Herne Bay

Herne Bay

An overview

Herne Bay is a small town of mainly Victorian origin, on the northeast coast of Kent, about an hour and half and 65 miles/100km east of London by road. The bay from which the town gets it’s name is actually very shallow and barely perceptible (except by looking at the Ordnance Survey map).

Trains from Victoria and Charing Cross serve the north Kent coastal line, with Herne Bay two stops down the line from Whitstable. Be aware, however, that from a national population of 60 million, some 12 million of us live in London and the Home Counties. This can be a very crowded part of the country, especially on the roads and more so in summer.

The town is a picture in summer. Waltrop Gardens, on the seafront, come into bloom and many shops and pubs have hanging baskets or window boxes. Tree-lined avenues, floral displays on roundabouts and municipal gardens provide more colour in the flowering months. The front is generally crowded with locals and visitors taking in the bracing sea air.

The town takes on a different mantle in winter, though. Winters in the Bay can be harsh (well, by south England standards, anyway) but that’s the price you pay for living on a coastline exposed to the North Sea winds. Once you get this far along the coast, any protection from East Anglia is lost, so we get the full force of the Scandinavian winds in winter. If you visit between October and February, be sure to dress for cold or wet weather. The upside of this is that you can get some fabulous pictures of waves crashing onto the shoreline. As long as you’re prepared to get wet, of course.

The Seafront
The promenade has to be Herne Bay’s best feature. A stroll along the front is particularly enjoyable, especially in the summer months. The whole of the coastline is accessible for walking, from Studd Hill in the west right up to the Kings Hall and beyond. There are a number of benches along the promenade, offering an uninterrupted sea view. There is an enclosed childrens play park with lots of climbing frames and rides. Plus more benches for exhausted parents.

A little further is the Clock Tower, built in 1837. The pedestrian area widens up a bit here, just before Neptunes car park and is used for outdoor exhibitions and concerts during the Festival fortnight in August. Don’t look for the fountain and splash pool any longer, though. After an incident in 2002, the council felt it best to close it and paved the area, much to the disappointment of many people.

Herne Bay is well located for taking pictures of violent sea conditions or tranquil sunsets, looking across the Thames estuary towards the Isle of Sheppey. The artist J M Turner is said to have got many of the spectacular sunsets used in his seascape paintings from the stretch of coast between Whitstable and Margate.

On a clear day, you can clearly make out Southend and Shoebury Ness over in Essex. Looking directly north, you can see the Maunsell Forts on the horizon. These are giant, War Of The Worlds-like towers built around 1941 to protect the estuary towns from any invasion threat Hitler may have had in mind. However, should you come here in a couple of years time, you may see about 30 wind turbines that form the Kentish Flats windfarm.

Don’t just take my word for it. Have a look at the photos, then maybe come and see the place for yourself. I make no apology for painting a rosey picture. No town is without it’s faults; I just choose not to highlight them. Whilst not conforming to some peoples’ idea of an idyllic or cosmopolitan waterfront town, Herne Bay still has a fair bit to offer, particularly in the warmer months. All right; it doesn’t have Canterbury’s cathedral or Whitstable’s maritime heritage. Still, there are plenty of little gems to be found without a great deal of effort.