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Secret Broadstairs

Secret Broadstairs

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Here at the very edge of the Garden of England, three Georgian and Victorian resorts, each with its own distinctive character – Margate, Broadstairsand Ramsgate – cluster around the bays at the far end of the peninsula. There’s a retro feel to these harbour towns, miles of low chalk cliffs edge the peninsula, sheltering a string of secluded, unspoilt sandy bays. For the ultimate experience, you can cycle or hike on the Viking Coastal Trail, along a stunning shoreline and through tranquil lanes. We had some quite nice lodgings at the seaside and should have enjoyed ourselves, as Alice’s health improved all the time, but the war precluded all happiness and comfort…

Also in Thanet at the same time were Susan’s cousin, Hilda Grenfell, and her family. They were renting a cliff-top villa half a mile away at North Foreland which had a set of steps cut into the chalk that led down to a private beach. The villa was called St Cuby and is believed to be the inspiration for Trafalgar Lodge, where the book’s hero, Richard Hannay, meets the villainous Mr Appleton. No one is certain how he came up with Bradgate. Some believe that it was taken from the Saxon words ‘brad’ (meaning ‘broad’) and ‘gaet’ (‘access to the sea’). Another theory is that he simply took the ‘Brad’ from Bradstowe, a little hamlet now part of the town, and ‘gate’ from nearby Kingsgate. One more suggestion is that Bradgate was an ancient name for Broadstairs, but there is no hard evidence for this. At the end of the day, though, one question remains – why 39 steps? Again, there are a few theories. As already mentioned, there were 78 wooden steps in 1914. One theory is that a friend suggested he should halve that number to 39, because it would make a better title. Another states that Buchan could stride these steps two at a time, which again gives us 39, although he would have had to be in better health to do this. It is also worth noting that he celebrated his 39th birthday while staying in Broadstairs. The British had been fighting an imaginary war with Germany since the early 1870s. The country was seen as both an economic and military threat and jingoistic propaganda speculating about German intentions had been circulating in books and the press. One such was the Erskine Childers 1903 novel The Riddle of the Sands, which foretold of German preparations for an invasion of England.In August, Broadstairs Folk Week brings music sessions to pubs, gardens and beaches, whilst Broadstairs Water Gala is a family-friendly fiesta of events finished with fireworks. Spring and autumn host Broadstairs Food Festival , an irresistible celebration of locally-produced, fine food and drink. Such scaremongering extended to the younger generation, with similar stories appearing in boys’ magazines and comics – one ran a rip-roaring yarn of the ‘evil Hun’ invading Kent, only to be thwarted by a gallant troop of Boy Scouts. There were also rumours of enemy spies, and it is alleged that a German agent was captured at North Foreland. Taking the sea air The action starts in London, although most of the story is set in Buchan’s native Scotland. However, in the last chapter, Various Parties Converging on the Sea, the finale takes place in the fictional town of Bradgate – inspired by Broadstairs. Today, more than a century of erosion has done away with most of the beach. The wooden steps were replaced in the 1940s with more than 100 concrete ones, which are now crumbling, and signs at both ends state that public access is prohibited. Inside, a rusting handrail leads up and the remnants of light fittings can be seen in the tunnel sections. Even so, if you stop and let your imagination take over, you can almost hear the frantic footsteps as one of Appleton’s spies tries to make his escape: ‘Schnell, Franz,’ cried a voice, ‘das Boot, das Boot!’ Spies around the corner

In fact, he had been toying with the notion of writing a detective story for some time. ‘I should like to write a story of this sort,’ he told his wife. ‘And take real pains with it. Most detective story-writers don’t take half enough trouble with their characters, and no-one cares what becomes of either corpse or murderer.’ This quaint fishing village-turned quintessential seaside resort blends timeless, authentic charm with surprising modern twists. Stroll quirky lanes past tiny flint houses and fishermen’s cottages to seafront promenades and gardens. Or explore withan imaginative new escape room-meets-treasure hunt experience. Buchan continued his convalescence at St Cuby and, as his health improved, he started to get acquainted with the town and the surrounding area. With the holiday crowd gone, Broadstairs was just a quiet little seaside town – the perfect spot for enemy spies to leave the country, with the Continent 20 miles across the Channel.Cliff-top paths link beautiful bays, just inland St Peter's villagestages award-winning heritage tours, while the Crampton Tower Museum provides an intriguing insight into Victorian engineering. Another factor in the story’s development was the public’s fear that German spies operated throughout the country. On Friday 28 August – two days after Buchan’s birthday, which he celebrated at St Cuby – the Thanet Times ran a spy scare story in which a Margate woman found herself confronted by two men, one armed with a revolver. ‘The men told her to keep quiet, because they were after German spies,’ the paper reported. The gun turned out to be a toy and, when questioned by police, the men explained how they had witnessed suspicious activity at a local garage. They had stopped the woman, believing her to be involved. It is quite feasible that, even if Buchan didn’t read about himself, he could have heard about it through local gossip.

One of those determined holidaymakers that August was a Scottish author, John Buchan, and Broadstairs would be influential in the development of his most famous novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps.

  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
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