Having been separated from family and friends in Europe for over two and a half years, we have wanted to spend time with them catching up as well as exploring familiar and new locations. Having sampled champagne, refreshed our riding skills and confirmed that the Eiffel Tower has not rusted away, it was time to explore some of what the south of England has to offer with family.
We had planned to go to Yorkshire to go down memory’s lane with Anne’s mother, but the weather forecast promised 3 days of heavy rain. Quick change of plan and we decide to explore more of Kent instead. Choosing a coastal destination in Kent gives one a plethora of options. From estuarine towns the Medway around to the White cliffs of Dover the choice varied, each with a long history and variety of attractions.
Our first trip was to Broadstairs, a town of which we had never been to before. It is located in an area called the Isle of Thanet. When I first cane across this name, I naively thought was there an island off the Kent coast of which I was unaware. In one sense, I was right. The area referred to as Isle of Thanet, now a contiguous part of Kent, was in fact an island with, at one time, the Wantsum channel some 2,000 ft/ 600m wide separating it from the rest of Kent. This channel gradually silted up with the last recorded ship sailing through in 1672. Today the isle is firmly part of Kent, although rising sea levels could at some time in the future restore its island status.
For those with a literary bent and interested in Charles Dickens, the English author visited Broadstairs frequently over a 20 year period from 1837. He wrote his book “David Copperfield” there. An annual Charles Dickens festival is held in Broadstairs every year in June.
Tenterden is a pretty town in mid Kent and of interest to me as one end of the Kent and East Sussex heritage railway. While not the reason for a visit this time, I am sure that the town benefits from such a tourist attraction.
I was interested to note that the Lemon Tree Restaurant in addition to providing good meals and service also looked to source as much of their food, including wine, as possible from local suppliers, not the cheapest conglomerate. We had hoped to visit a Kent winery and sample the reported excellent wines now coming out of Kent and Sussex, but “Road Closed” thwarted us. Another time.
While travelling westwards towards Dorset to see my sister, lunchtime beckoned and we pulled into the car park of “The Selsey Arms” at Coolham which appeared from the outside to be just another english pub. Upon entering the pub, we are transported to another era. The walls are decorated with memorabilia including uniforms covering the short history and operation of RAF Coolham, a former Royal Air Force Advanced Landing Ground. RAF Coolham was built as part of Operation Overlord and was only operational from April 1944 to January 1945. Units based there included 306 and 315 Polish squadrons which is reflected in many of the photographs and paintings. A fascinating slice of history, and the involvement of Polish flyers in WW2. The pub also has a gluten free fryer!
Refreshed and educated, we travel on to my sister’s in Verwood where a Aussie decorated welcome awaited us in case we were feeling a little homesick. I am not sure I like the inflatable shark circling above my head. As long no “Jaws” movie music starts playing, I will be fine.
The weather for the past few weeks has been warm and sunny and provides an excellent opportunity to walk to along Hengistbury Head which provides good exercise and a fantastic view of the Needles, a rock formation on the western end of Isle of Wight. For those who walk all the way to the beach beyond Hengistbury Head, a variety of food stalls will provide sustenance.
Sunday morning saw a country drive for coffee at Compton Abbas airfield. An interesting name made up of Saxon word “cumb-ton” meaning village in a narrow valley and “abbas” meaning land owned by an abbess of an Abbey, Shaftsbury in this case.
A regular stream of two or four seater aircraft both landed and took off, joyrides, visitors and club members I presume, enjoying the beautiful weather and the fantastic views of the Dorset Downs. The location is a local stopping point for motorcyclists and car enthusiasts out for a Sunday drive with a well stocked coffee shop to refresh them before a homeward journey. Unusual aircraft include an Auster, Harvard and I believe a Boeing Stearman, my guess based mostly on the blue/yellow colour scheme.
I was wondering what was the largest aircraft that this undulating grass airstrip could handle when right on cue in came a Pilatus PC-12, which is a single engined turboprop seating 6-8 passengers with a range of some 1500ml/2400km. After landing, a single passenger disembarked with his briefcase and the plane then departed showing its excellent short take off capability. An impressive sales advertisement for the PC-12. An examination of the flightradar24 website showed the plane had come from Cannes to Bournemouth, customs and immigration I presume, then flown on to Compton Abbas some 25ml./ 40km away from Bournemouth Airport, presumably due to a dearth of taxis at Bournemouth Airport?
A wonderful couple of days with my sister and her family in Dorset comes to an end with a meal with some of her friends who have been aware of our motorcycle travels since the beginning.
Now we we must prepare for re uniting Streak and Storm.
When I am looking for additional information on a place or event for this blog, My search often leads to Wikipedia to enhance my scribing. I must thank all those who contribute to Wikipedia, for taking the time and effort to document a small piece of history or knowledge that otherwise may be inaccessible to many or worse lost. This makes our world a richer place for the authors efforts.