It was Easter Monday. Visitors crowded the town centre and beach.
Traffic prevented an escape elsewhere. So, where could I go to
escape the masses and get a bit of solitude? Well, a short stroll took me to.... Duncan Downs.
The photos below might just encourage others to take a look too.
1-2: Keeping One's Distance!
The Downs are funny things!. They form a major part
of the clay hills surrounding the town and are visible from so
many locations. For example, if you go through the turnstiles at
Whitstable Town FC's Belmont ground and take a moment to look
will spot the clay dome as it oversees football tactics from a
The dome-shaped Duncan Downs supervise
Whitstable v Faversham in August 2010
If you happen to be strolling back from the shops
along Grimshill Road, you may get that "funny feeling of
being watched"... and you are... because the Downs are
stalking you from between the roof tops...
The Downs from Grimshill Road - 25 April
3: A Winter Facility!
Despite all this, most of us hardly ever go there
and, if we do, it's normally at a different time of year and in
somewhat different meteorological circumstances....
Yes, many of us take to sledging down the
North face of the Downs in snow.... but what about the Spring and
4-5: The North Face in Spring!
The reality is that Duncan Downs offers a quieter
and less hectic stroll when the weather gets better. Whilst the
panoramic views may be different and less harsh, they are no less
Above: View North
from the North Face of Duncan Down on 25 April 2011
Below: View North West towards The Castle Grounds Tankerton
5-6: Spotting - Houses and Roads
Those panoramas provide an opportunity to play a
fascinating version of "I spy" with
your kids or grandchildren. When you do, there are some
surprises. Notice how dominant the Victorian houses of the Wave Crest
waterfront can seem (see photo below).
Notice also, how the Windsor House tower block
(Belmont Road) and the Bretts Works (at the harbour) form such
prominent landmarks (below)....
7: Spotting Buildings and Roads
If you have a pair of binoculars handy, you may be
even more impressed. The shot below shows Victorian/ Edwardian
Wave Crest in close up....
Whilst Wave Crest is accepted as a familiar
and popular part of the Whitstable landscape in 2011, this shot
makes me realise just how out-of-character the multi-storey
terrace is compared to much of the town... and it must have seemed
even more so when it was first built. I wonder if there were any protest
groups in those distant times! I also wonder if Wave Crest sums up Victorian and
Edwardian attitudes in the "Days of Empire".
Victorians seemed to expect the world to adapt to them and their
projects rather than making much attempt to live in harmony with their surroundings.
Mind you, would we have held onto an empire for all those years if they hadn't been
8-9: Remember the Binoculars!
Of course, if you have a pair of binoculars, your "I
Spy" game becomes even more fascinating. Take the shot
See just how many rooftops you can name. So far, I
have identified... the Oyster Store (on the seafront to the left),
the "Upturned-Boat-Shaped" roof of the Horsebridge Arts
Centre, the white sloping roof of the old Regal/Argosy cinema (now
Budgens Supermarket), the old Post Office, the Whitstable
Playhouse, the Duke of Cumberland, the flat roof of the old Courts
Furniture Store and St Alphege
Things may be a little easier to identify in the
10-11: Moving to the Flip Side
It's now time to move south-west through the copse at
the top of Duncan Downs. Whilst doing so, you can look back to get
one last glimpse of the town through the trees....
After a short stroll, you emerge into another world and one that
not too many local people will have visited....
Looking South from the Copse
This is where much painstaking and loving effort
has been spent in making the Downs a quiet retreat for all. The
relief is much gentler and you could be forgiven for thinking that
you have just stepped onto a hidden golf course. Wide paths have
have been mowed between natural shrubbery just like
"fairways" and there are even patches of slightly longer
grass to form the "rough". If you are hoping for "just
a short walk", you can
continue straight on as that track to
the left will lead you very swiftly to the Long Reach roundabout
12-13: The Windmill
However, if you are in no hurry, it is worth
delaying your trip home and exploring the myriad of other paths.
If you do, you will be treated to views of the Windmill to the west....
15: And Still a Sea View
You may have lost the sea views directly to the
North.... but, thanks to a gap in the shrubbery and the natural
slope of the Downs "dome", you gain one to the
North-West - across Whitstable Bay to the Isle of Sheppey.
The westerly view across Whitstable Bay
to the Isle of Sheppey
Sadly, at the time that the photo was taken, the
UK was suffering a high pressure system and some poor air quality.
As a result, Sheppey is not quite as visible as normal.
16-17: Looking East with Seats
The land also drops away to the east and leads
down to the Gorrell Stream.....
In this photo you get a glimpse of the houses of
Golden Hill (on the skyline) and Benacre Wood (the narrow band of
trees running across the middle of the picture). The shrubs in the
foreground cover the valley of the Gorrell Stream.
One of the features of Duncan Downs is that it is
not necessary to keep on your feet. There are many bench seats.
Some bear the names of donors or their lost loved ones. Others
simply carry a poignant message - as below.
16-17: Looking East with Seats
Now its time that we took a trip down that slope
to explore the eastern side of the Downs. As you descend towards the Gorrell
Stream, Benacre Wood becomes more prominent on the skyline.....
As you approach the narrow valley floor, there is
evidence of new trees a having been planted (see below).
18-: Down to the Stream and Ponds
With so much dry weather this springtime, the
stream is little more than a ditch with a trickle of water in most
places. However, there are stretches where the water has been trapped
to form marshy areas populated by reeds .....
.... and there are two ponds of largely still
water (see below).
Further photos of Duncan Downs in snow can be
found on our Snow Chat Section (click
Duncan Downs is looked after by the "Friends
of Duncan Downs" with the help of Canterbury City Council.
I think our readers will agree that they have all done a magnificent job
in providing such a wonderful facility so close to the town centre.
The Downs are now protected by Village Green
status and gained a Green Flag award in 2006. It is a huge success
story... and long may it continue as an open space that allows us
to escape from the Easter Monday tourism!!! ;-)
For further information you may wish to view the
PDF file on Canterbury City Council web site. This includes
descriptions, maps, photos and aerial photo (click