Upnor Castle

October 13 2020 – Upnor Castle, Kent.

I love a castle and this is the first opportunity I have had to visit one in quite some time, and not just due to Covid. After the disappointment of not being able to get to, let alone get in to, any forts yesterday I was quite excited when I found that Upnor Castle was actually open today, the second of my two day road trip around the Isles of Grain and Sheppey in Kent.

There were plenty of Covid restrictions in place; masks must be worn in all areas, some things were roped off so you could not touch them and there were crosses and arrows all round advising of the correct path to take around the castle and its grounds. I was the first visitor for the day, and for most of my visit had the place largely to myself. A situation I particularly enjoy.

I parked above the village and had a short, but nice walk down this cobbled street to the river front, more reminiscent of Devon and Cornwall than Kent.

The construction of Upnor Castle began in 1559 under the order of Queen Elizabeth I. It was built to help defend the Chatham Boatyards on the other side of the River Medway. As you would expect the fort has undergone many changes and expansions over the years, and was finally called into action in 1667 when the dastardly Dutch sailed up the Medway to attack Chatham and the English fleet that was sheltering in the river. The military action has been described as the worst naval defeat the English navy has ever experienced, with a large number of vessels being destroyed. Upnor Castle was one of the few highlights of the action and the Dutch were finally sent packing.

After the action the English government decided to build further and stronger forts along the coast out toward the North Sea and the castle ended up becoming a storage magazine for gunpowder and shells. It was owned by the military until the end of World War 2 when it became a museum and was opened to the public.

It is now run be English Heritage, and I was pleasantly surprised it was open on an autumn Wednesday.

This graffiti from 1596 was discovered during WW2 when a German bomb landed nearby, causing the plaster to fall off the wall revealing what was hidden behind.

One of the features I love in an English Heritage museum is the mock up.

The castle is pretty small and there is not a huge amount to see and neither is there a spectacular view from the ramparts. It looks out on blocks of flats and cranes on building sites for more blocks of flat on the other side of the river in Chatham, but I did enjoy the 30 minutes I spent walking around, all masked up.

I really liked this stairway, leading down to a lovely dank and mossy tunnel.

Ruin hunting.

October 12 2020 – Isle of Grain, Kent.

Holiday.
Day one of two.
Raining.

It was totally predictable to be honest; I take two weeks off work, and plan to go away with my camera for two of those 16 days. Firstly my main camera is broken, at least this time it is repairable, but it is in the shop for at least two more weeks. Secondly, the first full day of drizzle and rain of my two week break is day 11, the first of the two day road trip.

The Isle of Grain has fascinated me, admittedly in a fairly minor way for a while now, the main attraction being the Grain Tower Battery, a fort built in 1855 as part of the defence systems for the rivers Thames and Medway. The fort is about a hundred metres off-shore but is accessible at low tide, it does look pretty cool. In my pre-travel research I also discovered a lot of other forts and castles around the north Kent coast, so planned on a two day excursion to the area. Day one focusing on the Isle of Grain and the Thames estuary and day two the Isle of Sheppey and the River Medway.

But first, I had Oare Gunpowder Works in Faversham to visit. I liked it, just the sort of place that appeals to me, especially in this drizzle and gloom. Lots of overgrown brick work, quicky things, mould and bits broken off. There were a few other people there which was almost a shame as it would have been much better to have been there in complete peace and quiet, alone.

I was relying on Google Maps to guide me around the confusing mess of small roads in and around the Isle of Grain, though it just did not cope with there being a couple of closed roads. My first stop was to be Shornemead Fort. Was to be. Google Maps took me on a four mile loop to get around this closed road, just to put me back right here again. I saw two vans at least three times going in the opposite direction, to me obviously as confused and lost as I was. They were trying to escape, I was trying to get in.

Eventually I managed to get on to the single road that goes to the fort, only to find it fenced off where it appears to go under a railway track. OK. Plan B. Drive to Cliffe Fort and then walk back along the seafront. The road the Cliffe Fort was much easier to find, except it is a private road belonging to an aggregate company that seem to be digging most of this part of Kent. The Fort is on the edge of the Cliffe RSPB reserve and it appears to be a mile long walk to Cliffe Fort. It was raining and later than I wanted to be because of the traffic, the wet roads and the faffing while Google Maps drove me round in circles, plus I was getting hungry having not had lunch and it was now early afternoon.

