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Beside the seaside, beside the sea.

The very notion of ‘the seaside’ evokes a degree of yearning and everyone has their own childhood memories. It’s a slightly misleading image of course, in Britain - not so much sunshine and white sand as breakwaters, pebbles, rugs and teeth-breaking sticks of rock - Jeremy Calkin, Telegraph UK.

I have in recent years been fortunate to have visited several coastal towns and cities in the South East and South of England including Whitstable, Herne Bay, Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate, Deal, Dover, Hastings, Eastbourne and Brighton. I’ve experienced all but the ‘teeth-breaking sticks of rock’ Jeremy Calkin refers to. Margate and Broadstairs buck the pebbled beaches description though, having nice sandy beaches. If it were not for one of my daughters living in the UK, I doubt I would have ever seen much beyond London. 

And so it was, we set off by bus from Canterbury to Whitstable beside the sea, a return to a town I have previously visited and liked so much, it was always going to be lined up for another visit. The first time we walked to Whitstable via ‘The Crab and Winkle Way’, a 10km (6 mile) cross-country trail from Canterbury which follows the path of a former railway line through forest, agricultural and pasture land. That time it was bitterly cold in Whitstable. This time we took the easy option and that was a short bus ride on a summer’s day. 

Leaving Canterbury Bus Terminal, Whitstable bound.

Leaving Canterbury Bus Terminal, Whitstable bound.

I do believe that when photography is a passion, it engenders an increasingly greater awareness of our surroundings. So it is with the seaside I have seen in England. Whitstable has a sort of salty industrial, unkempt look. There's an expansive pebbled beach divided regularly by endless ugly wooden breakwaters (as per image below). That view of the breakwaters is my subjective opinion. Others may think its the prettiest of beach structures. The boat harbour is a small industrial working port. 

Doesn’t sound like love at first sight but something strongly attracts me to this place and it is it's ‘old bones’. It's the history you can see and feel, and scenes like its beautiful beach houses along the esplanade. It’s also much different to home and those differences are what is wonderful about the British seaside and about travel in general. 

Coastal colour. Whitstable seafront homes.

Coastal colour. Whitstable seafront homes.

Whitstable, Kent, UK.

Whitstable, Kent, UK.

Whitstable was first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. Famous for its oysters, which have been harvested since Roman times and this was indeed a magnetic pull for me visiting again, having downed them on previous visits. It’s hard not to baulk at the price of nearly NZ$6 an oyster though! They really are a luxury. I never buy the famed Bluff oysters at home given the price and they are considerably cheaper by comparison. 

The Royal Native Oyster Stores, Whitstable.

The Royal Native Oyster Stores, Whitstable.

Whitstable Harbour bound 'Greta', a historic Thames sailing barge built in 1892 to transport cargo on the River Thames.

Whitstable Harbour bound 'Greta', a historic Thames sailing barge built in 1892 to transport cargo on the River Thames.

Oh yes! Whitstable Oysters, North Atlantic Cod and Whitstable Lager.

Oh yes! Whitstable Oysters, North Atlantic Cod and Whitstable Lager.

Whitstable town is a bustling picturesque place. I love that so many small independent characterful shops exist and appear to do well in the UK & Ireland. They don't appear to have been displaced by the big box corporates who have sucked the life from the high streets at home.   

The colour of life. The colour of Whitstable, Kent, UK.

The colour of life. The colour of Whitstable, Kent, UK.

One of my favourite walks in Kent is the 5 mile coastal walk below stunning white chalk cliffs between Ramsgate & Broadstairs. Ramsgate was one of the great England seaside towns of the 19th century and has the distinction of being the only Royal Harbour in the United Kingdom. Because of its proximity to mainland Europe, Ramsgate was a chief embarkation point both during the Napoleonic Wars and for the Dunkirk evacuation  in 1940.

Ramsgate. Isle of Thanet, Kent, UK

Ramsgate. Isle of Thanet, Kent, UK

Beside the sea. So very British. Ramsgate, Isle of Thanet, Kent.

Beside the sea. So very British. Ramsgate, Isle of Thanet, Kent.

The beautiful coastal walk between Ramsgate and Broadstairs, Kent, UK (Son-in-law, my wife and our daughter up there on the left)

The beautiful coastal walk between Ramsgate and Broadstairs, Kent, UK (Son-in-law, my wife and our daughter up there on the left)

Broadstairs just along the coast from Ramsgate is very much a seaside resort and everything about it mirrors my perception of the British seaside. Beach huts, colourful beach toy shops, deckchairs, ice-cream, amusement parlours, fish and chips. No doubt all very ordinary for a local but another out of the ordinary photographic opportunity for me. 

Charles Dickens visited Broadstairs from 1837 until 1859 favouring it as a holiday destination. He wrote David Copperfield while staying at Bleak House.

Broadstairs, Kent, UK

Broadstairs, Kent, UK

Beside the seaside beside the sea on a glorious summer day. Broadstairs Beach, Kent, UK.

Beside the seaside beside the sea on a glorious summer day. Broadstairs Beach, Kent, UK.

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Tankerton Beach, Whitstable

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Waiting for summer. Herne Bay, Kent.

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And......relax.

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Visitors from Iceland. Whitstable, Kent.

