With some time between jobs, I finally visited Whitstable to see my friend Keith who settled here years ago. It was cold – even for a Midlander classed as a Northerner here – but sunny and with a calm, shimmering sea.
Whitstable is an oyster town, as you’ll see in the following pics. Oysters were basically the Georgian and Victorian version of the Big Mac – tasty and portable but with more goodness. Street food for all classes. And with lots of racy claims unlikely to attach themselves to a burger thrown in. That’d be the zinc. More info in the Standard here.
Back in the day horses drew the oysters up here before they went onto London. The best would stay local and the rest be sent up the Thames. In 1851 Victorian chronicler and journalist Henry Mayhew estimates 124 million a year were sold by costermongers in the capital. A piece on Oyster Day in Victorian London can be found here.
At least we spell the word differently. I believe Americans spell both as groin.
Yes, there’s an obvious joke about groynes too, but I’m not going to make it. Beyond us is the Isle of Sheppey (bit of a whipping boy for ‘that lot over there’ kind of jokes in these parts) and also Sealand. Plenty has been written about that fascinating principality if you fancy hitting Wiki.
Meanwhile we had a pint of Whitstable ale. What else? Just along from the Neptune pub is Peter Cushing’s bench. He’d sit there and enjoy watching and painting. It’s called Cushing’s View. The Hammer films actor’s name lends itself to the local Wetherspoons too. I don’t know if more or less blood is spilt there than in the Hammer films as we had a pint at the East Kent instead.
I must’ve explained where I’m from several times (when asked). For those living in the south east England can stop at Wembley for many, with a vague football or musical or motorway idea of Brum or Manchester or Liverpool. ‘About halfway between Brum and Manchester but nearer Brum,’ I’d try. You know? Alton Towers? Teapots and plates. Kids without shoes? (You have to play up to their perceptions a bit – it’s expected). Still shakes of heads. But then many of us in the Midlands and North are guilty of failing to venture beyond London or Brighton and that’s a shame as Kent is beautiful with interesting history.
Back in the late 90s I did my BTP training at Ashford and rail replacement meant I often had a lengthy bus journey from south London. On those summer evenings the countryside was wonderful. I decided I could stare at orchards and oast houses from a train all day if Kent was the size of Texas.
I wouldn’t fancy hauling this boat up the gravel. Whitstable is flat but there are paths and alleys everywhere, similarly to other fishing towns.
I look forward to returning. It’s about 70 minutes from St Pancras so very well connected to the Midlands and North via Euston and King’s Cross. I’ll get around to writing up Broadstairs next…..