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Posts Tagged ‘seaside towns of Britain’

Three years ago when we first moved to Broadstairs I had just a tiny inkling of the history of the area known as the Isle of Thanet.

The Isle of Thanet and the Wantsum Channel.

The Isle of Thanet and the Wantsum Channel.

Formed when sea-levels rose after the last glacial period (around 5000BC), with links to the Stone Age and Bronze Age, at the time of the Romans the Isle of Thanet was an actual island, separated from Kent by the Wantsum channel. This channel allowed ships to sail from the English Channel past Ebbsfleet and gain access to the river Great Stour as far as Canterbury. The Wantsum channel eventually silted up abut 200 years ago which prevented ships from entering it’s waters and eventually it was lost with the last ship sailing through the Channel in 1672; now long covered over and given over to motorways, housing estates, farmlands and wetlands.

isle of thanet, wantsum channel, ramsgate, braoadstairs, margate

I found this illustration at the Brading Roman fort on the Isle of Wight

However, the history of this fair isle has not been lost and recently links were found to Caesar’s invasion of Britain on a site not far from Ramsgate.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/julius-caesar-invasion-britain-uk-site-evidence-first-discovered-kent-a8081056.html

  • excavated a Roman fort covering up to 49 acres (20 ha) at Ebbsfleet, and dated it to around 55–50 BC

Besides Julius Caesar, and the Vikings, another historical figure; St Augustine, landed not far from this very site in AD597 and went on to establish Christianity and an Abbey at Canterbury.

There are a number of very historical towns on the Isle of Thanet, many of which can easily be visited from London. Three of the most notable are;

  1. Ramsgate – has the distinction of being the only Royal Harbour in the United Kingdom; decreed by George VI in 1821, Queen Victoria was a frequent visitor and first came to Ramsgate on 15 August 1823 at the age of four with her mother, the Duchess of Kent, the harbour was a chief embarkation point for the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940 aka ‘Operation Dynamo’, and the town is home to the Shrine of St Augustine.

    isle of thanet, wantsum channel, ramsgate, broadstairs, margate

    Ramsgate

  2. Broadstairs – aka the ‘jewel in Thanet’s crown, Broadstairs was orginally known as Bradstow(e), a chapel was built here in 1601 on an earlier religious site, here on 21 June 1815 the captured French Eagle Standard was delivered with the news of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon, Charles Dickens was a regular visitor and stayed at what is now known as ‘Bleak House, and beneath the town is a network of smuggler’s tunnels.

    isle of thanet, wantsum channel, ramsgate, broadstairs, margate

    Viking Bay, Broadstairs

  3. Margate – one of the first English seaside resorts, was a “limb” of Dover in the ancient confederation of the Cinque ports, and their accompanying bays –  Viking Bay, Stone Bay, Louisa Bay, Minnis Bay, Palm Bay, Botany Bay, Joss Bay, and Pegwell Bay, is home to oldest building in old ‘Meergate’, the old Tudor House, built in 1525, and the Shell Grotto; an ornate subterranean passageway covered in mosaics created entirely of 4.6 million seashells.

    isle of thanet, wantsum channel, ramsgate, broadstairs, margate, V

    Mrs Booth; The Shell Lady of Margate

Villages on the Isle of Thanet are:

  1. Minster – once the “ancient capital of Thanet”, originally started as a monastic settlement in 670 AD, the first abbey in the village was founded by St. Domneva in the late 7th century.
  2. Cliffs End – on the cliff top above Pegwell Bay is a replica of the Viking longship Hugin, it is believed that St Augutine landed nearby at Ebbsfleet in AD597 (a cross in a field on the Way of St Augustine route marks the spot of his landing, on a clear day you can see the northern tip of the French Coast from the clifftop.
  3. St Nicholas-at- Wade – home to the 13th-century parish church of St Nicholas, after which the village and parish are named, the first rector is recorded as Adam de Brancestre in 1294.
  4. Sarre –  located at the point where the old ‘Island Road’ from Margate to Canterbury crossed the Wantsum channel, the late Roman or early Anglo-Saxon Sarre Brooch was found near the village, is home to the now defunct Sarre Windmill built in 1820.
  5. Birchington-on-Sea – first recorded in 1240 as Birchenton, its parish church, All Saints’, dates to the 13th century, the 19th-century Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti is buried in the churchyard of All Saints, Minnis Bay was once the site of an Iron Age settlement and the village coastline was frequented by 19th century smugglers, and the famous Quex Park and Manor are nearby.

