Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Walk 33 -- Herne Bay to Whitstable

Ages: Colin was 59 years and 155 days. Rosemary was 56 years and 297 days.
Weather: Cloudy with a very brisk wind, but by no means cold.
Location: Herne Bay to Whitstable.
Distance: 5 miles.
Total distance: 199½ miles.
Terrain: Mostly a concrete prom.
Tide: Halfway out.
Rivers to cross: None.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: The ‘Ship Centurion’ in Whitstable where Colin enjoyed Erdinger WeissbraĆ¼ and I had a shandy.
‘English Heritage’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We drove from home to Whitstable where we parked the car right next to the station. We caught a train to Herne Bay, and then walked from the station to the place on the seafront where we finished our walk last time.
At the end, we walked up the High Street and called in at the pub. Then we returned to the car and drove to Broadstairs Youth Hostel, where we spent the night. (Canterbury would have been nearer, but the Youth Hostel there was fully booked.)
Dad’s birthday! He would have been 96. I seem to remember we hiked on Dad’s birthday before – it must be a good day to walk. I still miss him, even though it is more than seven years since he died. I miss Mum even more, and it is sixteen and a half years since she died! (The picture shows them 'enjoying' a wet and windy holiday in Barmouth in 1962!)
We took so long getting ourselves to Herne Bay with our car parked in Whitstable that, as we walked from the station to the beach, we noticed that children were already coming out of school! Where do the hours go?
We joined the seafront just west of the pier and continued walking along the concrete prom towards Whitstable. It was very easy underfoot, but not very interesting. At Hampton there was a concrete wall we could walk out on (they called it a pier but it wasn’t a real one) and, looking back from there, we had our last glimpse of Reculver Towers. There are loads of beach huts along that bit of coast, hundreds and hundreds of them in rows. Many of them don’t even overlook the beach, just the back of another row of huts. We found out later that they mostly belong to Londoners who come down to ‘chill-out’ and get away from the rat-race. They can sell for as much as £45000! No one was using them that dull afternoon.
It was very pleasant walking along in the breeze, not at all cold but we did wish the sky wasn’t quite so grey. The Isle of Sheppey was very clear, and as we looked across to the horizon we could see the sun glinting on tall buildings – it was our first glimpse of Essex! We felt we were really coming into the Thames Estuary at this point.
We crossed a small stretch of land with sandy paths through grass and a footbridge taking us over a stream. The whole place, with its shingly shore, looked singularly uninviting – so we were amused by a big notice telling us that ‘naturism is not condoned on this beach’! Goose-pimples wha-ho!! Colin daringly bared his knee for a photo-shoot, and then we carried on.
Next we passed a grass bank on our left with a row of houses along the top. A notice informed us that there was a very rare plant growing in profusion on this slope, and how important and protected it was because of its scarcity. It grows nowhere else but here and on a similar bank in Essex, and it is called a ‘hogweed’ or something – I can’t really remember. It grows to a height of about two metres, so we looked about for it. All we could see, apart from the grass and weeds, were thin sticks of what looked like dead cow parsley! Since this wonderful plant is related to the cow parsley, we assumed that was it – eminently unexciting!
As we approached Whitstable, the trail turned inland towards a road. We hate hiking on roads, so we continued along the top of the beach until our concrete path came to an abrupt halt at a locked gate! It appeared to be an industrial complex surrounding the harbour entrance, but there were still beach huts further along. We stepped on to the shingle, and it was hard-packed so not a problem to walk. There was an entrance with big notices – NO ENTRY -- PRIVATE LAND – and behind were heaps of gravel. We carried on past the beach huts to the wall of the harbour entrance. We could see that we would not be able to get to the wall on the other side of the harbour because neat piles of timber were stored over there. On our side, a road led inland to the town past all the piles of gravel. Nowhere did anything say we couldn’t pass that way, but I guessed there would be a locked gate barring our exit to the road. I was wrong, much to Colin’s delight! We walked past all the gravel heaps, past the inside of the NO ENTRY -- PRIVATE LAND notices, through an open gate and then turned right across the end of the harbour.

Whitstable Harbour is very much a working harbour, not touristy at all. It has piles of gravel one side, piles of timber the other and the fishing boats in the middle are smelly working vessels. I looked in one of them and saw a number of dead starfish abandoned on its deck. There is a fish market by the quay which was all but finished as we strolled past. One or two outlets were still selling fresh fish from tall black sheds which are used for drying nets. A group of fishermen in one boat were sorting out their nets on the quayside.
Nothing much was doing on that dull afternoon, we couldn’t get along the next few yards of beach because a private yacht club was in our way (we might have been able to sneak through, but we didn’t) so we walked along a pavement past some shops to Reeve’s Beach. A group of yobs were being a nuisance as they left a hardware shop, and one of them nearly knocked me flying as he hurriedly cycled past on the narrow pavement. When we arrived at Reeve’s Beach, one of them was peeing in a corner behind the sheltered seat and another shouted an obscenity right in my face. We had the feeling that they had gathered for a bit of glue-sniffing or similar, so we left swiftly down an alleyway which led to the High Street.

That ended Walk no.33, we shall pick up Walk no.34 next time at Reeve’s Beach in Whitstable – local yobs permitting! We called in at the ‘real ale’ pub in the High Street, then returned to the car (which was parked by the station) for a cup of tea before driving to Broadstairs in the gathering darkness.

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