He doesn’t like too much fuss so I’ll make this part brief, but my brother turned 18 years old last Saturday. Honestly, I have no idea how my not-so-little brother is officially an adult now. I remember when he was born, I adored him instantly especially as he gifted me a Furby. We had lots of fun growing up.
To celebrate and have a day out that wasn’t too focused on him, we decided to head to The Historic Dockyard Chatham. Museums have always interested my brother and we spent many days out at the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon. Despite living in Kent for over four years now, I had never heard of the dockyard so was excited to go.
I met my Mum, Step-Dad, brother and Grandad there with my girls. It was actually the first day of opening in 2018, it was a pretty grizzly day weather wise too but that didn’t stop my own excitement. The girls were also really happy to see their grandparents, P2 specifically as she received her birthday presents too.
Entrance to Chatham Dockyard is £58 for a family of 4 if paid online, and then an additional child is £9.50 and under 5 year olds are free. Tickets are valid for 12 months from the date of entry so you can come back as many times as you like throughout the following year. I wasn’t sure why this would be valuable until we started exploring and realised the extent of the museum.
After heading through the security gates, we was able to book on to 3 tours. Two of the tours are always on; Victorian Ropery Tour and HMS Ocelot Tour. The other one was a special event Doc.Yard’s Secret Lab which is running until 25th February, however there’s lots of fun events planned over 2018. These events and tours are all covered in the entrance ticket.
We happened to be a little early for our timed entrance into the lab which was located in the No1 Smithery. So we all took a toilet break then explored the Pipe Bending area. The girls loved getting hands on and my lovely Grandad tried his best to explain the process that didn’t involve easily bending pipes. We then bundled into the Secret Lab.
Sadly P3 didn’t last too long inside as it was a bit confined for her, dark and not quite as engaging for a 3 year old as I thought it was going to be. So I took her to explore the rest of the Smithery whilst we waited. P1 and P2 seemed to really enjoy learning about Light and Colours, getting involved in little experiments too.
It wasn’t long before P2 and my Mum joined us outside. P2 and P3 took great joy in running around the huge stoned area that I’m sure will be a hub of entertainment in the warmer months. There’s a video below of our day out and you can see the laughter in their faces. P2 opened some more of her presents from her birthday and then it began to rain a little heavier.
It felt a little restricting to be set to timed tours and we were rapidly running out of time to have our lunch by the time the Doc.Yard’s Secret Lab had finished. My mum, P2, P3 and I headed for the Mess Deck. There’s two places to get some food and drink; Wagon Stop Canteen or Mess Deck.
The food choices on the menu at the Mess Deck were really good! The prices were also really reasonable for a tourist attraction too. All of us ended up having Jacket Potatoes; one with cheese, two with tuna, three with chilli and my Grandad had crayfish. P3 had a children’s chicken nugget meal of course. It was all really yummy and presented well, apart from the serviette underneath the potato?!
After our lunch we hastily made our way for our Submarine Tour. This is a guided 15 minutes tour, although you can book 30 minutes for a more in depth guide, of the HMS Submarine Ocelot. This is a Royal Navy warship that was actually built at Chatham Dockyard in 1962.
P2 was really excited about going on a submarine. It was absolutely amazing climbing down inside the submarine. It’s astonishing to imagine 69 men working in such a cramped space. There were so many beds everywhere. Little rooms with three bunk beds, kitchens, bathrooms and war machinery. It’ts hard to imagine it really and I don’t think I could cope with being under the ocean for up to 3 months at a time!
After our eye opening tour inside the submarine, our next tour was booked for the Victorian Ropery. My Grandad was definitely looking forward to this one. He’d mentioned it a few times when we made the decision to come to Chatham Dockyard. We had another quick toilet stop, by the way there are quite a few dotted around Chatham Dockyard which is brilliant for kids or adults with weak bladders like my Mum and me.
The man doing our tour was fantastic. He was acting out the role of the Foreman from 1875. Honestly, he really set the story and took you back to the Victorian era. He had great banter, great enthusiasm and really made the tour. He’s a credit to the Dockyard. After being told the background of making rope at Chatham Dockyard, which has been happening for over 400 years and they still make it during the week now, we was able to get a little demonstration of how rope is made.
P2 was lucky enough to be picked to help out, along with two other girls. She very nearly didn’t put her hand up but I’m sure she’s happy she did now. After they’d finished making it the foreman gave each child a piece of rope that they had put effort to make by themselves. Obviously our cats love that little piece of rope and P2 is so proud.
With P3 asleep in the pushchair, we grabbed a quick hot chocolate and then I took the other two girls, my Mum, brother and Grandad headed to explore one of the other warships, HMS Cavalier. Not all of it is accessible and it’s definitely not suitable for less able people as there’s lots of ladders. 200 men lived/worked on this warship which is astonishing.
Like the submarine, there are bed’s everywhere. A large kitchen area, shops, you can even look around the Captain’s quarters right at the top of the ship. I would have loved to be able to explore all of the ship without children, I find that sort of stuff so interesting when you imagine what the atmosphere would have been like. My Grandad and brother were both having a good look around too.
We suddenly realised that it was pretty close to closing time. The day had zoomed past and we’d honestly barely touched the surface for things to see. The Big Space, the Lifeboat Collection, the various play areas for children too and so much more. At that moment I appreciated the ticket being valid for 12 months more because I am more than certain we will be back. In fact I have my eye on the Easter event and the Halloween half term too.
It was along and busy day out. We barely had time to sit down and take it all in properly. I can see this place coming to life when the weather is nicer, warmer and brighter and I really want to take Hubby along with us next time too. I would highly recommend this as a day out, and I just wanted to note that this is not a collaborative post, I purely had a brilliant day for my brothers 18th birthday and wanted to share it with you.
Here’s our video from our day out, don’t forget to subscribe and leave me a comment too!!