Monday, 31 May 2010

310510 - A trip to Kent

As we get older we are both becoming more reluctant to fly so we decided a few years ago to seek out and discover more of the UK. Neither of us knew Kent particularly well so we decided to go and investigate. For the first few days we based ourselves in Canterbury. We strolled round the city in the spring sunshine and admired the quaint streets and historic buildings but undoubtedly the highlight of our stay was the cathedral itself.

In the grounds of the cathedral we found these ruins.

I think these remains maybe part of the original Augustine priory which pre-dates the cathedral. Whilst touring the cathedral we struck gold. I was chatting with a guide who told me that a visiting choir would be performing within the hour. At the prescribed time we made our way to the Quire (like a vast nave with stunning acoustics!). For the next hour we were bewitched by the angelic voices of the Concordia University concert choir from Edmonton, Canada led by Joy Burke. They were nearing the end of a performing tour in the UK and we were very lucky to be at the cathedral when they sang. Lumps in throats? – Of course!.......A very moving experience and I feel privileged to have had this wonderfully unexpected experience. I took the opportunity of switching on the movie cam for much of the performance and I have included a video clip of the first item in their concert. This is hosted by Youtube and if the video is juddery you should be able to hover your cursor over the Youtube movie screen and get a popup tab that offers to download the video for you - way to go! Here is the link:

Before checking into our second hotel in Dover we called in at Whitstable to get a flavour of the area.The town is very picturesque and old plank clad buildings particular to this area can be seen in every street. I snapped this one while standing on a board walk with my back to the Swale estuary.

Whitstable is to oysters as Cheddar is to cheese so while there I had a fishmonger open a half dozen for me. Sitting on some fishy pallets at the side of the harbour I enjoyed one of the finest marine delicacies that this country can provide. They were delicious with a piquantly bitter aftertaste not found in the normal supermarket offerings.

I can never pass a charity shop without checking out the books (and waistcoats???) and in one (an ex bakery) this beautiful old bakers oven had been retained as a feature.

Next stop was our Dover hotel – Hubert House. We liked this place very much. The young owners were very helpful and friendly and we were intrigued to discover that this hotel has a long tradition of accommodating visiting channel swimmers from around the world. The best thing though was our room – posh it most definitely was!

The next day we decided to visit Broadstairs but enroute I spotted a sign pointing to RAF Manston Spitfire & Hurricane Memorial. We spent the next hour enjoying what turned out to be a museum and memorial to the fighter pilots who operated from here in the last war. A smashing old bloke called Ron performed his role as guide and answered all my questions with an infectious enthusiasm. Thank you Ron.

Eventually made it to Broadstairs where this bird was determined to be the centre of attraction.

On the way back to Dover we decided to go and have a look at Reculver. The twin towers have always been a navigation landmark and are all that remain of a medieval church.

The church was built on the sight of a Roman defensive shore fort and the ruins of the fort can still be seen behind the towers.

Next day and we are at the cinque port of Sandwich. We were quite taken by this lovely historical town and spent some hours just moseying around and soaking up the atmos. This old toll gate adjacent to the river bridge was known as a barbican.

Another historic feature is the Fishergate circa 1384.

Imagine all the sandwiches in the world. Imagine all the countless variations of fillings possible – all the types of bread used. Where would you expect to find them? Why here of course:-)

I have always been interested in steam power and have made several steam driven models so I had been looking forward to visiting the Romney, Hythe and Dimchurch Railway. The trains are narrow gauge and the locos are about half size. The little carriages are just wide enough to allow two people to sit side by side. We decided to stay on the train until it reached its furthest limit – Dungeness. We passed through several little stations on the journey and finally we were on the last leg to Dungeness. On its way the little loco hauled us across a vast desert of pebbles and scrubby vegetation. This is a strange, surreal wilderness where people have contrived to make homes in what for the most part looks like sheds and huts. The day was grey and very cold and seemed to emphasise the isolation of the place. The brooding colossus of the nearby nuclear power station only served to cast a pall of melancholy over the area. I was beginning to feel quite sick at this point and reflected that this place had been aptly named.

We chose our visit to coincide with a 40’s weekend. Lots of folk in 1940’s civilian and military costume dressed to provide the authenticity of the period – spats and fur stoles anyone?

At one of the stops on the return journey we were treated to a dance display by the “LindyHoppers”. See'em here:

And three young ladies in American military uniform - The Clover Sisters - wowed everyone with renditions of popular wartime hits. Get a load if this:

I should have loved to have recorded our visit to Dover Castle here. Unfortunately, at this point a very dodgy packet of Marks and Spencer’s egg sandwiches laid me low with food poisoning. Back soon though – byeeeee!

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