Ramsgate Tunnels Tour

Hidden within the white chalk cliffs towering over Ramsgate Sands is a network of tunnels extending approximately 3 and 1/4 miles under the town. There are 11 entrances at strategic points around the town providing easy access to safety within a 5 minute walk of most areas. If the siren was to go off, you and your family could be safe within a five minute’s walk.

Ramsgate Tunnels town entrance

Martin, our guide for the 1 and 1/2 hour tour is born and bred in Ramsgate and his grandparents used the tunnels during the war. He has many fascinating anecdotes to share.

Ramsgate Tunnels Tour

Ramsgate Tunnels entrance

I would advise you book your tickets online as the tours fill quickly and arriving at the door, hoping to squeeze on a tour may leave you disappointed.

The Ramsgate Tunnels Tour starts in the large entrance tunnel with a short film which takes you back to the days of World War II. Martin then introduces himself and runs you through the history, starting at the beginning when the tunnel was made to join Ramsgate Sands to the existing train line that then ended at Broadstairs. It proved to be a great success and Ramsgate enjoyed a booming tourist industry.

Ramsgate Tunnels vintage sign

As the Second World War approached, the tunnels had fallen into disuse and it was the brains of Mr Brimmell and Mr ABC Kemp, the mayor of Ramsgate, that came up with the ambitious plan to extend the tunnels into a network of deep shelter areas that would provide refuge for 60,000 people.

The Duke of Kent opened the completed tunnels in 1939 and on August 28th 1940 they proved their worth when Ramsgate received more than 500 bombs from a squadron of German pilots who dumped their load rather than carry it home. No lives were lost but the town was left badly damaged.

Ramsgate Tunnels toilets

The toilets of the time

The tunnels were equipped with chemical toilets, bunk beds, seating, lighting and a public addressing system. As homes were damaged above ground, life carried on underneath. Some people even took up residence down there.

Construction of the Ramsgate Tunnels

Ramsgate Tunnels tour

The tunnels were made 6 feet wide and 7 feet high. They were constructed at a depth of 50-75 feet to provide protection from bombs. If the tunnels rose closer to the surface and were deemed unsafe, they were coated with reinforced concrete.

Life in the Ramsgate Tunnels

Ramsgate Tunnels Tour

Two babies are said to have been born in the tunnels. Dances were held, Christmas dinners enjoyed, a barber, whose shop had been bombed, started to work down there. Life carried on and the children of the time, unaware of the enormity of the situation, had a great time living their underground adventure.

Fortunately, nobody died in the tunnels. The closet Ramsgate came was a man nicknamed ‘Shell’ which is a very sweet story but I’ll let Martin tell you that one, he tells it so much better than I could.

Tickets

Can be bought online

Adults – £6.50
Seniors – £5.00
Child – £4.00

Top Tips

Wear warm clothes. You will need a jacket as the tunnels are cold.

Wear trainers or flat closed shoes, it’s a dusty uneven surface down there.

Young children aren’t going to enjoy this. We had a 2 year old in our group, he screamed and cried all the way round which echoed in the small space. Poor child, he was cold, bored and would much rather be on the beach. It was a shame he was so noisy as he interrupted Martin’s fascinating stories and made it difficult for the group to hear.

Ramsgate Tunnels memoirs

spring gardening tips

Spring Gardening Tips

We have had our static caravan in Thanet for over a year now and as the summer approaches, we are enjoying the outside more and more – weather permitting of course. It’s nice to have another area to enjoy. We have bought a small table and chairs which comes in very handy for quick snacks and, in this case, sowing our seeds that Tesco kindly sent us through along with a wonderful hamper of bits and pieces to help make our garden even more special.

It’s only a small patch of grass to the side and another stretch in front which was initially covered with a decking area but had to be ripped down by the new management for ‘health and safety’ reasons. Annoying as a new balcony around the caravan will cost a minimum of £7000!

So we want to make the most of the area we have without creating enormous amounts of work. Can it be done?

