Good Morning Broadstairs.
It came as no surprise that the Viking Bay Beach was already crowded with sun seekers on the Bank Holiday Sunday. A steady stream of people came down from the train station and a queue of cars kept constantly blocking the narrow high street. We were glad that we had easy access to the beaches in and around Broadstairs from our cute little fishing cottage, which lay hidden away around a small courtyard in row of flint stone houses, a stone throw from both Viking and Stone Bay. However we had decided that after a relaxing breakfast at Beaches Café, we would jump onto our bikes (which we had taken onto the train from London) and cycle towards Ramsgate. There I had discovered hidden in a park a most unusual place for afternoon tea, but before that we wanted to find a suitable spot on the sandy beach along the coast for a swim.
Charles Dickens House
Pushing our bikes along The Parade, high above Viking Bay, we passed the Dickens House and Museum, a pretty cottage that inspired the writer for Betsey’s cottage in his famous David Copperfield novel. It can be visited on a few days throughout the year, anybody wishing to do so, should check opening times in advance. In case it is closed Dickens fans could head to Bleak House for an afternoon tea in the beautiful gardens or even a stay in one of the traditional rooms of the small hotel, just like Charles Dickens did during his lifetime.
Sandy Viking Bay Beach
Viking Bay in Broadstairs is without a doubt a great sandy beach, with access to restaurants, shops and even a fun play zone with trampolines, bouncy castle and other attractions for families with kids, a great alternative for cooler days or as an interruption from playing on the beach and in the sea. There is also a lift for anyone with disabilities or pushchairs to access the beach below the chalk cliffs. Further along The Parade, market stalls offered their goods, anything from second hand clothes to paintings of scenic spots in the area. A fun fair had been set up for the Bank Holiday weekend including a vintage steam carousel and traditional chair-o-plane, however, after a day of thrilling rides at Margate Dreamland we gave it a miss.
Cycling Along the Promenade
Taking the coastal path down a steep hill, towards Louisa Bay and Ramsgate, we were surprised to find that the masses of beach goers must have confined themselves to Viking Bay as after a short stretch the beach was almost empty. It shows that it pays to get off the beaten track and walk just a few meters along the coast to get away from the crowds. Cycling the promenade on the sea defences at the bottom of the cliffs towards Dumpton Gap, the calm sea was like a deep blue blanket against the light blue sky. We kept an eye out for a space on the sand, where we could lay down our towel and where Jerome would have enough space to fly his stunt kite without having to mind too many people around him.
On the Beach
Having chosen a spot halfway a long and while the boys attempted to fly the kite, I tried to venture into the sea. The low tide meant that I had to walk further to reach the water’s edge, only to find that the North Sea at this time of year (May) was still too chilly for my liking and I did not advance further than my knees, even though the sunny and unusually warm air temperatures were rather tempting for a short dip. There were plenty of other beach goers braver then me, maybe if the sea would be clear and turquoise I would have taken the plunge…
Ramsgate, the Only Royal Port
After a few hours on the beach between Broadstairs and Dumpton Gap, playing Frisbee, kite flying, beach combing and rock pooling we returned to the saddles of our bikes and cycled on towards Ramsgate. Ramsgate is the only Royal Port in the United Kingdom and has its own sandy beach below the chalk cliffs, but that is not why we had chosen to make the detour from our day on the beach.
The Remarkable Italianate Conservatory
Hidden among the lush greenery in King George VI Memorial Park on the cliff tops is a gem of 18th century architecture, the Italianate Conservatory. This structure is an absolute highlight, a delicate cast iron frame with scalloped glass panels creating an intriguing pattern to the remarkable glasshouse. Inside the rounded panels created mesmerising shadows on the wall. We immediately fell in love with the beautiful building and exotic plants, set among a verdant garden with interesting shrubs and flowers.
A Large Agave Flower
One of the exciting species in the greenhouse is a large agave, over a hundred years old, which is the main plant found inside one end of the Italianate Conservatory. Its three meters tall, asparagus like flower stalk, has shot up through the glass roof, forcing the owners to remove some of the scalloped panels to allow the flower to spread to the outside. Sadly the agave has therefore met its deathbed as they generally die after having flowered just once during their lifetime.
Enjoying Traditional Afternoon Tea
Besides my wish to discover this outstanding architectural building we were there to enjoy a traditional afternoon tea. The friendly owner bakes all cakes and scones herself and although we only tried the scones, the cakes looked just as delicious and those with a savoury tooth can enjoy toasted paninis with a side salad. After ordering our tea and scones we sat down in the beautiful garden at one of the tables in the warm sun. Jerome kept wandering off to explore the selection of cacti and succulents inside the glasshouse, while Chris admired some of the rare plants in the garden.
The Best Scones Ever!
The light, fluffy, scones were without a doubt among the best we have ever tasted, even Chris said they could closely match those of his late mother, which is probably the highest compliment any baker could ever receive! We relished them so much that we returned for more the following day and even made a special day trip to Ramsgate a few weeks later with a stop at the Italianate Tea Garden for more scones with cream and jam!
More fun to Come…
After savouring the delicious scones and tea at the Italianate Conservatory there was more fun for us that afternoon. After exiting the park and admiring the view over Ramsgate beach and port we returned towards Broadstairs on our bicycles where we would play a fun game of mini golf and discover some of the colourful beach huts on Stone Bay Beach. Please find out more in our following post.