Kent, UK – April 2008

Day 7 – Warner & Deal Castle

Saturday 3rd May

After the now usual morning ritual of tending the kids and getting them fed and dressed ready for the day, we set off Westward in our continuation of the English Heritage trail of castles. Warner castle & grounds was first up and made for a truly lovely morning. The sun was shining brightly and the freshly mown lawns of the castle grounds were just too inviting to pass up the opportunity to relax and take in the atmosphere at a gentle pace. Although we took up the ticket office’s offer of the free audio guides, only Liana and Anton actually spent any time inside the castle listening to them whilst Sandy and me enjoyed photographing the kids having fun around the castle grounds. The castle is encircled by a dry moat and we wandered down the ramp so as to walk around the clover-leaf-shaped castle outer wall. We had particular fun trying to make out whether the very oddly shaped hedges that lined either side of a stone pathway leading away from the main castle keep were of any particular design or form but none of us were able to come to any definitive conclusions.

Literally just a few minutes up the road from Warner castle, we found Deal castle – although it’s more of a fort than castle. It, too, was circular in shape and encased with a deep, but also dry, moat. There wasn’t much in the way of an obstruction to keep the kids from toppling into the moat so we had to keep a sharp eye on all of them at all times. Here, too, there were free audio guides on offer but they served more purpose in keeping the kids entertained than any real attempt at education us adults as to the history of the site. I’ve previously been quite keen to partake in the audio guides on such occasions but now that both kids are very active and not always attentive to our wishes and directions, diverting sufficient attention towards make them worthwhile is becoming more and more difficult.

Despite being literally just a few yards from the shoreline, we decided not to choose this spot to allow the kids to spend some time on the beach. This was mainly due to the fact that this entire section of coastline is made up of stones and shingles – which is nat particularly pleasant or kind to tiny tots feet. Further up the coast from about Ramsgate onwards, there are sandy beaches so we decided to head off in that direction by way of a detour from our original plan. In the event, it was so chilly in the biting sea breeze when we got there that we decided we’d be better off detouring inland towards St. Augustine Abbey instead. The hope was that the kids now enjoying their mid-day nap would be enough for them to forget that we’d promised them a trip to the beach, which fortunately turned out to be the case.

Having now missed lunch because of the earlier detour, we figured it would be a good idea to stop somewhere for a bite to eat before carrying on and duly found a pub in some quaint little town that was advertising all-day-food on a chalk-board outside. We went through all the motions of stopping, finding somewhere to park, getting everyone inside and settled before deciding that the menu was too expensive and up-market for what we were looking for. In the end, it was a McDonald’s on the outskirts of Canterbury that we eventually opted for – although truth be told, this was more due to the fact that our sat-nav showed this to be the closest restaurant that it knew how to take us to.

As luck, or lack thereof, would have it, by the time we’d eaten our fill it was just ten minutes to closing time at St. Augustine Abbey. Between the fruitless detour to Ramsgate, the failed attempt at a pub meal and now this, the afternoon had not panned out as any of us would have liked so we decided to cut our losses and head back to home base. To make matters worse, we had the unenviable task of packing to tend to when we got there. I think it fair to say that we’d had a much better morning than afternoon today and I’m sure all of us are getting to the point that we’re actually looking forward to tomorrow’s departure. Perhaps that’s being just a bit unfair but it is true to say that we’ve had an action-packed holiday by whatever yardstick you care to use. Life with kids at the best of times can be difficult, challenging and, above all, tiring but even more so when on top of this you’re trying to carve a route through the countryside hopping from one attraction to the next. And there’s another action packed few days ahead of us still to come!