Across Southern England

Birchington

14 August

I spent the morning trying to sort out my belongings and seeing how much I could fit into the very small case I had bought yesterday. The answer was not nearly as much as I wanted to so will have to consolidate further! I am determined to travel more lightly.

After lunch I set off in the pouring rain to Birchington in Kent where I was visiting old friends. This involved a drive up the A303 (queues at Stonehenge), onto the M3, then the M25 (not as heavy traffic as I had anticipated) and then the M20. Motorway almost all the way, so it wasn’t too bad a trip, although I managed to break a bottle of wine, which fell onto the floor after I had stupidly left it on the back seat. The hire car now has a smell of eau de sauvignon blanc. The carpet doesn’t appear wet though so I am not sure where the liquid has gone!

I arrived at Fran’s in the pouring rain at about 5.30pm and had to sit in the car for a while waiting for the rain to ease. We then had a very enjoyable evening, catching up over the last few years, with Chris, her husband, and son, Jon.

Birchington

15 August

Fran had a friend, who lives in Spain, arriving today for lunch and to stay the night, so we had a relaxed morning, chatting and going to the local shops, before Bob arrived. The weather had brightened and warmed sufficiently for us to have a very leisurely lunch outside on the patio.

View from my bedroom window
View from my bedroom window
Beach huts in Birchington
Beach huts in Birchington
Where's the beach gone?
Where’s the beach gone?
Inside the beach hut
Inside the beach hut
View from Fran's beach hut!
View from Fran’s beach hut!

Afterwards, we walked the five minutes to the beach front and strolled along the sea wall, stopping at Fran’s beach hut along the way. The tide was extremely high and the waves were crashing over the promenade, although the sea didn’t look particularly rough. On the way back, we sat on a bench overlooking the sea and chatted for a while before returning to the house, where Chris had arrived back from work.

On the sea wall in Birchington
On the sea wall in Birchington

We had a lovely evening, firstly sitting outside over aperitifs and then moving inside for a delicious dinner. Bob had spent 7 years sailing solo round the Mediterranean before settling in Spain and still did a lot of travelling with his wife. He had also been a trade union official so the discussion was quite varied!

Birchington

16 August

We had a very leisurely morning, having a late breakfast out on the patio and making the most of the fine weather, which was not forecast to last. Bob left around lunchtime and we decided to venture into Margate where there was a vintage weekend in progress. Vintage seems to have made a big revival in the UK and the businesses in Margate seem to have embraced the trend.

Book shop sign in Margate
Book shop sign in Margate
Inside the Hospice Book shop in Margate
Inside the Hospice Book shop in Margate
Boxes of real Kentish cider
Boxes of real Kentish cider

Our first stop was at the Pilgrim Hospice bookshop, which is located in the old Bank building. I tried very hard not to buy any books but, unfortunately, was unsuccessful and came away with two more to add to my pile. So much for travelling lighter! It was an excellent bookshop, given that they were all second hand, and I would love a shop like that near where I live.

At the pub in Margate
At the pub in Margate

Chris then suggested going to the pub that had a large selection of real Kentish ciders as well as local beers, so we spent a very pleasant half hour sipping our drinks and watching the people at the Vintage Fair. We wandered around the stalls afterwards and listened to one of the live bands playing in the square. There were a number of people dressed in the style of the 50’s and one very small girl, in particular, amused us with her participation in the dancing, whilst her mother, appropriately attired, looked on.

Vintage clothing stall in Margate
Vintage clothing stall in Margate
So true..!
So true…!
Dressed in vintage
Dressed in vintage
In drag
In drag

Fran stopped to chat with a number of people she knew and also to distribute leaflets for the next ‘Let’s do Vintage’ Fair that she organises a couple of times a year. We partook of a restorative cup of tea and cake in one of the many vintage style tea shops, where we were served by a very tall man, dressed in a very tight nurse’s uniform with a very short skirt, who was definitely entering in to the spirit of the occasion!

Vintage (?) car in Margate
Vintage (?) car in Margate
The Beatles in Margate
The Beatles in Margate

Our last port of call for the day was at the Turner Modern Gallery on the water front. This has continuously changing exhibitions of modern art and is currently housing one by Mondrian. I am obviously a philistine when it comes to modern art as I really failed to see the significance of some of the pieces. However, he did certainly change his style over the course of his life and ultimately had a big impact on the fashion world and the block colours used in dress fabric favoured by designers in the 60’s.

View from the Turner Modern Gallery
View from the Turner Modern Gallery (art work in the horizontal boxes)
Turner Gallery blending into the scenery in Margate
Turner Gallery blending into the scenery in Margate
View of the old Customs House in Margate
View of the old Customs House in Margate
Very attractive umbrellas outside this pub in Margate!
Very attractive umbrellas outside this pub in Margate!

Dinner this evening was at an Indian restaurant in Birchington and was another most enjoyable meal. I am now fitting into all the trousers that used to be a little loose!

Birchington

17 August

This morning, after breakfast, Chris, who’s big interest is steam trains, went off to look at some trains and Fran and I had a trip out in her open top MG, intending to go to Canterbury but somehow ending up in Whitstable.

