Claudia DowellSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Travel and touring’ written by Claudia Dowell
Other than driving to Dover for the ferry to travel further afield, it has been a while since I explored Kent's countryside and coast: one time for its vineyards and gardens, another when I was looking into the Cinque Ports Confederation. Both were interesting visits, packed with history and innovation.
It has been a lot longer since I visited the Isle of Thanet. I was a small child and we were picking up a Siamese cat. My mother adored them.
Long before Kent became well known as an English wine producing region, it was busy growing another kind of vine - hops - used in the production of beer. In fact, my Dad went hop picking as a lad and loved it, despite the hard work.
So, on this occasion, I visited the Hop Farm and Kent Life, both near Maidstone, to learn more about the hop picking and was fascinated to discover that stilt walkers helped put together the tall structures up which the vines climb. It was the first time I had thought of this particular skill as being necessary to an industry. Hop picking was used as an annual holiday for many working class Londoners, with the social side of it being remembered with a great deal of affection. Many of the hop gardens have disappeared but the growing interest in micro-breweries has seen a resurgence.
To the beach
With many people deciding to take their caravanning holidays in the UK, there has been a resurgence in popularity of seaside towns, too. Margate in particular has been described as the 'cool' place to visit. I wanted to find out why and discovered a thriving 'old town' packed with independent shops, cafes and galleries. These include, of course, the Turner Contemporary, which has done much to lift the town out of the doldrums, along with the revamping of the town's Dreamland theme park.
Ramsgate's busy marina brings vibrancy to a town, which during the war harboured a network of underground streets that sheltered its citizens from bombling raids. The Ramsgate Tunnels should definitely be on your list of must-visits. And well-to-do Broadstairs, which was a favourite of Charles Dickens, is famed for its ice-cream parlours. Add in the isles' beautiful beaches and bays and you have the ideal location for a family holiday.