Winter Wanderings Part 3 – Kent

Well, here we go again, after a little bit of a Christmas break, the blog continues as we have moved from Cambridge and the immaculate Caravan Club Cherry Hinton site and are now sited in Ramsgate, Kent for the last stop of our trip. In fact I’ll say that again, because it’s worth mentioning. The site was immaculate and the facilities were always gleaming. Moreover, Alan & Julia are two of the friendliest and helkpful wardens we have ever met. The site is a credit to them. Well done.hilda01

So, how was your Christmas? Ate too much, drank too much? Yeah, me too, but I don’t need Christmas to do that. We went out for lunch – myself, Trev and his Mum, the much mentioned HRH. Not cheap, for what was essentially a carvery but I don’t have a problem with that. I wouldn’t want to work on Christmas Day, and really appreciate people that do. My only hope is that they were suitably rewarded and were there by choice. So, the food was good, not great, but the service was fantastic, they really made us feel welcome and the pub had a great atmosphere. Trev’s Mum was erm, entertaining. In her own way…

Our time in Cambridge flew by as it always does. I did get to see a couple of friends of my Mum’s that I hadn’t seen for years, but sadly missed out on others. There were a couple of research expeditions obviously – with two pubs within walking distance of the site. Given the dominance of Greedy, sorry Greene King around here there was nothing new to try. Sorry, I have no personal experience of that but I heared a Landlady use it!

Anyway, enough of the space filling pre-amble – lets get down to business.

It was Sunday that we moved from Cherry Hinton. It was – as predicted by the prophets of doom at the Met Office – wet, but having watched the dreadful flooding in parts of the north I aint ever going to moan about a bit of rain again. Until the next time anyway.

The journey was, mostly on the motorway and trouble free. We’d expected to get held up on the M25 passing the Lakeside Shopping Centre exit as we have done so many times in the past, but even that was quiet. We arrived on site just a little before the hallowed midday arrival time, but were met by a very friendly chap who showed us around and to our pitch.

The site is Nethercourt Touring Park on the outskirts of Ramsgate and set in part of the gardens of the old Nethercourt House, a manor house now replaced by a housing estate. All the usual facilities are offered and there are very few of us on site.  Bus stops are almost right outside the entrance to the site.

The site owner was very helpful with the locations of local research facilities and we headed out late afternoon in much need of refreshment and refuelling. One of two pubs overlooking nearby Pegwell Bay obliged for the food as well as getting a chance to sample an ale from local Ramsgate brewery Gadds. I’d had their Number 5 Best Bitter in a bottle on an overnight visit to Margate earlier in the year, and the cask version proved to be every bit as tasty.

After the gloomy grey overcast skies of the last few days, it was great to see the sun when we eventually opened the blinds of the caravan on Monday morning. The coast had to be the destination on such a lovely day so we headed first to dear old Margate and our first stop just had to be Dreamland.

Dreamland is, basically an amusement park. Although rides had been on the site since 1888, it opened as Dreamland in 1920 and was very popular with day trippers and holiday makers visiting Margate. Ownership changed a couple of times in the early eighties with several rides being moved or sold off and after years of decline it closed in 2005. All rides were removed from the site with the exception of the original wooden Scenic Railway which had been awarded listed status.

A significant part of the scenic railway was destroyed by arson in 2008 but it’s listed status was upgraded soon after.

To cut a long story a little bit shorter, there were many that saw a future for Dreamland and a campaign group to save Dreamland was formed. With considerable funding from the lottery, local and central government and private investment, and an awful lot of hard work, the park reopened in June 2015, although the centrepiece – the Scenic Railway would not run again until October. It must have been a fantastic day for all those involved when the gates finally reopened again on that June day. This is not a park for thrill seekers – they’ll find the scenic railway pretty pedestrian compared to modern rides, but that’s not what Dreamland is about.

A great story, but what has that got to do with me? Well, I used to go there as a kid – our annual holiday was in neighbouring Cliftonville – and once during the week we had an evening in Dreamland. It holds many, many happy memories for me and having followed it’s progress on social media over the years it was fantastic to be back there. I must confess to filling up a little – yes, there is a bit of a softie under all that black leather cladding.

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After the meander around Dreamland it was time for Margate, or more accurately the Old Town. As I mentioned, we used to holiday here – virtually every year – up until I was about 16 I think. I never came back then until 2009 when we stopped overnight in the lovely Walpole Bay Hotel along in Cliftonville – you can read my blog about it HERE. It’s fair to say neither Margate or Cliftonville were in the best of health, and given that my only memories were childhood happy ones it was extremely sad to see that the area had gone downhill so much.

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Thankfully, it appears that a corner has been turned. Yes, it still has it’s problems but the Turner Contemporary gallery, together with Dreamland appear to be making a difference. The Old Town looked fresh, with plenty of niche independent shops sporting freshly painted shop fronts. The was a whole different atmosphere now to when we were here in 2009.

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Our trundle alonng the coast took us through Cliftonville then inland a bit to Broadstairs. Patronised regularly by old Charles Dickens, it’s a seaside resort that appears to have retained it’s popularity when others – such as Margate – have seen such a decline. It certainly looked in good nick today with the sun out and plenty of people were taking advantage of the brighter weather.

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Our last port of call was Ramsgate – just a mile or so from our site. We mooched around the shops for a while but agreed, over a much needed pint – that we would return later in the week for a proper look – particularly around the harbour area.

Right that’s it for now. Check back soon for more from the Kent coast, a visit to Canterbury and more!

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