Tesco set up a conversation for me with Katie Rushworth and I share her top spring gardening tips on how to get the best out of your plot for the summer.

1. Plant out summer bedding, half-hardy annuals

Spring is the perfect time to dust off your trowel, get planting and give your garden some love.

When you start, try to plant and stick to a colour theme throughout your containers and baskets. Maybe a mix of hot colours and the odd chilli plant thrown in to your window box might spice things up. If you fancy something a little more ‘cottage garden’ in style then stick with pastel shades and add some herbs to the mix. Half-hardy annuals such as Cosmos, Zinnia, Cleome and Nicotiana can all be sown straight into the ground at this time of year and are fantastic colour fillers.

acer tree plant

An acer tree plant bought in Tesco

2. Pressure wash, or hose down and scrub

A great and easy way to get your garden looking its best is to get the pressure washer out and give that patio, path or deck some TLC. Just removing any dirt and moss from your seating area will instantly make your garden appear smarter. They are also great for cleaning down garden furniture and children’s play equipment, often they look brand new again.

3. Paint a fence or wall

gardeing tesco

It’s a great time of year to treat any wood that is in the garden – spring offers slightly cooler days with a possible chance of sunshine (unpredictable English weather) so your fence/wall will have time to properly dry. Whether that be fencing, a shed, garden furniture, wooden planters or a children’s climbing frame – all will last longer if given some added protection against the elements, and it will also give them a new lease of life. If you’re feeling brave, add some colour! A brightly coloured wall can make a fantastic statement all year round, a steely grey coloured fence can add a contemporary feel.

4. Costs

Have a plan for your garden and stick to it. Keep an eye out for retailers and garden centres who will have a wide range of deals available in the lead up to the summer months. Tesco is offering some great deals on its garden range available, in store now or visit online for more details and inspiration.

5. Lawn

Don’t forget to look after your lawn, as a freshly cut lawn makes all the difference. One of the top gardening mistakes Brits with a garden are committing is letting the lawn become unruly and overgrown. Make sure you remove any bare patches by getting rid of any dead grass and moss from the area. Then sprinkle some topsoil, followed by some lawn seed. A final fine dressing of topsoil will keep any wildlife from eating the seed as well as ensure that the seed comes into contact with the soil. Lightly water to prevent any of the seed from being disturbed.

6. Stake and support plants

Any plants that you know need support to look their best will benefit if you visit your local retailer or garden centre and get those supports in now. Even if they are weeks from flowering and still have lots of growth to put on, getting those garden canes in now and tying things in is much easier to do when you don’t have to navigate excess foliage and other plants in flower. As the plant continues to grow it will also naturally disguise the canes or framework you have put in place and leave you with beautiful looking flowers.

Tesco summer cup

A quick snack for the workers!

7. Lighting

Garden lighting is often overlooked, but it can really extend the use of your garden and add ambience and atmosphere to any outdoor spaces. String lights always look fabulous and add a festival feeling, whilst clusters of lanterns on steps and tables add charm and elegance. Up lighting a tree can add drama and give the garden an evening focal point, as well as give that holiday feeling. Don’t forget the fire pit which also gives warmth as the evening draws in.

8. Hoe

According to Tesco’s research the most dreaded gardening job for over a third of adults with a garden is weeding. However this task won’t seem so daunting if you find yourself a hoe (this is my favourite garden implement). It makes easy work of keeping on top of those weeds! On a dry day, slice the top of the weed off just below the surface of the soil. This will prevent the weed from photosynthesizing and the root will dry out and die. Sometimes the weed may eventually regrow, but this definitely weakens the plant so it is much less likely to make an appearance. For more persistent weeds, removing the whole root maybe necessary. However intermediate hoeing can make weeding a much more manageable garden task.

aperitivo

9. Prune spring flowering shrubs

Any shrubs which have flowered this spring can be pruned now if they are getting too big and unruly. Tesco has found that people are not confident when it comes to pruning plants but this is really easy to do! Remove any dead or damaged growth first, then any growth which is weak or crossing over one another causing stems to rub together in a tangled mass. Always cut the branch on an angle and to a new outward facing bud to increase air circulation. Shrubs can tolerate being cut back hard now, so removing half of the plant may seem brutal and look a little drastic, but it will recover over the summer months and reward you with lots of fresh new growth.

