Thanet

The late Summer is my favourite time of year, possibly, selfishly, because it coincides with my birthday. I prefer to spend as much time as possible by the seaside, but, living in the Thames Valley, our time on the coast is rare. This year my main present request was a day with just my Aussie, so we dropped the Tiny Overlord off with his East Kent dwelling grandparents and got the train to the Isle of Thanet.

First stop Broadstairs:

Broadstairs beach.

The Chapel, Broadstairs.

seagull.

Beautiful Broadstairs, with your picturesque sandy cove, your multitude of charity shops and your plethora of tasty treats. You are a fine sight for baby-weary eyes. We pottered in the sand, watched some paddle-boarding while sipping fortifying Bloody Marys in independent restaurant Wyatt & Jones (we will be back to try the cooked brunches, they looked amazing) and had a cheeky half in the amazing secondhand bookshop cum pub – The Chapel. But baby-free days are short, so we jumped back on the train…

Next stop Margate:

Dreamland Margate.

Kentish cider.

photo 5

Personally, my heart lies with a bit of faded seaside glory and from what I had been told Margate, one of the original Victorian Seaside towns, was pretty faded. We made stops at the wonderful Turner Contemporary Gallery (I even took part in the regular craft club). Took in the rather bewildering senses overload of cupcake and vintage fuelled gentrification in the old town, but found solace in the Greedy Cow and the Lifeboat. We also went to the famous weird and wonderful Shell Grotto (go, go, go!) and snaffled some real bargains for the Tiny Overlord in a reclamation yard. More on them in another post…

One of the things that got us really rather giddy was the Expo by the Dreamland Trust, a group trying to restore Margate’s rather infamous amusement park. The Aussie (who, despite the nickname, grew up in East Kent) loved the childhood nostalgia and memories of misspent youth. I (being from the other side of the Thames Estuary) admire the community tenacity that fuels such an ambitious project, when the town has clearly been through such a rough time. ‘Green shoots’, someone described Margate’s revival as, let’s hope they grow.

We keep being drawn to East Kent and our day in characterful Thanet has just fuelled my fascination with this piece of coast.

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Rode across the desert on a bike with no name*

It’s a funny place, Kent.

I grew up in Essex so I like to think I am down with all things eastern. Lincolnshire – *high five*, Suffolk – I’m with you tractor-loving brethern. But Kent – it’s meant to be the Garden of England but those quaint cottages, rolling downs, even the white cliffs, as beautiful as they are, just don’t move me. I thought I had Kent sussed –  then I went to Dungeness.

View over Dungeness

Dungeness is the world’s largest expanse of shingle and the UK’s only desert. It is an extremely bleak, yet rather beautiful place – its flat expanse only broken by lighthouses, buildings traditionally made of old railway coaches but with the nuclear powers stations looming ominously and incongruously over the almost lunar landscape. The foreland can only be accessed by two ramshackle roads or rather eccentric miniature steam railway, complete with Royal carriage, just in case her Maj fancies a walk on the shingle.

Road bike leaning against a wall at Dungeness

We rode to Dungeness from St Mary’s Bay, about 10 miles north up the coast. We tried to follow the road all the way down the coast, but some of Coast Drive north of New Romney was just a grass track, unsuitable for the road bikes. So we just cycled down the concrete seawall instead.

The Aussie on his bike

Battling through some coastal cross winds was well rewarded with Tea and Jaffa Cakes in the Light Railway Cafe. The road surface was variable, at best and despite some the coast road through Greatstone and Lydd being a 40 speed limit, the volume was moderately low and I felt safe – which is important to me, as I am still ever so slightly wobbly at times on the new road bike.  The only other cyclists we saw were commuters from the power station, but you could tell regular vehicle users of the coast road were used to cycle traffic. I imagine they get a lot during the holiday season.

Dungeness Lighthouse

Dungeness is astonishing place and really rather evocative. On a clear day it was wonderful to be able to see from the shingle, across the marshes of Romney to the chalk downs. Getting to cycle through a a bona fide desert was a delight, though I suspect it might be a little more difficult to add to my desert-crossing list.

Kent, I take it back. You are more than just cliched green and pleasant land, you are full of surprises – miles of pebbly shingle, quirky buildings, looming nuclear monoliths and odd plants battling against the elements and thriving –  that’s much more my idea of a garden of England.

You can see more of my Dungeness photos on Flickr.

 

*For the sake of blog continuity my road bike does have name, but the title was irresistible.

London 2012


Spent two amazing days in the sun at the paralympic road cycling at Brand Hatch this week. Sarah Storey! David Stone! Zanardi!

I could go on and use far too many exclamation marks. Here’s a little montage:

Top to bottom and Left to right: Crowds from all over the world gather on the straight; Very British spectators; Ello ello ello; The curve down to the final straight; A coach from the french team takes a ride; Sarah Storey wins gold.

As always you can see my whole London 2012 set on Flickr. I really don’t want the Paralympics to end, thank goodness the Tour of Britain is starting today to let us down gently…