Tuesday 22nd July 2003 118 miles
This is a short part of the Kent coast, which we fitted in between two events during our busy summer in England. On Sunday we are celebrating Val Kennedy's 'official' 60th birthday with some of her family near Portsmouth and yesterday we collected Simon and Laure from Heathrow, and transported them to Stansted. They had been travelling in South America for 3 months after leaving their jobs in Calgary to settle in France after their wedding in La Mure in September.
Originally there had only been a couple of hours for this 'transit', but Simon had altered the onward flight, which meant that we were able to camp one night with them near Stansted.
All went really well, despite the confusion and enormous crowds of people at Terminal 4, caused by the BA dispute. Laure's and Simon's luggage didn't arrive until the next flight, as their change in flight plans had confused the system! This meant Adrian hanging around in the Tiv outside, while I hung around inside the terminal!
However, once we had all met up, there was a lot of chat as we headed for the little CL near Stansted. We arrived at about 7.30 pm, on a beautiful evening. While we got a meal together, Simon and Laure repacked their enormous amount of luggage (including Simon's bike, which he had asked us to bring!), and we were even able to have a quick look through all their travel photos.
This section of Road Around Britain is Kent from Gravesend to Dover - i.e. The 'wrong way'
It is the last section of mainland Britain
This morning the alarm went at 4.30 am. It was a beautiful morning. Simon and Laure quietly packed up their tent and we left before 5 o'clock. The sun was just rising as we drove to Stansted. Here we left Simon and Laure for their flight to Hamburg, where they were collecting their car, which had been shipped home from Calgary, before they drove on to France.
The first 15 minutes car parking was free, we helped Simon and Laure in with some of their luggage, but unfortunately ran over the 15 minutes so had to pay £2.50, which didn't please us!
We now set off back towards London, having breakfast at the service station by the junction to the airport. We left here at 7 o'clock and took the M11 and then the M25, which was very slow going, and I made up for some of my short night's sleep! We reached the Dartford crossing at 8.30 and paid the £1 toll. Once across we made our way to a viewpoint, which was not well signposted. When we found it there was a height barrier so we parked outside.
We greet Simon & Laure, back from South America
We took the A226 towards Gravesend - the first part was busy and unpleasant and very 'posey' (Greenhithe). At Gravesend we stopped right by the river and ate some cherries. It was quiet and peaceful as we looked across to Tilbury. Swans were swimming by and there were a lot of boats on the river. We could see the power station in one direction, but across the river was Tilbury Fort, where we started our Road Around Britain in 1996.
The Queen Elizabeth bridge - the start of this part of our Road Around Britain
We drove up to the viewpoint on Windmill Hill, but again this was badly signposted. From here we had a good view down over the river to the fort and the power station.
Looking across to Tilbury Fort, where we started our Road Around Britain in 1996
We now had to drive right through Gravesend again on its one-way system.
We took the road to Lower Higham, passing the marshes, which made me think of Great Expectations. We turned off to Church Street, a no through road leading into the marshes with just a church and a few houses. We parked by the lovely church of St Mary, and found out that it had been Charles Dickens parish church from 1859 to 1870, the last years of his life.
Looking out from Windmill Hill
A notice in the church told of another church at Cooling, which had inspired Dickens to write Great Expectations. We now made our way there, stopping first by a church in Cliffe . We walked around the outside of this very large and interesting looking church of St Helen's before making our way to St James' at Cooling. Here we saw and photographed what is known as Pip's graves - 13 tiny shaped graves of babies who had died. This was the inspiration for Great Expectations, although we thought that the Church of St Mary gave more of a feeling of it. Inside the church was an organ and Adrian worked the bellows (it reminded Adrian of his youth, pumping the organ at St. Mary Magdalene’s church at Kentwood, Reading).
The church of St Mary, Lower Higham and its Parish Chest
We realised that the battery on my new camera was flat - we had ordered rechargeable batteries but they hadn't arrived before we left, and low batteries caused us a lot of problems on this trip, and I sometimes resorted to my old camera.
We now drove through an area of fruit trees, particularly pears, and arable land (corn) to Allhallows. This was a "holiday village". We walked to the estuary and along and then back through the holiday park. The weather was windy but we did have views to Southend.
