Playing On The Beach

Article written by Pam Durrington

My Great Grandmother died in 1930 and Balcot House passed to my Grandfather. I was 5 years old at the time, and for the next 5 years we spent our holidays there.  When we arrived Auntie Lottie was always sitting on the wall outside her house waiting to greet us.

 Albert lived with her and we had tea with them while the grown ups unpacked the luggage. Albert made us paper boats which we sailed in the kitchen sink and they never sank or disintegrated.

Early in the mornings before the rest of the family were awake, my elder brother Tony and my sister Christine and I would go to the beach. At that time of day it was deserted and the tide was out so the rocks were visible and it was there we decided to lay, taking great care not to stand on the jelly fishes or star fishes. We collected shells to take home but dropped most of them on the way.

Before going home we went to the fishermen’s cottages, and the men had their boats upended on the beach and they were sitting there mending their nets.

After breakfast and in the afternoons we went to the beach again, this time with out Mother and Auntie Barbara. By now the beach was quite crowded with families. The ice cream kiosk had been opened, and a man was going round collecting money for the deck chairs. The life guard was rowing back and forth watching the people swimming or paddling in the water.

We made friends with the other children and all made sand castles together although the beach was quite stony.

We swam and played on the groynes or just lazed in the sun.

On the opposite corner to Balcot was a shop. Really it was just s room in some-ones house, but they sold everything. Various objects hung from the ceiling. The walls were stacked with shelves.

There were bags of potatoes open on the floor, and boxes of different varieties of vegetables. On the floor at the other end of the counter were the boxes of fruit. Along the counter there was an array of glass jars holding sweets, next to an old fashioned weighing machine. To me it seemed like Alladins cave.

Evenings we would walk towards Folkestone along the Lees. Past the colourful flower beds, on to the bandstand where the men in their smart red uniforms were playing their brass instruments to a crowd of people sitting in deck chairs getting the last of the evening sun.

We played in the Martello Towers , but they looked a bit unsafe to me, and once a year as a treat we had a ride in the cable car and I thought I was flying.

If the sea was too rough to go on the beach Auntie Barbara would take us to Shorncliffe Camp and we would talk to the soldiers and help them groom their horses.

Every year there was a carnival and the road was closed so the children could have races. Later long tables were set out and we all had tea. In the evening when the tide was in the men tried to walk the greasy pole. No-one ever got to the end but all fell into the sea amid great cheers from the crowd.

Every year before we went home we went to put some flowers on my Great Grandmothers grave. It was a long walk up a hill, but when we got there the view over the sea was wonderful. To get home we walked down about a hundred steps then along the sea front where there was an old World War One Cannon. We used to climb up and sit along the barrel to look out to sea, and if it was a clear day we could see France .

When the holiday was over we drove slowly along the sea front. The beach was almost deserted, just a few people walking their dogs. The ice cream kiosk was closed for the season as all the families had gone home.

After all these years when I think of Sandgate I can smell the sea, picture the beach and hear the waves breaking on the shore. I even remember fondly the storms we had nearly every night.