A Quintessential British Weekend – the UK Section meeting at Rochester, Kent

The last full weekend of September and another great weekend of IFFR fellowship. This time we gathered at the IFFR UK section weekend meeting which brought the European season of weekend fly ins to its end. Over 30 of us, including members from Andorra, Belgium and Norway, came together in Rochester, Kent, for a Quintessentially British weekend.

Blessed with fine weather, those flying in to Rochester from the UK had great views over London en-route before landing on the grass hilltop airfield. We adjourned to the Bridgewood Manor Hotel – our base for the weekend, for lunch

Suitably refreshed we took the short coach ride to visit Leeds Castle, built on islands in a lake formed by the River Len to the east of the village of Leeds (not to be mistaken for its better known northern namesake, Leeds, Yorkshire). A castle has existed on the site since 857. In the 13th century, it came into the hands of King Edward I, for whom it became a favourite residence; in the 16th century, Henry VIII used it as a dwelling for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The present castle dates mostly from the early 19th century. Its last private owner, Olive, Lady Baillie, left the castle in trust to open it to the public. After a tour of the house, thee was time to explore the grounds, have an ice-cream, and for the more foolhardy to explore (better described as “get lost in”) the maze.

Then it was back on the coach to the quaint village of Lenham for dinner at “The Wishful Thinker” country pub. Described as a “sleepover foodie pub” we enjoyed that most British of Friday night meals – fish & chips, with Kent brewed ales or the option of English wines!

The advantage of Rochester is that although out in the Kent countryside, it is still close to London and so on Saturday morning, we made the short journey by coach up beside the river Thames to Greenwich. Here we enjoyed tours of The Royal Observatory and the Cutty Sark sailing ship and a visit to the National Maritime Museum. Yet again we were blessed with fine weather, and from the top of the hill by the Observatory, we had stunning views across the river to the Docklands area of London and indeed to Central London.

We returned late afternoon to the Bridgewood Manor Hotel, where we had our Gala Dinner on Saturday Night. This was a great way to end our weekend – complete with a surprise twist to the evening: a magic show by local magician Ashley Green (who had also performed some close up magic at each of our dinner tables before the meal).

Sunday shone fair once again, albeit windy, for fast but slightly bumpy safe flights home.

And so, here ends the season of European Section weekend meetings. Here’s to doing it all again with our friends from around the world in 2024!

But for now, as we sign off in Europe, in the Southern hemisphere the days are getting longer and summer is on its way. So, we hand over to them now as they prepare for fly ins in Australia and New Zealand, and the Christmas Party in Hong Kong.

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