A holiday in a day

June 11, 2018 by Ray Morgan

Blue skies, white sand, lush dunes blowing in the breeze. The photos made it look like we were in the desert the tide was so far out - it was like a film set. I lay on the sand which was warm to the touch: the dog had resorted to sitting on laps and towels which were cooler than the sand itself. The sun warmed my face too: I had to put my new straw hat on to shade my eyes. I shouldn't have worn a black dress - I was so hot lying in full sun. We clambered back up the dunes, looking back at the glinting sea which must have been half a mile out. Other families were dotted around the beach, playing frisbee, eating lunch, barely audible there was that much space between us.

We went into the town, the cool of the streets gratefully received. Curiosities paraded themselves stacked outside of tiny shops. We ate outside, in sunglasses and hats (the dog hiding under the table to keep cool this time). Beads of condensation streamed down glasses. We bought trinkets, ate gelato, one of us bought a new hat, we looked in shop windows and took pictures outside gorgeous buildings that shone in the sun.

I mean, you could be forgiven for thinking that we had gone abroad this weekend. It felt like we had: but in fact we were in Essex's cheery fruit-growing neighbour, Kent. I've not ever given Kent much thought. She gets forgotten because of the hipness of Sussex, or the crash and blare of London, and Essex is of course simply home to me. Kent is just something I've looked at when sitting on beaches at home.

I visited Rye and Camber Sands with my partner and her family, and despite it just being a day out, it felt like a proper holiday. We left Leigh at 9am and were in Rye by 10.30, which is a very doable day out for us SS9ers. The weather was gorgeous, which helped, but it really is a lovely place to go for a visit. Camber Sands was so enormous and beautiful, I took approximately 300 photos of the dunes - something you don't get to see all the time. The last time I'd seen a sand dune I was probably about 9 on a summer holiday, or possibly in Greece as a teenager.

When we rounded off the day in Dungeness, the sky was an impossible blue, and the shingle there was alive with electric colour from plants: cerise valerian, hardy against the exceptional wind on possibly the strangest landscape I've ever seen. Yellow gorse, stuck up in mustard clumps and shuddering in the breeze. I'd never been there before and for the second time that day I felt like I was on a film set. Tiny, shack-like cottages (including Derek Jarman's beloved Prospect Cottage) and artist studios, a lone pub, endless wild flowers, shingle, deserted boats, all set against the looming grey power station behind them. It's unreal. All that and we were home for a cup of tea and toast by 8pm, the sun low and glowy, our toes sandy, our faces freckled and sunkissed.

If you're looking to have a nice day out that feels like a proper holiday that's not far from us, I really recommend Rye, Camber Sands and Dungeness if you've not already been. And if you see those stands by the side of the road selling locally grown cherries and strawberries, stop and buy them: you won't regret it.

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