January 15 2016 – Folkestone.
It is winter in the UK at the moment, which generally means a lazy time for me. This makes it a good time to look for houses and since my trip to Broadstairs, Margate and Deal I have been pretty busy doing that. Online at least. El and I have just booked a trip to Valencia for a long weekend, good friends of ours have recently bought a holiday home there and we are going to join them for a weekend at the end of Feb. It hasn’t all been house hunting!
After knocking my action list down to just Folkestone and Broadstairs when I came back from my trip last week I have made a further cut to the list and am now going to focus solely on Folkestone for a while. I like Broadstairs but Folkestone has a little more life to it than sleepy Broadstairs, and that suits me more right now as this is not a long term purchase. If I was retiring it would be a completely different story!
I was in luck again this week with another gorgeous looking day on Friday, I had booked myself train tickets earlier in the week, betting on the weather staying nice. One of the advantages of Folkestone over the other locations is that the high speed train goes there so it is a 55 minute trip, out of St Pancras. Broadstairs is slightly longer at 1:20. Trains out of St Pancras was a key factor in choosing the Kent coast over Sussex or further west. St Pancras is 10 minutes from work and 20 from El’s house, far more convenient than Waterloo or Paddington.
I had a small panic last night when I got home from visiting a couple of galleries and having dinner with my mate Daryl and discovered I no longer had my wallet. I rang the burger joint we had eaten in – Honest Burger off of Old St, and thankfully my wallet had been handed in, phew. It was a great burger too !! Almost as good was they opened at 9:00 today so I could get there, pick up my wallet and get to the station in time for the train I had booked at 10:30. Ample time really, it is only 10 minutes away.
I arrived at St Pancras with time enough to get a coffee and a muffin before heading up to the high speed platforms to wait for my train. It was a lovely, clear but very cold day.
The train I was catching originated in Folkestone and I was pleased to see it was really full with office workers and other city types commuting from there, or thereabouts. It was a bit comforting to know there were other ex-Londoners there.
I had spent a bit of time pouring over maps of Folkestone and noting a number of properties for sale that I could do a walk by. I do not know the area and wanted to suss out a few streets that looked OK and had properties I could afford. Luckily they were all on the west side of town, so it did not include too much walking. I had also organised my first house viewing in Sandgate. On the train I organised my day and made a bunch of notes on some street maps I printed out. I wanted to make real use of my time there. I had also arranged to meet a friend of a friend who lives in one of the areas I am interested in. Getting some local knowledge about the place was critical for me.
The train arrived on time and wrapped up warm I headed off from Folkestone West station to the north to check out, and write off a couple of flats on my list. One was sold and the other was on the corner of two major roads. Not for me at all!
Heading back the way I came I arrived at Sandgate Rd just behind the Metrople Building, which does have a flat I am vaguely interested, I love the building, but am not sure I could live in a converted hotel. I will try and get a viewing next time I am down. It looks a lot better from the front.
I walked down Sandgate Rd to the village of Sandgate, at the bottom of the hill, and right on the sea front. It is quite a nice spot, very close to the sea – too close when I saw a photo of a wave breaking on the houses…. I was here to look at a top floor flat in the orangey coloured building.
Last week I registered with one of the big estate agencies, taken my first step into the painful world of unwanted phone calls, texts, emails and probably a lot of frustration. But it has to be done, and to be fair after the early rush it has been OK since. I just know I am going to have to register with a load more before I find the place for me. I sort of liked this flat, but it need a lot of work, and to be frank, I am lazy. I have closed the book on Sandgate for now as well. The risk due to flooding and storms just seems too high, when there are good opportunities at the top of the cliffs. But as a place to visit, on a day like today, lovely. Apparently the path goes all the way to Rye, way down the coast. Something for some long flat runs.
I walked the path back up to Folkestone for my meeting with Eugene. The amount of beach on the path definitely helped in my decision making, there are now houses here, but the houses back in Sandgate are not far off being this close to the sea.
There is a lovely park stretching along a section between the sea and the cliff, with paths winding their way up to the top. A good spot for getting some hill reps in.
At the top of the cliffs is The Leas, a wide section of grass and path for walking and relaxing, a legacy of when Folkestone was in its heyday back in Victorian times. There are a number of flats around here which I am interested in, nervously so as it looks all a bit too nice to be true, especially when the sun is out. I am going to try and have a look at a flat in here. Which I subsequently found out is too good to be true as it is over the road from a hotel how being used to house families that have been kicked out of council housing.
Eugene lives around here and I stopped in with him for a cup of coffee and a chat about the area, he has been here for two years and quite likes it, though for family reasons is heading back to London. At least the streets seem quiet and safe, both day and night, a couple of points I really wanted to have Eugene clarify.
After receiving some great advice I headed off back down the Zig Zag Path to the sea front, a continuation of a lovely walk.
You cannot see it here, but I promise you on that horizon sits the coast of France and I could clearly see the cliffs.
I made my way along to the harbour arm, passed this lovely terrace on Marine Parade and the not so lovely old and unused railway station.
The harbour arm is closed at the moment, but last summer it was the scene for pop-up bars and cafes and all sorts of things, so looking forward to that opening up again – if I do choose to buy here before summer time.
I walked up through the Old High Street and the Creative Quarter, which is one of the key things that attracts me to Folkestone. The Creative Quarter is set over a couple of streets leading up from the harbour where most (all ?) of the properties were bought by a trust set up by Sir Roger de Haan back in 2002 as part of an creative based regeneration of the area. Sir Roger was the owner of Saga a large employer in the area and when he sold the company he chose to reinvest in the town. The area is cute and full of small shops, galleries and cafes. I also came across one of the less charming sides of these up and coming towns as I followed a family up the hill where the adult male who was obviously drunk was swearing and talking loudly at the kids and his partner. Lovely chap.
At the top of the hill was my second to last destination for the day, and a good reason to want to buy in this particular town. Hot Salvation records, what a cool shop, pretty much specialising just in the music I like as well. I didn’t buy anything today as I was planning on meeting El in London when I got back, but I could have…
I stopped for a very late lunch at 3:00 at one of the cafes nearby before walking back along The Leas, stopping to take a last couple of photos of the setting sun before heading up to the station for 4:00 train back to London.
I had to make a bit of a fast walk to the station and a quick run into the loo before the train arrived. I don’t think it was something I ate, El had been sick earlier in the week, but I am very glad I made it. Apart from the end it had been a good day of checking out properties and locations and I came away feeling better informed and keen to come back and actually view some properties next weekend.
P.S. I am writing this a couple of days later and have been unwell all weekend, fortunately not with anything vile, just horribly tired and a bit achy. I was in bed by 9:00 both Friday and Saturday nights and suspect I will be heading back their again before 9:00 tonight, Sunday. Work tomorrow, where I am sure I will be perfectly well!
P.P.S. El and I have just booked holiday to New Zealand over Easter. Yahoo!