Sandgate is a bustling seaside parish on the western edge of Folkestone in Kent. Growing up I knew it as “the road with the antique shops” and in some ways this is still true but now there is so much more on offer than just antiques. As I type this I can see a small girl pushing her doll’s buggy into a small art gallery past a beautiful painted canvas of children playing in a river. There are cafes, coffee shops and bars, an award winning pub with uninterrupted sea views from its roof terrace and even a tapas bar. Naturally seafood is available everywhere from the irresistible fish and chips I can smell from my window to the full range of fish dishes on the menu of the local pub along the road. Sandgate even has a local friendly dolphin (not on the menu!). This may be a small parish but it has plenty of enthusiasm and personality, a strident parish council has recently reopened the local library as a joint library/parish office so I always have new books to read on the beach. The library is used as a community space for all sorts of groups and events along with the larger Chichester Memorial Hall which plays host to the fortnightly Sandgate Farmers’ market. While so many small communities have lost their post offices, Sandgate has recently regained one as the village shop has become a village shop/post office open til late with a friendly greeting and all those emergency products like loo roll and milk (or wine and chocolate depending on the emergency!).
Now before I start to sound like I’m being paid (or bribed) by the parish council I will admit to downsides. The High Street is a busy ‘A’ road and the main route between Folkestone and Hythe. Traffic is constant during the day and can be noisy at night especially when drunken revellers add to it, or wander in front of it. Many of the buildings do have a run down feel to them and there are empty shop fronts at both ends of the road. I have found it particularly difficult coping with the poor mobile coverage as neither my iPhone’s 3G or my laptop’s 3G dongle get any reception. There are proposals to improve this in the parish plan but at the moment I can’t get online to read it! On the positive side I haven’t been distracted by the internet once since I moved in.
So there are positives and negatives and I’m sure I will find plenty more of either. For me though, any negatives can be outweighed by the one huge positive – the fantastic, pebbly beach!