Days 37 - 38 (20 - 21 July): Two days in Kent

For two days we explored the local countryside.

The Navigatrix' cousin lives at Westgate-on-sea, in a lovely two bedroom apartment right on the seaside. It was so beautiful it was tempting to stay at home all day.  

Our first stop was Margate, just a few miles down the road. We were able to walk part of the way into town.  Like most English seaside towns, the high street is lined with amusement arcades and shops selling buckets and spades. On the promenade is the obligatory mini golf course.  However Margate shows sign of life, particularly after the Turner Contemporary Art Gallery was opened.  There are plenty of restaurants and cafes and even the local circa 1950's fun park complete with Ferris Wheel and (wooden) roller coaster has been brought back to life.  This is quite different to other seaside towns we have seen in the UK, where the shops are boarded up and the private hotels are barely surviving.  The package holiday and low cost airfares to the south of Spain has nearly killed the English seaside holiday.  It is nice to see these towns finding their way again.

Then we went onto Broadstairs, which is an even smaller village further along the coast.  This little town thrives on a connection to Charles Dickens who spent summer holidays here from 1837 - 1851.  Apparently the original Bleak House is here, or so it claims to be.  It didn't look to bleak to us, with a wedding reception underway in the garden.  We escaped into a pub just as a shower came down and had a very English lunch - ham sandwiches, steak and ale pie, mackerel salad, baked ham and chips and of course more local ales.  On the way back to the car the Google Street View vehicle passed us not once, not twice but thrice so we will be on the lookout to see if we have been digitally immortalised.

Broadstairs beach

Broadstairs beach

Lots of Charles Dickens references in Broadchurch

Lots of Charles Dickens references in Broadchurch

After lunch we continued around the coast to Ramsgate, which is a limb one of the Cinque Ports.  The five Cinque ports are Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich and these were grouped together for military and trade purposes in 1155.  Ramsgate port was also home to many of the small boats which contributed to the Dunkirk evacuation as well as a Navy torpedo boat flotilla.  Accordingly it got quite a lot of bombing attention during the war.  Tunnels had been dug into the chalk cliff since Victorian times and these were expanded to become air raid shelters.  It is quite easy to see the buildings damaged by bombs, or the newer buildings constructed in the 1950s and 1960s standing alongside their Victorian counterparts.

We spent some time in the Church of the Sailors and Smack Boys.  Smack boys were apprentice seaman and a home was set up for them as a place to stay when in port.  

We went back to Margate for dinner in a restaurant on the seaside, complete with another spectacular sunset.  Crazy people were still out swimming even at 21:30, having to wade far out into the water at low tide to find enough depth.  Back at home the sky cleared enough to see the stars.

Another sunset from the restaurant terrace in Margate

Another sunset from the restaurant terrace in Margate

The next day we only had a half-day for sightseeing.  We stopped at RAF Manston.  There are two museums - one houses a Hurricane and Spitfire whilst the other has some WWI biplanes, some Dambuster memorabilia (Barnes-Wallis tested the bounce bombs on nearby Reculver Beach) as well as later model jet aircraft.  We went into both and thoroughly enjoyed them - more time was needed.

Hurricane

Hurricane

Spitfire

Spitfire

Nieuport

Nieuport

Bouncing bomb

Bouncing bomb

This sign really exists

This sign really exists

Then we went onto Sandwich for a cream tea.  We walked around the 14th century old town  whilst rolling out Sandwich jokes like "Why aren't you playing on the beach? Because of all of the Sand-wich-is there."

We took tea in Salutation House which has a lovely 3.5 acre garden which we glimpsed from the courtyard.  

Alas it was time to head to Dover.  We had a lovely time with family in Kent and have resolved to come back and spend more time here as well.  There is so much history and rolling countryside to explore.

A glimpse of the Secret Garden at Salutation House

A glimpse of the Secret Garden at Salutation House

The Barbican Gate at Sandwich dates from 1384 

The Barbican Gate at Sandwich dates from 1384