TRAVEL

PAMELA WADE FINDS CHARMS APLENTY IN KENT

New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - CONTENTS -

In­ever thought “glam­orous” was a word I’d use in Kent. I ex­pected it to be pretty but do­mes­ti­cated – and then the White Cliffs of Dover took my breath away.

Ar­riv­ing early on a bril­liant sum­mer’s day, we beat the bank hol­i­day crowds to the track that runs along the grassy top of the cliffs. Down be­low, the English Chan­nel was do­ing a re­mark­able im­pres­sion of the Pa­cific: clear, turquoise and sparkling. That was a treat in it­self, but even bet­ter were the cliffs them­selves, more than 100m high, bril­liantly white in the sun­shine, sculpted by the weather and – no other de­scrip­tion would do – dra­mat­i­cally glam­orous.

On our walk we found a light­house with a tea room at its base, wild ponies graz­ing, black­ber­ries to pick, cheer­ful peo­ple walk­ing shiny dogs and Dover Cas­tle on the sky­line. It was all just lovely and then it got even bet­ter.

With im­pec­ca­ble tim­ing, just as we walked past a war­time gun em­place­ment, a Spit­fire flew over­head, the clat­ter of its en­gine evok­ing the Bat­tle of Bri­tain and, again, more drama. It was a per­fect mo­ment.

In fact, our week­end in Kent was full of de­lights. We stayed in a con­verted coach house at­tached to a sweet lit­tle coun­try pub where the boss was Char­lie the ter­rier, and we cruised from one charm­ing sea­side town to an­other. Deal, Rams­gate, Broad­stairs, Mar­gate – they all had pretty sand or peb­bled beaches, or har­bours full of colour­ful boats, sur­rounded by invit­ing pubs and restau­rants. But best of all was Whit­stable.

It was gor­geous, a clas­sic lit­tle old fish­ing port with a craft mar­ket, art shops, cafés, stately build­ings, churches, a the­atre and old pubs fes­tooned with colour­ful hang­ing bas­kets, all hum­ming with the hol­i­day week­end. Down at the har­bour

it was even busier, with cute fish­ing boats re­flected in the wa­ter, and quaint rows of tall, nar­row huts con­verted into restau­rants and art and craft shops. Mus­sels and oys­ters are big there and, at har­bour­side stalls, old men in long white aprons were crack­ing shells open with pro­fes­sional ease.

Along the seafront, peo­ple lay in the shade of wooden break­wa­ters, or got so­cia­ble at the Old Nep­tune pub right be­side the peb­bly beach, or sat on the edge of the har­bour wall, hope­fully dan­gling fish­ing lines. Par­ents pad­dled with their chil­dren near a fish­ing boat list­ing in the low-tide shal­lows. And then the sun set in glo­ri­ous red and or­ange, to the univer­sal de­light of the au­di­ence scat­tered along the seashore.

Not all of Kent’s trea­sures are on the coast. We ven­tured in­land to visit Leeds Cas­tle which, con­fus­ingly, is nowhere near Leeds, but a 35km drive from Can­ter­bury across the lovely Kent Downs. It’s had many in­car­na­tions since it was built 900 years ago, most of them at the hands of women, from Cather­ine of Aragon all the way up to Olive, Lady Bail­lie, who ren­o­vated it in the 1920s. Sur­rounded by a moat, it’s as lovely in­side as it is im­pres­sive out­side, and there’s his­tory here, both ma­jor, from Henry VIII to North­ern Ire­land peace talks, and mi­nor, a Dog Col­lar

Mu­seum span­ning 500 years of ca­nine neck­wear.

Out in the ex­ten­sive gar­dens, there’s an elab­o­rate maze, a grotto, and all sorts of other amuse­ments, plus a birds of prey cen­tre fea­tur­ing dozens of feath­ery crea­tures from a cute kestrel all the way up to a Rus­sian ea­gle. For me, Stella the mag­nif­i­cent Siberian ea­gle owl was the star, but hon­estly, glam­our is ev­ery­where in Kent. You just have to look.

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