Next stop. Slough Fort in Allhallows. In a positive turn of events I actually managed to get to the fort this time, sort of. It was closed off the public with a nice high barbed wire fence surrounding it and a locked gate barring access. I am not sure if it is actually open to the public on other days. Maybe the next stop….

The next stop was to be my last one for the day, The Grain Tower Battery, and I knew this would not be fenced off. It is in the sea.

I finally stopped at a convenience store in the town of Grain and grabbed a couple of sandwiches before driving off to find somewhere to park on the seafront as close to the fort as I could get. The worst of the rain had abated, a leaving a fine light drizzle.

There were some friendly horses in the field opposite where I parked my car, next to a stinking factory. I had no idea what they were making way out here but it did smell bad. Not horse bad, chemical bad.

I had timed things right and arrived as the tide was on its way out. The fort is about 100 metres off shore, and there is a clearly defined stone path out to it. Thankfully, that mud was very sticky and mid gumboot deep. I am glad I had the gumboots in the car.

I am not sure what the thing is on the tip of the Isle of Sheppey on other side of the River Medway, though I do attempt to get closer to it tomorrow.

Reaching the fort I soon realised that I would not be going to try to get up and in. There is a rickety old ladder, tied on and together with bits of rope. If I had been with someone else I would have gone in, but I was not prepared to take the risk on my own. One slip, and well when the tide came back in I could be in serious trouble. Next time.

I took a walk around the outside and took a few photos,

then headed back to shore, and the safety of firm land.

I walked along the sea front a bit as I had seen another interesting looking thing from the road, the roadside being heavily fenced off and very deeply buried in bramble. The sea-front side was surrounded by water as. I didn’t bother trying to get in.

I was really pleased to get to the Grain Tower Battery, it was the primary reason for the trip. However, it was a disappointing day, the weather and driving conditions were not fun, the bizarre directions I was given by Google Maps didn’t help with how I felt on the road. That most of my objectives were to be unattainable left me a bit disappointed. I was also a little unhappy with the quality of the photos I got on the small camera.

I stayed in a hotel near the M25. I wanted to spend some time finishing a first draft of the short story I have been working on for weeks, seemingly never getting the time or the right mood to write. Happily though, tonight it all came together. There is a way to go but the story is, I think, coherent and complete.

Kingsdown and St Margarets Bay, Kent.

13 October 2019 – YHA Weekend, the south Kent Coast.

Our Walthamstow social group has been holding a weekend away for many years, well before I came on the scene. These are family affairs with 20 or 30 people or all ages attending. This is the fourth year that El and I have gone, and these weekends have appeared in past posts. The events are held in Youth Hostel Assocation (YHA) or similar properties, often in off-the-beaten-track locations. This year we were staying in a big old hostel building in Ringwould, just up the coast and slightly inland from Dover. I am guessing there was about 25 of us, including the ‘kids’, the youngest are all at university, so maybe kids is not quite right, maybe youf is more apt. Everyone was of drinking age, and there was a lot of drinking.

I have recently become a director of the residents association for the block where my flat is. The AGM was on Friday night so I worked from the flat during the day, attending the meeting in the early evening before joining El who had come down to join me after work.

The Saturday activity at the YHA weekender is a bike ride, as El doesn’t ride we didn’t rush up the coast from St Leonards to Ringwould. We eventually arranged to meet some other non-riders for lunch in a pub in the small coastal Kent village of Kingsdown.

I severely under-estimated how long it would take to drive from the flat, thinking it was going to be an hour or so. It took close to two hours, and not just because of bad traffic, it was a lot further than I expected. Apparently maps would have me this, lesson learned. I was very tempted to stop on the way and take some photos; it was quite gloomy out, lots of drizzle and low cloud. It would have been a great day to visit Dungeness, a place I had just finished reading a book about. However, we had committed to meeting friends for lunch, so I carried on. I finally conceded we were going to be very late so we rang out friends and found their deadline had changed so they could not wait for us any longer than they had. I then stopped and took this photo of the pylons half shrouded in cloud, my favourite of the photos I have taken on the Polaroid. These cameras are made for a ghostly bleak environment.

