148. Sandwich to Broadstairs

May 2006

This was a rather contrasting walk. From Sandwich I had a tedious walk along busy main roads and through heavy industry to the run-down port of Ramsgate, but things improved greatly by the time I ended at the lovely town of Broadstairs.

For this walk I drove down to Sandwich. It was a long drive, over two hours now. I parked near the river in Sandwich. It is an attractive river the Stour (well this bit is anyway).

The River Stour at Sandwich

I followed the river east to the attractive gate into the town and the old buildings alongside. The narrow bridge here is likely a bit of a traffic bottleneck, though.

Sandwich

Looking the other way the view was pleasant though not as nice, with some more modern buildings.

Sandwich

The route north out of Sandwich though took me along roads through industrial areas, although I was surprised to find a lake on the left. Surprised, because it isn’t marked on the Ordnance Survey maps!

Sandwich

Sadly it didn’t last. I was soon surrounded by business parks and industry on both sides of the road. Thankfully for me, it was a weekend so there was much less traffic than I imagine you get on a weekday.

Stonor

Whilst there was a brief brake in the industry to pass Stonar Lake. I am not sure how this lake came into being, perhaps from previous industry, but it is now used for fishing. It was soon back to the industry though. This time it mostly seemed to be chemical works related to Pfizer.

Soon I came to the bit I had been dreading most. The A256. The route closes to the coast is to follow this major road north towards Cliff End and Ramsgate. So that’s what I did but here it is a busy dual-carriageway. Thankfully it does have a pavement part of which seems to be a not very useful cycleway.

No cycling on the cycleway

Not very useful, because the signs tells cyclists to dismount! This was a long boring trudge and the scenery did not exactly improve because soon I reached the concrete towers of the Richborough Power station.

Richborough Power Station

Hmm, not very beautiful! Though by this time the power station had closed (it closed in 1996) and it was now derelict. It was eventually demolished in 2012. It was a relief after nearly 2 miles alongside the road that the main road went to the left and I could continue ahead on the old (now by-passed) road. I was pleased to soon find a path off to the right which took me down to the marshes at the mouth of the river Stour, overlooking Pegwell Bay.

The River Stour estuary near Pegwell Bay

Now that’s better! Beautiful marsh land and even some chalk cliffs in the distance. This is now the Sandwich and Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve, and it’s a world away from the nearby industry. This is more like it, I was walking through Pegwell Bay Country Park with a network of paths through it, though I stuck to the most coastal route through.

Sadly when this ended it was soon back to the cycleway alongside the road, but this road is not an A-road so less busy. I was now approaching the village of Cliffs End. No prizes for guessing how it gets it’s name! Because after the flats lands around Sandwich ahead were more of those beautiful chalk cliffs.

But before that my route was again passing former industry.

Near Cliffs End

There were disused car parks and disused roads.

Old road at Pegwell Bay

It turns out I was now passing the derelict remains of the Pegwell Bay Hoverport. From here the large SRN4 Hovercraft used to cross the channel to Calais. These were incredible machines. They could hold 30 cars and more than 250 passengers and could make the crossing in as little as 22 minutes. It was operated by the now-defunct Hoverlloyd. Sadly the service had shut down by 1981 after Hoverlloyd merged with rival Seaspeed to form Hoverspeed who themselves closed down in 2005.

It is a reminder just how many different ferry routes there used to be from Kent. Beyond the old Hoverport I was now back on a proper footpath and climbing up the chalk cliffs, which were low to start with but gradually got higher.

Cliffs End

The height gained meant I soon got a look back over the coast I had just walked. Here are the remains of the old Hoverport and the path through it whilst in the distance you can still make out the chimneys of the power station.

Cliffs End near Ramsgate

It was a nice walk along the cliff tops though it lasted for only about half a mile.

Cliffs End near Ramsgate

I then had to diver inland on roads as I had reached the edge of Ramsgate. The path soon turned right though and headed back to the coast, where the A299 emerged from a tunnel to the port of Ramsgate.

Pegwell Tunnel, Ramsgate

It looked quite a recent road having been cut into the chalk cliffs. Ramsgate was another of those towns that tried to combine both a major port and a resort, with mixed success. I was now walking along a promenade on the cliff top with gardens off to the left and the main road into the port below.

It was brightened up a bit by some modern art, though I am not sure what this is meant to represent.

Ramsgate

Soon the promenade headed downhill to the port road below.

Ramsgate

I suspect there might be a bit of a beach here at low tide but the tide was quite high and there was only a small amount of sand visible at the far end.

Reminders of the towns past as a resort were clearly visible as I reached the West Cliff lift. It also reflected Ramsgates changing fortunes, since it was derelict and the lift has not operated since 1993.

Ramsgate

I did wonder if part of the beach that once made it popular had been lost to port development or whether it really did just serve the tiny bit of beach beyond the roundabout?

Past the roundabout and to my right was the large Port of Ramsgate.

Ramsgate

This too seemed to reflect the changing (or declining) fortunes of the town. A  large port area, it was virtually empty. At the time a company called TransEuropa ferries were running a service from here to Ostend in Belgium. It went bust in 2013. I don’t think there are ferries at all from Ramsgate now.

Beyond the port Ramsgate and I was back to the resort. But it was clear Ramsgate was a depressed town. I passed a once-grand looking hotel, the Regency Hotel on my left.

Ramsgate

The sign was fading. Some of the windows were boarded up, with scaffolding on part of the building. Parts of the brick walls in the gardens had collapsed. An England flag fluttering to the right of the building suggested part of it was now flats, but the rest looked derelict. A shame to see.

The run-down theme continued as I passed some more interesting looking buildings, probably once guest houses or hotels but they too looked neglected.

Ramsgate

Ahead though things were improving. A large marina was ahead, packed full of boats.

Ramsgate Harbour

Obviously not all of Ramsgate was run-down. I descended down to the Royal Parade that now ran along the back of the marina.

Ramsgate Harbour

The boats were now all leisure craft and the size of some suggested there was considerable money in the area, too.

The architecture inland too was interesting.

Ramsgate Harbour

Grand houses on the cliff top and some other interesting looking buildings built below the cliffs and behind the harbour. I wondered what these had once been used for.

Looking north it was now a colourful scene over the marina and with the coloured houses beyond.

Ramsgate Harbour

Whilst the town the west side of the harbour had felt very run-down here things were better. Some of the buildings were still hotels and there were numerous shops.

Ramsgate

At the end of the marina was a grand building, perhaps the old harbour masters house or custom house.

Ramsgate

At the end of the marina I rounded the corner to pass another grand building, now the Grosvenor Casino (since closed) it looked like it might once have been a theatre.

Broadstairs

Past this and the industry and docks were now very much behind me as I came to a lovely sandy beach. A fun fair was occupying part of the beach too, so Ramsgate clearly was still a resort.

The beach at Broadstairs

After all the road and promenade walking I was keen to get down onto the beach so once I had passed the fun fair I headed down onto the sands.

The beach at Broadstairs

Much better! Though as you can see the beach did not last long. It was soon back to the promenade. I could not see how much further this continued for , so I headed up a steep sloper to the cliff top. Here I could look back over the sandy beach and the large but mostly empty harbour beyond it.

Broadstairs

This turned out to be a sensible decision as I continued along the cliff top the path below eventually ended and the sea reached right up to the cliff face. At some point, probably about here I had left Ramsgate and reached Broadstairs.

This area is known as Thanet (or occasionally, the Isle of Thanet) and is quite a built up area of coast that is the main resort area of Kent. The main towns are Ramsgate, which I had just left, Broadstairs which I had just reached and the most famous of them all, Margate at the end.

The path I was following soon led me around the coast to Dumpton Bay. This is a pleasant sandy beach backed by a concrete promenade and beach huts, something I had not seen for a while. Beyond that though I could get a view of the main sweep of Viking Bay at Broadstairs, beyond.

Broadstairs

On the cliff top at the end is Bleak House which was once the home of Charles Dickens who I am sure must have enjoyed the view. I remember visiting it once when it was a museum but I think it is just a wedding venue now. I continued around the coast to Louisa Bay.

Broadstairs

There was only a small amount of sand but a large concrete promenade behind. Despite the small beach, it was proving popular. I can see why because this part of Kent faces east. The prevailing wind is normally from the west and with the cliffs here it means the beaches are usually sheltered from the winds.

I continued along the cliff top to the beautiful Viking Bay, which is the main beach in Broadstairs. It was beautiful, even more so with the colourful flowers on the cliff top.

Broadstairs

Broadstairs seemed quite a traditional sort of place for family holidays. A fine sweeping sandy bay backed with some grand looking houses and at this end of the beach there was also a fun fair.

Broadstairs

It was quite traditional with a bouncy castle and trampolines, something you don’t see much at the sea any longer. The beach was busy with families enjoying this fine sunny day. The beach seemed a bit of a sun trap.

I headed down the zig-zag steps back down to the beach and walked along the sands to the far end. where there is a sort of pier/slipway. I liked Broadstairs very much. It had a beautiful beach in the sweeping bay backed by nice buildings which were (unlike Ramsgate) well cared for. Broadstairs was a nice place to come back to and also has a railway station so I decided it was the perfect place to end my walk.

From here I headed inland and took a train back to Sandwich and my car. The train was on time but a filthy mess with food wrappings and fast-food containers over most of the tables and seemingly vast quantities of crisps crushed into the carpet. I was glad I was only on there for a short journey.

This then was quite a varied walk. Sandwich was a nice place to start but from there things were down hill with a stretch of walk I’d be in no hurry to repeat, through the industry of Sandwich. A nice stretch of coast around Cliffs End but then through the run-down western part of Ramsgate. Thankfully once past the port it was a lovely walk along a beautiful stretch of coast, with numerous little sandy beaches with the highlight Broadstairs at the end, a traditional resort that has stood the test of time well.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk :-

South Eastern Trains High speed service : London St Pancras International – Stratford International – Ebbsfleet International – Ashford International – Folkestone West – Folkestone Central – Dover Priory – Martin Mill – Walmer – Deal – Sandwich – Ramsgate – Broadstairs – Margate – Birchington-on-Sea – Herne Bay – Whitstable – Faversham – Sittingbourne – Rainham – Gillingham – Chatham – Rochester – Strood – Gravesend. Ebbsfleet International – Statford International – London St Pancras International. Trains run hourly seven days a week. It takes about 20 minutes between Sandwich and Broadstairs.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

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