 

 

Land of hope and glory

I was fortunate to escape a month of winter this year travelling again to the United Kingdom and Ireland. This trip was primarily to spend time with our family. Firstly there was the wedding of one of our daughters in Kent in the UK and later we’d fly across the Irish Sea to Dublin to reconnect with another daughter, partner and our delightful grandchildren. It seems an inescapable fact these days that families are often scattered across the world and so it is with two of my three kids residing some 18000kms away. I am so looking forward to the imminent arrival of another grandchild right here in Tauranga. As always I was conscious of how much photography gear I wanted to take and lug around. Being indecisive and full of ‘what ifs’ when out with my camera, I ended up taking the lot which added about 7.5kg to my shoulder burden. 

I have a strong desire to hopefully upon retirement spend several months in the UK and Ireland, not only to have time with the family on the far side of the planet but to travel around indulging my photography passion, camera in hand, photographing the landscapes I really love. I view the countryside of England as a soft poetic romantic historic landscape with so much charm. In Ireland, it’s the rugged coastlines that attract me. Many moons ago a clairvoyant told me I was a priest in Ireland 600 years ago. Maybe it’s where I get my calling :)

We were so lucky to arrive in England at the beginning of a heatwave that saw temperatures hitting the low to mid 30C’s for a few days. Only problem was it wasn’t anticipated so we weren’t exactly well stocked with summer clothing and were really feeling the heat.

Canterbury, Kent, and the crystal clear River Stour, UK.

Canterbury, Kent, and the crystal clear River Stour, UK.

Hot town, summer in the city. Canterbury, Kent, UK.

Hot town, summer in the city. Canterbury, Kent, UK.

We were based at our daughter and son-in-law’s home in the beautiful historic city of Canterbury, Kent. 

One of the first excursions was a train trip to Ramsgate and a coastal walk of some 8km between striking white chalk cliffs and a very blue ocean under a clear blue sky. This Ramsgate to Broadstairs walk (16km return) was a real highlight and very much recommended. 

Charles Dickens visited Broadstairs regularly from 1837 until 1859 and described the town as "Our English Watering Place". He wrote David Copperfield while staying at Bleak House. Former UK Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath was born in Broadstairs in 1916. It would have been remiss to have visited Broadstairs and not sampled the best chips in Kent as voted by ‘The Potato Council’. In fact virtually every seaside town makes claim to the best fish and chips. The downside of that is that fish and chips can quickly become the default meal. 

Whitstable fish fillet, Whitstable oysters and Whitstable Lager.

Whitstable fish fillet, Whitstable oysters and Whitstable Lager.

We drove from Canterbury across Kent, around the southern outskirts of London on the world's biggest car park, the M25, and west to Bath in Somerset and then on to the Cotswolds. Our first overnight stop was the stunning city of Bath.  The Georgian architecture, warm honey coloured stone buildings and the  River Avon flowing through the city paint a beautiful picture. It really is special. 

From Bath it was north through The Cotswolds to the historic market town of Chipping Campden. Here we stayed in several centuries old Badgers Hall. I expected a haunting but they were restful sleeps perhaps aided by a wine or two in very comfortable accommodation. 

Chipping Campden, The Cotswolds.

Chipping Campden, The Cotswolds.

The Cotswolds exude beauty and are this photographer’s drug of choice A patchwork of picture postcard historic market towns linked by country lanes and set in beautiful countryside. I could live here but not having won Lotto, or been lucky enough to get and syndicate the first authentic photo of an extraterrestrial visitor that’s not going to happen. (Click following images for slideshow).

Heading back to Canterbury we made a stop at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. The scale of this palace and estate is huge. Revered wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill was born and raised here and is buried nearby in Bladon. 

Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace

Last resting place of Sir Winston Churchill (1876-1964) "We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

Last resting place of Sir Winston Churchill (1876-1964) "We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

I do like to be beside the seaside, beside the sea and have visited a few coastal towns and cities in the UK. On this visit it was Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Herne Bay and Whitstable, home of the revered Whitstable oyster. 

Its a a subjective thing and for me the beaches are not gob smackingly beautiful compared to those in New Zealand or Australia. The attraction to me with UK beaches is in the history, much of it still visible, and knowing so many generations have lived and worked in the ports, or operated or worked on fishing boats, in many cases launching them the hard way from rugged gravel beaches reflecting the lack of natural harbours along the coast.

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...........or just taking fresh air holidays beside the seaside. 

Whitstable, Kent, UK.

Whitstable, Kent, UK.

The culmination of of this trip to England was our daughter’s wedding. The day dawned overcast, cool and drizzly. By mid-morning the cloud retreated beyond the far horizons and laid bare the most beautiful summer day adding the icing to a wonderful celebration.  

The Secret Garden, Ashford, Kent with my daughter Dr Jennie Taylor-Prince

The Secret Garden, Ashford, Kent with my daughter Dr Jennie Taylor-Prince

Let them eat cake! And what a beautiful creation this cake was made by my daughter and her bridesmaids.

Let them eat cake! And what a beautiful creation this cake was made by my daughter and her bridesmaids.

Welcome aboard Aer Lingus. It was hard to leave the UK but exciting heading across the Irish Sea to Dublin to spend time with another daughter and family and our grandkids. Oh’ and to a sneaky (and expensive) visit to a camera shop.  More on the Emerald Isle in the next instalment 'What's the craic?'. 

Dublin bound

Dublin bound