'Pip's Graves' at St James' at Cooling
Adrian pumps the bellows
We had lunch in the Tiv on our return, as it was now 1 o'clock and left at 2.15.
We drove on to the Isle of Grain, where the power station and oil refinery dominated the landscape. We drove towards the power station first by mistake, and then on to the sea at Grain, where we had a pleasant walk. It was warm and we had views to Shoeburyness and Sheerness.
Rosie at Allhallows, looking across to Southend
We left at 3.15 and drove back, passing Kingsnorth Power Station. We took small roads to Hoo St. Werburgh, but here we took the road back to the main road by mistake. We turned off to Lower Upnor, but couldn't see the Arethusa, which our aged coastal book says is moored here. It was busy and posey. We couldn't find the car park for the castle and soon found ourselves on a new road heading for the Medway Tunnel and before we knew it we were in Gillingham. We stopped by the Strand, where there was an open-air swimming pool, and looked across the River Medway to the two power stations. A paddle steamer came by. We drove on to Riverside Country Park where we had a nice walk to Horrid Hill - a spit of land leading out into the river. We had good views of the Medway.
Looking across to Sheerness from the Isle of Grain
We left here at 5 o'clock and continued east, on a small but busy road, through Upchurch and Lower Halstow to a CL north of Iwade. It was sunny but windy. We made ourselves a drink of Pismo, made up from the two bottles which Simon and Laure had bought for us. We chatted to the funny warden, an old man with no teeth, before cooking sausages and bacon for supper outside. We ate outside and came in just as the sun was sinking as a large red shape.
Adrian at Horrid Hill
Gravesend to Dover
Wednesday 23rd July 63 miles
It was a greyish morning. We had been woken by the alarm at 4.30! We then slept late and had our breakfast inside and left just after 9 o'clock. We thought the place was a bit gypsyish. There had been a lot of large trucks driving along this narrow road. We had to wait at the Kingsferry Bridge while a small yacht went through. There was a long queue of traffic in the other direction. We were now on the Isle of Sheppey.
We first stopped at Queensborough, named by Edward the third in 1366 for his wife Philippa. It was a very pretty place. We were surprised by the amount of history associated with Queensborough. It had been an important town in defending the Thames, and amongst other people Francis Drake had spent some time here (We had been finding out about him at Buckfast Abbey earlier this year).
We drove on to Sheerness, passing the dock which we had left from in 1988 to go to Holland and Denmark. We shopped in a large Tesco's and then sat on the sea wall.
We drove a short way to near Barton's Point and from here we cycled along the sea wall to Minster and back.
A young a Jewish couple with a tiny 10 week old baby boy were making their way onto the beach over the high sea wall when we started our cycle. I helped them with some of their luggage. At the far end a man chatted to us and pointed out the wreck of the ‘Montgomery’ off Southend. The weather was warm and pleasant. We drove along a bit and had lunch parked on the sea wall parking area.
We now drove east to Warden Point through pleasant undulating country. There were a lot of caravan parks. We attempted to drive south on a steep and narrow bumpy track but couldn't quite make it through and had to return. We drove back through Eastchurch as parents were arriving at school and then came to Leysdown on sea. This was very commercialised and reminded us of part of the Essex coast. However there was free parking in the coastal park by the sea so we went on to the beach for a while. It was warm but when I paddled it was very muddy! We returned to Leysdown beach and walked past the amusement arcades and had an ice cream on the beach (only 70p!).
There were a lot of holidaymakers here. We left just before 4 o'clock and drove briefly to Warden but not as far as the bumpy road we had tried to take. We then drove back and down the long road to the Isle of Harty and the Ferry Inn. It was a narrow winding road with a lot of subsidence and made us think of the roads in Alaska damaged by permafrost! We walked out by the water and then I drove back to the main road, luckily only meeting one car.
We drove on into Faversham and spent half an hour walking around this lovely old town. It seemed very French. There was a huge brewery, with a Tesco's store in part of it (the old bit!). We saw the creek where Henry the eighth's ships stopped. There was also a church with a "lacy" top. The town was lovely, but some was in need of renovation.
We left at 10.30 and drove on through Graveney across Graveney marshes to the sea. We sat on the beach looking back to the eastern end of the Isle of Sheppey.
