Three museums for the price of one

Weather forecast was grey in the morning and sunny later on so we decided the Spitfire museum at Mamston would fill the morning till the sun was out, then we could go for a walk around the coast in the area. I got the sat nav wrong and we ended up in the wrong direction, butHrle. Soon sorted it out being the sat nav master.

We found the museum at Mamston right next to Kent International airport, which has a campaign going to keep it open smbolised by thousands of yellow ribbons tied to the fence for hundreds of yards either side of the main entrance. The museum car park is shared by two museums the Spitfire one and one relating to Manston Airfield. We did the Spitfire one first free entry and consists of a building with two big rooms each housing a spitfire, and plenty of donated artefacts in glass cabinets each with an explanation of the article plus the name of the donor. The most amusing thing was the description of how the Spitfire tank and bomb brackets had been used to fly beef over the Channel to the troops on the continent.

The second museum cost £2 to get in and was quite smatuer, but had some great displays of part and whoke aircrafts including some jets from the early days. Some of them looked positively antique compared to their contemporary craft.

We headed to Rams gate for a walk but the place looked very down on its heels and the parking was a coendive do we headed to Margate instead where we spend £6.50 on parking on the quay, which i almost lost when the wind blew it out of the machine and almost over the harbour wall, I chased it and managed to get it which was essential as we had. No more change. At the tourist office nearby they arranged a taxi to Botkny Bay Hotel at Kingsgate where we had lunch, i had a crab sandwich.

We set off and the wind was cold but when we got around the headland we were protected and even more once we descended didn’t to the beach where we spent the rest of the walk back to the harbour. On the way we saw some graffiti in local chalk on the sea wall, mentioning Ken Kaneki, #sarumi, and #karmaisa. Apparently an amine TV series called Tokyo Ghoul features they character, Wikipedia article.

The Turner Contemporary provided a nice coffee and cake before we had a look around the gallery. The heart was very modern with a special exhibition about threads, i.e. material and string. There is always done Turner on display and in the corridor leading to the toilets we found some fine etchings on display. The lift was interesting it had been lined with carpet then yogurt had been used to paint abstract designs, it smelt a bit, but apparently not as much as it had in the earlier days. Helen has a look at the museum gift shop while i headed to the amusements on the front. I never made I there but I did find a great shop selling g all sorts of s come hand camera equipment, bought some bellows for £25 after haggling, they are the wrong for bit there are plenty of adapters on eBay.

I met Helen back at the car and we made our way back to the hut for the last time. We loaded the car with the heavy stuff when we got back to save time in the morning. We had a table booked at the Zetland Arms at 18:30.

Windy walk Kingsdown to White Cliffs of Dover

We had planned to go to Chatham Maritime museumbut when we got up the weather had changed from the forecast, the sun was out and it was going to be bright all day. I hatched a plan to walk from the National Trust visitor centre at the White Cliffs of Dover, to Kingsdown. After some bad working out which way the wind was blowing we ended up driving to the visitor centre, to get a taxi back to Kingsdown.

The man at the centre was very helpful not only was he able to provide a phone number for Dover Royal Taxis he honestly up and arranged it for us. 5 minutes later the taxi arrived and whisked us away back to Kingsdown for the second time in a day (don’t ask!).

The wind was still cold but with the wind behind us it was not unfortable, and if we kept in from the cliff there was a kind of a lee in the wind. We expected a few up hill sections being a coastal path and all. We were not disappointed after half a mile came the first one it was short and steep and deposited us at the top of the cliff, where a path and track was lined by some lovely houses with impressive views over the channel.

A few miles later adter passing the Walker and Kingsdown  a golf club, we reached St Margaret at Cliffe, where the path dropped down again. We stopped at the The Pines garden tearoom and museum, where we stopped for a coffee and cake. The orange and gooseberry cake was just right. Next was an up hill plus to a high point where the South Foreland Lighthouse, which is owned by the national trust, however on this day it was shut, during the warmer months there is a tea room open.

