Whitstable is a curious little town, and I use that word affectionately. There is an old-world quality to it but also a feeling of the world somehow having passed it by. Yet this is not really true because Whitstable, small as it is in comparison with some of its neighbours, sits on a main railway line and the activities engaged in by its residents are as modern as anywhere else. And yet…
And why do I begin my account with a picture of a pub? The first one, above, shows the Neptune in its lovely beach setting and the second, on the right, is a detail to aid recognition 🙂 The reason is that, for me, the beach is the most characteristic part of Whitstable and the Neptune is a key element of that setting.
Whitstable beach is shingle, like Brighton or Eastbourne, but there the similarity ends. If you are used to these other resorts, then when you see Whitstable beach, your first thought is the emptiness. Divided by wooden breakwaters, the beach is quiet but for the sounds of the sea. There are no ice cream stalls, no bungee jumps, no fun fairs, just a few people here and there, sitting on the beach or walking along the front.
Another characteristic of Whitstable is the houses that come right down to the beach, separated from the shingle only by the pedestrian walkway. Painted in discreet pastel shades, they are lived-in houses, not the grand Victorian and Edwardian hotels of the south coast resorts. I don’t know what it is like to live in Whitstable, but as you stroll along the beach on a sunny day, there is an otherworldly peacefulness to the place.
When you enter the town, whether by road or from the railway station, the first landmark you are likely to see is the Cumberland Hotel, a big pub at a Y-shaped junction of the road. Whether this is actually a hotel or just one of those English pubs that are mysteriously called “Hotel” without ever letting rooms, I don’t know. It is a busy place in summer and a favourite with visitors.
The High Street can be quite busy, partly because it is the main road through Whitstable to other places. Away from this street, it is easy to dodge people and vehicles and take photos, like this one, free of traffic, mechanical and pedestrian.
Whitstable was from Roman times, an oyster town. Whitstable oysters were sent all over Britain and were highly prized. There remain now only muted signs of this trade and I think most of Whistler’s oysters are these days imported from elsewhere.
You could be forgiven for thinking that this photo had been taken in the early morning but it is in fact at 4:49 pm on a Thursday. I agree that’s close to closing time, which the shopkeepers of Whitstable seem to take very seriously indeed. The rattle of locks is rather noticeable!
Hidden away in the backstreets, is the police station. When I first saw it, I thought it had been abandoned and the police had moved elsewhere. It has a forgotten look to it. But no, it seems still to be in use.
This was just a brief visit to Whitstable but we shall return another time, earlier in the day, when we can spend more time on the town and its charms.
We walked back to the station along a twisting footpath which I think covers the old mill stream. This is quite a pleasant way to get to the station. Along our route we met this caterpillar. Tigger deposited it safely in the grass to one side of the path. I am not sure which species it is but hope it survives to take to the air over Whitstable.