On Saturday, we set off south the Kent. This was not to visit Sidney but was the first of our day-expeditions of 2008. At London Bridge station, Tigger queued for our usual “Plus Bus” train tickets while I bought breakfast. The first train carried us to Tonbridge while we ate our Upper Crust cheese and tomato baguettes and drank coffee from Millie’s Cookies. At Tonbridge we changed to the Dover train which took us to…
…Folkestone. We last visited this little town three years ago when we spent our first Christmas together here, and nearly got snowed in by one of England’s “unexpected” winter blizzards. With the passing of the Channel ferry service, Folkestone has suffered and now has a rather run-down appearance as it looks for a new destiny. It is worth a visit, however, and we took a quick turn around the streets. The picture shows a view of the street market. (Click on these pictures to see a bigger version.)
But Folkestone was not our final destination today, so we walked up the hill to the bus station and took the number 711 to…
…Sandgate. I knew nothing of Sandgate other than the name which I had learnt as a child because the streets where I lived in Brighton were named after Kentish towns. The picture signs the town sign that stands proudly at the entrance.
I was impressed by Sandgate. It is a pretty little seaside town, calm and quiet – or it was while we were there. A little off the beaten track, perhaps, it presents a an understated aspect with its antiques shops and cafes and its long shingle beach.
The picture shows a view of the main street. I don’t know what the town is like in summer but today it was so quiet that you could stand in the road and take photos without too much fear of being run over. The main street runs parallel to the beach but is separated from it by a row of shops and houses. You can get to it along inviting alleys or by walking to the end of the row to where the prospect suddenly opens to a panorama of the sea.
The beach is shingle, not sand, as is typical of England’s south-east coast. The sun had now come out and despite the chill winter, there were people walking and sitting on the beach and a couple of kite-surfers. You can see one of the kites in the top left of the picture. In the days of Henry VIII, Sandgate was considered important enough strategically to rate a castle. All that remains of it a a few pieces of wall.
Sometime between 1805 and 1812, 103 Martello Towers were built along the coast to guard an unwelcome visit by Napoleon and his armies. The site of the old castle was an obvious place to put Sandgate’s contribution to this defensive system. Today, the Tower has been converted into a private dwelling. The roof is obviously modern but the walls are genuine and you can see a section of old castle wall on the left.
We caught a bus in the high street back to Folkestone. In the Thanet area, the “Plus Bus” scheme is well understood by bus drivers but here, in Folkestone and Sandgate, they seem less sure. The driver of the bus back to Folkestone looked hard and long at the tickets and decided he didn’t know whether they were valid or not but he let us on the bus anyway. Maybe by the time of our next visit, whenever that is, they will have got used to visitors with these tickets.
Back in Folkestone, we went for a walk along the seashore. The picture above is a view of Folkestone Harbour with the colourful boats glowing in the evening sunshine. This view is along the coast to the west of the town. One reason for taking it was the gull in the lower left of the picture. He had his adult plumage except for some dark stripes around the right eye and was begging, as they so often do, for food. He was lucky: shortly after the photo was taken, a family with packets of chips came along and gave him some.
The journey home was uneventful and we finished with an Indian meal. What could be better after a good day out?