The curiosity of Folkestone
The curiosity of Folkestone. Folkestone and Hythe was a pleasant curiosity to visit. Our group went there in late October before half term when the town was oddly quiet. The weather was extreme with Storm Babet on the Saturday and unusually warm sunny weather.
The train journey from London was itself quite a fairground ride as in parts we were thrown about on the train – not for the coffee drinkers. The town has attempted to reinvent itself as a creative hub with its creative quarter – a music venue mainly. There is also the First World War monument on the promenade to stir the emotions.
Whilst a little niche the Council’s Folkestone Museum is mostly worth visiting for its ground floor record of the importance of the town during the First World War in how it hosted tens of thousands of Canadian troops, and thousands of refugees from mostly Belgium (celebrated by a monument on the sea front). What is undersold is its rich history as a Victorian seaside resort and role during the Second World War. What was curious but fun was a small room in the basement with a temporary exhibition on Two Tone music. Obviously only interesting to those who enjoyed the music (like me) but does cover how the movement fractured.
The Harbour Arm is partly the now closed harbour train station. It has a rich history linking the town to France via a packet steamer but now looks lost. Whilst it has been honourably revived it relies on a small number of shops in the grounds to justify its existence – mostly closed when we there.
Dominating the harbour is a rather large Stalinist-looking hotel that we decided not to stay as the reviews suggested it was more populated by stag and school parties. This is curiosity of Folkestone. Whilst it lacks a cohesive visual setting like Broadstairs it certainly has a lot going on behind the scenes.
We took a taxi out of town to the Kent Battle of Britain Museum in Hawkinge. This is a curiosity in how it is volunteer led and actually on what remains of the air field used during World War Two. The volunteers scoured the South East for every artefact and aeroplane that was left in fields. This museum is primarily about the young men who fought in the RAF. But the story is largely lost in how the museum is an attempt to hold everything – endless mangled Merlin engines and many other parts of WW2 aeroplanes.
The overwhelming impression of Folkestone is that it is flowing with Victorian charm. The housing is enriched with its once wealthy prominence as a successful resort for London. The churches show off the local Kentish Ragstone -a hard grey limestone. The Council is trying to revive its image with a mixture of overpriced seaside apartment blocks and art (things like pop up houses dotted around the town.)
Dinner at Rocksalt was both lavish and expensive. The seafood platter was a feast, the Sicilian white wine an absolute must to wash down the juicy prawns. The waitresses – oddly facsimiles of each other – delightful.
On the Sunday we walked to Hythe. The route is partially fenced off by a military zone but the arrival at Hythe was worth it. A chocolate box village largely hidden from the seaside but with a canal and enough character.