From the rolling green hills of Dorset to the bleaker, yet still beautiful, coast of East Kent.
I journeyed around the area spanning the Thames Estuary to Sandwich Bay. Each town with its own distinct character. Whistable's narrow streets and pebbly shore has real character, as befits the ancient port of Canterbury. Beloved of trendy media types, the town also celebrates its connection with Hammer Horror stalwart Peter Cushing. A bench sits on the beach, a stones throw from the Oyster Houses, a memorial to Peter and his beloved wife who pre-deceased him. My dad boasts his claim to fame as maker of the wrought iron rivets that hold the bench together.
Peter Cushing's bench
Herne Bay, despite some fine Georgian terraces along the sea front, lacks the style of its more media savvy neighbour but I would recommend the sea walk from The Kings Hall to Reculver, a holiday hamlet and country park which boasts the rebuilt ruins of historic twin towers. An early centre of Christianity, Reculver is associated with the St Augustus who first brought the faith to England. There is also clear evidence of an early Roman Fort serving Richborough. The view across the long-silted Watsun channel looks towards Margate.
Margate, the tattiest of the three main Thanet coastal towns, is busy polishing its image now its home to the Turner Gallery, the Tate's latest venture. Small scale entrepreneurs are tarting up the old town, which is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon. I enjoyed an excellent pint at The Life Boat Ale and Cider House.
Life Boat Ale and Cider House
Next comes Broadstairs, the perfect Victorian sea side town, with lovely beaches, bags of character and an annual folk week, which features free music in many pubs and a craft market, in addition to the main gigs.
Broadstairs folk week
Broadstairs goes a little overboard with all things Dickensian. Streets and pubs bear the names of much loved characters. I like the Dickens Museum in what was the model for Miss Betsey Trotwood's House. I cannot pass by without thinking of the kindly but intimating character dashing to the front door shouting, 'Donkeys Janet! Donkeys!' as she chased off anyone who dared to even approach her threshold.
One my favourite walks is between Broadstairs and Ramsgate at low tide in either direction.
Ramsgate is a little down a heel, perhaps, but possesses a superb harbour and marina . It has some impressive Georgian squares and terraces, which conjure up images of gentility. According to the Ramsgate History Society, there are 900 listed buildings in the town. There's also a monastery and house designed by Pugin.
The Ramsgate Society web site
After that, on past the Pegwell and Sandwich bays into the historical town of Sandwich, slightly inland. One of the finest historical towns in the UK. I recommend the Secret Garden, a wonderful place with a large house design by Lutyens. Walking in the gardens towards the house, it is easy to believe you are suspended in time on the eve of the First World War.
The Secret Garden
(I feel like Michael Portillo on one of his railway journeys.)