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10 reasons you should visit Herne Bay

PUBLISHED: 12:31 30 May 2017

Herne Bay Pier (photo: Alan Markham)

Herne Bay Pier (photo: Alan Markham)

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This hip and happening Victorian seaside resort is tipped as Kent’s next property hotspot. Words by: Caroline Read. In association with Canterbury City Council and Hello Herne Bay

1. Superb seaside

With two miles of coastline, a sand and shingle beach, colourful beach huts, seafront gardens, a pier and bandstand, Herne Bay is the epitome of the traditional British seaside resort. The pier, once one of the longest in the UK but later shortened, had been suffering from neglect but, following the demolition of its 1970’s pavilion, has had a new lease of life. Traditional rides, a Helter Skelter, stalls, amusements, a retail village with food and drink huts (fresh smoothie or Champagne and oysters anyone?), now ensure there are plenty of visitors to the landmark. Why not combine a spot of crabbing off the pier, with a handy ‘how to’ guide and a fisherman’s hut where you can buy the equipment? Don’t miss Sci Fi By The Sea (25 June) and the Southeast Airshow on (19 August, for which the BayPromoTeam has secured the Red Arrows, Eurofighter and The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight for a third successive year.

2. Unique museum

Herne Bay’s Seaside Museum is home to collections including photographs of the town’s Victorian heyday, an old Punch and Judy set and traditional seaside holiday memorabilia. In 2015 the Herne Bay Museum Trust took over the management of the museum from the local council and it now hosts a changing programme of exhibitions, with national touring exhibitions, local art and photography and events for all. Visit www.theseasidemuseumhernebay.org

Red Arrows passing over Herne Bay Clock Tower (photo: Alan Porter Images)Red Arrows passing over Herne Bay Clock Tower (photo: Alan Porter Images)

3. Shopping and eating

Browse through clothing boutique La De Da and gift shop Ophelia, shop for records at B Side the C Side, and visit the fabulous Briggsy’s Antiques Emporium and Maison Classique Vintage Fashion. Places to eat out include 1940’s-themed The Vintage Empire tearoom, The Green Door Deli, independent café The Wallflower, The Wine Bar, Charlie’s Bistro, traditional English restaurant Mortimers, The Pier fish and chips and the California Kitchen food hut in the pier village. Look out for the new mad hatters-themed tearoom Alice and the Hatter, and Indian restaurant, Maharaja, set within the historic bandstand building.

4. Green spaces

Herne Bay Memorial Park is the town centre’s largest open space. With formal planted gardens, mature trees, a lake, play area and several sporting facilities, it is a peaceful haven with a dedicated war memorial garden. Along the seafront, visit the sunken Waltrop Gardens and Reculver Country Park, with its clifftop paths, play area and an interpretation centre outlining the area’s geological and archaeological history, the wildlife to be seen on the marshes and rare clifftop wildflower meadows.

Enjoy the stunning sunsets (photo: Emily Noyes)Enjoy the stunning sunsets (photo: Emily Noyes)

5. Ancient landmarks

Reculver Towers are a striking pair of 12th-century church towers set on the edge of a cliff. The only part of the church remaining, preserved as a landmark for sailors, they are visible for miles around. But there are even earlier ruins here; the church was built in the centre of an old Roman fort, dating from around 200AD. Parts of the east wall are still visible today, along with the ruins of a small guard chamber. Visit www.english-heritage.org.uk

6. Wildlife park

Set in nearby Herne Common, Wildwood is a wild animal park with a difference. All the animals here are, or were, native to the British Isles, with more than 200 animals and birds at the 40-acre woodland site. Run by conservation charity the Wildwood Trust, there is everything from large European brown bears and bison to mice and stoats. With a strong focus on education and conservation, a visit can feel like a stroll through the woods – albeit with glimpses of wolves, lynx and beavers along the way. There’s a good café and a superb play area for children. Visit www.wildwoodtrust.org

Waltrop Gardens is a quasi-Victorian sunken garden, erected to celebrate the twinning of Waltrop and Herne Bay (photo: Emily Noyes)Waltrop Gardens is a quasi-Victorian sunken garden, erected to celebrate the twinning of Waltrop and Herne Bay (photo: Emily Noyes)

7. Follow the trail

Starting at either Reculver Country Park or Swalecliffe, the Oyster Bay Trail is a new walking and cycling route that takes in all of Herne Bay’s coast. At 6.7 miles in length, it’s a pleasant, mostly flat route. The first phase comprises around five miles of promenade, cycle paths and residential roads, with the remainder along Herne Bay’s seafront. Perfect for views of the sea, the big skies and the historic landscape, the trail is the ideal way to see all the area has to offer. Visit www.explorekent.org for the route

8. For the creatives

Beach Creative is a community art gallery showcasing works from Kent artists and host to workshops ranging from painting, printing and life drawing to creative writing and clay sculpting. Don’t miss One New Street, a small art gallery (open Fri, Sat or by appointment in the week); it also holds etching and lino-printing workshops. Seek out stage talent at 72-seater Herne Bay Little Theatre, home to an award-winning drama society. Upcoming plays include Visiting Hour (12-17 June) and Outside Edge (14-19 August). Film buffs can see latest releases as well as live streams from The National Theatre and The Royal Opera House at the independent Kavanagh Cinema. Or sample one of Beach Creative’s sketch, jam, jazz and poetry nights.

The Clock Tower, a Grade II listed landmark, is believed to be one of the earliest purpose-built, free-standing clock towers in the UKThe Clock Tower, a Grade II listed landmark, is believed to be one of the earliest purpose-built, free-standing clock towers in the UK

9. Old Father Time

One of Herne Bay’s most recognisable spots is the clock tower on Central Parade. Grade II listed and one of the oldest purpose-built clocks towers in the world, it dates from 1837 and was funded by the widow of a wealthy London grocer who regularly holidayed in the town. In 2012 a renovation project was set up and so far the work has included the addition of webcams, relaying views from the tower, and LED lights.

10. Walk on water

In the 1990s, the town’s flood defences were deemed inadequate and an offshore breakwater, now known as Neptune’s Arm, was built to protect the most vulnerable areas.

A boardwalk along the arm allows walkers to venture out to the very tip. Best visited at high tide and best avoided in windy conditions, it’s a nice flat walk that isn’t as far as it looks and will reward you in the end with a very unusual viewpoint. You’ll also be able to get a better view of the pier head – the derelict end of the pier, which was cut off from it years ago.

Keep up to date with Herne Bay at www.facebook.com/HelloHerneBay

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