We wanted to link back up to where we’d managed to get to on our 1st leg to Kent – we’d made it as far as Walmer Castle, so we were now aiming for Deal via Sandwich. Originally we were also intending to pass through Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate, but having been told ‘not to bother’ we decided to start with Sandwich and see if we had time for the rest at the end of the day. A good decision as it turns out!
On the way to Sandwich we detoured to have a quick look at St Augustines Cross (see main picture), near Minster. This is said to be the spot where the monk Augustine met with the English king Aethelbert in AD 597 and preached his 1st sermon on English soil. The cross itself though only dates back to 1884.
We then continued on towards Sandwich, only to be distracted again by a sign for Richborough Roman Fort, another English Heritage site. We were really impressed by this site, in particular as there is a fair bit to see (compared to many Roman Forts anyway!) We actually spent a good hour wandering round, including a wander down towards an advertised ferry over to Sandwich. Just a note, the toilets are ‘interesting’…
Finally we arrived in Sandwich. We parked on the side of the road, just past the sign for Gallow Fields and just before the Norman, St Marys, church on the delightful Strand Street. We thought that this was probably about all there was to see – how wrong we were!
As we approached the church we could hear rock music emanating from within – there was actually a 70th birthday party in full swing (literally) in the open interior. This was so lovely to see, but meant, unfortunately, that we felt that we would be intruding if we had gone in to explore (even though there was a sign up saying it was open).
There is a town trail to follow, meaning that there are signs posted at each main point of interest (a total of 18 signs), and the information on the church detailed a very unlucky past to say the least.
We then continued on along Strand Street, a wonderful street full of very old buildings (unfortunately my photo doesn’t do it justice).
At the top of this street we found a couple of delightful pubs, and then the old tollgate (now controlled by traffic lights). There is a schedule of tolls and the information that tolls were actually collected right up until September 1977!
Wandering along the riverside we saw a German tourist wanting to take a picture of one of the tour boat captains (and saw the captain swell with pride at having been asked 🙂 ), we wandered through the Fisher Gate and then found several wonderful, ancient buildings – many with sides bulging into alleyways (including the wonderfully named ‘Holy Ghost Alley’), the original gaol, the Guildhall and almshouses. We found our way back to the car via The Butts, a lovely park walk along the river.
On the way out of town, heading towards Deal, we found the 18th sign of the town trail, St Bartholomew’s Hostel. There isn’t anywhere to park but we managed to drive around the church which is surrounded by dwellings for ‘brothers or sisters’. On most buildings there was a fairly new plaque stating ‘Brother …’ and a date (eg. 2012, 2008..) – I’m guessing these are for the current occupants.
We headed towards Deal then with a view to perhaps visiting the castle. However, when we got there we realised that we were far too tired, and our feet were too achy, to walk any further! So we just had a glimpse really of the seafront and the castle before we headed back. Obviously we didn’t have time to visit the 3 seaside resorts on the Isle of Thanet (Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate).
On our last day we decided to visit the Isle of Sheppey, having spotted, what looked like, a couple of rather nice beaches from Whitstable. This wasn’t our best day out! No offence, but we decided that we’d visited so you don’t have to…! As we drove down towards Leysdown on Sea we were assailed by static caravan park after static caravan park. As we neared the shore we saw the amusement arcades and the fish and chip shops (and pie, mash and liquer shops). No problem with that of course, but it is all very run down.
We continued all the way along the (very bumpy and lumpy) road all the way down to the private Shell Ness estate. As we walked onto the empty beach, via the dyke, we realised that a little way down the beach was a colony of nudists, many of whom turned to have a good look at us as we wandered….
So, fairly quickly, we headed back to a bit of beach on the main drag to sit for a while. Calv went for a wander – with the tide being out he came back with rather muddy shoes. We could see a nice view of a headland in the distance so decided to head that way. This turned out to be Wardens Bay Point. There were more holiday parks and then a walk along the beach at the end. This area has clearly suffered from many landslips over the years; some of them appear to be fairly recent. There were also a couple of fallen pillboxes in the water and many, many tyres – some of which have become their own form of rockpool.
We drove back via Minster, which looked vaguely promising to start with, but unfortunately the promise waned quite quickly. Our day was topped off by 2 major traffic jams on the way home so therefore a Chinese takeaway was in order 🙂
Lessons learned:- Don’t miss Sandwich. Don’t go to the Isle of Sheppey (unless you have a reason to..)
We then moved on to Sidcup for a few nights in order to meet up with some friends and family.