A week in Kent – 24th to 31st August 2012
Friday, 24th August
Today marked the first day of our week-long holiday, staying in Teacup Cottage, in the small village of Goodnestone, just outside Canterbury, in Kent.
I opted to wear my Hawaiian shirt in celebration of the holiday.
We left home around 9am this morning and, after running a couple of errands, headed off on the first of our five motorways towards our destination.
Our route took in the M4, M25, M26, M20 and M2 – all of which were remarkably free of any delays.
Eventually we arrived at our first destination of the day, the Little Chef at The Gate, on the A2. Disappointingly, we found that it was no longer trading and had actually closed down just four days earlier.
Instead, we made our way into the crowded, bustling town of Canterbury where we ended up eating in a crowded, bustling McDonalds. After lunch we had a wander around some of the shops in the town before eventually heading off to our accommodation and arriving around 3.15pm.
Teacup Cottage is a new house, built as part of a number grouped together at one end of the village. Downstairs is a sizeable lounge, dining room, kitchen and small cloakroom. Upstairs there are a bathroom and four bedrooms. Furnishing is of a high quality throughout and the house is very comfortable.
On the table was a basket containing cups and saucers, plates, cutlery and a fresh lemon cake. In the kitchen were fresh bread and other items. The fridge contained a bottle of wine – all very nice touches.
After exploring the house, our order from Sainsbury’s arrived and we were able to have some tea before heading out in the rain for a drive around the local area.
We initially drove down to Sandwich and then onto Deal, where the weather improved enough for us to see a rainbow over the sea.
Defeated by the chilly wind, we drove back to Teacup Cottage where the girls eventually managed to go to sleep.
Saturday, 25th August
Following a somewhat sleepless night, we awoke to rain and the weather this morning was, to say the least, mixed.
Having been there yesterday, we decided to venture back to Deal and braved the heavy rain showers en route.
By the time we arrived, the rain had eased into more of a heavy drizzle. We managed to eventually find a car park in Deal and the girls decided they would prefer to see the beach rather than the shops.
We steered them towards the seafront and walked along the pier in blustery conditions – Holly and I both clutching on to the umbrella which threatened to turn itself inside out more than once.
Eventually we reached the solace of the new restaurant which had opened since our last visit some five years ago.
This bright and airy establishment offers a variety of hot food and drinks and was at least half full of hardy individuals who had sought refuge on a wild morning. The restaurant looks out on the sea on two sides, giving the impression that the diners are aboard a ship.
The girls chose milkshakes while I opted for a hot chocolate and Sarah chose her standard tea.
By the time we left, the rain had eased off and the visibility out over the sea had increased.
We made our way into town and found an excellent bakers offering tempting delights which we eagerly partook of.
The rain was falling again when we got back to the car and we sat for a while waiting for conditions to improve, before taking the short drive round to Deal Castle.
Deal Castle, owned by English Heritage, is a compact warren of passages and tunnels all arranged in the shape of a Tudor rose.
We enjoyed exploring all around the site and had a picnic on the top of the castle, overlooking the beach and pier.
The weather had relented enough to enable us to get down onto the stony beach and we had a short walk along watching the waves crashing onto the shore.
We left Deal and drove the short distance up the coast to Ramsgate, where we drove along past the harbour before returning back to our cottage where we enjoyed a steak pie with a bottle of champagne which had been left in the fridge for us on our arrival.
Sunday, 26th August
With better weather forecast for today, we decided to make the most of the sunshine and drove to Margate to spend some time on the beach.
Margate doesn’t seem to have the clearest signposts and we drove a couple of times along the seafront in search of a car park, before finally locating one next to a defunct amusement park.
Walking out of the car park, we passed another empty building with many of its windows smashed, it seemed to sum up Margate – a little tatty, with its better days behind it. A man was picking up rubbish in the large car park but it all seemed a bit futile to me:
It was the same as we approached the seafront – amusement arcade after amusement arcade – Margate seems brashly to be trying to hold on to its glory days.
We made our way on to the beach – the first visitors of the day – and immediately hired a windbreak to offer some protection from the bracing westerly wind.
The girls enjoyed playing on the sand for a while and even Emily, who had previously displayed a reluctance to even walk on sand, seemed to enjoy having her feet covered with it!
Among the many entertainment establishments, we had spotted a Wimpy which we later visited for lunch.
After lunch, we made our way back to the car and drove the short distance around to Broadstairs.
Again, parking seems slightly confusing with many cars just parking in the roads. We managed to park in a field which was ‘650 yards’ from the beach.
Broadstairs is much more pleasant than Margate. Whether it’s the lack of obvious amusement arcades, the old-fashioned beach huts or the more intimate nature of the beach, it’s hard to tell.
The beach itself was busy when we arrived and was bathed in sunshine. Even the bracing wind seemed to have abated and I was immediately forced to roll my jeans up – having neglected to opt for shorts!
The girls all enjoyed paddling in the sea and we had an ice cream later on before heading back to our holiday cottage for bacon rolls.
Monday, 27th August
In the morning, we were again up early and out of the house around 9am.
We took the A2 and drove the ‘scenic route’ up to Chatham to see the historic dockyard. Following a slight mishap where we almost ended up at Chatham Docks by mistake, we managed to find our correct destination.
Chatham Historic Dockyard needs a whole day to explore properly. Although it cost us £45 for a family ticket, it was money well spent as we were occupied all of the time we were there.
We began by looking at The No. 1 Smithery where among other things, the girls were able to see the Pipe-bending floor and see how the pipes used on big ships were hammered into shape using pegs. We also looked at models of various famous ships including the Victory, which was built at Chatham Docks.
