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Beachcombing in Kent

PUBLISHED: 10:54 19 August 2010 | UPDATED: 17:42 20 February 2013

Beachcombing in Kent

Beachcombing in Kent

With a coastline that's the meeting point between the North Sea, The Thames Estuary and the English Channel, no wonder Kent is a treasure trove for beachcombers....

Kent has a unique position in Britain. Our coastline is the meeting point between the North Sea, The Thames Estuary and the English Channel. This means that all kinds of different objects from these waters find their way to our beaches, he explains.
Then youve also got several towns, specifically around Thanet that have been major tourist destinations for years. Somewhere like Margate has been a tourist spot since 1735, so people have been leaving items on
the beach or in the sea for nearly
300 years. In Margate alone Ive found key fobs, personalised rings
and tokens with the names of Victorian businesses on them.
Although beachcombing is often seen as something to do in the summer, largely because the good weather makes a trip down to the coast more appealing, its actually something that can be done all year round. But, as Phil explains, some times are slightly better than others.
I find that spring tide is the best time to go out beachcombing. These tides do occur in the spring, but
not just then. The term spring-tide means those times of year when
the gravitational effects of the
moon and sun are in line, causing higher than average high tides,
and lower-than-average low tides.
Unusually low tides can reveal all kinds of treasures. Ironically, some of the best spring tides do occur in the spring, but at any time of year these tides can expose interesting finds.
Another good time to go beachcombing is following a storm. Not only do storms churn up the seabed, releasing long-buried items but, says Tony, they can also reveal items hidden on the beach for decades.
This happened a few years ago following a severe storm that hit Margate. Around Newgate Gap, at the site of the old bathing station (which had long since been torn down), my son and I found a small, sand-filled crater that had been revealed around the stump of the stations central post.
Using a trowel we dug out the
hole and found many coins in layers as we dug down to about three feet, he says. Most of the coins were
pre-First World War and were
more than likely lost by people using the bathing station at the time.
In total we found 176 coins, the oldest being an 1889 florin.
In recent polls two Kent beaches, Westbay and Herne Bay East,
featured in the top 10 locations
for beachcombing in the UK. But although these might be among the best nationally, because of its unique position most of the countys coastline offers something for beachcombers.
Local artist, Steve McPherson (above) found that the beach where he grew up near Margate was a treasure trove for a budding beachcomber.
I found all sorts on the beach; bits of dolls, jewellery, hair clips even a gas mask. Some of these have been left behind but other bits have probably travelled for miles, he says.
One thing I did and still do sometimes find is Baltic amber, which has obviously travelled some distance. You get all kinds of different sizes and the colours are beautiful, ranging from clear to normal amber. Ive even found bits of white and black amber.
Although beachcombing was a childhood passion, it was something that stayed with Steve as he grew up. So it was perhaps inevitable that at some point he would begin to incorporate it into his work.
I always wanted to start using
the materials that I found while beachcombing, he explains.
In the end, what inspired me was marine plastic. Some of this is easily identifiable, such as, dice, forks and parts of old dolls. Other plastics that
I use are less identifiable. These are just bits of plastic that have been worn by the sea and faded by the sun.
At first sight the things Ive collected seem to have no worth. And yet to me each has a story. When you think of a piece of plastic thats found on a beach, not only are you linked to the person who threw it away you are also linked to the people who made it, possibly thousands of miles away.
The same is true of something
like a doll. No obvious worth, but
at one time this was a childs
precious toy, he adds.
Thats what my marine plastic work is about: illustrating the way in which something found on a beach can have a deeper resonance than is assumed at first sight.
One touching aspect of Steves beachcombing, but not something used in his work, concerns those rarest of finds, a message in a bottle.
Ive found a few of these over the years. I always make sure that I reply to the letter thats inside. When I was a kid, I would have been overjoyed to think that someone had found my letter and bothered to reply, so thats why I do it. Its one of the most enjoyable things a beachcomber can find.
My daughters initial excitement
a few years ago has since become infectious and now no family trip
to the beach is complete without
a little beachcombing. Its a
wonderful way to spend an afternoon.
The only downside for me it
my childrens discovery of how
much I hate seaweed. From their cheeky grins I know that inevitably some of it is going to land on my head, because witnessing my horrified reaction is almost as much fun as the beachcombing itself.