We drove on through Seasalter, where they used to make salt, but now it is all caravan parks. We came to Whitstable, which was very busy and boggled with traffic. Some nice old houses were hidden amongst the modern ones. It was really chaotic, with scaffolding on buildings and trucks blocking the road. The only ‘plus’ was the nice displays of flowers on the pavement - huge 'balls' of busy lizzies.
We saw a sign saying 'free parking', but a market was occupying the space today and anyway there was a height barrier! We continued past it, to find a digger blocking the road!
We managed to find our way back to the seafront and parked by the stretch of green "lawn" above the sea. This area appeared to be called Tankerton. We looked towards Herne Bay through hogs fennel, which grows only here, in Faversham Creek and at Walton on the Naze. It looked like fennel but was a more intense green.
We walked down to the promenade, and then collected our bikes and had lovely cycle along beside the sea to Hampton, at the western end of Herne Bay, and back. We looked past the colourful beach huts back to Whitstable.
At the small pier at Hampton (where they used to harvest oysters in the 19th century), we chatted to an Asian Indian who lived in Rochester. Every week he came with his son to run a stall at the market, but he liked to get away and cycle along the front. He had come from India in 1967, but went back each year and was now building himself a house there.
Several people were in swimming. I tried the water and perhaps should have had a swim. On our return to the Tiv we had lunch, sitting on our seats on the 'lawn'. Men were marking out pitches for Saturday's parade and fair. Two young men and two small boys were playing football, and the ball bounced on the small boy's head, like on Tom's in Germany! Lots of people were walking their dogs - we were amused at one tiddly little thing called Tiger. It was cloudy and sunny but warm. We could see the North Essex coast - it felt a bit like being at Southbourne looking to the Isle of Wight.
We left at 2.45 and drove along to Herne Bay where we parked on the front and walked back to the "Central Bandstand". People were enjoying the beach and the amusements and eating ice-creams. We drove along past the houses to Bishopstone Glenn and had a short walk around. We now came to Reculver, where we had been with Tom in 1993. It was very windy as we walked up to the twin towers, which is all that is left of the original church which once stood here.
We now drove to a CL at Acol, arriving at 5.15. The site was really full (five people already) but the lady was happy for us to stay. It was a pleasant evening - we had a barbie of pork. We walked out briefly around Acol and came back at 10 o'clock.
Saturday 26th July 70 miles
The day started cloudy. While Adrian was getting the water, he chatted to the other man camping here, who was from Dorchester, Dorset. He said that the forecast was for a day like yesterdays, but we were really lucky, as we had an excellent day, although we heard later that other parts of the country didn't.
We took the little road to Sandwich and parked in the car park for an hour (30 p). We enjoyed wandering around the lovely old town and walked through the streets of old houses to the quay.
Friday 25th July 37 miles
The morning started grey, and unfortunately got worse instead of better. No question of breakfast outside today! After getting water and emptying the loo, we left at about 9:50.
We drove through Birchington, busy with its shoppers, to Minnis Bay. This is the beginning of the Isle of Thanet beaches. By now it was already raining lightly, so we just viewed the sandy beach, where the tide was in and everywhere was deserted. There were beach huts at the western end, and it was very low key.
We drove on east past Gresham Bay, but didn’t stop, then drove around the houses, stopping at Epple Bay, where we walked down a concrete path through the cliffs. The place looked pretty barren and unloved - maybe it would have looked better if the tide were out a bit, and the sand would brighten up the bay. Men were working on tidying up the lawn above, and other men were working on a house opposite where we had parked.
We now drove past West Bay, at Westgate on Sea, where again there was a lawn above the sea. We continued past St Mildred’s Bay, but we didn’t stop, as with the tide in, there would be very little beach.
We did stop at the western end of Margate, and walked on the wide sandy beach, deserted except for 3 children paddling in the sea. There were lots of beach huts here. The main beach at Margate looked very attractive with its bright golden sand and its donkeys.
Queensborough Harbour and churchyard
Sheerness with the dock in the distance
Adrian near Minster
Rosie on Leysdown beach
The Isle of Harty
By the Harty ferry
Rare Hogs fennel, Tankerton
Rosie at Herne Bay
Reculver Tower 2003
Tom at Reculver Tower 1993
A few people were on the beach here, and men seemed to be filming. We parked near the harbour.
