Saturday 31 October 2015 – Folkestone, Kent.
Another day, another blog post, and yep, another change in my employment situation.
Only 28 days ago I wrote that I had decided to not take a permanent role at my current employer, which created the opportunity for me to look for a job outside of London and I could start my move towards the sea. Since then I have signed a permanent contract and am now staying right where I am!
What changed my mind was a change in working conditions which pretty much allows me the lifestyle I want. I am now working four days a week, but can work one of those days at home. This means I can stay with El in London on work days and once I have found one, I can stay in my own flat on the coast for the other days, sharing weekends between London and where ever I end up.
I do not have a lot of money for rent, going to working four days a week means I have even less than I used to. This very definitely rules London out, so I am looking at reasonably priced coastal towns that are not too far from London by train. I also have a whole bunch of minor, yet critical criteria as well – access, to the countryside, decent coffee shops, a pub I will fit in, a record shop etc – all the essentials.. This does not leave too many options.
I have drawn a line on the map and today El and I decided to visit Folkestone in Kent. It has its issues, but it is ‘up and coming’, reasonably priced and just over one hour by fast train from both work and El’s. Sounds good!
We were blessed with one of those awesome autumn days as well, fresh to start, but clear skies, lots of sun and very little breeze. A perfect day for the coast.
We caught the train from St Pancras and decided to get off at Folkestone West, walk down to Sandgate and then up the beach to Folkestone centre. Checking out a few rental properties on the way,stop for some lunch, find the record shop for a look and then head back to London from Folkestone Central.
I have been to Folkestone as a child and visited recently for as long as it took to get a bus to Dover from outside the station, so had not remembered/realised that the town was on the top of a cliff. It was a surprise to walk down quite a steep path to the shore side village/suburb of Sandgate. I was also a bit surprised to find the Norfolk Hotel so far from home.
Sandgate is small, pretty much a single street village backing on to the English Channel, and it was very nice on a sunny Saturday morning. A couple of nice cafes – even a real ale bar, and you really could not get too much closer to the sea than this.
A nice place to fish, or doze in the sun…
It even has a blue plaque!! The author H.G. Wells lived in this cottage briefly in 1896 but moved out due to the rough weather causing the waves to break over his house. He lived further inland in Sandgate until 1909. Sandgate and Kent featured in some of his books from that period.
Sandgate has a small castle, not accessible unfortunately, but a castle nonetheless. Built under the rule of Henry VIII as an artillery castle, it is part of a chain of defensive positions along the Kent coast in response to the potential threat from France.
The walk along the waterfront from Sandgate to Folkestone proper is quite lovely, with cliffs looming over one side and a pebbly beach on the other you can almost believe you are not on the edge of a busy town. There were some quite nice, very brightly coloured beach huts along the stretch, it was nice seeing some old wooden huts that are obviously being cared for.
We walked up through a park and a surprisingly steep cliff side path to Folkestone West where there were a couple of flats I was interested in doing a walk past, just to see if the outside looked like the photo. The first was in the Metropole – and I was quite excited to see it. It actually looked better than the photo, the flat does not have direct sea views, but it can be seen from a window ! It is surprisingly cheap which does worry me a little…
There was nothing but carpark and grass between it and the cliff edge – no other buildings to spoil a view!
We walked along the cliff top towards the town centre, nice views, nice quite town, not too many bums, I was probably the only one. It all seems quite idyllic.
By the time we got into town we were feeling a bit peckish and once we spotted the British Lion, the oldest pub in town we were pretty much sold on going in for lunch. It was good pub grub too.
And the square it is located in is not too shabby either.
So far all our impressions of Folkestone have been really good, it is clean and tidy, not run down like some coastal towns, the people seemed friendly. All jolly good really.
One of the things that attracted me to visit Folkestone was its creative quarter, an area between the town centre and the harbour that has been purchased to provide places for creative people to live, work and sell. It is a really cool area with some great little shops, cafes and galleries.
We visited Vintage and Vinyl, which had, along with expensive records, some wine and cider, but only from English vineyards – we bought a really nice (but not cheap) Sussex Pinot Gris. Did anyone know they made pinot gris in Sussex ???? It was really nice too.
We took a detour down to the harbour, which seemed to be the main entertainment strip in town, with more pubs than I have seen elsewhere,. I suspect this would be a place I would not be going on a Saturday night in summer if I did move down here. On a sunny day it was very nice, and quite popular too.
One of the things that is critical in my choice of a place to live is access to the countryside, I want to be able to ride my mountain bike or go for a run without having to get into the car. Pretty much like I have in Walthamstow, but maybe with the occasional sea view and a hill! Folkestone seemed to be quite proud of its access to the countryside – and it wasn’t shy about its cliffs either.
Inspired (obviously) by Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid, but not crowded by morons, this sculpture by Cornelia Parker was gifted to the town as part of the Folkestone Triennial in 2011, and is modelled on one of Folkestone’s residents. I really like some of the art around this town, and there is plenty of it to see.
We wandered back up through some more of the Creative Quarter and what is probably of the older, more historic part of town, and after a bit of searching found Hot Salvation Records. Wow. What a great record shop, not something I expected in a small coastal town. A really cool collection of punk/goth/metal/indie vinyl. I could easily have spent an awful lot of money. I did pick up an LP of a band I am going to see in a couple of weeks, I was not planning on spending any money today either. I suspect if I moved to Folkestone they would get to know me quite quickly. I was so excited I forgot to take a photo…
We walked back up through the high street and its market, the market was kinda OK, but the high street was a bit drab, probably more like I expected Folkestone to be, I guess. I would not hang out there. Though the road up towards the station was quite nice with the autumn fall,. I imagine it would look a lot bleaker with winter trees, blowing in a high sea wind under a dull December late afternoon sky.
I am going to have to say, that Folkestone was way cooler than I expected it to be, I am going to have to check out what the top four are !!
We enjoyed our day out, I do forget how nice it can be to take a day out and just go walk by the sea.
I am tempted by Folkestone. It has its problems, it has a horrible UKIP controlled council which is a bit of a worry, but tempted still I am (to use a Yoda’ism).