Two Gates outstripped by a Deal of Broad Stairs

Clever that, don’t you think? You’ll see how clever as I go through the main towns on this part of the Kent coast. Walmer, with its Tudor house & castle, doesn’t even get a mention. It is its big brother, Deal Castle, that gets all the plaudits. Built by Henry VIII to protect the naval dockyards from the French, it can best be seen from the air with its battlement circles interlocked around each other. This view from the beach does not do it justice although it is in pristine condition still.

Deal also has a pier. A simple pier made of concrete and steal. None of your arcades or bingo or rides. Just a wide stubby structure with a few cubby holes acting as windbreaks ending with an exposed fishing platform and the warmth of Janice’s tearooms. The view back to shore and the town and beach is quite elegant.

I love this old cinema. It sums up the appeal of the place.

Ramsgate has a certain Victorian charm about it. The crescents of tall, elegant, white-painted terraces curve around the cliff tops like a crown perched above the harbour and docks and glitzy tourist hotspots. But somehow it is outdone by its neighbours on each side.

Just up the coast lies Broadstairs. Now I liked Broadstairs. The bay is small with a lovely, neat crescent of soft sand, lined, almost completely, with a variety of beach huts following the line of the cliffs around the bay. Along the top another crescent of classy eateries, ice-creameries & drinkeries overlook the sands. Small cracks of alleys lead through to a more ordinary part of town which provide for all the needs of visitors and locals alike.

And then there is Margate. Hmmm. Sorry Margate, Broadstairs and Deal just shine out, even though you do have the Turner Gallery with its free admission.

 

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Whitstable’s oyster beds make the place a real pearl

I saw a few sunny days were forecast and I have this small gap on my coastal tour, between Sheerness and Deal. So I thought I would get it covered. I start south of the Thames estuary in the marsh lands of the Isle of Grain and its flat wet neighbour. There is one road, over a magnificent bridge, to get you onto the Isle of Sheppey, and one road to get you off.

Down the North Sea coast, Whitstable awaits, the brightest pearl on the east coast, full of history, oysters, seafood, boats, masts, mud, nets, trawlers, pubs, visitors in a lovely, bustly cacophony of clinking masts and laughing children and shouted orders and slurping ripples on far away waters. Oysters have been collected from beds since Roman times. That’s them in the distance.

Here is my visual symphony for Whitstable. I hope you can touch its atmosphere with all your senses.

Herne Bay is just down the coast. Whilst a bit more down to earth compared to its classy neighbour, it has a certain charm with its tea rooms and ABBA entertainment, it’s truncated pier with its far end abandoned in the off shore distance, just giving a suggestion of its former glory and all framed by a line of very fine beach huts.

These twin towers are all that remain of a medieval church at the village of Reculver, on the cliffs just a bit further down the coast.

More tomorrow, weather permitting.

Beach huts and more beach huts…..oh, and a pier.

Just a short leg this morning, in glorious sunshine before seeking out the A34 and a return home. Beach huts is the theme for the day. Now these are everywhere lining the beach in their idiosyncratic way. However classy or run-down a coastal settlement is there will always be a row, or two or three, of beach huts which reflect the character of the area. Look at these and see what I mean. In all cases the pebbly beach is long and wide and straight. The beach huts top the slight landward rise and give way to a promenade or cycle path which then drops away to the residential areas and the avenues and cull-de-sacs that stretch inland

Moving along the coast from Brighton, Hove has clusters of huts along the long seafront.

Before the working port of Shoreham Harbour (no beach huts here, only timber yards and docks) there is Portslade-by-Sea where the beach’s huts have all seen better days, as has the beach.

South Lancing starts to up the quality; from a distance anyway.

Lovely, elegant retro/Victorian party town of Worthing adds a touch of real class to these proceedings; well the pier does anyway.

The East Worthing to Goring-on-Sea guard is particularly impressive as the rising sun hits the angles and the beach hut equivelent of Colonel Mannering inspects his lines from his even more grand Victorian Seafront Shelfer.

I always imagined Littlehampton to be rather grander than it is. These huts line the approach to the town. Hmmmmm.

A final cup of tea on Littlehampton beach before the traffic-manic rush back to the concrete and clay of the city. Or something more seasidey if you fancy. Are these beach huts? Well they do line the beach and they are huts.

Sea you all soon.

Four piers for the price of three

A day that started and ended with two magnificent piers and an ultra special one with golden orbs in the middle. Do not go there. I said orbs and not balls. Oh…. and see if you can spot me- a kind of Where’s Wally but me and without a striped T-shirt. So I suppose nothing like it really.

Dawn was glorious. So up I bounced and down I went to the front. The sun shone so innocently on Hastings pier, lighting up its colours in fresh-faced shades of happy, summer colours.

