friday & Saturday
  • Drinks
  • Expenses at the hotels other than dinner, bed & breakfast
All costs are in Pounds Sterling (GBP) and are based on present accommodation, transport costs and taxes. Any change in these may necessitate a price change.


Please note that cancellation charges will apply from 6th April 2017, and, although these will be modified to the extent that costs are not actually incurred, you are strongly advised to insure against the need to cancel.

Non-UK residents also need to consider medical treatment and repatriation charges in the event of illness etc. Participants who do not have travel insurance must nevertheless accept full responsibility for these eventualities.

If you do not already have travel insurance then you may like to contact Avanti Travel Insurance, who specialise in providing cover tailored for those with pre-existing medical conditions and with no upper age limit, both single-trip and annual policies, quoting reference “Heritage of Industry” for a competitive quote.

Website:  Email: Phone: 0800 888 6195


Bookings will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis, subject to space availability. Booking is subject to a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 20 people . Book as soon as possible and by 6th April to ensure a place but please feel free to enquire after that date if a place is still available. We will contact you as soon as possible to confirm the booking and to issue an invoice for the balance of the price.

A non-refundable deposit of £45 per person is required on booking. Bookings can be made definite only when the booking details and deposit are received and accepted in writing by Heritage of Industry Ltd. The company's standard terms and conditions apply. The balance of the price is to be paid to Heritage of Industry Ltd on presentation of the invoice. All monies paid to Heritage of Industry Ltd will be held, in accordance with government regulations**, in a customer protection account until the tour is complete so that your money is safe no matter what happens.

Payment should be made via your bank’s online banking facilities, the necessary details are shown on the booking form and electronic confirmation emailed to you. Please send an email note when you have made payment. If you are unable to use electronic banking then please send a sterling cheque drawn on a UK bank. There is no extra charge for using cheques at present. We are sorry that we are unable to accept payment by credit/debit card or PayPal.

Click here to book online now

Download a printable version of the above with a booking form to post

For further queries please contact:

Bill Barksfield
Managing Director
Heritage of Industry Ltd, The Gables, 20 Main Road, East Hagbourne, Oxon OX11 9LN UK
Tel: +44 1235 352275  (9am - 5.30pm GMT)

** The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 (SI 1992 No. 3288)