Even though our friends had left we chose to visit Kingsdown regardless, it is very close to where we are staying and had a pub that looked like a nice spot for lunch. The Zetland Arms was mentioned in another book I had recently finished reading and as it was right on the beach I thought it might make for some good photo opportunities. It did. It was also a great pub, with a very good pint of red ale, a friendly vibe, and a difficult to choose from excellent menu. We both had fish chowder and it was delicious.

I immediately liked Kingsdown, it is a small village nestled in a narrow strip between the sea and the cliffs, and it will not exist when the sea level rises. Off the main road the ‘streets’ are pebble, like the beach. The line between the beach, the roads and gardens is a blurred, marked by fences and chains. After heavy rain the ‘road’ was full of luckily, not deep puddles.  Its permanence seems quite temporary.

Kingsdown sits between the northern end of the white cliffs of Dover and Walmer/Deal. It is not on any tourist trail, maybe with the exception of the Zetland Arms and its great view and menu. Camera and Polaroid.

After lunch we took a very quick walk around, and I took some pictures on both the Polaroid and the digital cameras. I really like this place, and I love this stretch of coast for its not quite barrenness, it’s almost isolation and it’s almost bleakness.

After our late lunch and the brief photographic stroll we drove the six minutes to the YHA and let ourselves in, everyone else was still out. Once settled I had a glass of wine; the less said about the evening the better! Sunday morning was slow, very slow.

Once packed up we all drove to St Margarets in Cliffe, another village one Kent coast. Just south of Kingsdown, between there and Dover. The weather continued to be poor, not cold, but windy, damp and miserable. I have been here before, a couple of years ago when El and I did a week long tour of the south coast; trying to find the perfect location for me to buy a flat. Not that we were looking at St Margaret’s Bay, there is nothing here, but it does have a view of some white cliffs, which is what we were came here for back then, as now.

We had a brief walk, and stare at the sea, I took a couple more photos before we got in the car and I drove us back to Walthamstow.

Unpacking the car at home I managed to drop the Polaroid again, this time it was in \ bag, and juggling for house keys while carrying too many things I dropped the bag. The camera did not recover this time, and no longer works 😦

I was very angry and upset with myself, this was a gift from El, something I had wanted for a while and I had broken it inside five weeks. I was lucky that El was more forgiving. Thank you lovely xx

I have now bought a replacement, the same model and of similar vintage, thankfully they are reasonably common on eBay. I hope it works as well and as magically as the one El bought me.

House Hunting-The First Sequel.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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After receiving some great advice I headed off back down the Zig Zag Path to the sea front, a continuation of a lovely walk.

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You cannot see it here, but I promise you on that horizon sits the coast of France and I could clearly see the cliffs.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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!

Flat hunting-early days.

January 07 2016 – Broadstairs, Margate and Deal.

Happy New Year !

If you have been following my blog over the last few months you will have noticed that I am looking to find myself a flat somewhere outside of London. I am looking for somewhere I can set up with my things and it can be a bolt hole for both El and myself. I want to be on the coast so I can smell, hear and see the sea. Last year I looked at a couple of towns with properties that I could afford to rent and then decided that renting was a waste of money. I have some funds in New Zealand from when I sold my house four years ago. There is not a huge amount left, but I have decided to transfer it here to the UK when the term deposit matures in February, and it will make an OK deposit on a cheap flat. It was time to change my search parameters from ‘rent’ to ‘buy’. It is all a bit scary!

To make life easier, and ultimately cheaper I made the decision to restrict my searching to the Kent coast, from Folkestone, up and around Margate and further along to the more genteel Whitstable.

El and decided to take a day trip out to Broadstairs between Christmas and New Year, a friend has family in Broadstairs and we stayed there a while back and quite liked it. I did some online research and found a few properties to walk past for a quick look see. I am not ready to do house viewings yet, I want to find a town/village/area that I feel comfortable in first and then focus my attentions there – though keeping my options open as well.

We wrapped up well as it was a windy day and we had a bit of walking to do. Our first stop was in a small area outside of Broadstairs and as we walked up from the station and out in to the countryside I was getting quite excited. Sadly once we got there we found the flat had been sold. First lesson of buying a house learnt. Just because it is showing on sale on the property websites doesn’t mean that it still is. Bummer! I would have bought it without going inside as I loved the look and the location.

