The Garden of England 

Those of you that follow our Instagram (budgetbudgie), will regularly see photographs from the kent countryside. This is because I live here. Well, I live in Canterbury… but whats great about Kent is that you’re never that far from a row of apple trees or a muddy pathway through a farmer’s field. For me personally this is perfect as it’s a lovely way to escape the books and the desk and get a new perspective on things, alongside some fresh air and (sometimes) sunlight. So, to go with the Instagram photos I thought I would write a little bit about this countryside haven of mine. 

The apple orchards are a key feature of the kent landscape and can be seen from the train as you travel through the county – a truly lovely sight. The trees are in rows with a grass strip between, making this a perfect venue for shuttle runs and sprint training. Well, in theory. In reality you will slip on a rotten apple, trip on a tree root and be stung by stinging nettles. However, as the view is so lovely you’ll keep doing this for two years despite knowing the risks. Or you can be more sensible like budgie Al here and just stroll through admiring the surroundings and marvelling at the size and weight of the fruit in his hands.  (Don’t worry, he didn’t actually pick any!)

Kent isn’t called the garden of England just because of apples alone however! There’s plenty of other stuff being grown here too. From pears… 


Which admittedly are quite similar to apples in some ways so maybe not that much of a surprise… through to sweet corn. These are towering plants with lovely sheaves growing proudly up and out and you can smell the seductive sweetness as you walk through on a sunny day. 

Once you’ve walked through these avenues of food in my local area you get to the more open terrain of open fields. Here it’s all about the muddy tracks and the big skies to admire. Perfect for a stroll. Almost in fact enough to make me consider a dog as a worthwhile pet… 


Almost… but not quite. The fields are ever changing with the crop growing, being cut down and then replanted again on an endless cycle. This crop ranges from brilliant yellow rape, to the earthy colours of corn through to the green leaves and pretty flowers of bean crops.

And, of course, with all this going on there’s plenty of bird song and buzzing bees to accompany you on your walks also. So something I regularly do is take the book I need to read and head on down into the fields and find a patch between the trees to read and take notes. 



Whilst the norm is to see the birds and the bees, you also see the occasional budgie!!


Ok. So. Admittedly this lovely colourful chap was a one off and was no doubt an escapee (who is hopefully now back home) but you truly never know what you’ll see on a country walk! And that’s where I shall stop, with that message. 

Get out into the countryside! And, if you can, the garden of England in particular. 

Cheers,

Matt. 

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On Margate Sands. 

Today I am off to Margate to meet my Nan who is visiting there on a coach trip with her social club. Whilst she is travelling several hours to get here, I’m just popping a little along the coast on the train for a few quid return. So. My question here is: Is Margate worth a visit? Either for £3.80 return, or a few hours stuck in a coach enduring (though she seems to enjoy it) bingo. 

The title comes from T. S. Eliot’s poem ‘the wasteland’ where:

“On Margate Sands.

I can connect

Nothing with nothing.

The broken finger-nails of dirty hands.

My people humble people who expect

Nothing.”

 

I’m not going to go into an analysis of this here, but even for someone who hasn’t taught lectures on it and seminars and spoken to reading groups (yes. I know. I’m very cool) it’s probably clear that this isn’t an overly positive happy reference. ‘Nothing with nothing. ‘Dirty hands’ etc. 
Well, does this have a resonance with Margate today? Others seem to think so. Or, at least, did think so.

Take this article for example: 

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/books/2009/nov/09/ts-eliot-waste-land-margate

Boarded up windows and a complete lack of inspiration. Since then, however, the town has seen lots of money pumped into it and a regeneration. The (new) old town is quaint with (new) old English pubs where sawdust strategically adorns the stools and floor and the local guest ales scream tradition and greatness. However; this alone is enough to scare me off entering today as well as the fact that antique shops in this area are selling simple old deck chairs for 45 pounds(!!!!) making me question the cost of lunch… and lunch is on me. So. Onwards we go… 

… To the pier! The pier is full of eateries and bars with the great added bonus of having communal seating – meaning one of the group can get a salad from one end, another can get cheese smothered fries from a different shop and the third person can get a local ale (or two) from the pub and skip the wasted carbs of solids. Then of course there’s the view out from this seating. It’s lovely. It’s sand, it’s sea, it’s little boats, its sunsets, its birds soaring. It’s the coast. You can sit here for hours of relaxation with a pint connecting nothing with nothing as you simply enjoy your surroundings and detach yourself from the world’s stresses. See what I did there? I twisted the words and made them positive. Isn’t English literature fun? 