After the hard slog out of the vilkage to the lighthouse was needed a rest and a suitable bench appeared so we rested for 10 minutes. Over the next brow in the hill i noticed some concrete structures in the hillside, and it sprung to mind that they were parabolic listening mirtorsused to detect distant aircraft before radar was invented. There was a path across Langdon Hole and a steep set of step that led to them, said to Helen that I was going to take a look, Helen bravely followed.

The structures were fenced off but you could get close enough for a good look. There were two one about three metres in diameter the other slightly smaller. The final steps backup out of the valley were very steep and we stopped to catch our breath at the top. It was not far back to the visitor centre, but we took a slight detour to take in a view from the headland, it made us realise how our decision to walk with the wind behind had been the right on, as we walked into the wind back to the path.

Back at the centre we stopped for a cup of tea before heading back to the gut via a supermarket to get some dinner. It had been a really nice walk especially given the weather.

Dover Castle is a big place

With rain threatening we thought we might have to go further afield to find something indoors, but we woke up to a bright day the rain had been delayed until after lunch. We decided that Dover Castle should be our destination, it was just a few miles down the road.

We left the hut at 09:00 and stopped off at the national trust White Cliffs of Dover visitors centre, where we attempted a walk along the coast to the lighthouse tea room, however we only got a third of the way there before the cold biting wind got the better of us. We went to the cafe to warm up and found out that but the lighthouse was closed so it was a good job we turned back, Helen would have been incandescent had we got there and the tea room was found to be shut.

After a pleasant coffee we had and enjoyable hour overlooking the port of Dover and the activities going. I tuned the scanner into the operations team choosing which lanes to load next while my camera took a timelapse of the boat loading. Next stop would be the castle.

The entry fee just shy of £20 seemed a bit steep, but Helen was paying, so i went with the flow. The wind was not letting up and the shelter of the tunnels that we looked at first was welcome. The tours of the medical wing followed by one with a multi-media show explaining the Dunkirk retreat wax very enlightening and done very well. We stopped at the NAAFI restaurant for a cheese scone and a coffee before getting the land train to the mail n event the iconic castle that you can see on top of the hill from the town.

There is an Anglo Saxon church on the highest point which is right next to if not connected to a Roman lighthouse. We had a look around the inside of the church. It was quite different and perhaps had a military influence very regimented and neat. Every pew had the allotted number of prayer kneelers and each was precisely spaced across he length of the pew. I did not spot a grave yard outside which is unusual for a church perhaps because the area id inhabited.

Finally we visited the great tower, and popped into a regimental museum which was a bonus museum on the site. The great tower was a bit disappointing for me because the place was made to look like they think it would have looked in the past but it all looked too new and colourful. We had had our time in the building because they announced it would be closing in fifteen minutes. We exited via the gift shop.

On the way home we heard on the radio that there had been a suspected terrorist attempt at Westminster, and when we got home we followed events on TV.

We went to the Zetland Arms for dinner.

Trip to La Belle France

We were up early for a 09:50 shuttle to France, in fact early enough to just miss the 08:50, but have enough time to grab a coffee before the 09:20. The terminal was very quiet unlike it suspect it would be during the holiday season. Our destination was Cap Gris Nez to have a look at the gun battery and take a walk, then to Wissant a little seaside town with a lovely beach.

It always seems like a bit of a barrier to travel the channel, in the sense that when you are on the continent you can just get in your car and drive to anywhere, even as far as Beijing, from England there is a stretch of water in the way and no easy way across it. You have to book ahead then drive to a place then wait for a while get loaded onto a boat or train then wait till you are delivered to the continent. It would be a bit different if the tunnel was a drive through one because the while booking ahead and loading would not be necessary. In reality you spend 30 minutes being shaken, while you talk shit on you blog.