Kent has a unique position in Britain. Our coastline is the meeting point between the North Sea, The Thames Estuary and the English Channel. This means that all kinds of different objects from these waters find their way to our beaches, he explains.


Then youve also got several towns, specifically around Thanet that have been major tourist destinations for years. Somewhere like Margate has been a tourist spot since 1735, so people have been leaving items on
the beach or in the sea for nearly300 years. In Margate alone Ive found key fobs, personalised ringsand tokens with the names of Victorian businesses on them.

Although beachcombing is often seen as something to do in the summer, largely because the good weather makes a trip down to the coast more appealing, its actually something that can be done all year round. But, as Phil explains, some times are slightly better than others."I find that spring tide is the best time to go out beachcombing.

These tides do occur in the spring, butnot just then. The term spring-tide means those times of year whenthe gravitational effects of the
moon and sun are in line, causing higher than average high tides,
and lower-than-average low tides.


Unusually low tides can reveal all kinds of treasures. Ironically, some of the best spring tides do occur in the spring, but at any time of year these tides can expose interesting finds.


Another good time to go beachcombing is following a storm. Not only do storms churn up the seabed, releasing long-buried items but, says Tony, they can also reveal items hidden on the beach for decades.

This happened a few years ago following a severe storm that hit Margate. Around Newgate Gap, at the site of the old bathing station (which had long since been torn down), my son and I found a small, sand-filled crater that had been revealed around the stump of the stations central post.

Using a trowel we dug out the
hole and found many coins in layers as we dug down to about three feet, he says. Most of the coins werepre-First World War and were
more than likely lost by people using the bathing station at the time.In total we found 176 coins, the oldest being an 1889 florin.
In recent polls two Kent beaches, Westbay and Herne Bay East,featured in the top 10 locationsfor beachcombing in the UK. But although these might be among the best nationally, because of its unique position most of the countys coastline offers something for beachcombers.

Local artist, Steve McPherson (top photos) found that the beach where he grew up near Margate was a treasure trove for a budding beachcomber.
I found all sorts on the beach; bits of dolls, jewellery, hair clips even a gas mask. Some of these have been left behind but other bits have probably travelled for miles, he says.


One thing I did and still do sometimes find is Baltic amber, which has obviously travelled some distance. You get all kinds of different sizes and the colours are beautiful, ranging from clear to normal amber. Ive even found bits of white and black amber.

Although beachcombing was a childhood passion, it was something that stayed with Steve as he grew up. So it was perhaps inevitable that at some point he would begin to incorporate it into his work.

I always wanted to start usingthe materials that I found while beachcombing, he explains.In the end, what inspired me was marine plastic. Some of this is easily identifiable, such as, dice, forks and parts of old dolls. Other plastics thatI use are less identifiable. These are just bits of plastic that have been worn by the sea and faded by the sun.

At first sight the things Ive collected seem to have no worth. And yet to me each has a story. When you think of a piece of plastic thats found on a beach, not only are you linked to the person who threw it away you are also linked to the people who made it, possibly thousands of miles away.

The same is true of somethinglike a doll. No obvious worth, but
at one time this was a childsprecious toy, he adds.
Thats what my marine plastic work is about: illustrating the way in which something found on a beach can have a deeper resonance than is assumed at first sight.


One touching aspect of Steves beachcombing, but not something used in his work, concerns those rarest of finds, a message in a bottle.Ive found a few of these over the years. I always make sure that I reply to the letter thats inside. When I was a kid, I would have been overjoyed to think that someone had found my letter and bothered to reply, so thats why I do it. Its one of the most enjoyable things a beachcomber can find.

My daughters initial excitementa few years ago has since become infectious and now no family tripto the beach is complete without
a little beachcombing. Its awonderful way to spend an afternoon.

The only downside for me ismy childrens discovery of how
much I hate seaweed. From their cheeky grins I know that inevitably some of it is going to land on my head, because witnessing my horrified reaction is almost as much fun as the beachcombing itself.


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