Sunday July 15th 2012
As we had abandoned yesterday’s walk a little earlier than planned and needed to get back to Ramsgate to start today, we decided to get up early. We were first down to breakfast at 7am and after a quick application of the hair dryer to finish off the boots, we were ready to go.
Margate looked beautiful in the early morning sun. The beach had already been swept and cleaned and was immaculate.
People are very critical of the town, but we liked it and felt it has a lot to offer. We found our way up the hill to the central square and the bus to Ramsgate where we got off by the marina into sunshine. What a contrast from the day before.
We walked along the seafront to the pier and took the chance of using the loos which had just opened for the day. A new block of flats was being constructed here and a wooden wall had been put up which has been decorated by local artists of all kinds and was lovely to look at. At the end of the wall we had been instructed to look for an obvious set of steps to reach the cliff top. We had expected a flight of steps set into the wall, but no – facing us was a blue metal staircase attached to the cliff face with 10 flights of steps. There was nothing for it but to climb them so we did and the view from the top while we caught our breath was glorious.
At the top of the cliff were some formal gardens which soon gave onto a park where we spotted a refreshment kiosk. The kiosk had just opened for the day too so we snapped up some sandwiches and biscuits and a couple of extra bottles of water. We then threaded our way through a dog obedience class and out onto the cliff top.
All along this stretch of the coast are bays, each of which are quite individual and each has different facilities. The first is called Dumpton Gap and it has a small prom and some beach huts behind a sandy beach and looks like a very pleasant place to spend a few hours.
The next bay is called Louisa Bay and this one is much quieter with few facilities and just the other side of the headland is the centre of Broadstairs.
The bay here is called Viking Bay and houses all the usual seaside resort facilities from a bouncy castle shaped like a giraffe to deckchairs and ice cream. The sandy beach was very busy as were the gardens and cliff top cafes and pubs behind it. The town of Broadstairs is beautiful; very old with narrow streets and pavements, little shops and plenty of places to eat many of which trade on the Charles Dickens connection. We found a little sandwich shop to buy a picnic lunch and a tiny gift shop for postcards; so tiny there was not room for both of us and our rucksacks inside. We were particularly taken with the Palace Cinema, a privately owned cinema with 100 seats which was on the hill back down to the seafront.
After a short walk along the back of the beach, we were directed up onto the cliff top, past Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, now a B&B where a night in the Copperfield Suite will set you back £250. It does have sea views and looks absolutely beautiful , mind.
A lovely cliff top walk ensued along the Eastern Esplanade with a wide tarmac path in front of a road of beautiful houses from all eras. Many are now flats and hotels, most have balconies and all must have the most fabulous sea views.
Below the cliff appeared Stone Bay, another small and quiet beach with basic facilities. At the end of Stone Bay the road and path stopped suddenly at a fence and we were forced inland behind a private estate of very exclusive houses. A bit of careful navigation and sneaky walk down a couple of private roads brought us back to the cliff top again beside North Foreland Lighthouse.
North Foreland lighthouse was first built in 1636 to protect shipping on this north western corner of Kent. It is automated of course, but still serves its purpose today although the old lighthouse men’s cottages are now holiday lets.
At the bottom of the cliff below the lighthouse is the next bay – Joss Bay which was a huge contrast to the other bays we had encountered so far. Here was a full on day tripper’s paradise with every facility you could possibly need; toilets, a café and gift shop, a huge car park, a surf school and, as it was Sunday, a church service being held in one corner of the beach. The sand was beautiful, the sun was shining and we decided this was the perfect place for a break.
An hour later, we decided we really must push on, although it was very hard to leave the sands and a sweet little toddler called Amelia who had taken a fancy to us. It was her first time on a beach and she was loving it.
But we had more miles to go, so we climbed up onto the road again and headed north. The road out of Joss Bay was very narrow, but luckily there was a separate footpath on a bank above it and we followed that for a while until we reached Kingsgate Bay. Here the road swept down towards the beach and climbed back up on the other side. We had been quite interested to see Kingsgate Castle marked here on the map and had seen a wonderful looking building as we walked along which looked like a very impressive castle. But it turned out to be a pub called The Captain Digby, so we were a little disappointed.
The real Kingsgate Castle, which is now apartments, is hidden behind trees on the other side of the bay. The pub was very busy though so obviously a popular spot. On the other side on the pub car park we picked up a path off the road again back to the cliff and Botany Bay. Botany Bay seemed more rural than the others and was certainly less busy.
Very soon we could see what appeared to be the end of the path at a tower marked on the map as White Ness Tower. As we approached we realised the path continued round the tower and turned sharp left. We had reached the top right hand corner of Kent and were suddenly heading west again. As we put it, “Turn left here for London.”
This was the beginning of the built up area which ends in Margate but there were more bays yet to pass. The path wound along the top of cliff and to our left were wide grassy open spaces and the houses of Cliftonville. At the bottom of the cliff was the beach of Palm Bay and a little further on past a small headland was Walpole Bay. Most of the bays from here through Margate and beyond have a part of the beach walled off to make a shallow paddling pool, refreshed by each tide and safe for small children to play.
We called a halt for lunch at The Palm Bay Café, which refuelled us nicely for the rest of the journey and gave us a chance to rest on a bench and watch the shipping heading for the Thames estuary.
As we continued walking into Margate itself, the open grassy areas became narrower as seaside amenities took over. We passed a bandstand, a crazy golf course and formal gardens before emerging beside the long closed Lido with its distinctive red sign. The Lido had been a popular facility in Margate from the 1920s to the 1970s, when a huge storm caused so much damage that the building was closed. As well as the sea bathing pool, there were underground night clubs and cafes, bars and a theatre.
Here we were forced up to the road for a short distance before climbing down onto a promenade below the Winter Gardens and finally to the Turner Contemporary Gallery by the entrance to the harbour.
The gallery was opened in 2011 on the site of the house in which JMW Turner stayed when visiting Margate and, in spite of all its critics, has proved a huge success. Unfortunately we were too late (and too tired) to visit, so continued our walk along the very busy prom full of happy children with their buckets and spades and ice creams. Our final destination was Margate station which is situated about half way along the seafront and from which we caught our train home after two very different days walking by the sea.
Running Total 277