It did not take long to get accustomed to driving in the gutter. We headed down the lovely smooth autoroute and got off following the signs Cap Gris-Nez, where there is a car park and awalk to some viewing points. Unfortunately the wind was cold so we did hang about. We did notice what we thought were Meadow Pipits and then a Marsh Harrier quartering a field. Next we headed to a museum in a gun battery, however it was shut till 14:00, so we went to Wissant, and parked up on the town square. Lunchtime was approaching so the town was shutting down, so we grabbed a coffee in the loacl bar, before heading down to the beach, where again we did not spend too much the fighting the elements, but headed back to a cafe for some lunch. I had a cheese sandwich and Helen a  cheese gallette.we were in the conservatory so it was nice and warm with the sun shinning in.

After lunch we went to the Twist build battery, where a very big 380mm gun was built by the Germans, opened by Hitler, and surrendered to the Canadians. Now it is quite a good museum with displays of  WWII artefacts and exhibits. In the museum shop you could buy antique war memorabilia, including done genuine Russian and Swiss baynettes!

Next was a drive along the coast towards Calsis., Which was enjoyable withe sweeping vistas as the road ascended and descended valleys. We planned to turn around before we got to Calais but there were road works so we had to go into Valid before turning around and heading to Cite Europe shopping centre.

At the shopping centre we stocked up on food we never normally buy, some wine for Hrkrn and i got a couple of local beers and a box of Cidre doux which is only 2.5% and is quite quaffable. By the time we had shopped Helen has seen enough of France so we headed back to the tunnel terminal and managed to just miss a train but ended up at the very front of the queue for the 17:19 delayed by 5 minutes.

We were back in blighty just a few minutes late, and feasted on out supermarche purchases for dinner.

Sissinghurst and Canterbury

Rain day so we decided to use the car, and do a tour for the day. Main stops would be Cranbrook, Sissinghurst and Canterbury. Whilst having breakfast iIbooked the tunnel for a trip to France on the Tuesday, then we left and drove through thick drizzle, to Cranbrook where we had a coffee and a look around the church and graveyard looking for Helen’s relatives.

By the time we got to the National Trust property at Sissinghurst, the rain had stopped, but it was a bit windy and damp. We had a look at the garden which I image would look fantastic in a months time. There is a tower in the middle of the property and I took the opportunity to trapse up to the top for a look at the view. It allows you to get a good overview of the whole garden which is very extensive, There is a cottage in the grounds where the most recent owners used to live, and we got on the 13:00 tour.

With some time to spare we had some lunch I had some lovely pea, lettuce and mint soup. The tour of the house was very interesting, just a few rooms but they were covered in book shelves and looked lived in. Next we had a look at the library in the main building where they had book conservators demonstrating their work.

We decided to return back via Canterbury where Helen got some Euro’s for tomorrow and a pair of shoes she hoped would be less slippery that the ones she was wearing. There is a great eclectic museum in the centre full of art, artefacts, stuffed birds and other random stuff, just the sort of museum Helen and I like.

We had burgers for dinner and had an early night as we had reasonably early start to get to France,

A Sandwich Deal walk

We made a leisurely start and headed out the house at 10:00 destination Deal train station, the plan was to get the train to Sandwich and walk back to Deal, via the local coastal path. We arrived early for the 11:00 train so we took a still around town and grabbed some supplies. The train was waiting for us, it was the London train to Start Pancras, I guess it takes a loop around from London via Margate.

The journey was only 6 minutes, and we headed in to town then turned right at the car park by the river and headed out towards the sea. We had a golf course cross and just before we spotted a Ring-necked Parakeet flying over. Once we had crossed the Royal St George golf course with its appropriately red crossed green flags, we to the sea where there was a gathering of Dachshund owners and their hounds. We stopped for a sandwich fittingly overlooking Sandwich Bay.

We walked past Sandwich Bay Estate which was by the sea and made up mainly of houses with more than 10 bedrooms. Apparently one was once owned by the Astor’s and another by Jonathan Aitkin. We noticed one had a robotic lawn mower not sure if that meant they could not afford a gardener. The wind started to pick as we passed another golf course, luckily it was not exactly again us it was coming from the land, and eventually we were able to descend from the sea wall to a path somewhat sheltered by dunes.

