West Folkestone views
A walk along the Lower Leas Coastal Park
Photos and report by Mike Slocombe, July 2006
Heading west from the abandoned funfair, there's an attractive new walking stretch known as the Lower Leas Coastal Park.
Opened in September 1885, the twin-track Leas Cliff Railway proved so popular a second set of tracks were added five years later (these closed in Oct 1966, but are now being restored).
A rare surviving example of a Victorian water-powered lift, the railway runs on 1778 mm gauge tracks for 50m on a gradient of 1:1.64.
At the western end of the Lower Leas Coastal Path is this attractive amphitheatre, a 350-seat grassed arena with regular outdoor events.
The rocky backdrop is in fact an Edwardian confection made from a proprietary brand of cement called, Pulhamite.
A view from the zig-zag path that was designed to let bathchairs wheel up and down from the clifftop promenade to the undercliff walk.
Along the walk there are a series of 'caves' and grottoes.
A close up of an old plate embedded in the 'Pulhamite' material that covers the zig-zag path.
The substance - a blend based on Portland Stone Cement - was manufactured by Victorian landscape gardeners, James Pulham and Son, and the formula is claimed to have died with the last surviving rock builder.
The seriously overhanging Leas Cliff Hall on the Leas, which has long been a popular gig on the rock circuit.
The Stones rocked the joint in 1964, Hendrix and Pink Floyd did their stuff in 66, Thin Lizzy played there in 1973, the mighty Clash and The Cure were there in 1978 and Offline star Richard Herring entertained the Folkestone massive there last year.
Thanks to a grant from the Lottery Heritage Fund, the eastern end of the Lower Leas Coastal Path has been completely restored and it now forms a very pleasant walk.
Sunbathers, Mill Point.
Old bandstand on the Leas awaits restoration.
Nice flower bed displays on the Leas.
Once two of the most luxurious hotels in England, the Grand and Metropole Hotels create a striking landmark on the Leas.
The Grand now serves as an 'apartment hotel,' hosting functions, conferences, exhibitions and weddings while the ground floor of the Metropole has been turned into an art gallery.
View of the Grand Hotel.
The hotel sprung up after a local builder was unhappy to have not secured the contract for The Metropole next door, so he set about building a rival establishment to whip its arse.
The builder, Daniel Baker, stuffed his hotel with innovative new features like cavity wall ties, suspended ceilings and waterproof cavity wall insulation.
He was also one of the first to use a steel frame construction (infilled with reinforced concrete) to give large clear spans to the main reception rooms.
King Edward VII became a frequent visitor, opening a new ballroom in 1909 which featured the first sprung dance floor in Europe.
The striking facade of the Metropole.
The Metropole Galleries were established in the early 60s, and have shown work by leading artists such as Henry Moore, Bridget Riley, Roy Lichtenstein, Derek Jarman, Anthony Caro, Joan Miro, Andy Goldsworthy, Bill Woodrow and Paul Nash.
The elegant interior of the Metropole.
The restaurant at The Grand.
Cream tea at the Grand, with the, 'pastry chef's generous scone with clotted cream and conserves and a pot of tea.'
It was lovely!
If you look really, really hard you might just see the feint outline of France in the distance!