Monday, October 24, 2011

Margate's Shell Grotto

4.6 million shells. 2000 square feet of mosaics. One hell of a mystery. Margate's Shell Grotto was discovered in 1835 and made open to the public in 1837 but its age and purpose remains unknown.

Margate has had a bit of a facelift in recent years. Though a tower block and boarded up pub still greet you upon exiting the train station, the town now boasts a cool art gallery, the Turner Contemporary (built on the same site the Margate-loving JMW Turner stayed), as well as a bunch of trendy new galleries, shops, bars and eateries in the Old Town, including a Michelin-starred restaurant.

But it's the old stuff which is the best, innit? Aside from the Shell Grotto – still only £3 to get in – there's the famous Mad Hatter's Tea Rooms, the Harbour Arm, the Nayland Rock Shelter, where TS Eliot wrote some of his poem the Wasteland, as well as the famous Arcades and of course Margate's golden sands – often voted one of England's top 5 beaches.

The theme park Dreamland, which closed in 2005 (and which I have very fond memories of going to as a child in the 1980s) is meant to be re-opening this year but still appears very much under construction. It won't have the Looping Star roller coaster (now in Budapest) but will have the Scenic Railway, the UK's oldest roller coaster which was recently upgraded from Grade II listed to Grade II* listed.

A few days ago, Thanet Disctrict Council surpringly rejected plans for a huge Tesco superstore on the seafront, saying it would be unlawful and have a negative effect on the town.

• I'm perplexed as to why there are huge piles of sand along Margate beach.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Art of the seaside

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