All you need to know about beautiful Broadstairs
PUBLISHED: 12:20 18 August 2020
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
This charming coastal town has attracted many admirers over the years. It’s time to boast about Broadstairs | Words: Caroline Read - Pictures: Manu Palomeque
The motto on its crest reads Stella Maris, meaning ‘star of the sea’, and it couldn’t be more apt. This seaside town is unlike any other on the Kent coast and is famed for its beauty and character.
Looking for all the world like the kind of historic fishing village you would expect to see in Devon or Cornwall, it’s only 90 minutes from London.
The town grew up around a sheltered, horseshoe-shaped bay close to the older inland village of St Peter’s. Named after the ‘broad stairs’ carved into the chalk cliff that led from the beach to the 12th century shrine of St Mary, its original population – mostly farmers and fishermen – remained small for centuries. Later on smuggling would provide much of the town’s income.
It was only when the professional classes began to arrive in the middle of the 19th century that Broadstairs began to increase in size.
In 50 years its population doubled, with lawyers, architects and doctors moving their families to the seaside spot, along with artists, writers and poets. And, just as it did elsewhere, the Victorian fixation with sea air and saltwater bathing brought the holiday industry to Broadstairs.
The town was a favourite of Charles Dickens. First visiting as a child, he returned regularly throughout his life, even taking a holiday home for his family.
The impressive house he chose, which looms over the town and offers incredible views of the bay, was originally called Fort House but was renamed Bleak House in his honour.
Unlike some other seaside resorts, Broadstairs emerged relatively unscathed through the slump that affected seaside towns during the second half of the 20th century.
Never falling out of fashion, it’s always boasted many hotels, B&Bs, pubs and restaurants. Its unique combination of timeless character, mild weather and proximity to many of the south east’s best beaches kept visitors coming back over the decades and continues to do so today.
With several sandy beaches in the area, Broadstairs is the south east’s answer to Cornwall. As well as the pretty golden sands of Viking Bay – the town’s central beach – you can also explore Kingsgate Bay, Joss Bay, Stone Bay, Louisa Bay, Dumpton Gap and the sublime Botany Bay.
Normally this close-knit community puts on a number of annual events, but the pandemic has meant these have been put off until next year.
Broadstairs Dickens Festival, Folk Week, Broadstairs Food Festival and BroadstairsLit are all set to return in 2021.
Open for business
As well as many takeaways having remained open throughout lockdown, several of Broadstairs’ fab restaurants and cafés have been able to provide some sort of service over the past challenging weeks.
Restructuring their businesses to offer takeaway or delivery, these have included Alabrino’s tapas to go, Posillipo’s Italian takeaways, Samworth & Mee, Seggari’s, Siam Kitchen and Neptune’s Hall. The Bay Tree Hotel Restaurant has also been delivering within Thanet.
Other food businesses that have been delivering or offering contactless collection include local fishmongers, greengrocers, butchers and bakers, plus everything from coffee beans by Smiths to sugary treats from Sweet Yesterdays.
Salt of the Earth, which focuses on reduced waste, has operated throughout with supplies for those bringing their own containers. Pubs including The Four Candles, Mind the Gap and The Chapel have supplied drinks to enjoy at home.
Meanwhile, many of the small ‘non-essential’ independent shops and the major retailers at Westwood Cross out-of-town shopping centre reopened in June too, with safety measures of course in place.
With tourism and language schools the two core industries locally, times are tough for this community. And while this time of year would usually see the volunteer-run Town Team encouraging visitors, this year it has has to urge caution instead.
Chair Kerry Millett says: “While visitors are so important to Broadstairs in normal circumstances, a significant proportion of our residents are within the vulnerable groups, and therefore an increase in visitors brings an increase in risk of infection for them.
“The loosening of guidelines about exercise and meeting friends saw a dramatic increase in people gathering on our beaches earlier in the year.
“Local authority resources weren’t able to keep up with the volume of rubbish created and the facilities that people need for a day out were not available. Litter is always a problem, not just us, for all seaside towns.
“We love people to visit Broadstairs and experience what we are lucky enough to enjoy every day, but we would ask them to consider the effect their visit might have on our town and its residents.
“As the virus starts to abate, businesses are opening again, facilities will be available and safe to use and we hope to be able to actively encourage people to visit our town and beaches once again.”
The property market in Broadstairs has been buoyant for many years, but it’s hard to predict what will happen over coming months.
The market currently starts at £110,000 for a one-bedroom flat, with two-bed properties between £175,000 and £650,000.
The average price for a three-bed semi is around £370,000. At the top end of the market, Bleak House itself is for sale for £2.4million.
Broadstairs is accessible via the M2 and A299 and there’s a high-speed train from London St Pancras (around 85 minutes) and Ashford.
Celebrating coronavirus local heroes
Kitchen Social Broadstairs is a community cooking group set up by a small group of neighbours. In the wake of the pandemic, the group turned its attention to providing recipe boxes.
The Greens & Grocery Box scheme has been distributing fresh ingredients for home-cooked meals all across Thanet.
A second project distributing food to those in need has also launched, with referrals coming from Oasis Domestic Violence Service and East Kent Mind, among others. Search ‘Kitchen Social Broadstairs’ on Facebook for details.
Resident Jenny Faulkner set up an index of services and businesses operating during lockdown on the broadstairs.info website.
With a comprehensive list of shops and restaurants that were delivering, plus a list of local businesses offering special deals for keyworkers, it has been the go-to place for information about Broadstairs.
Other key community groups to offer support and information include Ageless Thanet (linked to Social Enterprise Kent), Broadstairs Town Shed (see also July Kent Life) and Kent Coast Volunteering.
Volunteers set up the portal and referral site thanetcoronavirus-assistance.com and both the Broadstairs Town Team and Town Council set up sections on their website to point people in the direction of help and information.