There are of course today a great number of new settlements and villages on the Isle of Thanet, but those listed above are the most notable.

tudor house margate, isle of thanet, wantsum channel, ramsgate, broadstairs, margate

Tudor House, Margate

You can enjoy many wonderful walks along the cliff tops or vast open beaches along the coastline of the Isle of Thanet, and a walk from Pegwell Bay to Margate Harbour will take you past Ramsgate Harbour, Dumpton Bay, Louisa Bay, Viking Bay, Stone Bay, Joss Bay, Kingsgate Bay, Botany Bay, Palm Bay and Walpole Bay.

Landmarks and places to see/visit along the way are St Augustine’s Cross near Cliffsend and the Hugin Viking Ship, St Augustine’s Church & The Grange (Augustine Pugin’s house), Ramsgate Royal Harbour, Ramsgate Tunnels, Bleak House and the Dickens Museum, North Foreland Lighthouse, Fort Kings Bay, Kings Bay sea-arch, the White cliffs, chalk stacks at Botany Bay, Turner Contemporary and the Antony Gormley sculpture, the Shell Grotto and the Tudor House.

Kings Bay sea-arch

Kings Bay sea-arch

You will find a number of places to eat or for afternoon tea along the way; my favourite in Ramsgate is Riley’s Cafe, there are a few independent clifftop or beach side cafes that mostly open in summer, and there are the more historic Bleak House and the Old Curiosity Shop in Broadstairs, the Captain Digby Pub in Kingsgate, and the Old Kent Market in Margate.

isle of thanet, wantsum channel, ramsgate, broadstairs, margate

Old Kent Market, Margate

as well as a number of smaller restaurants and cafes.

In summer dozens of colourful gaily painted and decorated beach huts line the esplanade along the beaches in Ramsgate, Viking Bay and Stone Bay

isle of thanet, wantsum channel, ramsgate, broadstairs, margate

Beach huts in Broadstairs

The Isle of Thanet is a treasure trove of history, interesting places to visit, and a large variety of restaurants to eat at.

Discover some of the many amazing walks on the Isle of Thanet

#100 – walks around the UK

The Way of St Augustine – Day 1

The Way of St Augustine – Day 2

The Way of St Augustine Ramsgate to Canterbury – history

 

 

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I’ve lived in Broadstairs for just over two years now. With a number of connections to this famous author, Broadstairs has much to offer the Charles Dickens fan….including myself. However, as so often happens in life, when something is on your doorstep you tend to ‘put it off till another time’.  So since I have an impending move to Ramsgate in my stars…I decided to visit the Dickens House Museum BEFORE I move elsewhere.

charles dickens, dickens house museum, david copperfield charles dickens, broadstairs

David Copperfield – Dickens House Museum, Broadstairs

Charles Dickens lived in Broadstairs at many different stages of his life and a number of his books were either written here or inspired by characters in the area. He also, by all accounts, manage to live at quite a few different addresses in the area….a bit like me LOL However, although known as Dickens House Museum, Charles didn’t actually live in the house. It was in fact once the home of a friend; Miss Mary Pearson on whom he based much of the character of Miss Betsy Trotwood, David Copperfield’s great-aunt.

Dickens House Museum, Broadstairs. david copperfield charles dickens

Dickens House Museum, Broadstairs

Stepping over the threshold into the museum is like stepping back in time to another era, you almost expect Dickens to come slowly down the stairs, book in hand.

Dickens House Museum, Broadstairs. david copperfield charles dickens

Dickens’ Sideboard

Lovingly restored, with objects and furniture from that era, the house is filled with some items wonderful pieces from a wedding dress to the tiniest pieces of jewellery.

Dickens House Museum, Broadstairs. david copperfield charles dickens

a Victorian wedding dress, Victorian sewing items, various objects d’art and a collection of photos depicting houses associated with Dickens and a scene from the front room

You can see a copy of his will, his sideboard, and a fascinating collection of photos of properties related to Dickens.

