10 good reasons to visit Deal
PUBLISHED: 12:55 23 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:26 20 February 2013
It's festival time in this delightful seaside town, which has its own castle, a pier beloved of fisherman, history galore and lots to see and do
10 good reasons to visit Deal
Its festival time in this delightful seaside town, which has its own castle, a pier beloved of fisherman, history galore and lots to see and do
Deal Festival of Music and the Arts runs from 24 June-3 July (box office 01304 381134), and evolved from the first (1982) Deal Summer Music Festival. Now it is a celebration of all kinds of music: opera, street and classical music, cabaret, world music and jazz. There are also talks, art exhibitions, literary events, performances, walks, cabaret and theatre at various venues around town, and also in Sandwich and Dover. This years participants include Sir Andrew Motion (poetry), the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Sir Thomas Allen and Dame Felicity Lott (opera), Betteshanger Brass Academy (brass band) and the European Union Chamber Orchestra.
The official residence of the Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports is Walmer Castle (01304 364288), and parts of it are open to the public, as are the gardens. Previous Lord Wardens have included the Duke of Wellington, William Pitt and HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Theres an audio tour and you can see the bedroom where the Duke of Wellington died (and view his legendary boots and death mask), and there are great sea views from the castle bastion. Tearoom, and croquet on the lower terrace.
Fossils, bats and birds
Fowlmead Country Park (01304 615390) was once the spoil tip of the Betteshanger Colliery and now the land has been transformed into a world-class nature reserve. Theres a lake and two ponds, a wood and meadows, and its the only place in the south east where you can see fossil plants from 310 million years ago. It is also a venue for national and international cycling events, with a track described by British Cycling as the best in the country. You can also take part in archery, orienteering and running events, as well as do kite flying, ornithology, rambling, and study wildlife. Ornithologists will love the purpose-built octagonal bird observatory.
Submarine cables and signalling
Deal was an important dockyard in the days of sail because its offshore waters were popular anchorage for wind-waiting vessels. The Timeball Tower was originally built for signalling the time to these ships, so they could synchronise their chronometers: the large ball was raised to the towers top and allowed to fall at exactly 1 oclock each day. Now the structure is a striking four-floor museum (01304 373417), with exhibits of historic clocks, navigational instruments and interactive displays of shutter and semaphore telegraphs. There are also parts of original submarine cables, plus information on historic signalling and smuggling. Great views of Deal, the coast and the Downs from the top floor.
Carry on smuggling
One of the stars of the Carry on films, Charles Hawtry, lived at number 177 Middle Street (theres a commemorative plaque), and this road and Alfred Street were the centre of Deals thriving smuggling activities. These areas were once alive with press gangs, prostitutes, sailors and smugglers there are many underground passages for contraband in existence today, some of which lead to local churches. Beach Street is a sunny seaside road with plenty of history too: Admiral Nelson caused consternation when he and Lady Hamilton stayed together at the Royal Hotel here in 1801.
Third time lucky
Deals first, half-completed, pier was smashed by a storm on the beach; the next one suffered similar weather damage twice and was successfully repaired both times, until in 1940 a mine-damaged Dutch ship acted as a battering ram and brought down much of the structure, and the remainder was demolished. The current (1957) pier, despite an incompetent design that meant its lower level was permanently covered by the sea, has not only survived, its also a top venue for national and international anglers and home to fishing competitions. Jasins Restaurant Caf Bar at the piers end has won architectural awards for its cutting edge design (great food, too, plus terrific views).
Deal Castle was the largest of three forts built to defend the Downs, and you can explore it from the storerooms to the first-floor captains residence; theres an audio tour of the castle and
18th-century officers quarters. At the castles centre is a round tower, constructed to support guns on its roof. Around the base are six semi-circular bastions, one of which forms the gatehouse. The outer bastions once had space for four guns on the flat roofs, allowing for three below. In late 16th century the six outer bastions were filled with earth, and in 1648 the castle came under siege during the Civil War.
Tides Leisure Centre (01304 373399) is a multi-purpose sports and leisure centre with indoor tennis courts. Theres a free-form leisure pool with wave machines and jacuzzi pools; the pool has a gently sloping beach area, plus a caf terrace overlooking the water. Also a sports hall, health and fitness club, sauna/steam suite and a three-court indoor tennis centre, bar area, a four-court sports hall for badminton, five-a-side football, basketball, netball and volleyball.
Saxon King and The Cutty Sark
The Deal Maritime and Local History museum (01304 373684) is a showcase for Deals maritime history. A display of historic vessels includes a gallery called Saxon King, plus a large collection of model boats, including that of The Cutty Sark. There are ships figureheads, the only two known examples of Stern boards, displays that include lifebelts and famous life-boats, exhibits on the history of the Cinque Ports, a local history gallery and paintings of Deal scenes. The historic boat yard has cannon, boats, an anchor field and prints, pictures and memorabilia of the Deal Boatmen, local lifeboat crews and the Royal Marines.
Three fine churches
Grand St Georges church has an imposing faade and interesting stained glass, including the hope window, with this word incorporated in the design. Among those buried in its churchyard is Captain Edward Parker RN, friend of Lord Nelson, who worshipped in the church, as did many of his officers and men. St Leonards church is largely Norman and Georgian, but has additions from most eras, with medieval stonework concealed by brick and an elaborate font. St Andrews church has many stained-glass windows by Alexander Gibbs.
HOW TO GET THERE
Deal is at the end of the A258, linked to Sandwich (4.5 miles north) and Dover (7 miles) to the south, and you can approach from the Dover end, reached via the A2/M2 or the A20/M20 from the M25 or from Sandwich, taking the A257 from Canterbury. Nearest station is at Sandwich, but there are good bus and coach links.
Satnav postcode: CT14 6BB