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We walked back into town along the cliff tops. stopping to check out a few places on the way. I really like the fact there are cliffs here, albeit small ones.

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We had a coffee and a look around a number of streets in the centre of town that had flats for sale. We liked the look of Broadstairs, even on a windy Saturday in late December it was not overly quiet. We had decided to walk along the front to Ramsgate, into the teeth of a really strong head wind. Scenery wise it was nice, looking down over the (off) white cliffs and sandy beaches, but the wind and then the rain made it a rather unpleasant walk.

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We arrived in Ramsgate, which I was sort of interested in. In has a really good music venue, so would definitely be more lively than Broadstairs which appeals to an older crowd. After a late lunch in pizza express, and with clouds low down and the rain getting heavier and heavier we decided to call it quits and head up to the station. The walk was not the nicest unfortunately.

Some ideas were formed tough, so it was a very worthwhile, though tiring day out.

Over the next couple of weeks I completed a lot of research on locations, prices, crime and other social statistics and looked at loads of properties on line. Being winter and the festive season there was not a lot of action on the property boards, but I did build a list of every possible shape and size property in my price range.

Two weeks, and what seemed like two seasons later and into 2016 I hired a car and headed back out to Broadstairs, this time with a plan to drive up and around to Margate. The sky was clear, and there was not much wind but it was quite cold. I parked the car just off the high street and had a much broader look around, being a Friday (I do not work Friday) there were a lot of older folk around and teenagers on lunch break from school. There were very few people in between old and young, I took that as a good sign of employment. The beach was glorious, under a very blue sky. It is quite an old fashioned beach, beach huts and spade shops. Lovely…

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The drive to Margate along the coast is really nice, some really cool looking surf beaches, almost remote, and all quite appealing. I have read and heard good things about Margate coming up, and it has the lovely Turner gallery as well as a nice little old town. I spent a bit of time driving around trying to find somewhere to park, there were a lot of people around, a lot of ‘youf’ on the street and not a lot of parking choices. I was about to park on one street when I saw two teenage boys just casually riding their bikes along checking out the contents of the parked cars. I decided to keep going – and going. Not finding anywhere else to stop I drove on out of Margate.

It was still early in the day, I had not had lunch yet so decided to carry on looking and headed south to Deal. I have been fascinated by Deal since El and I went there. It is a nice little town, and I thought the same again today. The weather helped of course, but it is flat and small enough to walk around and the old part behind the sea front is quite cute, and very much like a flat St Ives, plus it just seemed to have a nice feel about.

I walked out along Deal pier for a short distance to take a couple of photos up and down the pebbly beach – no smooth sand on this part of the coast !

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The sun was just popping into the clouds as I walked past Deal Castle, so I grabbed a last photo of the day before heading back to the car and off home to London.

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It was a good day out, informative. Over the next few days I did more research and reading and worked on tightening my list of what I want from a property.

I really like Deal, but I cannot afford the parts of town I like. There has also been two weather related incidents in the past couple of weeks. A storm has damaged the sea wall outside of Dover which has forced the closure of the train line from Folkestone to Deal, almost cutting it off from public transport. That storm also saw some localised flooding in town,  so sorry Deal, I have had to drop you from my list, much as I like you.

I have also dropped everywhere else except Broadstairs and Folkestone, I am planning on visiting Folkestone next week. Whitstable and Herne Bay and the stretch along to Margate do not have the sort of sea I want access to, too tidal and calm. Margate and Ramsgate are just not quite up and coming for my needs. Broadstairs is staid and quiet, but with a plan to only keep a property for 3-4 years, I need to know it will sell. Broadstairs still sells. So Sorry Thanet too.

However, if I see the right flat then anywhere could be back on again!

Sun, sea and pebbles. A day trip to Folkestone

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.

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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.

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A nice place to fish, or doze in the sun…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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There was nothing but carpark and grass between it and the cliff edge – no other buildings to spoil a view!

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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.

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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.

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And the square it is located in is not too shabby either.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 !!

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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).

A couple of days on the Kent coast.

Thursday 13 November 2014 – various bits of Kent.

After our weekend away on the Isle of Wight in September I have been pondering the possibility of buying a small flat somewhere on the coast within a couple of hours of London by train. I have spent many hours in front of the computer since, and some of that time was even spent researching potential locations. I had drawn up a bit of a short list of possibilities and El and decided to take a couple of days off of work, hire and car and go and explore some of the Kent coast and have a look for ourselves. Naturally something else has come up since so buying may be off the cards for now, but it was still a good excuse to rent a car and hit the countryside.