Fran in her MG
Fran in her MG

The weather was very variable all day, but we managed to reach our destination without getting wet. However, I must be getting old, as I felt quite vulnerable with the top down and both of us felt our creaky knees when trying to get in and out of the low slung car!

Oyster shop in Whitstable
Oyster shop in Whitstable
Kentish clapboard houses at Whitstable
Kentish clapboard houses at Whitstable
Whitstable port
Whitstable port
Inside the fish market at Whitstable
Inside the fish market at Whitstable

On arrival, we wandered down the main street, where there were, like Margate, a number of vintage shops interspersed with the more usual ones. The town was quite busy and we browsed our way slowly down to the port where we went into the fish market for lunch.

Whitstable is famous for its oysters but Fran wasn’t brave enough to try them and I didn’t feel like them, so we settled on whitebait and chips for her and a crab panini and chips for me. She definitely had the better choice! Whilst we were eating, the heavens opened and people poured in for shelter, so the market staff were very busy.

Along the sea front at Whitstable
Along the sea front at Whitstable
Old beach hut at Whitstable
Old beach hut at Whitstable
Sign on a beach hut!
Sign on a beach hut!

After lunch, we strolled along the waterfront, looking at the old fishermen’s and beach huts, some of which had been restored, whilst others were looking decidedly sad. They apparently command very high prices, even though the beach huts cannot be lived in. Whitstable is also a working port and there were a lot of fishing boats, as well as sail boats, moored in the harbour and along the beach front.

Old Fishermen's huts at Whitstable
Old Fishermen’s huts at Whitstable
A 'good' address?!
A ‘good’ address?!

We stopped for a cup of tea (no cake today) and then drove back along the coast via Tankerton, where we had a short walk, Herne Bay, where we could see the end of what was once the longest pier in Britain now out at sea, and Reculver with its ruined church.

The wind farms are out at sea beyond Whitstable
The wind farms are out at sea beyond Whitstable
The beach at Tankerton
The beach at Tankerton
The former end of Herne Bay pier out at sea
The former end of Herne Bay pier out at sea
The helter skelter at the end of Herne Bay pier
The helter skelter at the end of Herne Bay pier
Ruined Anglo Saxon church at Reculver
Ruined Anglo Saxon church at Reculver
Looking towards Birchington from Reculver
Looking towards Birchington from Reculver

Chris arrived back at the same time as we did and we had a leisurely evening (or, at least, I did) over yet another excellent dinner.

George, the tame seagull, waiting to be fed
George, the tame seagull, waiting to be fed

Lydney

18 August

A large part of the day was spent on the motorways between Kent and Gloucestershire. After everyone had gone to work, I spent some time on the internet, packed up and left in the late morning from Birchington.

There was motorway almost the entire distance to Lydney and fairly heavy traffic, particularly on the M25. I stopped at the Reading services for something to eat and drink and reached Min and Des’s in the late afternoon. Whilst it probably wasn’t any further than travelling from Dorset to Kent, it had seemed like a long trip and I was glad to arrive.

Min, having put her neck out, had had a very painful session at the chiropractor, so we had a quiet evening, catching up from where we had left off in June.

Lydney

19 August

My priority this morning was to return the hire car to the company in Gloucester. Min had been intending to come with me but she was still feeling a little fragile, so I drove in on my own. There were no delays and the car was dropped off without any problems and afterwards I had a walk around the Quays and the outlet shops.

Bridge going up in Gloucester Quays
Bridge going up in Gloucester Quays
Tall ships in Gloucester
Tall ships in Gloucester

There was quite a lot of public interest in the Tall Ships that were berthed at the Quays. These had been brought in for the filming of ‘Through the Looking Glass’, starring Johnny Depp, who naturally was not in evidence! However, there were quite a few barrels and sacks lined up on the quayside and a little bit of activity, although not too much filming.

Set of 'Through the Looking Glass'
Set of ‘Through the Looking Glass’
Barges and houseboats in Gloucester Quays
Barges and houseboats in Gloucester Quays
Pub in Gloucester
Pub in Gloucester

After wandering the shops, I walked back through the town to the bus station, stopping to eat a sandwich in a square that had an exhibition of street art, some of which was quite eye catching. The weather had luckily held whilst I was walking, but no sooner was I seated on the top of the double decker than the heavens opened. The journey back took about 3/4 hour and it was quite interesting to get a different perspective of the countryside from such a high perch.

Part of a graffiti/street art exhibition in Gloucester
Part of a graffiti/street art exhibition in Gloucester

Once back in Lydney, a very dark cloud threatened to soak me but, again, I was lucky and just got a little damp whilst I was walking the mile up the lane.

Lydney

20 August

I had a very quiet day today. I’d woken with a headache that I couldn’t get rid of so spent the morning trying to sort my possessions and generally being lazy. We went into Chepstow for a little wander in the afternoon so that I could dither about buying a mobile phone (and, of course, couldn’t make up my mind) and then did very little when we returned home. Sometimes days are just like that!

 

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