Thursday, 30 June 2011

WHITSTABLE

The mere mention of the name Whitstable conjures up the heady aroma of freshly caught seafood. Not only is the town famous for its oysters, so much so that there is an annual Oyster Festival in July, but once upon a time there was a short railway line linking Whitstable to the cathedral city of Canterbury which was nicknamed the Crab and Winkle Line in honour of the crustacean gourmet delights to be had at the Line’s seaside terminus. The Crab and Winkle Line, its route laid out by Robert Stephenson, had the distinction of being the oldest regular steam passenger railway in the world. However, the line was closed to passengers in 1930 and thereafter was used only for freight, but was finally closed down altogether in 1952. The route has now become the Crab and Winkle Way, linking Whitstable with Canterbury for cyclists and walkers.  The story of the line is told in the local museum, along with the story of its maritime past and displays of some of the many fossils found along this coast.

Nowadays Whitstable is still easily accessible by train, being just over an hour from London, and this has contributed to its popularity with Londoners hungry for seafood, to the point where it has earned the nickname Islington-On-Sea. The Oyster Festival is obviously a big draw, but added to that is a thriving arts scene and an abundance of charming fisherman’s cottages and of alleyways formerly used by smugglers. Attractive shops, restaurants and cafes all add to the appeal of the town. A reminder of the earlier days of the oyster trade is on display on the Island Wall, the road running parallel to the beach: a restored example of a vessel known as the “oyster yawl”, this particular one named Favourite. During the Oyster Festival, children are invited to come to the beach to revive the tradition of “grotters”, glowing shrines built of oyster shells to mark St James’ Day.

For events in Whitstable and surrounding area see here.

Map of the area.

Whitstable Harbour

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