Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on the very quiet Caravan Club Certified location on the outskirts of Sandwich: Sandwich Lakes. As the name suggests, it has its own fishing lakes, and a rather large well kept field for up to 5 caravans. Each pitch has 16amp hookup, and we think it’s a bargain at just £12pn.
Sunday dawned a wet and wild day so we opted for a lazy morning on the aire at Canterbury. When it came to being time for us to move off (at the end of our 48 hours since arrival) we went off to the pay station to pay our parking charge- £6. The ticket machine kept spitting out our ticket though, branding it as “unrecognisable” and after about 20 mins trying to reach someone by pressing “help”, a bus driver gave us an emergency contact number. We were told to drive up to the barrier, flash our lights and they would remotely lift the barrier for us. We followed their directions and sat for probably 5 minutes flashing our lights, to no avail. On calling the emergency number again we were told they could see us and we’re trying to let us out but their remote system had failed and they were struggling to connect! We were told to sit tight and they would get us out asap!
45 mins later, still no barrier release, and my phone rang- the man said their system had died so they needed to send someone out to manually release the barrier! We obviously are well and truly in holiday mode as we found the situation rather amusing. Probably wouldnt have done if we were going on to catch the tunnel or a ferry though! Next thing a high vis man turns up and tries to direct us to a TINY gate in the main fencing, saying he has a key to the gate and that we need to “squeeze through” as he can’t manually lift the barrier as he doesn’t have the right override key! Er, joke over, Keith and I say “no way, we’d rather sit and wait til tmorrow and matey returns with his key!”
Mr high vis man disappears and next thing the barrier opens. We still have no idea how, but suffice to say it was a welcome sight! We ring the number back, as we still haven’t paid and don’t want to return home to a bill but get told not to worry and that call it a freebie as they’ve wasted our time trying to get out!
So rather later than hoped we set off towards Herne Bay and Reculver, although having waited over an hour meant that the worst of the rain had passed. We parked up on the sea front of Herne Bay and enjoyed a bracing walk along the promenade. Herne Bay reminded me a lot of Cromer- it has a nice seaside feel but isn’t as pretty as Whitstable. There is a pier and clock tower and a quaint bandstand, but the whole place felt deserted (probably the weather- although it did clear up). You can cycle from Herne Bay to Reculver Towers on the Oyster Trail, which basically follows the sea front, but we didn’t fancy doing that today’s as we are a bit sore from yesterday’s epic bike ride!
^Reculver Towers as seen from Herne Bay
^ the promenade which you can cycle between Herne Bay and Reculver on – Known as the Oyster Trail
We were hoping to warm up for half an hour in a pub on the sea front, and nipped into the historical Ship Inn, but sadly they couldn’t accommodate us with Jazz, so we hit the road to Reculver to see the English Heritage maintained Reculver Towers and Roman Fort.
The towers were an impressive sight, but we had to rush our visit as we couldn’t park the motorhome anywhere legal(!) Actually, we were a bit miffed, we’d driven 2 miles down a fairly narrow slim lane to find a council run large car park, with height barrier. It was tight to say the least getting turned around, and we only just got turned round. We managed to park in the “keep clear” bus stop/turning circle for 5 minutes to get these pics but only cos it said no buses on Sunday’s (or bank holidays). So, if you’re thinking of travelling down to see these impressive towers I should think carefully if you’re in anything bigger than us! We quite fancied a meal in the pub there, but lack of parking prevented this so we had lunch on route to the campsite, pitched up and enjoyed a restful afternoon!
^Plenty of moorhens looking for their tea around our van- Jazz is fascinated by them
We awoke on Monday to beautiful clear blue skies, a real welcome sight after being battered by a storm last night! Wanting to make the most of the weather, we had an early start, and set off on our bikes to Sandwich – a short 1.5 mile cycle from the campsite. Neither os us knew much about Sandwich, so were pretty blown away from the moment we passed the “twinned with Honfleur, France” (incidentally another of our favourite places to visit!) welcome sign at the entrance of the town.
The town of Sandwich, which apparently gained its name when someone invented the sandwich here(!) is absolutely stunningly beautiful. Every single house in the main town is medieval and holds some history, which is generally described on the handy town trail signs dotted about. A visit here gave us an insight into many different eras, most of the houses remain in their original form. The town was set out in a way I’ve not experienced befor, and it actually took us all day to to see everything! There were nooks and crannies dotted everywhere! Obviously we managed time to fit in a sandwich in Sandwich- a rather tasty one at that, washed down with a couple of pints of their own ale, in the Crispin inn, right on the main junction of the town.
The toll booth that you can see in the above left photo was used between 1500s and 1700s to collect money from travellers using the bridge to cross the river. Prior to this being used, a ferry was used to transport visitors across the river, the ferry master lived in the house in which the pub at we drank in, The Crispin Inn, occupied.
The town trail took in the river, as well as the remains of the town walls, as seen in the above photos.
As an extension of the town trail walk we decided to extend the walk with a walk from our AA box of walks- a “gentle 3mile town walk” that actually was nearer 6 (and not through our* dodgy navigating (*my!) ) it took in the nearby Richborough Roman Fort. I have to be honest the extended section of the walk wasn’t very inspiring at all, and we got to see the less picturesque area surrounding Sandwich, however the fort itself was interesting to see- there were lots of remains left to see (probably a good thing as I may have gotten a bit grumpy if we’d have trekked up there to see an empty grass field!!!)
There is a nice looking windmill that we plan to nip into on our onwards journey tomorrow – looking forward to hearing the story behind it only having one sail!
^this last picture is of “The Kings Lodgings”- apparently Henry VIII stayed here twice, and Elizabeth I also was a guest here.
We absolutely loved our visit here, but one thing we did both come away saying was what a shame it was about all the traffic. I’m not kidding, at times, it felt like we were in central London! The roads here are literally tiny, cars were parked all over the place, it was near impossible to walk on the pavements safely. The village occupies a one way system, but it is a shame the main sections can’t be pedestrianised. Cars were driving like loons, double decker buses SQUEEZING through every gap possible- everyone was in a rush! I know we are used to the slow pace of Norfolk traffic but it did feel at times like we needed an extra pair of eyes bringing up the rear!
Nevertheless, Sandwich is a real gem of a place to visit- I’m not sure if my photos did it justice today so be sure to pop by next time you’re down this end of the country!
Oh yes- and can anyone settle a 2 day discussion between my beloved and me- would we class Sandwich as on the North coast of Kent or the South Coast?!
Until next time