Dickens House Museum, Broadstairs. david copperfield charles dickens

Betsy Trotwood’s Parlour, Dickens House Museum

A reconstruction of Betsy Trotwood’s Parlour as described by Dickens in chapter 15 of David Copperfield.

The reconstructed nursery is utterly charming; you can almost hear the laughter of the children.

dickens house museum, betsy trotwood, david copperfield, charles dickens

The nursery

The Dickens House Museum is located just a few yards from the Victorian Promenade that runs along the clifftop looking out over Viking Bay and Broadstairs Beach.

broadstairs

a view of the bay from the cliff top

Broadstairs is a quintessential British seaside town with so much to offer, from ice-cream parlours, tea-shops, museums, Bleak House (where Dickens actually lived) a marvellous hotel, antique shops, artisan bakeries, a plethora of restaurants and some wonderful seaside town souvenir shops where you can buy buckets and spades.

broadstairs a seaside town in kent

a delightful seaside shop in Broadstairs

Come visit sometime 😉

p.s. we also have many typical High Street shops and charities

You can reach Broadstairs by train from St Pancras Station via Ashford or Victoria Station via Rochester from London.

 

 

 

 

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Two years ago my daughter up sticks and moved to Broadstairs. I’d heard of the place but never been there.

broadstairs

Broadstairs – a seaside town in Kent

My heart wrenched when I left London – I rent a room from her for the times I’m not working, so I had a choice of finding somewhere in London to live or continuing our previous arrangement. Saying goodbye to London and the River Thames was really hard.

twickenham bridge & the river thames

view of the Thames from Twickenham Bridge…I loved this view

I had many. many happy memories of our time in Twickenham/Richmond and spent so many hours walking alongside, photographing and just staring at the Thames that I could live another life, it is a truly beautiful area and stretch of my favourite river.

I camped out in an empty house for two days after she left on the 4th, but finally my time ran out and 2 years ago today, with suitcases and bags in hand (travel lightly you say!! How???), struggling to drag and carrying my load along the sidewalk and across roads to the station, I finally arrived at Broadstairs; 3 train journeys and 3 hours later.

What an amazing place…….and that beach!!!! Our lives are spent walking along that….

broadstairs

a view of the bay from the cliff top

The house is a tiny, charming little place, a home where we’ve since acquired a kitty by the name of Elsie, a rescue cat, who after months of lots of TLC has settled in like she always lived there!

The town a treasure trove of history and places to explore……

…..but the best thing about living in Broadstairs are the sunrise and sunset.

Now we don’t always get to see either of these due to the inclement UK weather, but every now and then a real charmer puts on a display like no other. Winter is the best time of year to watch the sunrise (for me that is) coz it comes up later and I’m not an early bird…although I have been known to drag on my clothes, eyes still sticky with sleep, teeth unbrushed, grab the keys and dash along to the esplanade….sans my first cup of tea!!! which is a miracle, but some days the miracle is happening on the horizon.

sunrise over Viking Bay, Broadstairs

sunrise over Viking Bay, Broadstairs

We’ve watched many a sunrise and quite a few sunsets since moving to Broadstairs. We’ve watched calm days when the water is so still you feel you could walk across it and other where the wind lashed the waves into a fury as they lash out and crash against the harbour wall.

sunset over Viking Bay, Broadstairs

sunset over Viking Bay, Broadstairs

Viking Bay and the beach that ‘belongs’ to Broadstairs certainly is in my opinion the most beautiful of all the beaches/bays in the area, is a constant gift of beauty. It is the first thing I head over to when I get home and usually the last thing I wander over to look at before I leave on my next assignment. It is a constant draw and even when we’re home, we walk along the esplanade just about every day.

viking bay broadstairs

beautiful Viking Bay, Broadstairs

I have explored the streets and museums, eaten at the tearooms and restaurants, walked this way and that along the coast; either northwestwards to Margate or south to Ramsgate. It is the start and end point of my practice Camino walks and has been like a cosy blanket in my memory when I am working away and longing for my bed and the familiarity of the streets.

broadstairs a seaside town in kent

wish you were here….

Now, two years later, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. It has become home……just in time for my daughter to up sticks and move again LOL At the moment she is house-hunting with a plan to buy her own home. I guess in the foreseeable future I will be landing somewhere else to watch the sunrise and sunset….who knows where?

So long as there is a beach 🙂 Life is after all……a beach!!

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