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Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Walk 2 Westgate on Sea to Herne Bay

Walk 2  Westgate on Sea to Herne Bay (Kent)

Map: L/R 179
Distance: 9 miles approx
Difficulty: quite easy, a few hills
Terrain: quite easy, mostly paths with some earth trackway and a few slopes
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Good train links

Continuing on the Thanet Coastal Path which passes through Epple Bay, Birchington on Sea and Gresham Bay. It’s a half mile or so inland to Birchington village (it feels more like a town). The artist Dante Rossetti is buried in the local church yard and the Powell Cotton Museum contains several displays of stuffed animals acquired by Major Cotton on his trips to Asia and Africa in the 19th century.

Minnis Bay is a popular spot especially for surfers. It can be cold and windy on this coast and loud bangs can often be heard from the military areas opposite on the Essex coast.

Look out for the strangely named Plum Pudding Island and Coldharbour once the site of an ancient harbour. The two towers of Reculver can be seen clearly from here.

It is worth spending a short time at Reculver. This contains the remains of a Roman fort within which are the ruins of a medieval church. The fort was built to guard the River Wantsum which was much wider in Roman times and separated the Isle of Thanet from the rest of Kent. The church, like the fort, has suffered from erosion and was abandoned in the 18th century to be rebuilt a few miles inland. It has a certain eeriness when darker and legend has it that babies can be heard crying.......excavations in the 1960s resulted in the find of infant skeletons!

The visitor centre in the nearby country park offers plenty of information about Reculver including its use as a testing area for the bouncing bombs of Barnes Wallis.

A walk across the cliff-top to Herne Bay reveals further examples of erosion. On the outskirts of Herne Bay is the Kings Hall Theatre looking out to sea. Parts of Herne Bay were used for the filming of BBC's Little Britain including the sea front and The Bun Penny Pub.

Herne Bay is not really a bay at all but a straight pebble beach. The end of the pier has been separated from the rest since 1978 when the middle section was destroyed by a storm. The seafront is at risk from flooding at times.

The resort, originally a farming and fishing community, grew in the 19th century when investors built the promenade and pier – the coming of the railway and the London steamships, which used to stop at the end of the old pier, also helped its growth. Look out for the seafront sculptures, the north pole sign on the Divers Arms and the impressive clock tower.

Snaps show: Minnis Bay; Westgate Bay; Herne Bay front; Reculver Towers.

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