And now for something completely different …

We’ve been away for a few days, desperate for some warming sunshine and fresh sea air, to a curiously quiet part of the Kent coast.


Botany Bay, Kent

As a child I had several family holidays in Margate and I had made a mental note to never go there again. However, when looking for a beach-based getaway location I found Botany Bay, Broadstairs. It is just round the corner from Margate, but it looked enticing: secluded sandy beaches, cliffs with chalk stacks and arches, plus seaviews and wildlife aplenty. So that is where we have been and it was even better than advertised.

The vegetation on the cliffs wasn’t as advanced as I had expected given the winter/spring that we’ve been having. Even so, it is currently a green froth of Alexanders,  Smyrnium olusatrum.


Alexanders growing on the Kent cliff tops

Alexanders was introduced to Britain as a pot herb by the Romans, but it now grows wild all over. It seems to thrive in coastal environments, along cliff paths and on the foreshore. Roger Philips describes foraging for it in his ‘Wild Food’ book and the Eden Project share recipes for every part of it. It is supposed to taste something between celery and parsley, but I’ve not tried it because I’ve yet to find a plant that looks as fresh and tasty up close as it does from a distance. (Also I was not impressed with Parcel when I tried to grow that and I imagine that Alexanders is very similar.)

An information board on the path says that another notable plant growing along this bit of coast is the rare Hog’s fennel, Peucedanum officinale. It is a tall (up to 2m) umbellifer which grows exclusively in coastal grassland. It is too early in the season to see this yet (it flowers July/September), but there were some dried stalks left over from last year’s crop I think. They make good stopping perches for the birds flitting along the cliff edges.


Corn Bunting with the Thanet Offshore Wind Farm in the background

The white cliffs around Botany Bay and Kingsgate Bay are high and full of dramatic features such as this chalk arch, which disappointingly seems to be unnamed.


Chalk arch in Kingsgate Bay

And these chalk stacks at Botany Bay (also unnamed – they should take tips from Studland Bay):


Chalk stacks at Botany Bay, Kent

And a warren of natural and man-made caves used by smugglers, including the infamous 18th century smuggler Joss Snelling and his gang. The next bay round to the east takes its name from him.

At low tide you can walk from bay to bay along the beach, from Margate to Broadstairs, spotting wildlife amonst the rockpools, like this ringed Turnstone.


Turnstone in the rockpools

I think I saw his colleague enjoying a bath in a puddle on Broadstairs harbour:


Turnstone enjoying a bath

On our final morning we were treated to a spectacular sunrise:


An April Fool’s sunrise

All in all, a very good break. Hope that your Easter holidays have been fun too!


About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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20 Responses to And now for something completely different …

  1. Christina says:

    Did you visit the newish gallery in Margate? I’ve heard it’s excellent

    • Yes, we went to see the Turner Contemporary gallery, but we were disappointed. It is a great space, but both of the main exhibition spaces are currently running videos, which seemed to be a waste of the display area.

  2. Gillian says:

    Looks like you had a lovely time. There’s nothing like a short break at the seaside to refresh and revive is there?

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    Beautiful scenery – looks like a nice getaway and you had good luck with the weather!

  4. What simply stunning images, especially the gull wheeling against sunset skies and the ghostly images of the offshore wind turbines. It looks as though you were rewarded by fine seaside weather.

  5. Sam says:

    I live just along the coast from Botany Bay – it is a beautiful place. Having moved to east Kent from London a few years ago, I’m always amazed by how few people there are here. It’s like a well-kept secret. Last year there were masses of Alexanders along the lanes and Hog’s fennel. There are many good things about this place 🙂

    • How wonderful to live here all the time. I do feel like we’ve discovered a well kept secret. I look forward to going back to check out some of the stuff we didn’t have time for.

  6. Enjoyed this little excursion with you. The chalk stacks are amazing; would love to see them someday. My husband is not a beach lover, but I find nothing sooths quite so well as the sight, smell, and sound of the ocean.

    • Haha, my husband loves the sea, cliffs and harbours, but hates sand. He would rather have sat on the pebbles at Deal (round the corner of the coast) than on the sand at Botany Bay. I agree about the sounds and smell of the ocean, so refreshing.

  7. Robbie says:

    what a beautiful place to visit:-) the chalk is stunning. I have never seen anything like that before:-) I understand if you don’t like parcel for we all have different taste buds:-) I love my parcel for it is so much easier than trying to grow the large celery in our garden zone. It is slow to germinate, but I enjoy it in soups and veggie wraps. It did come back in my garden this year a few plants. I am growing more perennial edibles, but sometimes it is scary eating something you are not use to eating. I don’t grow some of them ( perennials edibles) for they sure don’t taste that good-lol I

    • Maybe I should set myself a challenge to try something (veg/fruit) new every month! It is a while since I tried parcel in fact and since I totally agree about its usefulness in soups etc, I should maybe try it again. I found chinese celery easier to grow as a celery substitute for stir-fries and cooking.

      • Robbie says:

        I agree:-)I try to do that each summer.I tried one this year from seedaholic and I found it a bit better growing. YOu might like that one -here is the link-
        I really like how it is holding up to our cold freezes this past month. The little seedlings are bit better than the parcel. I really enjoy Seedaholic selections always something new to try:-)

  8. What a spectacular area, I love the cliffs and rock formations. I wonder of your wild Alexanders inspired the common name for our native Zizia aurea, which we call Golden Alexander.

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