We started driving out of Margate when I spotted a sign to the Shell Grotto, which I remembered reading about. We followed the signs on what appeared to be a wild goose chase, but eventually found it. For £2 each we were able to look around this fascinating place which had been discovered in 1835, but its actual age is unknown. Some think that it is really ancient. The shells are now discoloured, but the designs were very intricate and attractive.
Afterwards we called in briefly at a nearby so-called camping store before heading out past Cliftonville, which again seemed very quiet.
We now drove round the houses and found ourselves at Botany Bay. This was an attractive beach set between white cliff-like rocks. We walked briefly across the beach and then came into the Tiv to have our lunch, hoping that the weather would clear up.
There was a cycle route from here to Broadstairs, and I was hoping for a cycle, but it wasn’t to be! The rain just came on harder, and continued for the rest of the day! Several carloads of people had arrived to have some sort of picnic on the beach, so they must have got pretty wet!
We therefore drove on round the houses to Kingsgate Beach, and I viewed the lovely golden beach with a castle perched above it. We drove past Joss Bay, where 2 coachloads of people were on the sandy beach in the rain!
We soon came to Broadstairs, which we had remembered liking when we visited with Tom in 1993. We were able to park free for one hour, and find our way back to the ‘Dickens House’ museum, where again the charge was a reasonable £2 each. There was much memorabilia about Charles Dickens, and things reminiscent of his time and stories.
Afterwards we had a walk on the adjacent sandy Viking Beach (in the wind and rain!) It was attractive, with the town built up on the cliffs above - and made us think of Bonifacio in Corsica.
We left here at 3.00 and drove on to Ramsgate, still in bad weather. We stopped at East Cliff and parked above the sea. The visibility got worse, then cleared a bit. We drove right down to the deserted Main Beach, and viewed the harbour, which was full of yachts. We had watched a ferry (Trans Europa Ferries) arrive. We drove along the Royal Esplanade and both ran across in the wind and the rain to view the sea at West Cliff.
We continued now to Pegwell Bay, diverting first to view the St Augustine Cross at Ebsfleet, Cliff End. This had been carved in 1884 to mark the apparent arrival of St Augustine in 597.
Pegwell Bay had been the site of the first international hoverport in 1968, and we had enjoyed travelling to and from here in the seventies. Sadly nothing is left of it now except a bit of tarmacked area. Using the notes in our ancient ‘Coastline ‘ book, we located it, and were able to once again brave the wind and rain to view it. Nearby was a replica of a Viking Ship, which had apparently been built and used in 1949 to commemorate 1500 years since the Vikings had arrived
. Now being about 5.00, we took the bypass around Sandwich, which we hope to visit tomorrow, and found a CL behind the ‘Crown Inn’ at Finglesham. As we settled ourselves in, the skies cleared and the sun shone once more! I finished reading my book by David Coleman, who drove from Buenos Aires to New York in 1959 in a 1925 Austin 7!
We left at 10.40 and were pleased to find the road to the toll road which we wanted to take. However, when we found that it was £5 we decided against it! We drove back through Sandwich on the main road south to Deal. We parked at the seafront, at the northern end and sat on the pebbly beach. By now it was warm and I changed into shorts to walk along the promenade northwards, past derelict Sandown Castle. I had a short paddle in sea. Far out to sea, a lot of yachts were having some sort of regatta and nearer the beach there was a rowing boat regatta.
Nearby was the church of St Mary's, which wasn't open. We walked down Church Street. There was another church called St Peter's - neither of these churches were in use now for their original purpose. When we had arrived, St Peter's was closed, but it opened at 10 a.m. and inside there was a lovely art exhibition, which we really enjoyed looking around. Music was playing, and 'Mona Lisa' seemed very fitting. Outside was delightful too, as through a gate there was what was called the Sacred Garden, but could equally have been called the Secret Garden, tucked away beside the church. It was really lovely.
While we were in the Tiv, parked beside the road, two vehicles tried to pass, with another coming from the side road. There was a loud screech of brakes, but somehow a crash was avoided!
We drove on through Deal, past the seafront and the Castle and parked by the beach beside a paddling pool. From here we cycled southwards along the front, past the fairground on one side and boats on the pebbly beach on the other, past Walmer Castle to Kingsdown and back.
