Either someone is training the seagulls in Folkestone or they are just a better class of bird. This week, David Philpott rejoices in the glory of this much improved seaside town.


As I get older, I find myself waking up earlier.  This is a real problem in the cold dark winter months, but now, as day breaks a little before 6 am, it means that I can enjoy quite a lot of life whist the rest of the family are lifeless, tucked up under duvets.

On Saturday morning, with the sun shining in all its glory, I was walking along the harbourside in Folkestone before 7 am and thinking to myself what a good job the council had done in improving the foreshore, just to the west of the port.  Where once concrete foundations despoiled the shingle beach, now pebbles covered that particular scar and small palms edged the foreshore road, giving the place a Torquay-esque appearance.

Walking behind a crescent of some beautifully restored Regency townhouses, I climbed a pathway that took me up to The Leas.  The manicured lawns, edged by imposing houses and hotels, brought back memories of both Frinton and Southend – the former on account of its Greensward, the other for its elevated guesthouses standing shoulder to shoulder along the high coastal pathway with views across the Thames Estuary.

Here, like in so many other places, regimented benches keep alive the memories of the dead; Veras and Joes and Beatrices who “used to love this view.”  One such epitaph moved me - not this time with its words of remembrance - but with its philosophy of life, told through death. “Add Life to Years, not Years to Life” it preached.

With the early morning sun beating down upon by shoulders, I approached the Bandstand -  this with its own unique memorial to Walter Tull - the British Army's first black combat officer -  and also a professional footballer with Tottenham Hotspur.  Sadly, he was killed in the second Battle of the Somme in 1918, while serving as a second lieutenant.

I had not remembered Folkestone looking this good - this clean. I recalled Llandudno, “The Queen of the Welsh Resorts” where it seemed that even the seagulls knew not to splatter the broad promenade.  Not so in Brighton or even upmarket Hove where the pavements are daily defaced by nature’s deposits.  Like Llandudno,  Folkestone was indeed regally clean.

Having reached the Grand Hotel on The Leas, I headed back towards the town, then down the Old High Street in the so-called “Creative Quarter” towards the Harbour again. Only here on the steep cobbled hill did things look a little grubby -  but this mainly on account of building works and the forlorn gaze outwards of renovated yet still-empty shops, seemingly begging to be occupied.

As I drove out of the town and headed back to Ashford, whilst my kith and kin still slept in their beds - oblivious to my early morning meanderings - I wondered if Folkestone was a much improved town or if the sunshine on my shoulders had simply intoxicated my senses in the way that too much wine or beer at a party can make ugly people seem strangely attractive.

As I debated the point with myself, a long forgotten song by an unfashionable poet seeped into my consciousness.  I started singing it to myself and said out loud to nobody “I don’t have to be cool at 52 years of age; I really like that song”.