Newest Review: ... the park, picnic tables, dedicated barbeque tables and even tables with built in chess boards. The footpaths lead you under the support... more
Folkestone's Finest Park
Folkestone Coastal Park (Folkestone)
Member Name: brittle1906
Folkestone Coastal Park (Folkestone)
Date: 31/07/12, updated on 07/10/12 (84 review reads)
Advantages: Easy to access for everyone, free!
Disadvantages: May not suit those who dislike fresh air!
Review of Folkestone Lower Leas Coastal Park.
I live in Folkestone, a sea side town in south east England. Our town started life as a fishing community and cross channel port. In Victorian times Folkestone became popular as a holiday resort, sadly over the past few decades, like many British sea side towns, Folkestone has slid into a bit of a decline, with empty shops, poor levels of employment and a rundown seafront. The closure of the cross channel ferry service around 20 years ago added to the general decline of this once proud town.
==The Coastal Park in General==
The land this park is located on has always been a popular area, with walks, the beachfront and wild-life. Sadly, prior to the opening of the Lower Leas Coastal Park, this area was becoming a bit of a 'no-go' area, overgrown, shabby and the haunt of undesirables. The area used to be known as the Lower Sandgate Road, the area leads adjacent from the Leas Lift to the village of Sandgate. It used to be a toll road and the old toll house is still in situ, it is now occupied as a private residence.
Rolling forward to 2000, the Folkestone Lower Leas Coastal Park was born.
In May 2000, the first phase of the £1.2 million 11-hectare Coastal Park was opened. The regeneration of the park was funded by SEEDA, Shepway District Council and the European Union, and includes the largest free children's adventure playground in the south-east, a 300-seat outdoor amphitheatre and attractive landscaping.
A further £1.4 million was secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund in late 2003 to improve the eastern end of the park. Work on this expansion started in February 2005. This phase includes pine avenues, flower gardens, picnic sites, furniture and information boards about the park's wildlife and history. The second phase was officially opened in May 2006.
The park is designed to be accessible for everyone, the level footpaths that wind through the park are ideal for prams and wheelchair users. There are many seats and resting places dotted around the park, picnic tables, dedicated barbeque tables and even tables with built in chess boards.
The footpaths lead you under the supports of the large theatre/conference centre called the Leas Cliff Hall which stands above the beach on the famous Leas walk, close to the town centre. The venue is popular on the rock circuit and many famous names have performed there, including Jimmy Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and other big names. These supports are made of steel and although they are modern in structure, the actual Leas Cliff Hall is historic part of Folkestone.
The Lower Leas Costal Park has its own amphitheatre which is well used and there have been many open air concerts, plays and displays hosted here. The local Sure Start charity branch holds a regular summer teddy bears picnic here and many other groups meet and enjoy the Coastal Park.
There is also a 'magic spiral' of stones laid out within the Coastal Park and these are used by local white witches and other alternative groups for healing ceremonies, Earth worshipping and similar activities. On 10.10.2010 at 10:10 am, my family took part in a thanksgiving ceremony here which was very moving and emotional, especially as my disabled grandson was taken to the centre of the spiral to be blessed.
The Coastal Park is best accessed from the road or beach area although more energetic visitors can follow one of the zig zag paths that lead down from the Leas cliff tops close to the town centre. Alternatively there is a Victorian water powered passenger lift which runs from the town centre to the entrance of the Coastal Park, a far better bet than climbing up the hundreds of steps in my opinion!
==The Coastal Park-for Children==
For children, this park is amazing. We take my granddaughters and the dog to the coastal park regularly. All age groups are catered for, there is a lovely sunken ship, a mock pirate ship embedded in sand that the children can climb on, crawl under and generally enjoy, a mini climbing wall, wooden boats suspended on chains for the very young children, a sensory play area and a couple of big sand pits with mini digger type machines for them to stretch their muscles on. The main attraction is of course the adventure playground. This is a huge labyrinth of tunnels, tree high walkways, slides, Wendy houses and a zip line. It is extremely popular and offers a vast array of play equipment for youngsters. I never tire of watching the children on this and rather wish there had been something similar around when I was a child! The playground has plenty of seating for parents to watch over their children and this area is a strictly no smoking zone and dogs have to be kept under control and not taken near the play equipment. I think this playground is remarkable, the area is safe with the wooden equipment bedded in deep sand and lots of things to keep children active and happy.
At nearly 13, my eldest grandchild considers herself a little too grown up to play on the adventure playground; however I note she always offers to accompany her 5 year old sister in order to 'keep an eye on her'!
==Facilities and Parking==
Close to the adventure playground is an information office, public toilets and accessed by means of a flight of stone steps, a lovely café on the beach front. The café is called 'The Mermaid Café Bar' and has been there since I was a child. They serve hot and cold drinks, snacks and sandwiches, ice-creams and lunches. As the name implies, the place is licensed to sell alcoholic drinks too. We often stop there for coffee and sit on the terrace overlooking the channel. The espresso coffee is some of the best I've ever drunk and I'd heartily recommend it to fellow coffee addicts. My tea drinking other half says the tea is pretty good, just like tea used to be, whatever he means by that!
Parking is abundant, there is free street parking at the start of the Coastal Park which is available for short stays of an hours and a pay and display car park at either end of the park. The actual park is traffic free, other than pedal cycles, no vehicles are allowed. If there is maintenance going on, the council do put up warning signs to tell visitors that there may be vehicles around.
****Update 7th October 2012**
In their infinite wisdom, our local council has now installed parking meters all along the road leading to the Coastal Park, so the free street parking is no longer available.
==My Thoughts and Conclusion==
The Lower Leas Coastal Park has been a huge asset to the town and attracts lots of visitors, local and tourists alike. The fact that other than car parking, the park and all its facilities are free is an added bonus. I should add that if you are attending the park for an open air concert, an entrance fee may be charged as these events are often ticketed.
We often walk our dog here and although we always keep him on a lead, some other dog owners are not as cautious. Obviously dog owners are expected to clean up after their dog and the park wardens will impose a hefty fine should they fail to comply.
I think the Lower Leas Coastal Park is a delightful place to while away a few hours in, you can be as energetic or lazy here as you wish, there is an abundance of interesting plants and flowers to enjoy and the history of the area is well covered by means of the information boards around the park.
The fact that there are no cars makes this a lovely place to take children as it is safe and they can let off steam without parents worrying about traffic. There can be the odd inconsiderate bike rider or skater on the paths, but on the whole they are not a problem.
My grandchildren love the park and it seems to have sort of grown with them, as they outgrow one type of activity, there always seems to be something new to try.
Open all year round, this Coastal Park is well worth a visit, of course being a Folkestone lass, I may be biased, but in my humble opinion, a visitor to Folkestone is missing out if they pass this park by.
Thanks you for reading.
©brittle1906 July 2012
N.B My reviews may be found on other sites under the same user name.
Summary: A great place for all the family