/ The London Traveler
London — By Andrea Kirkby on May 4, 2010 at 10:37 am
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Day trip – Sandwich

In between the rain showers we’ve had a bit of sunshine and I’ve been thinking about day trips out from London. Heading south, Kent seems a good idea, and to avoid having to give the secret details of my favourite bluebell wood, I thought I might look at Sandwich – one of the Cinque Ports and a rather charming town.

One of Sandwich's twisty medieval streets

Sandwich has some fine medieval buildings, mainly in local flint – the Fisher Gate on the quayside, and St Thomas’s Hospital, named after St Thomas Becket and built in the fourteenth century. There’s a barbican gate, an a sixteenth century Guildhall.

There’s also the one remaining survivor of Sandwich’s windmills, the White Mill, a pretty white-clapboarded smock mill from 1760.

And there’s a lovely Lutyens Queen Anne style house, The Salutation, with gardens by Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll. The ‘Secret Gardens of Sandwich’  are open all week (£5 entrance fee) and feature marvellously lush planting setting of a strong architectural and landscape frame. If you want to see a classical English style garden, and particularly the White garden – a Jekyll speciality – this is the place to come. (Get a cream tea here too.)

But it’s the town and its surroundings that is the real draw: the toll bridge over the River Stour, the salt flats with their bird life and winding paths, and the riverside walk down to the dunes at Sandwich Bay – the old inns, the flint cottages and narrow, twisting streets.

And it’s got one fantastic, totally out of place piece of Art Deco – the Empire Cinema, a luridly strip-lighted building whose medieval neighbours seem to be trying to elbow it out of the way. Perhaps they’re a bit embarrassed by its brashness!

Shopping is fun – this is a town with art galleries, antique shops, and little boutiques rather than the standard chain stores. There’s a market on Thursdays, and all in all Sandwich feels like the elusive ‘real English market town’ rather than a tourist sight.

If you fancy a trip from London, there are trains from Charing Cross – but it’s a stopping train and can take up to two hours.

And yes, the sandwich – two bits of bread with stuffing of some sort in between – does get its name from the town, albeit by a roundabout route. John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich and one of the eighteenth century’s great men-about-town, used to eat his meat between two bits of bread so he didn’t get his hands messy, and could carry on gambling instead of taking a break to eat a proper meal.

Photo from Jon’s Pics on flickr

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