Friday, April 27, 2018

Reculver’s stormy past

Reculver's twin towers
By Carole Barclay

Back in the 1960s Reculver was a tourist haven, with the biggest caravan park in the country. Although most of the caravans have gone, visitors still throng the village at weekends and holidays to see the ancient ruins, or wander along the nature reserve and the coastal footpaths  that surround Reculver.
In Roman days Reculver was a thriving port and garrison town, the home to a coastal fort called Regulbium. Under the command of the Count of the Saxon Shore, it was part of a chain of defences that the Romans built to safeguard the south-east coast of Britain.
Storms and coastal erosion have long since swept the Roman town and half of the fort into the sea, but part of Regulbium’s sturdy walls can still be seen surrounding the lofty towers of what was once the major church in this part of north Kent.
The Saxon kings of Kent, who took over after the Romans, left the redundant fort to the Christians who built a church dedicated to St Mary inside the walls in 669. King Eadberht II of Kent was buried there in the 760s.
In medieval times Reculver thrived as a bustling port and market town, before rapidly declining because of the silting of the waterways and the advance of the sea. Storms accelerated the collapse of the cliffs, and by 1809 the church and most of the village was abandoned. St Mary’s was largely demolished and only the twin towers were spared to continue as a navigational aid for passing ships.
These days the towers and the ruins of what was left of the church still dominate the village as a reminder of a long-forgotten past whilst the sea recalls the secret tests of the ‘bouncing bombs’ of Dambusters’ fame that were carried out in 1943 along the Reculver coast.
Kent used to be a Tory bastion but the times are certainly changing. Canterbury went Labour at the last general election and Labour has begun to challenge the Tories, even in sleepy Reculver, through the efforts of the Momentum activists in nearby Herne Bay.
Reculver is well worth a visit. There’s an historic pub and a couple of cafes in the village, and entry to the ruins and the nature reserve are free.

Reculver is on the north Kent coast, and it is best approached by car because the nearest train station is four miles away at Herne Bay. The Canterbury to Herne Bay bus route also stops at the village.

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