Chelmsford YHA Group

CYHA News

The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group

November 2013

Dreamland

Dreamland, Margate

Itís September, the kids have gone back to school and thereís a distinct chill in the air - so what could be better than a trip to the seaside?

We booked ourselves in to the YH in Margate, which is down the quiet end of town at Westbrook Bay, right on the seafront. As we were only going as far as Kent, we arrived in plenty of time to find ourselves a pub for a bit of a nightcap. The pub we found was very retro, right down to the sawdust on the floor, but the ales were excellent.

Saturday, and after a splendid Dave P breakfast, we hit the streets for a tour of the town. Cress had downloaded a town trail for us to follow, so we started ticking off the points of interest. The first was a memorial for seamen lost during a storm that apparently cost so much to build there was nothing left for the widows and children. We also bagged a couple of architectural landmarks before heading out to a snazzy little coffee shop on the harbour to check out the fluffy pink umbrellas. This was obviously the trendy end of town. There was a gallery with metal insects nailed to logs by a pest controller, and the new Turner Gallery was only a stoneís throw away.

After doing the arty bits we moved on to the town museum to get a fix of local history. Margate has a fascinating history, being where seabathing was invented, as well as being a destination for those seeking fun and entertainment in the sun.

Dreamland was once home to the oldest amusement park in Britain, with cinema, waltzers and a scenic railway dating from the 1920s. The museum had dozens of photos showing Dreamland in its prime right through to the 60s and 70s. It hosted all the stars of itís day, including the Stones and the Beatles, but closed in the early noughties. Itís still there, admittedly looking very sad, and is the lynch pin of a plan for regeneration of the seafront.

A portion of the museum was devoted to WWII and in particular the Dunkirk evacuation. It was quite a while before we made it back outside, blinking in the sunshine. It took several cups of tea and a wedge of cake to get us back on the town trail, this time heading for the Shell Grotto.

No one seems to know who built the Shell Grotto as it was discovered fully formed in the 19th century. Still, someone was dedicated enough to carve out the passageways and line them with something close to 4Ĺ million shells. They obviously didnít get out much.

The next day we decided to walk the coast, so we took the train east to Herne Bay and walked back to Margate taking in beaches, cliffs, the Reculver towers and the test site for the bouncing bomb. A moderately long walk, but easy terrain and a decent tearoom (shared with a bunch of ageing bikers). Not the most challenging of weekends, but very varied with plenty of cake. Splendid.

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Paddles up!

Sunset on the Thames from PS Waverley

For those of you who didnít book on the Waverley trip: what a mistake! Admittedly the weather was a complete fluke, but what a day! Dave and I arrived in Harwich in good time for the departure, so we indulged in a bit of photography whilst we waited. The water in the estuary was mirror calm, perfectly reflecting the cloudless blue sky. The staff were still mopping and polishing the Waverley in preparation for the trip.

The Waverley is the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world, and with bright red funnels and gleaming brass work, she is a sight to see.

Once Doug, George and Trevor joined us, we all climbed aboard and the adventure began. Gentle at first, we edged along the coast taking in Walton, Frinton, Clacton and Southend, then we started paddling up the Thames. Past Rainham Marshes, under the QEII bridge and through the Thames Barrier Ė we started passing all the bits weíd walked on the Thames path. The weather was still perfect, but now the sun was setting as we sailed up to Tower Bridge. All the lights were on in the twilight and as they opened the bridge for us to pass under an almighty cheer came from the crowd above. It was a truly magical day. Happy Birthday George!

Please send any comments on these pages to Dave Plummer