• Nikki Latham

10 Days Of Speedway Pleasure & Pain - Travelling To Sittingbourne

Apart from my love of speedway, I love visiting new places, but I also have to be fully aware of my health limitations and even what I could do 2 years ago, I can't do now.

I think I can say that I know many of the speedway towns and cities far too well. In particular at Sittingbourne, I walk into one of the pubs and they recognise me now. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I will leave you to decide what made me memorable, I mention why they are so fab later on.
My trip is a mammoth on to Sittingbourne, however its not much shorter to Plymouth, but I can give a couple of tips on the accommodation, I have been in three of the hotels, all big chains, and I have been recommended another one to try another time. As you expect the Saturday night is more expensive than the Sunday, but if you compare it to other cities and to say it's in Kent, I think it's quite reasonable. But Sunday is usually very cheap at Travelodge and Premier Inn.
It would be wrong to review the Premier Inn at Bobbing, as I haven't been there for three years, but if you are just visiting for the speedway, and you are driving it's a great location. If like myself public transport is the way, then I have got to say I am torn, only because Travelodge wanted to charge me twice the price of Holiday Inn. Travelodge is convenient as its opposite the station, but parking would be an issue for drivers, the Holiday Inn is a £5 taxi fare from the taxi rank (hackney cab), and has parking too.

On my last visit, I split between the two, Holiday Inn & Travelodge, the Holiday Inn was spotlessly clean, and the entrance from the car park is far more impressive than the side one that is more useful as a pedestrian, that the doors don't work. The bus that passes on the main road goes every 30 mins (334 Maidstone to Sheerness), which does pass the train station, but stops at teatime and also runs on a Sunday (2 hourly service) and crazily enough, it actually goes through Iwade village, so if you don't mind a 30 minute walk (if you choose this, make sure you are well seen, as there are no pavements!), you can get to the track. I think the pub in the village that is near the bus stop is called The Woolpack.
The Holiday Inn was clean, and beautiful. They were definitely short staffed and the price included internet and all-you-can-eat breakfast. I was in an accessible room, that was very confused between old and new. It had a brightly lighted bathroom with a wet room, not designed for those disabled and still able to stand. Some bizarre green light as you go in and out to make the door look that colour. Then apart from 2 side lamps no other light. The unusual element was a middle island, which had a small desk with tea/coffee, etc and on the opposite side was a smart TV, not the biggest, but sadly the speakers had blown and made the sound very distorted. The small window did not let any light in and the worst thing was plug sockets, I did find 2, but none near the bed, really odd places. The bed area had a very old fashioned wooden surround and three pieces leather rectangles attached, which if it had a double might work but two singles it didn't. The picture on the wall looked like a grey patio slab that had been scuffed with blood, not pleasant and very dark. The bar prices were quite reasonable, and the staff friendly, but came across as stressed. Some asked for more pillows, and the receptionist said that there were none, when she served me at the bar, the phone carried on ringing as she was trying to work out how to operate the till. The bar also looked closed up and I had to ask her if it was open, I think now to alert her to someone needing service, by asking if it was open. Breakfast was lovely, great to have fried eggs (many places opt for scrambled), and could help myself. I paid £78 for the night, which with the internet and breakfast. They also allow check-in from 2pm which is earlier than the other places without making an extra payment.
I moved across to the Travelodge, which would be my 3rd visit here, but could be my last. On arrival there was no one in reception, and someone else arrived for early check-in and said the only way to alert them is to call the number. The lady who arrived was waiting to say it wasn't midday but it was and then changed the sentence to say that they do other duties across the hotel, excuses not customer service lessons definitely required here or was I spoilt with the Holiday Inn staff. I totally understand that but if there are people booked for a midday check-in there should be someone there. I then, was asked the accessible room question, but with aggression and quite offensively. I will cover this encounter in my story when I focus on disabled travel, but was in the same room as before, and sadly had the noisiest heater and extractor fan (Room 301) and will be asking for another room next time. The heater was full of muck with that sound, the extractor also dirty making similar noises and since last visit the door edging for the outside door that sounded like someone swishing along the wall, it was almost a sleepless night again in this hotel. I will be taking this up with the hotel, but with no press email address, we have not been able at the time of writing, and of course we will give them a right to reply. It was only £29.99 for the room with £10 early check-in. No breakfast included and £3 per 24 hours internet access, which is up to 2 devices, but really slow.

This Travelodge does not have a bar and that means they only do a pre-booked breakfast in a box. However there are plenty of business nearby for breakfast including a Lounge Bar next door and a small general store to the side of the hotel for a sandwich, etc and a cheap Wetherspoons not far away too (note don't be daunted by the steps at the front of Wetherspoons, if you go round the side, it's only a couple of steps or a wheelchair lift just inside!).
Ok, so the accommodation is all sorted, what has Sittingbourne got to offer as a town apart from speedway, well so far I have only really gone, when few visitors would consider this a place to go. You have got Margate down the train track and hour each way and another great towns, but Sittingbourne has all the shops you would expect from a small town, but no Primark, like Weymouth.

Eating out is something that as I have only been a couple of times can't speak much about, but there are many chains. There is a Wimpy bar, that actually had proper milkshakes, not the cheapest but with the lack of MacDonald's ones recently, a lovely treat. But what I can recommend if you like real ales, ciders and few spirits is The Old Paper Mill, on Charlotte Street, which can be if on foot, that you would be as a responsible drinker, is behind the Morrisons, head into the car park and walk in a straight line towards the houses, there is a road in front of you, go down there, turn right and its not far down on the left on the corner. Morrisons is situated about 5 mins from the Travelodge, cross over towards station, follow road to left to the crossing outside Morrisons. This place was an amazing find over 3 years ago, my very first visit you couldn't access it so easily, as the car park and housing has been built since then. It isn't the biggest pub as its a micro pub, but serves the most incredible real ales in the area, and on certain nights have food, including cheese toasties and cheese boards on a Sunday. Please do check before visiting and ask Harvey what they have on their beer board and/or any special night, you can find out more at: https://www.facebook.com/thepapermillmicropub and tell them you saw in on our social media at Chesil Radio. I can't wait to go back later in the year and taste some more great beer and food. On a Saturday early evening, they serve the most incredible burgers, and I selected a double Heartpounder, cooked fresh in front of you or pop back in for more beer while it cooks, it was incredible as you can see in the pictures.
So whether you are coming just for the day or making it a weekend, I hope this gives you a little idea of places to stay and go.
Personally, my journey takes me 11 hours to get to Sittingbourne from Weymouth, some thoughts though on this, by splitting my journey up, its a) cheaper and b) gives me time to grab a beer or two on the way, however that really is only delaying myself by one train at Victoria. The biggest delay is my local bus service, which you will hear how that impacts on my journeys to Plymouth on one of my next stories, coming back it takes 9 hours and there is no time for beer to hit connections back, and on this occasion, my London Victoria to Southampton, left on time, then trespassers on the line delayed it, and then following a slow train down allowed just a 4 minute change over or it would have been an hour wait. I make the journey alone and take my time usually to make sure I arrive safely, I would remind people however they travel please travel safely. Always happy to offer tips on splitting tickets to try and make journeys cheaper.
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