Take a break in Sandwich
PUBLISHED: 16:13 21 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:12 20 February 2013
Springtime in Sandwich is a magical time, when the Secret Gardens are in bloom, the Cattle Market is bustling, and the boats on the quay bob and sway on the River Stour. Come and rejuvenate your senses in this medieval gem
Take a break in Sandwich
Famous both for its fourth earl christening the worlds favourite snack, and for growing Englands first celery, Sandwich was also once one of the prosperous Cinque Ports until its harbour silted up. Its an extraordinarily bright, cheerful, enervating place with scores of things to do and exquisite places to see.
The Old Dutch House, Flemish brickwork and a street called Delft Street illustrate Sandwichs Dutch influenced past, and the towns French twin is Honfleur.
Stroll around Saturday
Walk the walls
Although much of the main town walls have disappeared you can still walk around the remaining original 14th-century earthworks, now roads Mill Wall, Rope Walk and the Butts, permitting wonderful views out across the rooftops.
Splendid buildings include those on Strand Street (The 15th-century Sandwich Weavers building, entrance to the Kings Lodging and the marvellous Old Dutch house), plus mysterious Holy Ghost Alley off the High Street. In the lovely Cattle Market town square is the fine Guildhall and museum (01304 617197), while the town centre is dominated by grand St Peters church, with its breathtaking Dutch-style gable and beautiful walled garden.
Down by the river
There are tremendous views of the river and sailing craft from the bridge on The Quay, on the banks of the Stour, and there is the splendid Barbican gate, under which traffic has to pass to reach the High Street.
To the north of town youll find Gazen Salts Nature Reserve (07889 866959), a man-made landscape on the banks of the Stour. Here there are 60 species of trees and shrubs, a lake, and you can take woodland walks and see 160 recorded species of bird, including moorhens, reed- and sedge-warblers.
The Bell Hotel (01304 613388) dates from the 19th century and has the Old Dining Room Restaurant and two bars. It has been awarded an AA rosette and the Breakfast Award from Enjoy England. The Kings Arms Hotel (01304 617330) was built around 1580 and has a fine restaurant.
Birds and butterflies
Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory Trust (01304 617341) has a tower for all-round views of the area, and apart from avian life you can see butterflies, dragonflies, as well as rare species of orchids, plus there are walks, talks and workshops, and a shop selling books, bird accoutrements, and refreshments.
Alternatively, visit the restored White Mill Rural Heritage Centre mill (07891 389 675), which was built in 1760, and has original wooden machinery and is the oldest restored windmill in Kent; theres also the Millers Cottage incorporating a museum and outbuildings, and you can see exhibitions of needlework and farming implements, including a metal plough, as well as an authentic historic wheelwrights and cobblers shops.
The Secret Gardens of Sandwich (01304 619919) surround The Salutation, a privately owned listed manor house. Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll planned these gardens, which are now restored to their former beauty.
There are tree-lined avenues, archways and hedges, an elegant Bowling Lawn, the White and Yellow gardens, woodland areas, a wild meadow garden, plus a huge range of plants, and The Salutation Tea Rooms in the old gatehouse. Daffodil week is from 26March-1 April, and theres a Sandwich Dahlia festival 1-16 September.
Relax with a pint
The Crispin Inn (01304 621967) has the olde-world charm of a traditional English pub, was built in 1491, and serves quality English wines from local Barnsole Vineyard, plus great traditional English beers and fine home-cooked food. The Admiral Owen (01304 611145), dating from 1546, is an equally entrancing timber-framed ancient inn.
Where to stay
Harfleet House (01304 611173) in historic Strand Street dates from 1250 and is a marvellous example of a Grade II-listed medieval Hall House the entire house is open to the public on one day a year.
Guests stay in one complete self-contained wing, a suite of rooms at the front of the house, says owner Susie Thatcher. People are always excited to see whats behind the beautiful historic faade, which is all you see of most medieval Sandwich houses.
Its been refurbished over the years, but retains all the original features. We let rooms to adult families, and were proud to have an inner courtyard thats similar to that of Leeds castle. Weve had newly-weds who prefer staying here to the most exclusive hotels, because our accommodation really is so special.
Three-centuries old (listed) Orchard Barn (01304 615045) is less than two miles from the town centre, and guest accommodation comprises an entire wing, including sitting and dressing rooms, and theres a 10% discount for three nights or more.
This is a very unusual old barn, a cosy home-from-home, rather than an impersonal hotel, and guests have self-contained rooms, explains owner Alison Ross Our food is sourced locally, and we have our own chickens, theyre all quirky characters children enjoy feeding them. A lot of people are really surprised to see so many medieval buildings in town.
Sandwich is near the east Kent coast, just south of the Isle of Thanet, midway between Ramsgate and Deal and 75 miles from London and 14 from Canterbury. Take the A257 from Canterbury (via the M2/A2) or follow the A256/A299 from Ramsgate. Theres a station and bus and coach links.
Satnav postcode: CT13 9AH
Arthur Lock, founder of Locks of Sandwich Cycles (01304 617161)
Tell us a bit about you
My wife Eileen and I have lived in Sandwich for 32 years, during which time we ran Locks of Sandwich Cycles. Were now retired, but the business is still thriving under new owner, Andy Croucher, and we still live above the King Street shop. Prior to settling in Sandwich we lived in various different parts of the world.
What do you like about Sandwich?
The place always fills me with a strange sense of belonging, ever since I cycled down here from London as a boy with my mate Ginger, and we slept in a hayrick at the back of town. Even at 10 years old, I knew it was the place I wanted to live if I could. Weve got wonderful friendly, welcoming people, lots of clubs and societies and an extremely low crime rate.
Any Sandwich-related hobbies?
I was in Rotary for 35 years, and also belong to a famous charitable organisation, as well as taking part in the Sandwich Preservation Group, which is a grand group of people.
Whats the secret of Sandwichs success?
Weve got some brilliant service shops, so people dont have to go further afield. Carpenters hardware, Brewers shoe shop and Wymans Electricals, among many others, are all absolutely top-hole stores.
Your favourite local places?
Holy Ghost Alley, and I adore all four churches and the beautiful quayside of course.
Sum up Sandwich
Sandwich is stuck in a lovely time warp and long may it continue to be a charming medieval town. Sandwich, to me, is a place where Ive always felt as if I belonged, somewhere to come home to. Once you come to Sandwich you become embedded there, a part of the Sandwich scene, and it really is rather lovely.