We waited until the worst of the rush hour before picking up the car from a car rental place that is conveniently just down the road and then hitting the road. Our first stop was at a delightful truck stop just outside of Folkestone, we had planned on stopping for coffee and a delicious motorway service centre lunch at Maccas on the way, but the first services area we came across was closed so we ended up here. It was pretty sad with half the shops closed. We won’t go back…

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The first planned visit for the day was the historic town of Dover, not to look for property – this isn’t my sort of town, but I really wanted to see the castle and was also really looking forward to seeing the famous ‘white cliffs’. Getting through Dover was a bit of a challenge, it is a small town with a small but extremely busy ferry port and the truck queue was massive, once we passed the port turn off the town seemed deserted.

I could clearly the see the castle as we drove down into town and sitting in the traffic looking up at it on the far cliffs overlooking the port was quite exciting, it is a huge complex, with loads of buildings and I was really looking forward to seeing it. However…..

As seems to be norm with me visiting English Heritage managed sights, it was closed, and only open at the weekends over autumn. Needless to say I said some bad words as we drove around trying to find a decent vantage point to get a photo. Disappointed again, and unlike Camber Castle that was closed when we visited it on our Rye weekend, Dover Castle is fenced off so I could not even take a walk around the perimeter.

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I snapped a couple of photos by illegally stopping on roads and leaping out of the car, and that was my Dover Castle experience. I must come back some time.

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Just along the way from the castle is the viewing point at Langdon Cliffs, which looks out over the port of Dover and the northwards up some of the famous chalk white cliffs. The cliffs make up a large part of the Kent coast line, being made of a soft chalk rock they erode quickly and in some places are disappearing at half a metre a year. They are of course spectacular!

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Even on a cloudy day you see the French coast from here, maybe not in my wide angle lens photo. But I assure you, it was there…

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We went for a brief walk along the top before a slightly unexpected rain storm blew in, it had been cloudy all morning without rain, so we did not linger up there.

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We jumped back in the car and headed down to the beach at St Margaret’s at UnderCliff. I wasn’t sure what we would see from there so it was a bit of a random guess that there may be some nice cliff viewing, but wow. It was a pretty special little spot. So special that some bloke was even having a swim. Madness!

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I really enjoyed the interplay between the sun and the clouds, the sort of dramatic sky and light that I like the best. I took a few photos…

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We reluctantly pulled ourselves away from this lovely little beach side spot and drove a few miles up the road to Deal. Deal is one of the main towns I had been seriously looking at as a possible place to buy a flat. It is cheap, on the coast with easy access to hills and grass and not too far from London on the train. OK, the beach isn’t soft white sand, but it is a nice beach considering and we both really liked the old part of town and there are flats for sale in the white building right at the end of this photo.

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Deal seamed fairly quiet – it was early afternoon on an autumn Wednesday mind, but it didn’t have the narrow hillside streets of Broadstairs that would be a nightmare in summer time. We stopped for coffee and cake in a little traditional tea shop that seemed to be quite popular with the locals before heading out for a walk along the front and to have a walk around the building that had flats for sale.

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I wanted to see the castle, but knew that it would be closed (English bloody Heritage again) – and it was, but at least we could see around the outside of it.

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Our next objective was the “isle” of Thanet, which has not been an island for a few hundred years. The Roman fort at Reculver, which we visit tomorrow, was built to watch over the Wantsum channel that cut Thanet off from the mainland. The isle has the beach towns of Ramsgate, Broadstairs and Margate, amongst others in it. It was an area I have thought about looking in as well, but had been put off until we spoke to one of El’s colleagues who visits regularly. The drive through the outer suburbs of Ramsgate hardly inspired and with traffic a bit mad we decided to carry on going and look for our B and B in Broadstairs before it got dark.

We had decided to stay in Bleak House, a B and B/Hotel on the cliff tops above the town, and a summer home to Charles Dickens, who wrote a novel of the same name. The B and B had been decked out like it would have been in Dickens’ time and it was quite nice. There had been a couple of cancellations so we were the only people there. It had the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on in a hotel… It was a struggle to get out!

