We are trying to buy a house.
And by ‘trying to buy a house’, I mean that we are trying to afford a house that is sufficient in size for five children, two adults and a part-time dog on what amounts to not a very large mortgage at all. We certainly can’t afford to buy in London. At one point, we were literally searching ‘South East England’ on Zoopla, according to our budget (small) and minimum number of bedrooms (four). It yielded fewer possibilities for location than one might think, particularly with the additional limitation that I will also need to commute into London on a daily basis.
One of the options was Folkestone, and the more we have looked into the area and the commute, the more tempted we are by a permanent move to this area of the coast. We decided to spend last weekend scouting the area from the ground to see how well we like it and whether we felt that we could live there.
We started the journey with a little picnic on the train – roasted vegetable sandwiches for Kirsty and brioche for the children, as we wanted something high-value to keep them quiet and we didn’t think that they would eat the sandwiches. As it transpired, they motored their way through their own brunch and then started coaxing from me little pieces of my sandwich. It was gone in about thirty seconds, with Lysander suggesting that perhaps next time we should buy them sandwiches of their own as well (in a most accusatory tone, as though we make a habit of starving them!) and I found myself deeply regretting my decision to abstain from breakfast! I don’t think that they would be remotely tempted to consume avocado, spinach and roasted pepper sandwiches at home, and it was so interesting to me how deeply they coveted them when they were sat on my own plate. I’m making a note to myself to take them out to lunch more and to dare to order for them the more adventurous option, as we would love to broaden their eating habits.
Folkestone is only 53 minutes on the high-speed rail from St Pancras, and that hour flew by. The highlight of the journey for the children was the ticket inspector, who noticed that we had two outbound tickets (for the adults – children under five travel free) and four eager children, and printed them their own dud tickets, which he then clipped. They thought this was the best thing ever and mentioned it frequently throughout our stay. This was the beginning of a trend that continued throughout the weekend, where people consistently went out of their way to be kind and helpful.
Our plan upon alighting the train was to get a feel for the area in general, and to call in on the vendor of a house that we were hoping to view and with whom the estate agent had been struggling to get in touch. We did manage to make contact with the vendor, but the briefest glance confirmed that the house would not be suitable for our family (the estate agent had neglected to inform us that in order to enjoy full use of our garden – or any use, really – we would require abseiling equipment). We were a little disappointed but determined not to let it ruin our stay. And I have made a pact with Kirsty that we will not fall in love with any more houses until we have at least viewed them!
The house in question was just around the corner from the Creative Quarter, so we decided to take a little diversion rather than head straight to the beach. And I am so glad that we did, because beautiful, cobbled Old High Street was the perfect introduction to Folkestone. Self-described as ‘a hive of imagination’, the Creative Quarter delighted us with its independent galleries and boutiques. We spent a happy while window-shopping before the children spied an opportunity for cake and coaxed us into Steep Street Coffee house. The children enjoyed the Victoria Sponge (the barista kindly halved each slice, and the resulting pieces were still enormous!) and we ordered two oat-milk cappuccinos to go (I dropped mine in horror when the baby had a hideous poonami and destroyed both her tights and the sleepsuit beneath her outwear, and then stole Kirsty’s!).
The children were keen to get to the beach, and I was glad that we had asked for our cappuccinos to be served in takeaway cups as they were wriggling and squirming in their seats as soon as they had finished their cake. At the top of Old High Street is a giant slide, which would have been the highlight of their trip to Folkestone had we not (spoiler alert) taken them to the largest free adventure playground on the South-East coast the next day. It’s quite steep and our hearts were in our mouths as they whooshed down at super speed, but they were never in any danger and they thought it was tremendous fun!
Folkestone has two beaches, one shingle and one sand, and we decided to explore the sandy beach on this occasion. This beach, Sunny Sands, is just a few minutes’ walk from the Creative Quarter and the boys enjoyed looking at the boats in the harbour as they made their way there. We wrangled the girls back into the pram for this bit, as the path isn’t particularly safe with only a metal chain separating the path from the sea.
They had a wonderful twenty minutes or so before Embla fell into a rogue wave and Balthazar started howling that he was cold! So we made our way to our AirBnB to warm them up a bit, and to plan the following day.
We stayed at Claire’s house in Cheriton, and it was great for toddlers because there was literally nothing there that they could possibly break! We had never stayed in an AirBnB booking before, but Claire was so helpful – she even texted me the access details when I couldn’t access my emails. If you are looking for a toddler-friendly home in Folkestone, I would absolutely recommend hers! We hadn’t planned dinner, and were astonished to realise that we were hungry, but fortunately Just-Eat delivers in Folkestone and we were able to order a delicious vegan pizza from Roka. Yum!
We put the children to bed and they fell asleep eventually. Kirsty and I followed not long after!
The following day, we were up bright and early (thank you, Olympia!). We had a quick breakfast of cinnamon bagels before tidying the AirBnB and booking two taxis to take us to Leas Coastal Park, home to the biggest free adventure playground on the South-East Coast. The children were utterly enchanted with this beautiful wooden playground and could easily have spent hours there; after about an hour and a half of chasing them to the top of various structures as they politely rejected my suggestion that we go and find some lunch, I finally managed to exert some authority. We enjoyed a beautiful walk into town via the rest of the Coastal Park, gazing through the trees at the beach and the sea and occasionally baying at the little darlings not to go too far out of sight or to get down from those rocks!
We had a brief look at the harbour and the Harbour Arm, which extends out to sea and hosts various delicious eateries and events. But the children had spotted a chip shop the previous day and were desperate to eat chips at the seaside, so we went there instead. I shan’t name the chip shop as we were a little disappointed to notice only after ordering, in tiny writing at the bottom of the menu, that the chips were fried in beef dripping – but they did make us a vegetarian version after we thankfully noticed before any chips were consumed! It was lovely to sit outside and feed the baby whilst eating a plate full of hot chips, and to chat with the children about their observations of our stay. They unanimously agreed that they would like to live there (and there were some protestations when we pointed out that in order to make that happen, we would have to go home first!).
We wandered up to the train station quite early and, with an hour to kill, spent the time in Kingsnorth Gardens. The children worked together to collect pinecones from the flower beds and I fed the baby and expressed again. You might notice that she had a little outfit change at this point – let’s just say that it was not for aesthetic reasons and leave it at that! P.S. Does anyone know a good stain-remover…?
If you live on the SE Coast, and especially if you live in Folkestone, I’d love to hear from you. We enjoyed our weekend so much and would absolutely consider moving there – now we just have to find a house…