The seats on the edge of Deal were a welcome rest, especially for me who had decided it was time to take up running again. My first run in the morning had been 1.5 miles and taken me 17 minutes, not a four minute mile but you have to start somewhere. I used to do sub 10 minute miles for four miles. My aim is to be able to run for 30 minutes.

We stopped for a coffee on the seafront and then wandered back to the station to get the car and Helen booked at table at the Zetland Arms it seemed to be the best pub in the village so we thought we would try it first. On the way back we managed to find the “Ham Sandwich” sign at Finglesham. It was hard to park up but we managed to get a few shots before any traffic came.

Kingsdown – a bonus holiday day

It is holiday time again, in March because we both took a weeks holiday over from last year. We had plans to fly to somewhere warm but when you failed to organise something we ended up booking a cottage in Kingsdown near Deal in Kent. The night before we got a call from the cottage owner explaining that the cottage was ready and we could turn up any time. That meant we could drive straight there and not have to waste time finding somewhere to visit on the way. Essentially we could gain a days holiday, so we got up at 07:30 and headed out at just before 09:00.

The trip around the M25 was traffic free, but one unexpected task was to have to pay for the crossing at Dartford there are no longer pay stations you have until midnight the day after to pay up online. We missed a couple of sat nav instructions and ended up going via the port of Dover, but the detour only added a couple of minutes to the overall journey.

We arrived at the cottage at 11:00 and quickly unloaded the car. The approach to the village has some very tight roads, and there was a lot of giving way to other cars. We soon found the cottage for the week, an end of terrace on an unadopted road that leftover the sea.we were just over the road from a freehouse called​ The Rising Sun, and a hundred yards from The Zetland Arms a Shepherd Neame pub literally on the pebble beach, which after a quick look at the beach we sampled it’s wares. We has a cheese sandwich and a drink each, before taking a drive to Deal for a look around.

We chose Sandwich instead, and before that Pegwell bay, which is mud flat just outside Sandwich. We arrived at a good time as the tide was starting to come in, pushing the waders, closer to the hide. The pictures on the hide wall promised lots of waders but we were happy with Redshank, Curlew, and a start Avocet amongst some ducks.

Sandwich is a nice little town with old buildings that over hang the streets. It seems ytgat Saturday afternoon was notthebest time to visit as some of the shops were shut. We as a wander around then headed back to the car. On the way back we detoured via Finglesham where there is a sign with both Ham and Sandwich which I hoped to be pictured by, however we had not done enough research and would have to return another day.

Back at the hut i watched the Rugby which England lost to Ireland meaning they failed to break the record for consequtive wins and also the Six Nations Grand Slam, they did however win the Six Nations overall.

We were in bed early as the TV at the hut was tiny and we had to use my laptop to watch Amazon Prime.

The perfect Kent segway

Oare marshes view Kent
Oare marshes view Kent

We had a plan for the weekend we went to the cinema to see a film Friday then home for an early night. We were up pretty early giving me the chance to go and get my haircut. Suitably shorn I came back had a coffee and we left house at 1020 destination Kent for a night in a pub followed by some Segwaying at Leeds Castle.

The journey was pretty uneventful round the M25, then over the Thames, then down the M2. At around Sittingbourne I got bored of the motorway so we left it to take the A roads to Faversham, then onto Oare marshes for a spot of bird watching.