If you want to laze on golden sand and enjoy the sun and go for a refreshing, invigorating, English swim and have ice cream or fish and chips whilst stared at intimidatingly by seagulls then be my guest. Margate appears the perfect destination for this and there hundreds doing just this today. 

This isn’t for me though. I’m more likely to be up on the pier with the raised up view and the pint wondering after a while if there is anything more to see as I get a little bored. And now that I’ve had lunch up here with my Nan I am wondering just this. Should I just go home now? Or is there other stuff to see whilst I’m here? 

Well, there is other stuff! Of a sort. There are footpaths that seem to stretch all along the Kent coast meaning I could get from here along to other haunts like Ramsgate or Whitstable. But it’s half 4 and I only have 12% battery. So not today. There’s also the Turner Contemporary gallery which has a fabulous view out to sea from the safety of its inside cafe. Fully recommended for a winter’s day. All the food is local. And the delightfully camp chap behind the counter is always a charmer. The gallery itself can also be wandered around for free with rotating exhibitions occasionally worth looking at. Sadly, today they are not worth looking at. And I’m out of here by 4:36 – Which included a stop at the toilets and a perusal of the gift shop. 

There are also a few quaint streets around the old town worth a stroll with nice old buildings and the like and coffee shops etc away from the coast. 

So maybe this is indeed a destination centred on the beach and its views. But then, it’s the seaside… so I guess this is in fact ok! The beach is clean, the water is the colour English coastal water should be – greeny bluey brown, and there are plenty of places to eat and drink with coastal views. For my £3.80 I am more than pleased! 👍🏻. For the price and access from Canterbury I’d give it a 4/5. Travelling from further afield for a day trip then I’d say there are better places. But if you’re already holidaying nearby or if you’re in London and want a day at the coast then here is perfectly good. 3.5/5. 

HOWEVER if you are fortunate enough to come on a day with a gorgeous sunset then this is a 5/5 star destination! Check this out! 

So there we have it :). Next month I’ll be having a similar day meeting Nan for her coach trip to Ramsgate. So keep your eyes peeled for a similar post of there. 

Peace out, 

Matt. 

Spontaneous Travel 

The importance of local escapes. 
You don’t have to go far to travel and explore, and you certainly don’t need to plan. I started today as any other with a cup of coffee and a computer screen with me typing away with my usual passion and vigour. However, it soon became clear that I was simply wasting my time and making no hedge-way. So. I set my phone to charge (it’s an iPhone…. Need I say more?) and twenty minutes later headed for the train station. 
That was half an hour ago. Now I’m on a train zooming away from my desk into the Kent countryside heading to the coast to walk the white cliffs of Dover. You’ve gotta love a travel escape. True, I’m fortunate I have the sort of work that enables me to catch up over the weekend and take the afternoon off. But even if you don’t, you can do this at the weekend instead with no fuss. Perfect! 
£5.60 later and I’m in Dover centre (return ticket) and have chosen the cliffs as opposed to the castle as they are free whilst the castle is extortionate. Admittedly the view to the cliffs is obscured by the ferry port which is a complete eye sore bad enough to make me miss my desk. (Almost). But then once you climb the steep steps up the cliff here is the reward… 


That was my view for lunch, and then after I polished off my sandwiches (fighting off three crows, a magpie and a seagull) I headed further along the cliffs to where I now sit doing the same work I would have been at home! (Reviewing my previously made notes on Rebecca West to find something useful. As of yet… nothing… but we live in hope). 

Hmm. I have just been loudly accused by a random family passing by of being a spy… can a guy no longer sit on a cliff half hidden in the flowers watching the world go by through a large camera lens whilst making notes in a pad without being bothered?? My god. 


Anyways yeh, escape your house and go somewhere! 

Kent is a fabulous place which has a lot on its doorstep so I’m lucky, but then I have always managed to find little excursions everywhere I’ve lived. The internet is a wonderful thing so make the most of it and find somewhere new to go too! (Admitedly the internet is better when your phone doesn’t annoyingly decide you’re in france and bombard you with rate advice texts and proceed to give you awfully slow web 😾). 

Thanks for reading, 

Matt. 

p.s keep checking the blog as in addition to our usual more in depth weekly reviews and these more spontaneous posts we will soon be adding photo stories grouping pics of locations with a few captions! There will be one of the Dover white cliffs shortly. Enjoy! 

A Budget Budgie Walking Tour of Canterbury.

