Last weekend I went to Joss Bay and Margate. I was gasping for a day out by the coast and also curious to see Margate which is undergoing a regeneration, so it’s said. Margate had been a national tourist hotspot but sadly its heyday has long gone. It used to be full of city dwellers enjoying the sea air and festive atmosphere that goes with all piers and boardwalks, then tourism changed and people didn’t find Margate as appealing as before. So, like several other seaside towns, it turned pretty grubby and run down. I had read about the new creative quarter and efforts to bring back day trippers so was intrigued to see how the town was. I had no personal frame of reference to compare it to other than having seen photos of it when it was thriving. There has been a recent addition of a modern art gallery, Turner Contemporary, which is an effort to draw new crowds. I was interested to see if this really had made a difference.
But before Margate, we stopped at nearby Joss Bay to start with a picnic of a very colourful salad (fennel, beetroot, chicory, radishes and tomatoes), some delicious mini quiches from Euphorium Bakery (which I realise I have been calling “Emporium Bakery” for about a year!), and thyme, Emmental and mushroom muffins (recipe to be posted soon). It was a very windy day and with every gust a sprinkling of sand deposited itself in my wine, salad and face. It’s all part of a good day out! After investing in a very handy windbreaker, I was enjoying my calm state of mind so much amongst the wind, seagulls and occasional thunks as people knocked wind breakers into the sand that I would have been very content to spend the whole day there. But we had come on an adventure to Margate and would have to scoop ourselves up from the human shaped dents we had made in the sand and move on.Mini quiches are recommended, dried seaweed, not necessarily.So to Margate! One of the first things to strike you on the waterfront is the series of white blocks of the new Turner Contemporary Gallery by David Chipperfield Architects who did a fantastic job at the Neues Museum in Berlin. It’s certainly modern compared to the quaint houses and streets in the old quarter nearby and inside it is functional with white walls, poured concrete floors and plenty of natural light. Tracey Emin, who hails from Margate, has an exhibition on and Rodin’s The Kiss is on loan to the gallery. The paths around the building are made of crushed shells which is a very nice touch. We didn’t actually spend that long in Margate. Once we had wandered around the prettiest streets, had tea and cupcakes at The Cupcake Cafe, and walked down the pier it felt like we had seen it all. I would hope to say that we hadn’t but there was certainly no feeling of being enticed further into the town. One thing that did strike me was the very frequent sight of boarded up shops. So much for the regeneration. A whole stretch of the waterfront was boarded up. This felt odd next to the vintage and contemporary furniture shops and whimsical teashops.
Once Margate was an exciting destination that people went to for holidays, to spend on something that was special. But for many years now, since losing its holiday appeal, it has been an attractive town for cheap accommodation with local authorities (even in London) relocating people to hotels that have been turned into bedsits. Now with the swanky new gallery, the hope is that people will find Margate attractive again. I’m not a Tracey Emin fan so the exhibition certainly wasn’t what brought me to the town but the idea that this previously fun seaside resort was being reinvented was. Sadly, I can’t say that it’s that exciting. If you’re looking for a great seaside experience there are many more British coastal towns which are doing much better and survive with or without visitors. I do hope things will change though and if you’re looking for a good cupcake, the mango and blueberry ones at The Cupcake Cafe are seriously yummy.Vintage shopkeeperLocal wildlife