Today we are off into Kent again by the HS1. Grabbing tickets and a take-away breakfast, we boarded the fast train to Margate. We will not go to Margate, however, but will change trains at Ashford International for our final destination.
It is a day of cloud and sun so far, with pale blue sky between tumbled heaps of white in which it is tempting to see mountains and mythical castles. A day, in short, to go lightly clad but with a spare jumper in your bag.
At Ashford, we transfer to the Ramsgate train. This train splits in two parts that continue on to different destinations so you need to be in the correct section. In our case, that is the front part, consisting of four carriages, that will take us to Folkestone, our destination for today.
It’s a bit of a walk from Folkestone station to the town centre but we undertook it in good heart. You can see from the above photo, though, that in spite of the sunshine, the sky had taken on a more threatening expression.
Folkestone has some wide streets, like Sandgate Road, pictured above, and…
…it has a lot of narrower ones, such as Church Street, which is shown above where the picturesquely named Rendezvous Street meets it.
Folkestone has its share of older, nobler buildings, such as the 1860s Old Town Hall, but most of these look as if they have seen better days. (Come to that, many of the modern buildings look as if they have seen better days…) This was previous a Waterstone’s bookshop and the current tenants seem to be on the point of leaving.
On Saturday the market is held in Folkestone and this creates a lively and colourful scene, especially when the sun shines (which it did, intermittently).
Folkestone was enjoying a Multi-Cultural Festival over the weekend and there were street stalls where all kinds of goods were on sale and various activities of a more or less cultural nature were taking place, all very animated and colourful.
Folkestone is a seaside town and on a clear day you can see France on the other side of the Channel. Gulls are plentiful in the town, entertaining or annoying, depending on your outlook and mood.
I was intrigued by the name “LENBERG COLLEGE .” with its emphatic full stop. I don’t know whether that was really its name or whether some of the letters have been lost as a result of the building having been damaged and partly rebuilt. The building is Victorian and the inscription looks original so may well date from then.
We walked along Bayle Street, where we saw these colourful blue-eyed pigs looking down at passers-by and I wondered whether this house was once a pork butcher’s shop. I hope not. I hope it was simply decorated by someone who liked pigs.
Next to the pigs’ house stands this old art shop with intriguing representations flat fish and a sword fish (round the corner) attached to the sides. The shop is on the corner with what is sometimes called “High Street” and sometimes “The Old High Street”. This is one of the streets belonging to what has been designated the “Creative Quarter”.
The big arched sign “Creative Quarter” stands at the beginning of the sloping (Old) High Street, which curves becomingly as it descends. This was once a main shopping road but seems to have got left behind by passing time.
Folkestone used to have a cross-Channel ferry port. Even though it always played second fiddle to Dover, many of us remember travelling to France from here. The ferry port closed in 2000 and when we visited Folkestone a few years ago, it looked like a town on its uppers, with many shops and businesses premises boarded up. There was an air of desolation to the place.
At first sight, the High Street, despite its “creative” new image, seemed to fit into that pattern of decay. To add to the mournful feeling, it began to rain, so we quickly took shelter in a coffee bar. Whether it was “creative”, I cannot say, but it was handy.
When we emerged, the rain had gone and the sun was shining. Looking with more cheerful eyes, I could see that the shops were not merely boarded up but that they were workshops: work was going on refitting them and preparing them for new occupants. There was an air of optimism and productive bustle.
This year, the town is celebrating the Folkestone Triennial 2011, with plans to create art works and put them… well, everywhere, really. Is that such a good idea?, you naturally ask. (Or you do, if you’re me.) I suppose each of us must answer that according to our individual taste and preferences. Here are a couple of samples.
These objects are perhaps part of the Triennial but there is no information to confirm or deny this, no artists’ names. The horned beast made me think of the children’s book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
At the bottom of the Old High Street, we crossed to the harbour and walked along the quay. The harbour itself was quiet because the tide was out, leaving it dry. We had lunch in a cafe called The Captain’s Table before continuing.
On the other side of the harbour is a broad sandy beach but it was virtually deserted. Beyond this, on the cliff top , you can see a white-painted Martello Tower. I think this one is available to rent as a holiday cottage.
We turned back through the town, where we stopped to photograph this rather fine Edwardian pub now being diverted into other purposes) and take a look at the public library and museum.
The library contained a rather pretty glass screen dividing a smaller study room from the main room. We also went upstairs to have a rummage around in the small museum.
We went up to a road or promenade that runs along the cliff and is called The Leas. We here encountered the Leas Cliff Lift, which was just closing for the day. This originally opened for service in 1885 and is still going strong, carrying passengers up and down the cliff. It is of a traditional design, using water to weight the upper car for descent.
It was becoming rather cold and I was feeling somewhat grumpy because of this. I would have been happy to go to the station but Tigger wanted to wait for an advertised fly-pass of the Red Arrows. As they were coming from a previous engagement they were late and my mood was not improved by the suspicion that they were not coming after all.
While waiting, I photographed this pigeon besmirched statue labelled simply “Harvey” (referring of course to William Harvey, local boy and discoverer of the circulation of the blood),…
photographed some lions,…
and a gull faffing around in the evening sunlight. (I like gulls, as you have noticed.)
The Red Arrows turned up just as we decided to leave. I didn’t bother photographing them as all there was to see was a group of 8 planes which flew straight over and just farted some black smoke before disappearing beyond the horizon. I blinked and almost missed it.
We walked back across town now, heading for the station, but still ready to take in anything of interest. There was plenty of interest too. For one, here is the tower of Christ Church. It is all that is left of the church that, consecrated in 1850, was destroyed by enemy action in 1942. God must have looked the other way for a moment.
As you approach the station, you encounter another piece of public art and I have to say I rather like this one. It consists of 101 hand prints, one for each of the years from 1900 to 2000, each the hand of a person born in that year. This too is a project developed by the Folkestone Triennial. (See Update below.)
Why go to Folkestone? Actually, Folkestone, as I hope you can see, is not devoid of interest. In fact, it contains more interesting things than you can conveniently see in one day, at least if you are serious in your interest-taking. And shall I tell you a secret? This is that our first Christmas together was spent in Folkestone, so it retains a certain appeal for us. I hope the old place gets on its feet again and we shall certainly come back from time to time to see how it’s getting on.
Update July 27th 2014