Probably the highlight of the day was the Victorian Ropery where the tours are taken by people in period costume and include not only seeing the history of rope making, but also taking part in a practical demonstration of the craft. Rebekah was pleased to be chosen to help out and was given a length of the rope that she had helped to create as a memento of the occasion.
By the time we’d looked around The RNLI Historic Lifeboat Collection, viewed the objects in The Big Space and seen inside the two-hundred year old church, the time was getting on and we ended up looking in the shop having missed out a couple of the exhibits.
After leaving the Dockyard at around 4.40pm, we made our way to visit an old work friend, Jane, who lives in nearby Gillingham. She cooked a lovely roast chicken meal for us and it was excellent to chat about the olden times with her.
We finally made it back to our cottage on the stroke of 9pm after a busy but enjoyable day.
Tuesday, 28th August
After being home late last night, we left a bit later this morning and made our way up to the coastal town of Whitstable.
We parked alongside the seafront and walked along beside the pebbly beach, separated by wooden groynes. The girls played among the pebbles and searched for shells among the stones.
Afterwards, we walked on a bit further until we came to some brightly coloured beach huts, arranged in four rows. They were generally well maintained and we saw at least two of them being painted while we were there.
When we left the beach, we drove to a car park in the town and picked up lunch at a bakery in Whitstable. We had a little time to walk along the main shopping street and were impressed with the vast array of small independent shops and lack of national chains.
After topping up with petrol we made our way to Herne Bay and parked by the pier.
The beach at Herne Bay is similar to that at Whitstable and largely consists of pebbles. We spent some time walking along behind the beach before making our way down to the sea. Rebekah and Holly spent a long time creating a ‘water park’ in some sand which they found among the pebbles.
Afterwards, we had a walk along the short pier and spotted the isolated end of the pier out in the bay where it has remained since a storm in 1978 and the demolition of the remainder of the pier in 1980.
We left Herne Bay and made our way to the only other Little Chef, which I had earlier checked was still trading.
Unfortunately, when we arrived at 4.30pm, despite having a sign on the door saying that they were open until 5.30pm, the restaurant door was locked and there were no sign of any staff. While I was tweeting the below, we saw three members of staff emerge at around 4.40pm and drive off in a car.
It’s a shame that, despite the restaurant being earmarked for closure back in January (11 January 2012), that the staff seemingly didn’t care enough about the damage to the brand that their slackness would cause.
We ended up driving back to the cottage and eating there instead.
Wednesday, 29th August
With rain spreading from the west forecast for later in the day, we decided to head east and made our way to Dover Castle.
Once there, given the price of the entry to the castle and the cost of annual membership, we decided to join the English Heritage.
Dover Castle has much to see and explore and we began by looking around the Great Tower where many of the rooms have been furnished as they would have been in the time of Henry II.
After a morning coffee and a browse in the shop, we moved on to the Anglo-Saxon church and Roman lighthouse, before enjoying a windy picnic in the grounds.
After lunch, we headed to The Underground Hospital to experience a tour of the Medical Dressing Station, built and used during World War II.
We later had a ride on the land train to reach the distant parts of the castle as the weather threatened to close in.
Following a welcome piece of cake in the restaurant, we headed back to Teacup Cottage.
Thursday, 30th August
Today, with the weather looking somewhat inclement, we decided to make our way to the National Trust property Scotney Castle, located around 1.5 hours from our cottage in Kent.
Leaving around 9.30am, we arrived on the stroke of 11am, as the house opened and were ushered into a relatively small car park.
Our first point of call was the house which we enjoyed looking around. As usual with National Trust properties, children are well catered for and there was a special map for the girls to use, as well as something to spot in each room.
By the time we finished, it was approaching 12pm and we made our way to the restaurant for a bite to eat.
We chose various scones and croissants and took our place in the restaurant only to find ourselves being bothered by wasps. We moved outside and had the same problem. Then it started to rain and we were forced back inside, still accompanied by the wasps who seemed intent on depriving us of our lunch.
Holly concentrated on eating her lunch while Rebekah ended up outside sheltering by a window. It was unfortunately the one disappointing aspect of the day.
After our slightly disjointed lunch, we went to the garden where Rebekah soon perked up when she had to complete a tree hunt in the grounds.
With rain an ever-present threat, we had a look around the old castle in the grounds before heading back to the ubiquitous shop.
The visit ended with a look around the walled garden where we were able to see what our vegetables should have looked like!
We finally left around 3.30pm and were back by 5pm.
In the evening it was time to begin the necessary task of packing, although the bulk of the clearing up would be left until the morning.
Friday, 31st August
Today was the day we finally had to bid farewell to Kent and return home to Maidenhead.
After clearing up in the morning and finishing the packing, I took a few photos of the house before we drove off to our planned stop at Ightham Mote.
We began our visit to Ightham in the restaurant before walking around the outside of the castle.
Ightham Mote is a beautiful 14th Century moated manor house which has been owned by the National Trust since 1985. As well as the house, there are also attractive formal and informal gardens including a lake.
We enjoyed walking around the inside of the house before coming back outside to explore some of the grounds.
Despite the fact that this was our first visit to Ightham, we all agreed that it was one of our favourite National Trust properties. All to soon we found ourselves in the shop and then back on the M25 where we encountered some heavy traffic following an accident.
Eventually, by late afternoon we arrived back in Maidenhead after a brilliant week away.
What will I remember most about our time in Kent? Whitstable and Broadstairs were lovely, there were some great National Trust and English Heritage properties and, of course, the delightful Teacup Cottage which I’d like to return to again at some stage.
A few more of my photos from Kent can be found at my photo blog.