Hours of searching for reasonably priced accommodation to “stay home” brought us to a little one bedroomed apartment in Herne Bay, Kent. It is a seaside town on the south side of the Thames Estuary. Being around only 50 minutes drive from where we raised our family and where Jon’s grandmother spent a fair while in a care home, we are no strangers to area (and the chip shop!) but as usual can always discover new things.
I won’t be thanked for mentioning it, but somewhere in our photograph albums that are stored with a friend we have a curious photo of our eldest son aged about 20 months sitting on his potty near the esplanade. When you gotta go, you’ve gotta go!
Pied a Terre a la Herne Bay
With yet more housesits cancelled and a couple of the homeowners not even bothering to inform us that their plans had changed (very naughty!) our hasty last minute plans brought us to a little apartment for 2 weeks. We have had some amazing offers from family and friends but are trying as much as possible to be self sufficient, not burden others or inadvertently be spreading the virus.
It does feel like somewhat of a eureka moment when after applying for multiple accommodation listings and setting out our circumstances we get the green light. We are acting within the guidelines but at the end of the day it is down to the individual accommodation provider to risk assess and come to their own decisions.
After enjoying and absorbing the good news, inevitably it is back to the diary and search engines. Usually we are researching trips and housesits. The emphasis may have changed but we are by no means beaten by circumstances. We are viewing this time as a trial run of having our own place and how that makes us feel. Comfy and settled or itching to get moving again.
Just wish my backpack had a few extra pockets for a couple of puzzles and sewing projects. Now that would be getting comfy and settled.
Amy Johnson – Queen of the Air
Regular readers will know of my love of reading an information board or plaque. That interest is fuelled further if it contains lesser known facts. Top that with a conspiracy theory and I am hooked.
On one of our daily walks we passed an information board all about the “Queen of the Air“. We had both heard of the aviator Amy Johnson, the first of many records she held was to be the first woman to fly solo 11,000 miles to Australia. This took place in her second hand wooden open cock pit bi-plane called Jason in 1930. She had no radio link, flew over uncharted land with just basic maps.
She plotted the most basic route by placing a ruler on her map and planning fuel stops. (Jonno wearing his former air cartographer hat, or maybe it’s a beret, is horrified!) When Amy set off she had only had her flying licence for one year and before her record breaking flight her longest flight had been from London to Hull. Crazy?
She must have had Lady Luck flying in the co-pilot seat because despite a forced landing in a sandstorm in the Iraqi desert and overcoming a variety of mechanical problems she made it to Darwin in 19 days.
After ten more years of flying adventures and surviving more than one crash landing, she joined the Air Transport Auxiliary in 1940 to aid the war effort. The ATA ferried planes around the country for the RAF. Her assignment on 5th January 1941 was to ferry a plane from an RAF station near Blackpool to another station near Oxford – a relatively short flight down the west mainland of England.
How she came to be so far off course and ditching in the Thames Estuary on the east coast is a mystery to this day. There are many theories. Bad weather, running out of fuel, shot down by friendly fire and even a secret mission with a mystery passenger (Mr X).
Whatever the cause, it is known that she parachuted into the water in heavy snow. The HMS Haslemere, part of a convoy, reported seeing two bodies in the water and one was calling for help in a high pitched voice. The Captain of the ship dived into the icy water to try and retrieve what he thought was the passenger. The Captain had to be rescued and died later from exposure and shock.
Another conspiracy theory is that she went under the hull of this ship and was killed by the propellers. No bodies from Amy’s flight were ever recovered, only some plane parts and a few personal possessions. The War Office never confirmed anything about a secret mission or friendly fire incident.
She crammed so much into those 37 years and how sad that she was within reach of being rescued. There is a life size bronze statue of Amy looking out to sea in a very natural pose on the promenade. Lady Luck was obviously not in her usual seat on that fateful day but what an inspirational woman.
This was turning into my perfect walk. Just a half a mile further along walking west along the promenade towards Whitstable we came across some information on this abandoned pier and community.
Originally the site of a small farmhouse, a few wooden shacks and a pub which was a regular meeting place for smugglers who hid their stash under the floor, in the 1860s an oyster fishing company arrived to fish in the shallows and develop the area. A pier with a tramline was built out into the sea to bring the oysters to shore and a few rows of terraced homes to house the workers were built. The site of the pier affected the natural movement of shingle which left the land unprotected from high tides and winds.
Gradually one by one the terraced houses succumbed to the sea and by the early 1900s they had all but disappeared. All that is visible is some of the remains of the original pier. The pub, now known as the Hampton Inn, still exists near the site of the original pier but obviously all closed up for the time being.
I could go on and on about the history of this area of Kent with its smugglers, aviators, bouncing bombs, Maunsell Forts, record breaking clock tower and so much more. Lots more to follow from our daily walks which I have renamed DPR (Daily Plaque Reading).
01/01 – 12/01/2021