Tag Archive | Thanet

Botany Bay Kent UK

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Along the coast of Kent between Margate and Broadstairs is Botany Bay.  This bay has a long, yellow sand beach, chalk reef and towering chalk cliffs with some sea stacks.  Today I visited the bay with my mum as I enjoy a UK vacation.

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My mum’s dog, Archie the Westie, patrolling the cliffs

Infamous as a landing place for smugglers in the 18th century, the beach was actually the site of a clash between smugglers and Revenuers in 1769 that resulted in several deaths.  The encounter has come to be known as the Battle of Botany Bay.  It involved Joss Snelling and his considerable band of smuggling cohorts known as the Callis Court Gang.  The Revenue Patrol ambushed the gang as they unloaded their goods and shooting ensued.

Smugglers cut caves and tunnels into the soft chalk cliffs to use as storage places for the contraband and as escape routes.  The closed-up remains of these caves and tunnels can still be seen today.  The most well-known features of Botany Bay are the impressive chalk sea stacks.  These free-standing towers are the remains of cliffs that have been cut away by the endless wash of the sea.a8

Newly eroded chalk is pure, blinding white in the sun.  It quickly weathers to a gray-white and is often colonized by algae.a9

If you move up close to the seaward side of a cliff you will find the rock is riddled with holes.  Limpets creep into the holes for safety during low tide.  It is remarkable how well they fit the holes.a6

a7This part of the English coast looks out across the Channel toward France.  There is a huge windfarm off-shore.  Cargo ships often shelter on this side of the channel when it is too choppy for crossing.  It is not uncommon to see several large ships close to shore.a4

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Skate or ray egg case and whelk egg cases

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Whelk shell

Strolling the beach revealed a healthy population of whelk and some type of skate or ray as evidenced by the plethora of eggs.  The strangely shaped black ray eggs are also called mermaids purses.  There were numerous egg cases to be found, along with shells of the large sea snails.

With the great expanse of fine sand, the impressive cliffs and the safe waters with a mild current, it is easy to see why this beach is popular in the summer.  And also why smugglers found it a convenient spot to ply their lucrative trade.

This article contains interesting information about the Battle of Botany Bay:  http://www.thanet-ghostwatch.co.uk/history/smug1.htm

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Reculver, Kent, Roman Ruins

aEngland was conquered by the Romans in A.D. 43.  Signs of the Roman invasion remain in many places.  Near where my mom lives in Kent, there is a place called Reculver.  At one time, the entire area was the island of Thanet, surrounded by sea.  The Romans built a fort on headlands overlooking the water around A.D. 300.  It is believed a harbor existed there and the area required defense from the Celts, who itched to overthrow their foreign lords.  Below-ground evidence exists of a fort, barracks, a bath and a headquarters building.  All that remains visible of the Roman works is the southern wall of the fort, standing as high as nine feet in some places.

Constructed of locally made concrete and once faced with stone, the wall is now greatly eroded and slowly falling back into the earth.  I collected this sample of Roman made concrete from the ground at the base of the wall.  Its composition perfectly matches the standing rampart and I could even find the spot in the wall where it broke away.  This concrete is a fascinating mix of sand, small stones and shells held together with limestone adhesive.

Today the place is quite lonely and always windswept.  The harbor and channels that separated Thanet from the mainland have all silted in.  The violent Atlantic slowly works away at the cliffs beneath the ruins.  One day it will all be gone.  The most arresting monument there today is the remains of a 12th century church built on the site.  Two tall, square towers dominate the landscape and can be seen from many miles away along the coast.  The church and the even earlier monastery that existed there after the Romans left are now all ruins as well.

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My daughter, very pregnant, standing inside the remains of the Norman church at Reculver. These towers can be seen for miles.

Still, I enjoy visiting there, imagining life as an Italian far from a sunny home, garrisoned on a hostile shore.  Holding the bits of crumbling concrete, I think of the hands that nearly two thousand years ago smoothed this liquid concretion into place.  All slowly falls to dust and wild rabbits make warrens where once Roman soldiers tramped.

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