For the last year or so I have lived in Canterbury having never visited the place before, so I have been an extended and happy tourist exploring its crevices and discovering its secrets. The place is simply steeped in history with it a UNESCO World Heritage Site owing to its stunning and significant buildings including the Cathedral, where Archbishop Becket was murdered, the ruins of St Augustine Abbey and the oldest church in the English speaking world! (St Martins) Only the church of these is free to visit however, with the Cathedral a costly visit (though not for me as a local student) and the Abbey setting you back a few quid also. There are other ways to spend your money in the city too with punting trips along the Stour and a number of fascinating museums exploring the history of the place including the Heritage museum and the Roman museum. However, here I am going to give you a cheap walking guide for the place on a sunny day starting from the main station where you can get a javelin to London in under an hour.

Stepping out of the station stretch out in the glorious Kent sun (which we always have) and then take a right along the road towards the town. At the end of the short road turn to your left and you are instantly facing the city centre. Right before you is the imposing Westgate that grants access into the city through its thick walls. Opened in 1380 it still grants access to the city with cars driving through its 18m arch and pedestrians walking through it on the left hand side. Once you’re through the arch you are in the city walls and its pedestrianised high-street. This is a narrow street of modern shops and cafes, some of which are fantastic and good value, but if you look up you will see the old buildings that remain – some hanging over the street, others set back in their splendour. There a couple worthy of special note. The first is tucked low on your right and is Eastbridge hospital. Founded in 1190 it was a hospital for pilgrims and then a school and church. Today its almhouses remain and you can have a look round this small piece of history for just a couple of quid. Soon after this on your left you cross the river and have gorgeous views of one of its little inlets over the railings on your left. Certainly a key photo opportunity. Further along on the left is The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge. This is a very impressive building from 1899 and was designed in the Tudor Revival style as a gift to the city in the form of a venue for knowledge. It still holds this role today with free galleries, a free museum and exhibition space upstairs and the public library at the back.

Keep going up the high-street enjoying the views and stop off at any of the cafes or pubs that grab your fancy now for your drink if you fancy – but no need to get anything to eat!

This is because we are going to get a packed lunch from one of the conveniently located supermarkets in town in the modern shopping section which is clearly signposted – Whitefriars. Options include Tesco and Marks and Sparks. Once you’ve got your food, and of course at least a bottle of water each as we are about to go for a country walk, take the road to the side of Tesco out of the centre. Go left at the end and then look to cross the road and enter Dane John Gardens. These free gardens date back to 1551 and are always expensively and exquisitely maintained. Walk along its central path enjoying the landscaping and look to your left and you will see the high city walls which run the length of the park and help the feel of safe cosy seclusion. These walls have surrounded the city since the Romans first built them in around 270 AD. They have since been built up and restored by various people including the Normans who built the Castle. When the children’s play park is on your left, look for one of the sloping paths up onto the wall and take it. Follow this path all the way up and you will find yourself upon the Dane John Mound. This is an old Roman Burial mound believed to be from the first century. On a clear day the view from the top lets you see 360 the entire city and its surrounding villages and countryside. Just lovely.

Once you’ve had your fill of the view and taken your snaps, head back down and walk right along the top of the old city wall stepping down off it at the end. Cross this road and take the alleyway, cross the road at the end and you are at Gas Street. Walk down this road and you will be at the Norman Castle! Begun by William the Conqueror in around 1070 it is now a ruin, but it is free to walk around with lots of information boards. You can also head inside it and go up a little way into one of the old turrets. Once done, head out and further down Gas Street. There is an old church at the end, go left at this and then right. You are now by a busy main road but don’t worry, this is for just a very short amount of time. Walk along the path and you will hit the river, go over the bridge and under the underpass into the park. Follow the path, cross the river and then go left at Toddler Cove Playground. You are now entering The Great Stour Way which is a stunning country walk of three miles between Canterbury and Chartham. River, Fields, Sheep, Wildlife, Horses, Stunning old Kent thatched houses backing onto the river and punters along the water. Its just lovely. Walk along here as long as you fancy until you find a spot for your lunch and set up shop with the sun on your faces and the birds singing around you.

Head back the way you came when you’re done but this time go straight past the Toddler Cove and follow the river into Westgate Gardens. These garden spaces can be traced back to the Roman time and have in them a plane tree over 200 years old and a Victorian Tower House. Punters continually go along the river here and have to duck very low to get under the small bridges. By now you are entering the evening probably, so go back right into the high street and this time take a left off of it and head towards the signposted Cathedral. Whilst it costs during the day, once the clock has struck 5:30 however it is free to enter the grounds and get up close and personal to the building. Head on in and get your snaps here – it can look gorgeous especially with the sun setting behind.

Now it depends on which train you wish to get back and what your plans are. Either head back to the station the reverse of where we began, or head to one of the pubs or restaurants for your dinner!

I hope you have enjoyed this virtual walking tour of Canterbury. Keep checking the blog for future posts as I will no doubt share more of Kent’s wonders.

Matt.