What an unlovely face Thanet presents to the visitor. A flat, drab, dismal, treeless landscape, the muddy cabbage fields festooned with necklaces of litter. Add leaden February skies and the weekend doesn’t look promising. Then we get to the campsite, or more accurately a dirty great field in the middle of nowhere. It’s 6.30 pm and pitch black. A long bumpy track just a few inches wider than Gertie, with a ditch to one side and a thorn hedge to the other.
Out of the darkness two men emerge and I start to hear that banjo music from Deliverance. As it turns out they are very nice and have been waiting for us to arrive so they can show us to our pitch. They live full time in two very old old caravans in the middle of the dirty great field. With a feeling that the weekend is going to be an abject failure we settle down for the evening.
A good night’s sleep later, with the place bathed in bright sunshine, it’s charming. Fishing lakes, chickens, horses, loads of bird life, smiling fishermen, smiling caravan dwellers. And best of all it’s just a brisk twenty minute walk to the centre of Sandwich.
The Tourist Information office in the public toilets on the Quay is a mine of information, delivered by the charming lady who looks after the toilets and her equally charming companion who has a very friendly Jack Russell (this is not a joke. The main tourist information office is in the Guildhall but we’ve meandered into town via the Quay and the sign ‘Tourist information in the toilets’ is too intriguing to miss.)
According to the town guide, Sandwich has the highest number of listed buildings per head of population in the country and is one of the best preserved medieval towns in England. The street plan has hardly changed since it was recorded in the Domesday book. If It was any closer to London it would be overrun by the sort of people who buy weekend places in Whitstable. Thankfully it’s not. There are more independent shops in the town than high street names – I only saw two, Costa and the Co-op. There’s a wool shop, a sweet shop with big jars on shelves, a poulterer. You can take a boat out to see the seal colony in Sandwich bay or to visit Richborough Roman fort, or see a film at the art deco 130 seat cinema.
The sun is still shining on Sunday morning so we decide to move along the coast a bit to Deal, which is like a small Brighton without the tatty bits. Sun, wind, shingle beach, fabulous architecture (most of the centre of Deal is a conservation area) and quite a lot of free Gertie-sized on-street parking on Beach Street. Lovely lunch in the Bohemian pub (dog friendly), a stroll along the pier and a quick look at Deal Castle. Thanet rocks!
For those with camper vans
We stayed at Sandwich Lakes, a Caravan Club CL. At £15 a night for pitch and electric hook up it’s a bit overpriced for a place with such basic facilities but is probably the closest place to stay near Sandwich.
Campervan parking is limited in the town itself. The only place we saw with bays large enough is the Quay car park.
The George and Dragon in Fisher Street serves really good food and is dog friendly
In Deal, none of the public car parks look suitable for campervans but there is lots of free on road parking on Beach Street. No overnight stays are allowed.