After a night of tumultuous storms, Saturday, the day of our friend Karen’s annual beach hut party, dawned bright and fresh. We made our way to Whitstable on the train and, by way of Regent Street, to the town centre. En route we passed a low brick wall adorned with hessian sacks crammed full of geraniums. The gardener had chosen varieties with gaily patterned leaves, such as ‘Mrs Pollock’, a zonal pelargonium.
I rather liked this rustic, inexpensive approach to garden decoration.
In Harbour Street, the fluttering heart of this chichi seaside town, I always stop to admire the narrow plots in front of a row of weatherboarded holiday cottages. They’ve be laid out in the prairie style with grasses, heleniums, Verbena bonariensis and Cephalaria gigantea (in the foreground).
Visiting this stretch of the Kent coast for the first time, Helen of Oz struggled with the concept of a pebbly beach. In Australia a beach is only a beach if it’s sandy. To add insult to injury there were ‘weeds’ on the foreshore: plants we consider to be wild flowers. Even my pointing out of a yellow horned poppy, Glaucium flavum, failed to impress.
Whitstable’s beach is not backed by a fringe of palms or thick eucalyptus forest, but by beach huts and industrial buildings. I rather like this reminder that there’s something gritty behind Whitstable’s facade of fancy shops and restaurants. As the day drew longer I could sense a certain warmth developing between Whitstable and our friend from Oz.
We strode out into the Thames estuary following a long gravel spit uncovered by the receding tide and admired the kind of sunset that Turner would have been glad to paint. The sky had the quality of marbled glass lit from behind. On one thing we were both agreed – it was a fitting end to a delightful afternoon.