10. Dress it

Cushions, throws and outdoor rugs are the finishing touches that really make your garden feel like an extension of your house. Tie the colours in with colours you have in the home as well as colours you have used in the garden to create a unified and cohesive design. You don’t need green fingers for this, and it’s amazing how much more welcoming a garden becomes when it has a seat with a lovely cushion and a throw on it. Also, don’t forget to invest in a decent BBQ – this is essential to have, especially if you are planning to entertain friends and dine alfresco. Check out the wide range of outdoor essentials and BBQ’s available at Tesco on tesco.com/direct/garden.

cheers Tesco

Tesco is running unbeatable deals over the next month on its garden range. Don’t forget to head down to store, or shop online, to take advantage of these great deals and get your gardens set for summer.

Disclosure – This is a collaborative post with Tesco, I hope you can make the most of Katie’s tips, I certainly will be over the coming weeks. As you can see I have a lot to do. Cheers!

This is a collaborative post with Tesco.

Margate street art

I love Hello Canvas and when I saw the effects of their latest ideas for displaying family photos, I had to purposely go out and take a great image, the perfect image for an HD Metal frame.

Luckily for me our time spent in Thanet allows for the discovery of a lot of artwork, the Turner Contemporary is a huge favourite of mine – I popped into the latest exhibition this weekend – Every day is a new day and was wowed by the sculptures and paintings. I also love to stroll the streets of Margate, I always find some street art or quirky detail that surprises and delights me. It was in fact, on parking the car that I spotted the mural above and asked dad and the kids to stand in front for a photo opportunity.

I also took a photo of the mural with nobody in it and that is the one I decided on to place on HD metal.

When the artwork came through I was so excited to see how well it turned out. I knew it would work wonderfully in the girl’s bedroom in our new holiday home and couldn’t wait to put it up.

What is HD metal?

HD metal wall art

HD metal is a thin aluminium plate with a coating on top. Your image is applied onto it and the results are sharp, strong, eye-catching quality that really gives images a wow factor that I have not seen before. HD metal is scratch resistant and waterproof – they say it can be used outside but I’m keeping mine inside.

I went for the high gloss version but there is a matt version available too.

The finished product is incredibly light – I hung mine with Command velcro stickers. It is strong and the colours are intense. It comes with a frame on the back which keeps it off the wall giving the impression of depth.

 

The only problem I had with my new wall art was taking a photo of it, you see the high gloss finish reflects the light, so with the window behind me, I kept seeing my silouhette reflected in the picture. Not good when you want to take a serious photo!

I went for something bright and quirky but I imagine black and white would work extremely well too.

I’m really pleased our little holiday home is starting to look more and more like a home these days and a place where we all like to go to and spend some quality time together. Watch out for our Thanet Uncovered posts to find out where we go and what we get up to.

Disclosure: Hello Canvas gifted me this artwork in return for this blog post. All opinions are my own.

Capri day trip

I’m not sure why but I thought I’d never see the Island of Capri. You see, it is a luxury destination where world-known celebrities hang out and overpaid footballers buy enormous mansions with personal football pitches.

It is the island where Sophia Loren swam in the Grotta Azzura (Blue Cave) with Clark Gable in the film, ‘It Started in Naples’. This tiny dot of limestone rock, I’d just assumed to be impossible to ever visit.

So should you ever be taking a short break in Sorrento and you have some spare time, I would wholeheartedly recommend a day trip to the Island of Capri.

The ferry runs a few times a day and tickets can be bought down near the harbour in Sorrento. We strolled down one morning and queued up alongside a melting pot of tourists from every corner of the planet.Those armed with guidebooks, who with cameras and some with just a curious mind.

Day trip Island of Capri

Giuseppe our Italian guide – note the license around his neck.