My first port of call was Bexhill-on-Sea. A rather grand, Victorian, rather pompous sort of place which I quite liked.

From here a huge crescent of wide, pebbly bay stretches westward, lined by the beach gardens of well-to-do detached housing. Half way along is Pevency from where this expanse of beach and sea can best be seen stretching away in either direction. The only people to be seen are dog walkers with their dogs and their tight little bags of poo dangling from limp hands; the humans that is, not the dogs.

The first sight of the front at elegant, white, grand Eastbourne really does take the breath way. A long terrace of hotels and guest houses overlooks the road, the promenade and the wide contours of multi-browned pebbles, dissected by lines of groynes to keep them all in their rightful place. Behind this, the glory of Eastbourne pier stands out to sea, proud and strong, its golden domes blazing the sun’s reflection back into the town. Gold and white do go rather well together.

A short drive over the cliffs brings me firstly down to the calm that is Seaford.

Then, just to remind us that some people have to earn a living, rather than just holiday, it is another drive along the cliffs before dropping down into the working port of Newhaven.

Then back over the cliffs, through Peacehaven (for some reason I really like that name) to arrive in Brighton. Now, I could show you this image of the beach of Brighton which I am sure you are familiar with and you might say ‘a magnificent pier to end the day with’.

But I wanted to share with you some different images of the beach at Brighton and of a very different, but, I think, equally magnificent pier.

West Pier opened in 1866, closed in 1975 when it fell into disrepair which was then doubly compounded by two fires in 2003. Only a skeleton of rusting iron remains as the town’s most photographed feature. This contrasts with the nearby, state of the art viewing platform sponsored by BA which opened in 2016.

 

 

On my way to the battle of Hastings under blue skies

Well, my loyal followers. The sun decided to shine for a few days so I decided to come away for a few days and complete another leg of my coastal tour. So I head for Deal, in Kent. The plan is to come down around Dungeness and spend a night in Hastings which is why I’m sat at the window of a small Italian Italian in the old town.

I am gonna let the images tell their story of each place I visited. Some I really enjoyed, some I could easily never visit again. I liked Deal. It was small and cosey and had small English seaside town atmosphere.

Dover; hmmmmm. I followed some fisherman and found a side of town that I never expected to see. The western side of the highlight is protected by a huge pier and from that pier, which you access through the old cruise liner buildings, are so many groups of eastern European men, dozing in the sun, sleeping stretched out or teasing angry nibbling fish with some very expensive looking kit. Could be anywhere in the world on any pier; but hey, it’s Dover.

Folkestone has not got a lot to offer except the remains of the old train ferry track and viaduct which they are in the process of renovating.

Dungeness was intriguing – a mixture of 21st century wind farms and nuclear power stations shaken up with 60’s holiday bungalows (of do they live there permanently?), a few snassy Grand Design buildings, rusty abandoned tracks leading down to derelict fishing enterprises mixed with fibre glass silhouettes of catamarans in the far distance on the beach.

There then follows a number of villages which huddle along the road protected from the storms by the tall sea wall.. The only bright spot on this section is Rye Harbour with its clapper-boarded or rendered facades to protect the structures from the storms.

And finally Hastings with the Pier of the Year 2017. Why???? Maybe it’s Hastings’ turn.

 

 

 

Thames Crossings

Many of you have so enjoyed my blog over the past few years that you suggested that I write a book. Well, I heard you and I have done just that. I chose a journey that started close to home in Oxford. Over weeks and months last summer, I travelled along the towpath of the River Thames from its source in fields around Kemble in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds to its estuary into the North Sea. As I journeyed I photographed every crossing over and under the river. These take the form of bridges, tunnels, fords and ferries and even include a cable car. I have carried out research on every crossing and written some blurb about what is there now and what was there in the past..

12-old-mans-bridge-5895 16-newbridge-5655

53-gatehampton-railway-bridge-0194 113-tower-bridge-9555

 

Well, my dear friends and followers, you can now buy this book – £14.95 plus postage and packing. I have set up a website called Clay Kettle Books through which you can order as many copies as you wish (an ideal Christmas present for friends and family). Even if you don’t wish to purchase a copy have a look at the website. There is a gallery of images from my travels and you can also access my blog from there. Put it in your favourites – it will be the platform through which future publications will be available.

To order all you have to do is log onto www.claykettlebooks.com and contact me there or email me at claykettlebooks@gmail.com. Once I hear from you I will respond with payment details and time scale. Thanks for reading.

I’ll be back in the blogging saddle in 2017 with a trip to Yunnan’s Fire Sacrifice Festival in Southern China. See you all then.