October 13 2020 – Somewhere in Kent.
As I enter the narrow lane that runs from the A206 down towards the River Thames, not far from the southern footings of the Dartford Bridge and a busy M25 interchange I feel like I have stepped back in time to yesterday, or a version of a yesterday that could have taken place any time over the last 40 years.
The outlook changed in an instant from the sunny, bright and warm morning of a minute ago to the wet, cold and dingeyness of yesterday. The high hedge on the side of the lane completely blocking the morning sun, leaving the part repaired pot hole riddled surface wet and puddled. The scrubby field and uncut grass on the opposite side of the lane will fail to allow much of the afternoon light to penetrate and bring respite to the bleakness of this short wet country lane.
I hear what sounds like gunshots. A loud crack, quickly followed by a second, then complete silence as all around appears to stop to try and confirm what was just heard. Bang…. Bang… two further loud cracks. I stop the car, turn off the music and wind down the window. Did I really hear them? Were they really gunshots or just loud bangs from the nearby quarry? I wait a couple of minutes, then earing no more I wind the window back up, but do not turn the car stereo on, and then slowly continue my journey.
This is the second of two weeks off work. I needed a break and with Covid still on the scene, and getting worse, the opportunity to go travelling somewhere was not really there, and while there are places to go it was just not going to be practical or that much fun with so many restrictions. I will mostly stay home during the break; finish a bunch of chores and some minor DIY, read and listen to music. Basically relax and unwind. Just what my mind and my body need.
I did, however, book a night away in a hotel so I could explore a bunch of ruins on the Isle of Grain and then the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. I wanted to (needed to?) do some photography to help clear my mind and I like doing photography on my own. I also wanted to spend some time away from distractions to finish the first draft of a short story I have been working on.
At the end of the lane where the road takes a sharp turn back into the sun’s light and warmth I find a place to stop and park the car. Back in clear blue daylight and after reading a sign where I parked the car explaining what I just heard the gloom and doom is lifted. Relief. I can at least a look around without the fear of being shot.
I am here to visit the site of the abandoned Wells Fireworks Factory. The company was setup by Joseph Wells 1837 and remained under family ownership until the 1980s when cheap Chinese imports pretty much ruined the business and it was sold. The land is now owned by Greenwich University, and has been abandoned for a long time.
There is a large number of small buildings where the fireworks were made and stored, it looks intriguing and just the sort of place that appeals to my bleak tastes.
I was sort of under the impression that the site was pretty open and you could walk around and just the buildings themselves were fenced off, however there are large barriers around the outside, complete with the usual warning signs.
It is all very overgrown and getting around inside the fence would be tough going. On the road side of the fence there seemed to be a ditch under the brambles, nettle and what appeared to bamboo and I was not prepared to venture into that to get around the back of the site.
I abandoned my plans to enter the abandoned site and just took a couple of photos from inside the gate and along the roadside and then leave. I am not very brave, even less so on my own.
I had parked my car next to the wonky and open gate to an overgrown field, with a broken down house not that far in. I don’t think it is part of the fireworks factory.
As the gate was open I went in and had a quick look, regretting not putting on the gumboots in the boot of my car as the grass was long and wet.
I chose to go round the back which was the wrong choice as, like the fireworks site, there was ditch at the back and not wanting to linger in the field any longer than necessary I left, taking a couple of photos and my wet feet with me.