As mentioned in my previous post, I used to be a member of that branch, and have kept in touch with various members over the years. The coach we travelled in was and no doubt was the height of luxury in its day, and still bore the legend, and paintwork, of its former owners, Camden Coaches of Sevenoaks. I managed to find a few photos of it on a bus enthusiast’s website, (yes all life is there somewhere on the net, if you know where to look for it), and it is an AEC Reliance – if that means anything.
taking place. I declined an offer to join in, and instead settled down to enjoy the journey through Tenterden, Appledore and then down onto Romney Marsh itself.
We arrived at the Red Lion, Snargate 15 minutes before opening time, which gave people a chance to stretch their legs (the main contingent from Maidstone had been on the coach for nearly two hours), walk down the lane for a look at the 13th Century church of St Dunstan, take a few photos or make use of the outside Gentleman’s "facilities".
So after an hour and 15 minutes at the Red Lion enjoying a selection of gravity-served beers, and some good conversation, it was back on the bus and off to the Bell at Ivychurch. This was the second pub of the day and our scheduled lunch-stop. The journey through the winding lanes of the Marsh took just over 10 minutes, and we could see the pub, right in front of the 14th Century parish church, as we approached the village.
The proximity of pub and church harks back to medieval times, and for many the two form the perfect combination, but for us thirsty explorers it was beer, and food, that we were after. The Bell is surprisingly large inside, with a long single bar area. The bar counter is opposite the entrance, whilst the area to the left is given over largely to diners. There is a games area, housed in the modern extension, at the far right of the building. Pool and darts may be played there.
The pub still remains very much a village local, and there certainly seemed to be a few characters congregating around the bar, as we entered. With just a few days until that most unwelcome of American imports, the Bell was decorated with a distinct Halloween theme, as evidenced by the ornately carved pumpkins near the entrance, and the fireplace which was decked out in a similar fashion.
The pub was expecting us, as the tour organiser had not only checked first, but had also taken orders for everyone’s main course and emailed their preferences through to the licensees. I was impressed by the way the pub staff managed our party of 28, getting us all sat down at a number of reserved tables, and then bringing the food out on a table by table basis. Unfortunately the table I sat at was the last to be served, but when the food eventually arrived it proved well worth the wait.
There were four beers on tap; Adnam’s Broadside, St Austell Trelawney, a beer from Navigation Brewery, whose name escapes me, plus the dreaded Doom Bar. I started off with the Trelawney, but despite it being served in excellent condition, it wasn’t the beer for me. There was something about it which I couldn’t put my finger on, although I suspect it was down to the Galaxy hops, imported from Australia.
It was then back on the coach for the half hour journey to Hythe. For me, the route was pure nostalgia because, as children, my sister and I were regular visitors to Romney Marsh, in the company of our parents, on family trips to the seaside. So as the coach made its way into New Romney, and then along the coast to St Mary’s Bay and Dymchurch, the memories came flooding back. The road eventually leads into Hythe, after first skirting the extensive MOD firing ranges to the south-west of the town.
Traces of the original haven can still be seen at the northern end of the Royal Military Canal, at Seabrook, where it reaches the coast.
We were making for a tiny corner pub called the Three Mariners, close to the canal which was originally constructed during the Napoleonic Wars, as part of fortifications designed to repel a potential invasion. The pub is a pleasant back street local, with a roaring fire during winter (it was lit on Saturday), good beer, two distinct rooms, friendly staff and a good feel to it. It is also dog friendly.
The sun was beginning to set as we left the pub for our final stop of the day. This was to be the Carpenter’s Arms, in the tiny village of Coldred, tucked away on the North Downs to the north-west of Dover. The first part of the journey was another nostalgia trip for me, as the coach headed out of Hythe, through Seabrook and towards Sandgate.
The sea looked as calm as a millpond, as we drove along the front, before heading up the hill into Folkestone. This route through Hythe was always my father’s preferred option on trips to Folkestone; rather than the more direct A20. I used to wonder why as a child, but with the wisdom of maturity I can understand why he and my mother always opted for the scenic route, with its views of the sea.