If you've been following my last few posts (particularly this one), you'll have noticed that I've been talking a lot about growing up in Margate.
The Dreamland theme park was reopened in 2015 after a long period of closure and decay. A funfair has been on the site since the 1880s and the Scenic Railway, the oldest roller coaster in the UK, was constructed on the site in the 1920s.
I still remember the first time I went to Dreamland when I was about five or six years old. We waited for my Dad to get home from work, my Mum telling me that we were going out "somewhere special". In my mind, somewhere special meant somewhere very fancy indeed so I put on my party dress with its rosebud pattern and my plastic clip-on earrings (my parents persuaded me to leave those at home!)
I fell in love with the park and was devastated, like so many others, to see the Scenic Railway become the victim of an arson attack during the park's closure. Luckily it has been carefully restored and is in operation once more.
Seeing as Dreamland is now free entry, I decided to go and see what had changed since my childhood when I went home this summer.
We visited on a fairly empty, grey day. The children were back in school and the only visitors were teenagers and families with younger children.
We'd only intended to take a look around but the Scenic Railway, my absolute favourite ride when I was younger, began to call to me...
So I dragged Michele to a kiosk, bought some tokens and away we went!
The ride is much smoother than it used to be, needless to say. The initial glide to the top has replaced a juddery and creaky ascent that used to make me wonder whether we'd arrive at the peak or start hurtling backwards instead. There also used to be a smell of oil which mingled with the wafts of fried donuts from nearby stalls and which will forever smell like childhood joy to me.
There aren't loads of rides for older audiences but you can definitely have a fun day alternating the faster rides with childhood favourites. I'm very much in favour of the new free admissions policy - beforehand, you had to pay a fixed rate to enter which is possibly the reason for the lack of success in the first year after reopening. Now you can pay as you go or choose to buy a wristband for unlimited rides.
I loved that there was still a certain "run-down" feel to the park and that it hadn't been completely glazed over in a superficial gloss. It really adds to the vintage feel of bygone days and shows the age of the site.
Plus, a completely shiny and sparkly theme park wouldn't really fit with the Margate that most of us have grown to know over the past few decades.
We decided to walk home, along the coast from Margate Main Sands to Palm Bay and Botany Bay. (Tip - if you're visiting in the summer, there are plenty of smaller bays and beaches all around Thanet to escape the crowds!)
Along the way, we came across lots of landmarks from my childhood - all of these are so familiar to me, they feel like family members. Many showed the effects of years of being left to the salty winds and damp chill.
We passed the old Dreamland cinema, where we used to watch films in the old and dusty stalls...
...The place I discovered Pick 'n' Mix and fell in love with chocolate-covered Turkish delight...
...The chippie we used to go to after swimming lessons, on our way home from the pool with the smell of chlorine still in our hair...
...The old Wintergardens in its sunken garden, where the school held its annual prize-giving and where I represented Margate as Carnival Princess at public functions (yep, true story...)
...The old and broken Lido with its startlingly orange tower, an indispensable component of the clifftop skyline...
...the progression from childhood at Bugsy's bowling to adolescence at Frank's nightclub...
...and turning back to the sea, the chilled, tidal pools that I have never used in all of my 24 years of living in Margate.
There's a first time for everything though, right?
I hope you enjoyed my series of posts on Margate and the surrounding area - here's to the future of the town and everything to come!