The Great Lines in Gillingham, Kent, is a large area of chalk grassland covering many acres. It acts as the defence, the green lung, which protects Gillingham from the nearby concrete development in Chatham just over the hill. The land has considerable historical significance best looked up in the reference library for accuracy, It certainly was not for the purpose of killing French soldiers, The Great Lines is much reduced in size due to development and dozens of public footpaths have been lost or compromised.
In the past the whole site was under threat from Government plans to sell the site for housing development, but thwarted by the uprising of local people when the Government could not prove it was the rightful owner. The fight to save the land was taken to Parliament and the case won. The Great Lines is dedicated to the people of Gillingham and the Medway Towns for future enjoyment and amenity.
Prior to the development threat, the land supported wildlife and wild flowers. A feature was the undulating terrain now flattened out, superb tall grass and skylarks singing overhead. Within a few minutes of entering the Paget Street entrance in Gillingham,and walking the main footpath to the magnificent Royal Naval Memorial, the joy, isolation and wildness of the Great Lines was apparent, especially in the wind and rain.
Once the land became administered by the local council, the things that local people had enjoyed for decades, popular boot-fairs, fun fairs and circus were eventually stopped with added bans on cycling. Natural grazing by horses was removed and replaced by mechanical cutting, leaving the grass in dry seasons as hard brown stubble. The incoming council attempted a couple of pop concerts, but these days only the annual fireworks display remains, but is well worth a visit in November.
The council turned the Great Lines in to a Heritage Park with improvements including an entrance from Marlborough Road and a north/south surfaced footpath. None of the events have been allowed to returned but walking and breathing are permitted. The Great Lines retains it's former wild character in the vicinity of the memorial but the rest is just another field with over trimmed grass and not much left of the wild flowers.
I walk across the Great Lines from time to time and think how it used to be, and it is always under threat from development in some form or another. Despite the fight to save the land and dedicaion to local people the council clamp down on events has been a local social disaster.