It was a lovely cycle and we enjoyed the views through the wild mallow and fennel. When we got back, we had lunch on the beach and then lazed for a bit.
It was now and 2.15 and we drove the short distance back to park by Deal Castle. We had a pleasant one hour long visit here, using an audio tape we were each given to hear the history of the castle as we walked around it.
We drove on now to St Margaret's Bay, down a very long steep and winding road. The bay was surrounded by vertical chalk cliffs. This is apparently where people leave from to swim the Channel There were a lot of cars parked, but not many people on the beach, although it was very sheltered.
It was a 'pay and display' car-park, so we didn't stop long and then we drove back up the hill and on to the Dover Patrol Memorial. This was a memorial to men of Dover lost in both world wars, and resembled Cleopatra's Needle, but was high above the sea. A notice said that there was a parade here tomorrow and no cars would be allowed! There were marvellous views out to sea and right across to France, which we could see, despite a bit of sea mist. We could also see the Goodwin Lightship and the cliffs of the Isle of Thanet.
We could also see the South Foreland lighthouse. Adrian tried to ring several CLs, but they were either full or we had no reply. We left at 4.50 and drove on a small road back to Dover towards the magnificent castle.
Just before Dover we pulled into what is called 'White Cliffs'. From here, we had a wonderful view of the harbour, which we have left from and arrived at so many times in the past.
Now it was time to head off and find somewhere to stay for tonight.
The weather had now closed in, but we were lucky to find a layby just after Winchelsea, which did us well for the night, as the evening became really wet.
We enjoyed a meal using up all the 'bits of food'. The fridge hasn't been working, so it was a warm wine again.
This is the end of our trip around the coast of mainland Great Britain. There are many islands we have not visited around the Scottish coast and a few around the English and Welsh Coasts. The larger ones we have visited but are not documented here are Lundy (1994) & Skomer (1983)
On the wider British Isles we have visited the Isle of Man (1988), Jersey (Adrian 1960, Both 1992), Guernsey (1966 & 1996), and not documented yet, Northern Ireland (1996 & 1997) and Eire (1996 & 1997)
Adrian at Margate
Tom & Adrian at Joss bay, 1993
Dickens House and Viking Beach at Broadstairs
The old hoverport at Pegwell Bay
The replica Viking Ship
Looking to St. Mary's Church, Sandwich
The Sacred Garden, Sandwich
We're in shorts now! On the beach at Deal
Walmer castle and Kingsdown
Boats on the beach at Deal
St Margarets Bay
Adrian sitting near the monument
Thursday 24th July 39 miles
I hadn't slept very well. We left just after 9 o'clock. There had been a few spots of rain. We drove back through the village with its church, pub, oast house and green with a huge oak tree. We saw hops growing. By mistake we took the wrong road, where we saw more hops and oast houses, and soon came to the A 2 and drove back to Faversham. We drove past Faversham on to the road through Oare, which is bigger than our Oare and had some pleasant houses. We crossed a nature reserve, where some birdwatchers were viewing, to Harty Ferry, opposite Harty where we were yesterday. It was lovely and peaceful looking across the River Swale to the Ferry Inn.
It was then very very busy and quite horrible as we tried to find somewhere to stop for tonight. We tried a place just over the bridge, but worried about lorries arriving during the night as we had seen some there this morning. We saw a lot of smoke and several fire engines drove by.
We drove through Kelmsley and Sittingbourne, which was really busy. We tried following a yellow road out, but there was a width restriction and we couldn’t get back out of the road system. We saw gypsies being moved on, and there were queues of traffic everywhere. Sheer hell!
We continued on the busy and narrow roads, finding nowhere to stop. We came back on to the A2, and passed the scene of an accident. We drove past Faversham to a CL at Hernhill. It had been a difficult junction over the A2 – we tried 3 times before we found the right way!
The lady in charge was very nice and jolly. She let us stay, although there were a total of 9 vans there (5 should be the maximum). It was only £3. The weather was windy, but we had pleasant views to the Isle of Sheppey. We felt in need of a drink, after our horrible journey!
I cooked a meal of prawns and rice, but the runner beans we had bought were stringy. We walked up to the pretty village and back, with the campsite dog accompanying us all the way. We spoke to the farm horses as we left and when we returned, then we walked around the field before coming in to the Tiv.