Day Trip to the Island of Capri

As we hung around the piazza waiting for our ferry, an Italian gentleman approached. Giuseppe asked if we would be interested in his services for the day. He explained he had been a licensed guide for 50 odd years and had been accompanying people to the island since. He explained the route he would take, the places we would visit, the places we could eat and his price which was reasonable. I managed to convince our group and we were taken under Giuseppe’s wing.

It was the best decision, his advice started on the crossing. On spotting the choppy sea, he indicated to sit towards the back for a better ride. We did as we were instructed and survived a crossing that made many others very ill indeed.

capri day trip

Arrival to the island is in the bustling port of Marina Grande. I found it fascinating, there were bellboys from the luxury hotels, collecting guests and their luggage from the various, ferries, yachts and water taxis. The customers were taken in open top taxis to their destinations and their luggage followed.

Capri day trip

Everything on the island has to be imported from the mainland, the food and drink even the buses and building materials.

Capri luggage taxis

Chambermaids, barmen, waiters and shop assistants all travel over daily to work on the island as there is nowhere to stay overnight. Property is way too expensive to put staff up in!
Giuseppe shuffled us and another ten guests onto a bus and we drove off to our first sightseeing point along a narrow and winding road with a sheer drop to one side.

Anacapri

day trip island of capri

Those green stickers on our t-shirts Giuseppe gave us so he could remember his customers :) 

There is a short walk from where the bus drops you at Anacapri and you follow a path through souvenir shops up around the side of the highest point until you stand and look down over Capri. It is a breathtaking moment,  below you can make out the mansions with their football pitches I was telling you about earlier. You can see the dot of a harbour that we had been in half an hour ago and you can take in the lush green vegetation against the blue of the Mediterranean Sea.

If you wish, you can walk down 100s steps past the mansions, back to the harbour. We didn’t, Giuseppe had arranged for us to continue our journey after a stop for lunch. ‘Pausa pranzo’

The lunch was in a busy restaurant on the walk we had taken up and the menu was basic but cheap. There wasn’t any time in Giuseppe’s schedule for luxurious long lunches which would have been very nice, so we obliged and enjoyed a decent meal with wine for a few euros before making our way back to the meeting point.

Now it was time to drive over to Capri the second main town on the island.

Capri

On the way over to the town Capri, Giuseppe asked the driver to stop after one of the bends in the winding road. He’d been telling us about famous people who had lived on the island or who had a holiday home here. Property prices are eye watering but the views are stunning. Fortunately for us, the sun came out at this point. That is Punta di Tragara in the distance.

Marina Piccola Capri

We drove on to our last stop. Giuseppe would be leaving us here but included in his fee were tickets to catch the cable car from Capri down to the harbour, Marina Grande where we would catch our ferry home. We had some time to explore the town during our day trip and what a beautiful place it is.

Piazzetta Capri

Designer shops line the cobbled stone streets, posh hotels, world class restaurants and pizzerias with photos of Simon Cowell and other famous faces in the window. The buildings are whitewashed and the shops are full of luxurious items. It’s another world.

Capri day trip

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Carthusia

Carthusia perfume CApri

When you visit Capri, you will see the word Carthusia everywhere. It’s the name of the perfume company from Capri and you will spot signs everywhere. They sponsored the town’s flower displays, they have scent smelling stations set up and there are shops where you can choose and buy your personal favourite. I wish I had! I shall return to Capri one day to visit Carthusia. Note the small table with jars in the photo above, they are the scents to smell and decide.

Town square

Piazzetta Capri

Sit in one of the squares long enough and sooner or later you will spot a celebrity stopping for an espresso, an aperitivo or just to savour the moment, maybe with a limonata, the soft drink that is so popular in this part of the world. We didn’t stop at this bar as we were curious to walk around the town and see what we could discover. We weren’t disappointed.

