KENT: Seasalter and environs

Oystercatchers at rear lr

L-R: Oystercatchers at Seasalter

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By Tim Saunders

The oystercatcher is a bird associated with the coast since the 15th century. This is a fact that we learn while staying at Oystercatchers, a delightful holiday home at Seasalter in Whitstable, Kent. Its primarily wooden structure is painted powder blue and reminds us of a Norwegian home.

This part of the world is famed for oysters and sitting looking through the telescope in the sitting room it is easy to spot oystercatchers with their distinctive orange beaks and black bodies. During our break they tend to visit quite early in the morning to do their fishing in groups with some returning nearer lunchtime for another forage. Birdwatching is not something that I have previously thought to do but sitting down in a comfy chair on a heated floor on a bitter winter’s day I am drawn to the telescope, as are the children. The stone floor with its underfloor heating ensures that while temperatures are sub zero outside thanks to the harsh arctic winds, we really are toasty warm inside.

It is quite unique to find a house where the beach is quite literally at the back door and with views over to the Isle of Sheppey. The many windows make it a joy to just sit inside and watch the different weather patterns and the changes in light. In fact on our first day we do little else but lounge about supping coffee and savouring the views. A selection of fresh coffee is kindly provided together with a coffee machine and it is not long before Caroline sets about trying it. With magazines (local and national), books about art and games to keep us all amused it is a good opportunity to relax and unwind. We find ourselves totally inspired. It really gets the creative juices flowing. In fact I pick up an Ian Rankin Rebus novel and manage to read 100 pages over the short break. And I start planning my own novel...

Just down the road is The Oyster Pearl Pub and Restaurant and when we do venture out we are tempted to pop inside. I always like to try the local ale when travelling and in this neck of the woods Spitfire is the pint of choice, brewed by Shepherd Neame, Britain’s oldest brewer, trading since 1698. You cannot help but admire a company that has weathered countless recessions, survived and conquered. Many businesses would like to know its success, I am sure. Over 300 years of experience certainly produces a tasty pint. Accompanied with a splendid and highly recommended homemade tomato soup it is followed by beer battered fish and chips, which we all thoroughly enjoy. “Oh you must try one of the desserts,” recommends our extremely helpful waitress. So we all decide on the poached pear with cream and chocolate. All the food is beautifully presented. It is rare to have the luxury of such a fine restaurant right on your doorstep. It is such a joy to be presented with delicious food that you cannot make at home.

Seasalter is only a few miles from Faversham, a market town only 48 miles from London. In fact it is here that I pick up a local paper and see that they have written the pros and cons of the local area compared to the city. Many people live here and commute to London because the property prices are so much more affordable, very similar in fact to Hampshire where we live. I spy a lovely little Victorian one bed house in need of refurbishment in one of the pleasant villages for just £90,000. This is indeed a surprise in these days of ridiculous property prices. No doubt very small but still a bargain. The independent trader is very much championed here too and I enjoy mooching around a secondhand bookshop, which is an increasing rarity these days.

At Whitstable, the seaside town, we walk along the harbour where there are arty fishermen’s huts that open between March and September. Whitstable is home to a string of boutiques and visitors come from far and wide to purchase luxury gifts.

Kent has so much to offer a tourist and we have only really touched the surface but what we saw we liked very much indeed.

Diary:

Tuesday

Arrive

Wednesday

Walk on the windswept beach. Bitterly cold.

Thursday

Lunch at The Oyster Pearl Pub and Restaurant

Whitstable – many independent shops – lively and individual. We see a fisherman returning to the quay with lots of whelks.

Friday

Fly kite on the beach

Faversham

Saturday

Return home. Call in at two National Trust properties on the way: Knole, which is undergoing a £20m refurbishment. Should be complete in four years time. We walk around some of the 1,000 acres of land and see deer; here since the 17th century. Then on to Chartwell; Sir Winston Churchill’s house to pay our respects, as it is 50 years since he died.

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