It was a sunny Sunday so Sue and I went in search of a beach. First thought was Margate - lovely sandy beaches with safe swimming, an art gallery and the regenerated old town with its shops and cafes. But nearly three hours on the train, and probably a couple to drive, which I wasn't keen on.
Whitstable? More accessible but muddy beaches and lots of DFLs (Down from London) to which we would add a couple more.
So with nothing more than a vague idea of what we would find, we headed for the Isle of Sheppey simply because someone we knew had told us she was going there a couple of days ago, and frankly what's good enough for her should be good enough for us. Plus it was less than an hour to drive and I knew the way!
Well it took us a while to find the good bit of Sheppey, but we got there in the end. We rejected Sheerness beach because it was too exposed, and Minster for the same reason. Heading towards Leysdown we discovered it was everything that we suspected it might be - rows of chalets, karaoke bars, fish and chip shops and acres of badly-dressed white flesh.
But the secret is not to give up - continue to the end of the road and you will discover a landscape without chalets and largely devoid of people too. This is Shellness and the coastal park.
We followed the coast past a smattering of ramshackle beach houses, some of them nothing more than shacks, others tarted up and obviously well used. Some had boats in the garden, others were surrounded by huge rosemary bushes, evening primrose, and arty sculptures made of flotsam and jetsam.
The following stretch takes you through the naturist beach - best to be aware of it so that you can take it in your stride, so to speak. It was quite busy when we passed by, a mixture of couples and families dotted among the sand-dunes and a number of single men standing proudly (some quite literally, ahem) next to their windbreaks.
Beyond the naturist beach is the private hamlet of Shellness, all fenced off quite aggressively with signs everywhere. But the land is only private above the high water mark, so you can walk around the beach quite easily and peer into their windows if you like
Ferry House Inn when we have more time.
It's a peaceful and quiet place, with very few people passing by, and
only the sound of the waves and the plaintive cries of Oyster Catchers
and Curlews for company.
We earmarked a walk for our next visit, taking in Harty
Ferry and the Ferry House Inn when we have more time. Colleen has written about this part of the island a few times, in a way that makes me yearn to visit it.
We never got our swim in the end - the sea was way out beyond the muddy flats and the breeze was quite stiff. But it was a glorious end to the day after such an unpromising start, and we came back with pockets full of shells and beach debris.
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