Capri cable car

Piazzetta in Capri

One exciting way to get back down to Marina Grande is by the cable car. Just by the main Piazzetta there is a wonderful terrace with garlands around the pillars. Right next to that you will see the word funiculare, and that is the entrance to the cable car. As you descend you have a fantastic view of the harbour below and the sea stretching out in front.

capri cable car

Capri aperitivo

If there is one last tip I must pass on it is to make time to sit in one of the bars in the Marina Grande harbour, order a Capri aperitivo (which you can see here  – Blue for the Grotto Azure) and watch the world go by. There is a hive of activity passing right in front of you and people from all walks of life walking and looking at the cheap souvenir shops lining the streets.

Bar Aprea Capri

Capri is well worth a visit and I look forward to returning one day … maybe even staying over one night and going for a pizza…

shell grotto margate

If like me, you are attracted to mystery and you enjoy being wowed by unexplainable facts then the Shell Grotto in Margate has to be high on your bucket list. Trust me and read on, you are going to love it.

Hidden away in the back streets of an unsuspecting residential area of Margate, within walking distance of the centre, is a curiosity that will hold your wonder for days after your visit. In fact, it is so insignificant you would be forgiven for passing it by or for even not finding it all! It is said it was discovered by mistake in 1835, when James Newlove was digging a duck pond in the ground and came across a hole. Like any loving father, he lowered his son into it to explore and his son returned, thankfully, describing a labyrinth of tunnels covered in shells below ground.

shell grotto margate

Well, that’s one story of how it was discovered but there are a number of stories out there and after 180 years of exaggeration and embellishment there’s not a lot of chance finding out the truth!

Anyway, in 1838, three years later, James opened the Shell Grotto to the public and now, almost 200 years to the day, it hasn’t lost its ability to draw the curious in. It remains a hugely popular place to visit when in Margate.

“My brother found out about the underground place sometime before it was known. He never dared to tell father. He found the chalk loose at one end of the passage next to the cottage, which was built afterwards, and he opened it up by taking the stuff away, as it were in rough blocks. Then when the opening was wide enough, he crawled through and got into the Grotto. And so did I. Yes, and two or three other young girls too. We crept in through the opening, and had to scrub ourselves right through the dirty chalk, and lor, we did make a mess of ourselves. But we got in and saw it all; we had to take a candle in a lantern round somebody’s neck.

“Once, when we were in, father shouted for us, and we were in a fine hurry to get out. “Where are those girls?” The reason he wanted us then was because a new governess, a clergyman’s daughter, had just arrived, and we were to be introduced. So we got out as quick as might be, and we were all white and dirty from the chalk and the dust. We needed some brushing, I can tell you; and we had to do it quick too.

“But it was really discovered in 1837, and my brother was dropped down the Dome with a light. He had been through it before, but had not told father.”

— Fanny Newlove

The Shell Grotto

Shell Grotto Margate

The Shell Grotto measures 104ft long and the walls are covered in 4.6 million shells mosaiced into intricate panels each depicting a separate design and meaning. There is the Turtle Panel, the Aries Panel, the Skeleton Panel and the Ankh-Isis Panel amongst the 20 that have been named since the discovery.

shell grotto margate

To date no documents have come to light mentioning the Grotto, no correspondence, no maps and no plans of construction, so nobody knows really with any certainty what it was built for. All we have to work on are theories.

  • Those who believe the Shell Grotto was a place of worship
  • Those who think the Shell Grotto was a rich man’s folly.
  • Those who are certain the Shell Grotto was a smuggler’s cave.

Who knows?

What we do know is 99% of the shells used are all locally found but in the corners of the Altar Room, there are queen conches from the Caribbean which adds an exotic touch to the mystery.

shell grotto margate

When to visit and how much does it cost

The Shell Grotto is open daily from 10am – 5pm from the beginning of the Easter holidays to the end of October half term and in winter at the weekends.

Tickets cost £4.00 for adults, £3.50 for concessionaries, £1.50 for children and a family of four (2 adults and 2 children) £8

shell grotto margate

What else is there to do?

There is a wonderful shop selling all sorts of shell related products and precious stones plus a cafe where you can get a drink and a bite to eat. Read up more on the Shell Grotto website and if you are in the area go and see it for yourself.