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This is an archive of walks done by the Saturday Walker's Club. You should only need to use this page if the SWC website is down.

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Saturday, 22 July 2017

Saturday Walk - Whitstable Oyster Festival – Birchington-on-Sea to Whitstable [Easy Walk] [Swimming Walk]

Length: 22.7 km (14.1 mi)
Ascent/Descent: approx. 70m; Net Walking Time: 4 ½ hours
Toughness:  2 out of 10         

Take the 09.27 Margate train from St. Pancras I’nal (09.34 Stratford I’nal), arrives Birchington-on-Sea 10.53.
Return trains are on xx.28 to Victoria, and on xx.50  to St. Pancras I’nal (they leave Herne Bay 6-7 mins earlier). Buy a Birchington return.

This is the long version of an easy coastal walk - it is entirely flat - and the directions are straightforward and consequently minimal. It passes the dramatic landmark of Reculver, the remains of the twin towers of a 12th C church set amongst the ruins of a Roman Fort (free entry) and ends in the delightful Whitstable, which has its annual Oyster Festival starting today. 
Note: this Festival has gained some notoriety for “excessive drinking, littering and over-crowding”, so we should fit right in.

There are opportunities for sea swimming throughout, and though the walk is almost entirely on tarmac or concrete paths, with only a 1km section beyond Reculver on grassy clifftops, there are still plenty of rural delights. After an initial section on the seafront promenade (or cliff top park) of Birchington-on-Sea you follow the raised sea wall over the flat marshland (a sea channel until the 12th century), along an unspoilt shingle beach which has interesting wildflowers and seabirds, and also fine views of distant shipping and windfarms, and the ruins of Reculver church as an aiming point on the horizon.
Beyond Reculver your path takes you along the top (or bottom) of a very pleasant grassy slope facing the sea, which again has interesting wildflowers, to the charming, if slightly faded, seaside resort of Herne Bay (possibility of shortcutting here, as well as in Swalecliffe) and on to Whitstable.
This is a walk almost entirely without mud. But note that there is no shelter, however, so in rain and/or strong westerly winds, it can be fairly wretched.

Lunch: King Ethelbert Inn in Reculver (8.3 km/5.2 mi) or a seasonal café 1 minute away or one of many pubs in Herne Bay (14-15 km).
Tea: lots of choice in Whitstable, but expect every outlet to be very busy (as well as the trains).
For summary, map, height profile, some photos, walk directions and gpx/kml files click here.


Kelda said...

Great idea ;)

Walker said...

It is high tide at Herne Bay at 12.13 today. This means good swimming in the morning of this walk and early afternoon: after this time the sea retreats a long way over mud and shingle at both Herne Bay and Whitstable. So get your swims in early.

The main beach at Birchington (not the first bit of coast you come to, but a little way into the walk) is actually quite a nice place to swim when the tide is high.

From memory there is also a small swimmable beach at Reculver: possibly other places between Birchington and Reculver too, but this is where I remember swimming in the past.

Thomas G said...

20 walkers alighted from the train, amongst whom was a group of 4 first-timers. Initially we walked along the clifftop, but soon descended to the waterside cliff bottom concrete path. Up to Reculver it was overcast with lots of sun breaking through, and the sea was a wee bit smelly initially (must have been the seaweed and algae?). The many beach huts, some short sandy beaches and a cafe (The Windshack) were interesting features on this stretch, guided by the far away Reculver ruins.
Reculver itself did not disappoint: some very good info panels explaining the history of the Isle of Thanet, the ex-Roman fort site and the ruined monastery church and its towers.
On to the King Ethelbert Inn for most of the group, where we were met by another walker who had arrived on a later train from Victoria. Our seats were outside, the service was efficient and the food ok. Life was good.
On to Herne Bay, with a windmill farm out at sea dominating the view. Some stopped at Makcari's in the old bandstand for ice cream or cream tea, others went ahead.
The stretch to Whistable is then more built-up, but still has a grassy nature reserve on offer. By now it was completely overcast and the threat of rain was in the air. Up to the top of Tankerton Slopes, where the Oyster Festival has been relocated this year after too many protests from businesses and residents in the centre of Whitstable. It consisted of some fairground attractions and lots of food stalls, but - bizarrely - only one oyster stall!
Just as we had convinced ourselves that we should move on to the centre to check out the offerings there, a heavy 15 minute downpour started, splitting the remining group in the rush to put on waterproofs or to find shelter.
About two handfuls reunited at the Lobster Shack, initially outside, then migrating inside when a table was freed up. There we stayed for quite a while, rotating in placing more orders for seafood and drink.
We had already linked up with three other SWC stalwarts who had walked in from Herne Bay, taking to the sea along the way for a revogorating swim, but they decided to keep exploring the delightful Whistatble.
Most of the Lobster Shack group then let another train go, prefering to sit on the pebble beach outside the Whitstable Oyster Bar with one last drink, taking in the couldscapes and the sun's rays breaking through them.
20.50 train for those.
So, n=24 in total, with the weather w=overcast-with-sunny-breaks for the fast walkers that got to Whitstable before the downpour.