We stopped off in Faversham a town with some very old buildings, a market, antique shops and charity shops, for some lunch at a pub in an old building, I had crab and rocket sandwich and Helen had local cheese and pickle sandwich. After a walk around the town and its market we headed to Oare marshes and we were pleasantly surprised to see lots of bird watchers and even better lots of waders out on the marsh. Parking was a struggle but we found a spot and headed back to where there was a good view of the marsh. We had got there at the right time the tide was in s the birds had all left the estuary and were waiting on the marsh area till the tide went out again revealing the mud where their food could be found. We finished off with a walk around the reserve taking in the hides, Helen insisted that the sea wall was where a scene from the TV drama Southcliffe was filmed, I said that it could be anywhere on the sea wall but after some research that evening Helen proved beyond reasonable doubt that she was quite correct. We got back in the car and ignoring the sat nav’s request to take the motorway took the A roads to our pub The Black Horse in Thurnham, needs Leeds Castle.

Segway experience at Leeds Castle in Kent
Segway experience at Leeds Castle in Kent

The pub was unusual in that from the front it just looked like a country pub on the edge of a hill, but behind it had a whole complex of rooms 30 in total, spreading out down the hill behind. We got our room keys and found our room “asylum” sorry they were all named after plants Alyssum. The room was very clean, and seemed recently decorated, the bed was soft and comfortable.

We rested for a while and then went out grabbed a map from reception and headed up the hill to look at the local castle ruins, which were very ruined. Back at the pub we had a half and then headed back to our room to get ready for our meal. Helen put on some makeup and I changed my T shirt. The meal was great we were in the restaurant just before 7pm so in time for me to have the fish and chips not served after 7. Helen at risotto and we both had desert Helen sticky toffee pudding and me the apricot cheese cake. Suitably replete we headed back to our room and tucked up in bed by 9pm!

The early night meant we got an early start, breakfast was and 08:20 and we left the pub soon after 09:00, our plan was to go and have a look around Leeds castle before our Segway session at 11:30. We arrived at the venue in time so join the earlier session but unfortunately they could not get us on that session. We decided that the entry fee of £21 per person for the Castle was a little bit steep if you had a day to spend there we only had about and hour and a half to waste, so we decided to go take a look at Chatham which is only 20 minutes drive away.

At the historic docks there was a Military memorabilia fair on, and what a strange event that turned out to be. We paid £4 entrance fee and entered a whole world that we did not realise existed,  it seemed anything with a vague military theme could be purchased. At the extreme was firearms from Pistols through rifles, to heavy duty machine guns, as well as daggers and bayonets. Then there were the stalls selling everything you could imagine you unearthing from an army stores, including instruments, wound dressings, medals and ribbons, manuals and log books etc etc. The die hard enthusiast came all dressed up in authentic uniforms, I saw Nazi SS, talking to home guards, Russians and French Foreign Legions, as well as a small child in full sniper gear. Unexpectedly we did find an interesting book to purchase at a book stall, war related books obviously.

Leeds Castle in Kent
Leeds Castle in Kent

Suitably confused by the memorabilia fair we drove back to Leeds Castle for a coffee before the main event. It started to really rain whilst we had our coffee but started to clear up as we gathered to be issued with helmets and Segways. After the safety lecture and what seemed like more than enough theory on how they worked we were allowed on the machines while we proved that we could control them. It was surprisingly easy to master you just lean forwards or back to move then use the handle bars to steer. Eventually we were all issued with our own machines and we left the training area for a spin around the grounds. We stopped every so often for a chance to view the Castle in the distance while the guide filled our heads with facts about the history of the Castle and it surroundings. Personally I would have paid extra just to have been able to ride the Segway without all the stopping and starting for another “interesting” fact. We did get the chance to get the Segways up to their maximum speed of 12.5 mph, but the whole experience was over too soon I could have spent a couple of hours whizzing around the park land, if they had let me.

We headed straight back after as we wanted to stop off at Decathlon at Thurrock, shopping is not something that Helen and I really enjoy but we made the most of the situation, Helen bought some gloves and I a merino wool top for Decathlon, then we raided the M&S outlet store and TKMax where I got a pair of Levis for half price. We had soon had enough bargain hunting and left Thurrock for the M25, passing under the river then round to the A41 and home for 16:00 ish.

Here is the video: