Days out

A Day trip to Margate

There is something hauntingly beautiful about the British Seaside in early winter. The sun desperately trying to peer out behind moody clouds casts glimmering ripples across the harbour, whilst the skyline tinged in tower block grey declares a melancholic calm. Stepping out of Margate train station you can feel the crisp breeze of the sea air, just that little bit colder than inland, but enough to make you appreciate your woolly hat and scarf. We amble down towards the harbour along the main drag, past the iconic Dreamland and the mural of Del, Rodney and Uncle Albert in homage to their infamous ‘Jolly Boys Outing’ to Margate in it’s hay days. Still a big kid at heart, I drag my wife and friend into the amusements, my futile efforts to win a toy sheep from the clutches of the slick claws of the grabber bring much amusement to my companions. They finally manage to drag me away with a commiseration game on the air hockey table, 7 – 3 to the wife who beats me spectacularly.
Without further ado, we head down to the Turner Contemporary, which opened in 2011, to see Tracey Emin’s “My Bed”. Emin has always had a bittersweet love for the town of Margate, which she called home for many years, and is set to move back there to open a studio next year. “My Bed” was first displayed at the Tate Gallery in 1999 and was shortlisted for the Turner prize, grabbing much media attention. It was inspired by a sexual and depressive phase in her life when she would often stay in bed for several days drinking alcohol. The bed, unmade and stained with bodily secretions, surrounded by used condoms, underwear, empty bottles and other detritus represents Emin’s own realisation of what a mess her life had become. It was a turning point in her life, and by displaying that raw emotion through her work, Emin gained notoriety and was able to see a new path for the future. It was an incredible turning point in her life. “My Bed” is on display until the 14th of January. Regrettably we have come at midday, high tide, so are unable to see the sculpture by Antony Gormley, “Another Time”, part of a series of one hundred, solid cast-iron figure, that have been installed all over the world. Gormley states that “The history of western sculpture has been concerned with movement. I wish to celebrate the still and silent nature of sculpture. The work is designed to be placed within the flow of lived time.” The sculpture itself is placed out in the harbour sea, and only becomes visible about 3 hours before low tide. There is however a video of the piece available to watch in the Gallery, if like us, you forget to check the tide times first. Also on display were a retrospective of work by Jean Arp: The Poetry of Forms and John Davies: My Ghosts, a collection of figurative sculptures and drawings. The entry to the Turner was free (suggested donation £5) so we all treated ourselves to some postcards and souvenirs from the well-stocked gift shop, as well as donating.

We then took a stroll around Margate’s Old Town, a bustling microcosm of creative types, boutiques, vintage curios, tea parlours and galleries. A fitting homage to the golden age of the British seaside, when Margate was one of the most popular places to go on your summer holiday, the Old Town area is a welcome regeneration, in stark contrast to the desolation of the high street, where empty shop windows litter the barren road. We do however love a good charity shop, and there are still a few left in the area. I was particularly impressed by the window display of Age UK, where they had entertaining recreated “My Bed” on a miniature scale.
As it would be rude not to, we head back to the seafront for a traditional fish and chips, with plenty of salt and vinegar, making it just in time before the after-school rush, with hordes of hungry parents and children clambering in for a chippy tea. Stuffed by the generous portions, we decide to partake in a couple of swift halves before heading home (again, it would of course be rude not to!). Firstly, we head to Fez, opened in 2015, this pint sized micropub certainly packs a decorative punch. Decked out with retro antiques and collectables, with a delectable selection of local ales and ciders to choose from. The place is buzzing already and has a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere, the kind of pub you can go in for one drink and leave five hours later having made several new friends. After this we venture down to The Harbour Arms, located, as you would expect, on the harbour arm. Chocked full of nautical memorabilia, this maritime micropub also delivers on an excellent choice of local ales and ciders. It’s great to see this place is busy too. The regeneration efforts in Margate, will surely bring this great seaside town back to fruition in the years to come. Heading back to the train station, a little weary after a fantastic day out, another installation by Emin catches our eye, the words “I never stopped loving you” in dazzling pink neon above the Droit house on the seafront. A fitting and touching love letter, to this seaside town.margate harbour

Days out

Stodmarsh Nature Reserve

Stodmarsh Nature Reserve

We spent a day taking in some nature in the glorious spring sunshine at Stodmarsh nature reserve.

(pictures taken from google of nature in Stodmarsh)

Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve (NNR), near Canterbury, is a unique area of wetland with marshes, reedbeds, lakes and woodland that is home to a rich variety of wildlife especially water birds.

The reserve has the largest reed bed in the south east of England, which supports a range of specialised birds and insects. The reed beds are an excellent sanctuary for migrating birds such as swallows and house martins in the summer and starlings in the winter. Bittern, marsh harrier, kingfisher, great crested grebe, coot, moorhen, reed bunting, bearded reedling can all be seen. It also supports a large variety of invertebrates (including dragonflies and moths) and rare plants. It also has a strong population of water voles.

Stodmarsh has over 6 kilometres of footpaths, including a circular walk around the whole site. There are short and long easy access ‘sensory’ trails at the Stodmarsh end of the reserve, both with wheelchair access.

The way the reserve is designed makes it very easy to walk around the ‘trails’. You can walk as short or as long a distance as you like. There are maps available in the car park and clearly marked signs point you in the direction of the ‘hides’. Great for spending the day peacefully gazing out onto the waters, trying to spot rare birds. Bring a pair of binoculars and a packed lunch to get the whole experience. Remember to be quiet and polite when you come across other nature lovers. Some take it very seriously and you don’t want to be noisy and scare away any animals. Remember not to leave any litter behind either, it would be terrible to spoil such a beautiful place and risk harming the wildlife!

To top it off there are a lovely couple of pubs at either ends of the reserve. The Red Lion and The Grove Ferry. Both great for food and drinks and a well deserved rest after a long walk!

map

Find out more about Kent’s nature reserves here kents-national-nature-reserves

Days out

Leeds Castle

Heading for a day out at Leeds Castle in the sunshine! Saw some cygnets with a black swan. We’re keeping our eyes peeled for the elusive kingfishers that have been spotted around here! Leeds castle is a great day out for all ages.  We had a lovely walk round the grounds spotting the many birds that make it their home. You can explore the castle and learn about the history of the beautiful building. Or to keep the kids happy there is a live falconry demo, a maze, playground area and local Solley’s Ice cream in a variety of flavours. I personally went for salted caramel. It was ace! They also have an activity trail available for kids to complete (for a small extra charge). The best thing about Leeds Castle is that the ticket price includes repeat entry for a whole year! To beat the queues, you can book online but it must be at least a day in advance.