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In the morning we took a rather fresh walk before breakfast, the morning was lovely, with the only clear skies we saw while we were away.

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I had not realised that the white cliffs extended so far up the coast, I had always thought it was a phenomenon local to Dover, so I was pleasantly surprised to find them all the way up here, nice spot I really liked Broadstairs.

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It has a nice mix of old town and new, nice beaches and cafes – but I am sure it is utter madness in summer time. And Bleak House is positioned really nicely above one side of the town.

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Like most of the south east coast of England, Margate has had some rough times and has become a bit run down, and this was really obvious as we drove in through the coastal road from the much more upmarket Broadstairs. In 2011 a big and brash new art gallery was opened on the waterfront – the Turner Contemporary. This has brought a slightly more upmarket clientele to the area and started a cycle of regeneration. We parked up above the old town and walked down through its narrow streets to the waterfront and out along the wharf to look back over the town.

I loved the sign in Jane Jone s shop, sort of summed up the area – almost but not quite.

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The Turner opened at 10.00 and we were there right on opening, I was hoping to see a good collection of Turners paintings, especially from the period when he lived here, but there was only a couple on display. I am not a fan of Turner at all, but was hoping to have my mind changed in a gallery named after him.

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The gallery had the big ‘English Magic’ exhibition by Jeremy Deller – English Magic which was first shown at the Venice Biennial in 2013, including this piece “We sit starving amongst our gold” that we saw in the William Morris Gallery near home a few months ago – though this version is much much bigger.

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I also really liked this piece entitled “A good day for cyclists” With its endangered bird carrying away one of my hated Range Rovers.

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I liked the gallery, it is airy and light and I would definitely come back again for the right exhibition.

After the gallery we started on a slow journey back towards home, I wanted to see the abbey at Reculver on the way so we drove along the coast as much as possible to Whitstable with the aim to stop for lunch there.  Though after Reculver we just ended up driving all the way home. I had read that Reculver Abbey was also an English Heritage building so I was dreading driving there to find that we could not even walk around the outside, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it was access all areas all the time – Yay…

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The 12th century abbey was built on the ruins of an old Roman fort, which was converted into a Saxon abbey in the 7th century before being abandoned again, falling into ruin and finally being revived and rebuilt as the parish church in the 12th century. When it was built the abbey was quite a way inland, but over time and tide the coast moved closer to the abbey and sections of it fell into the sea. The ruins are lovely – as were the clouds.

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We arrived back in London in the early afternoon, deciding to shoot straight through as there was no easy parking in Whitstable and missing school traffic was worth the early arrival home. Plus we went for lunch at our local cafe Bygga Bo, which is always a treat!

It was a great couple of days out the city, I won’t be looking at buying a house at the moment as I am probably going to help my son in NZ buy one instead. But if I do I have some ideas of where to look more seriously.

Yay – Castles !

Day 261, Friday 21 September 2012 – Rochester

Comfortable as my bed is here I had an awful sleep and ended up not dragging myself reluctantly out until almost nine am. Pretty much when we left to go to the supermarket for the weekly shop. I picked up a few things for my Africa trip as well as a couple of bottles of cheap red to sup on over the week. Back at Jim’s I had a late breakfast, soon followed by lunch – I so love eating!

It was a nice day in Kent, cool but clear and I was keen to visit castles so Jim and I visited the town of Rochester a few miles away. I am reasonably sure I have never been there before, though I am sure mum will correct me if I am wrong!

The castle was started in Roman times and was built on extensively until Norman times in the early 11th century until it was involved in a series of sieges and rebuilds up until the early 14th century. Being quite close to London it was the scene of a number of minor historical events until it fell into disrepair late in the 18th century.

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It is quite cool that it has not seen much restoration.

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From the battlements there was a great view of Rochester Cathedral.

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The old part of Rochester town was quite nice as well and well worth a visit. Jim and I stopped for a cup of coffee, or in my case a hot chocolate as I am not a coffee drinker in the afternoon (or it seemed to my complete ignorance in the morning ) .

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I was deeply tired with a cracking headache and yawned my way back to Dartford and had to go and have a lie down when we got home.

I cooked a basic pasta meal for dinner and we watched a bit of TV before I went to bed.

it was nice to get out into the Kentish countryside.