It takes over an hour to stroll from Whitstable to the Sportsman, our pub in Seasalter on the north Kent coast, however we at all times say to permit a bit longer. It’s doable in much less time however you don’t need to be operating on the finish and turning up on the restaurant red-faced.
Taking a extra leisurely strategy means you may make a couple of stops alongside the way in which. From the station (an hour and quarter-hour by prepare from St Pancras), stroll down Cromwell Street and switch proper onto Oxford Avenue, the place you’ll discover Grain and Fireside. This bakery serves wonderful croissants and actually good espresso – gas for the stroll forward.
Whitstable is an outdated fishing city; oysters had been harvested right here in Roman instances. Assume clapperboard homes and outdated fisherman’s cottages, slender streets and many pubs, a few of them not a lot larger than a entrance room. (For one thing stronger than espresso, head right down to the Previous Neptune by the seashore. The ground could be very wonky so you might really feel such as you’re already drunk, however the extra you drink, the extra degree it can appear.) We’ve actually seen Whitstable develop. Within the Nineteen Eighties it was fairly a poor seaside city, with squats and pupil housing; now, terraced homes on Island Wall promote for thousands and thousands.
From the bakery, flip left and left once more onto West Cliff and stroll via the golf course, then head left onto West Seashore. There are many beautiful seashore huts alongside right here, a few of them fairly brightly adorned – one is roofed in shrimp, one other is finished up like a rainbow. Look out, too, for some fascinating crops, comparable to viper’s-bugloss and yellow horned-poppies in early summer time.
It’s a pebbly seashore lined with timber groynes, that are designed to guard Whitstable from the ocean. They’ve been renewed fairly not too long ago, however not those in Seasalter, and as you go additional alongside you’ll see they’ve been superbly eroded by the ocean to create a sculptural impact.
Heading west on the seashore, you’ll move a row of mega-money homes on Preston Parade. They’re all fairly completely different – some very trendy, others a bit extra clapperboard. There’s one that appears, to our eyes, like an enormous baked-bean tin. You’ll see the again of a pub referred to as The Oyster Pearl, after which Seasalter oyster fisheries. They don’t serve oysters to eat, however you may have the option purchase some wholesale. (We wouldn’t advise selecting oysters or mussels off the seashore, as a result of they have to be handled first.)
If the tide’s out, you’ll be able to see a wreck of an 18th-century ship out within the mud, which has been uncovered by shifting sands and tides. Beware: it’s extremely sinky mud and also you’re more likely to get caught if you happen to exit to analyze. There’s a graveyard of wellies on the market.
Past the oyster fisheries, the seashore will get a bit slender so watch out – stroll on the highway momentarily if you happen to want flatter floor, and also you’ll see in your left the Seasalter Ranges nature reserve, which is being renovated to spice up biodiversity.
These desirous about foraging ought to preserve an eye fixed out for sea lettuce, which appears to be like like a sheet of inexperienced acetate floating within the water however has a extremely nice flavour – we dehydrate it and crumble it into our home made butter to grill fish in, or scallops. Gutweed, a extra fibrous, stringy inexperienced seaweed, can also be actually good. You’ll discover tons of bladderwrack as nicely, which isn’t so good to eat, nevertheless it’s fairly enjoyable to pop the bubbles.
Out on the mud, on this stretch and all the way in which as much as the Sportsman, you’ll see bait diggers when the tide is out. They exit in all weathers, at any time of day, to dig for lungworm. In the midst of the evening, typically, they’ll be on the market of their galoshes with buckets and forks.
To offer your ft a relaxation from the pebbles, there are steps up onto the ocean wall. From the highest, there are good views out over the estuary to the Isle of Sheppey. On the opposite aspect, throughout the highway, is the marsh. The ocean wall was constructed within the 14th century to guard the land, which the monks used as a larder for Canterbury Cathedral – within the Domesday Ebook it says Seasalter “correctly belongs to the kitchen of the archbishop” for fisheries and the pannage of hogs.
As you’re strolling alongside the wall, there’s a grass financial institution on the left-hand aspect and, in spring and summer time, it’s stuffed with wildflowers. There’s so many differing kinds, together with wild carrot, clover, ox-eye daisies and meadow salsify, also referred to as Johnny-go-to-bed-at-noon as a result of the flower closes up after noon. Within the autumn, the reeds that line the marsh are actually stunning, with silvery, fluffy suggestions that sway within the breeze and catch the sunshine.
The autumn additionally yields blackberries and seashore roses. We use the petals for garnishing desserts and the hips for syrup to go along with puddings and typically recreation. It’s value looking for birds of prey at this level. We’ve seen marsh harriers and sparrowhawks not too long ago, and owls at twilight.
From the ocean wall, you’ll see Waldens, a candy little bucket-and-spade store hooked up to the caravan park. Preserve going previous the Seasalter Crusing Membership and the Sportsman will seem within the distance. It appears to be like nearer than it truly is. You assume, oh, we’re practically there, however truly, it’s in all probability one other 20 or half-hour.
If strolling on the seashore, come off simply earlier than the following row of seashore huts. A rocky little path results in the highest of the financial institution, after which stroll down the steps into our automotive park.
Everybody says the Sportsman’s not a lot from the skin – a scruffy, weather-beaten constructing in the course of a marsh subsequent to the ocean. It’s all in regards to the meals actually, and the service, too – we’re delighted to inform you in regards to the dishes however we received’t interrupt if you happen to’re having a dialog. The meals is deceptively easy, however stuffed with flavour and an actual reflection of the terroir – of the superbly wealthy panorama that you simply’ve simply spent the previous hour or so strolling via.
There are cabins on the pub (£160 an evening, with a continental breakfast offered within the room) for postprandial naps. There’s a wildflower meadow in the course of the cabins which blooms within the spring. Ebook nicely forward on the weekends and through peak season, nevertheless it’s not madly booked out in any other case. And there are tons of Airbnbs in Whitstable.
Stephen Harris and Emma Learn are chef and entrance of home on the Sportsman pub in Seasalter