The Gamecock Restoration - a Second Life

How many of us have the opportunity of extending our working life by 60/80 years?

The sight and sound of Oyster Yawls being built on Island Wall is fast fading from the collective memory. Yet today in Whitstable Harbour you can see local Volunteers restoring a 42-foot Yawl built in 1906 and now registered as a National Historic Ship. Marine Surveyors predict that this iconic vessel will have a second working life of 60 to 80 years because of the high quality of workmanship.

The Yawl known as Gamecock was built by Collars Alley by the Collars Brothers and worked all her life in the Swale. Three generations of the family watched the Gamecock being lifted on to the East Quay where Whitstable Maritime has created a boat-building yard with the help of the Harbour Board and Bretts.

The current team of Volunteers is led by a master Shipwright trained by Alan Staley of Faversham, himself an apprentice of Anderson, Rigden & Perkins of Island Wall. The Charity is looking to have its own apprentice so that the traditional craft skills are retained in Whitstable.

Restoration
Picture copyright: Shepherd Neame/Countrywide Photographic
Picture copyright: Shepherd Neame/Countrywide Photographic

Morgan Lewis with Gamecock on the East Quay in 2013 by when the oak frame had been restored along the length of the hull. Approximately 30% of the original timber was able to be retained. Morgan gained his skills as a Shipwright  with Alan Staley of Faversham who, in turn, was apprenticed to the last boat-builder on Island Wall. The protruding block of timber is the top of the new stern post built from laminated oak.

The stern post

The stern post is fixed to the bottom of the hull by 4 trunnels (long wooden pegs) and modern glues. The trunnels are made by the Volunteers from pieces of oak left after the curved frames had been cut. So waste is kept to a minimum. This traditional technique gives a very strong fixture and avoids the use of metal bolts which can corrode in sea-water over time.

Gamecock being craned out of the water

Gamecock being craned out of the water on to Whitstable Maritime’s temporary ‘boatyard’ on the East Quay of the Harbour prior to restoration. Although 43-feet long, the sleek lines of the hull help her sail well in a light wind. The counter-stern (over-hanging deck at the rear) increases the work  platform and is a distinguishing feature of a Whitstable Oyster Yawl.

Gamecock

Faversham boat-owners were used to seeing the Gamecock moored at the mouth of the Oare. She was one of over 70 Whitstable Oyster Yawls that worked in the Swale.

Thanks to Whitstable Maritime, this rare craft has been saved from a watery grave and is being fully restored in Whitstable Harbour by local Volunteers. You can help thousands of local folk enjoy sailing her by donating on this website.

Gamecock Under Sail

Latest updates from @gamecockoysteryawl

👀 Our latest article in Whitstable's CommunityAd magazine 👇 Whitstable Maritime : the next Phase For generations, Whitstable families struggled to earn a living fishing or dredging in craft built and repaired in the former boatyards on Island Wall. Little archaeological evidence remains of these yards because of the need for sea defences and the demand for housing on the seafront. Traditional craft skills such as those of the shipwright and sail-maker are at risk of falling in to disuse, and only a handful of Whitstable Oyster Yawls remain from a large fleet. One of those vessels is Gamecock Oyster Yawl, now being restored by Whitstable Maritime. Built in 1906 by the Collar Brothers on Island Wall, she worked all her life on the Swale. She is a true Whitstable icon with an impeccable provenance. So, are we creating yet another static display? Yes, she will be a tourist attraction; doubtless she will also appear on tea-towels and mugs; even in films and fashion magazines. She is already registered as being of ‘national significance’ (NHS. 2158). However, if that is all we achieve then the Charity will have failed. The Charity was formed with the intention of engaging the community in all aspects of the coast. It purchased the Gamecock when she was vulnerable, and today employs a skilful Shipwright who works with local Volunteers. When fully restored the craft is now predicted to have a second working life of over 60 years. So, the Charity is planning for 60% of sailings being carbon-free tourism and the trading of non-perishables goods; and 40% sail-training in Leadership, Teamwork, and Self-reliance for local youngsters and adults. Gamecock is being restored in the Harbour which is on the 5K Coastal Trail created by the Charity. Most features on the Trail are accessible to wheel-chair users and it is an enjoyable way of exploring a range of interests and activities that improve well-being. A revised guide to The Trail is currently being distributed by the local Hospitality industry. In this second phase of development the Charity has plans to promote marine art and encourage the exploration of economic and environmental issues along the Trail. The former slipways are now covered with imported gravel to reduce the power of the incoming waves but the rise in the sea-level remains a dynamic issue changing the geomorphology and ecology of the coastline. There is also commercial activity on the Trail such as oyster and wind farming, and the Seasalter end leads to the unique ecology of the salt marshes. It makes for a classic study by pupils and students as do the occupations and families who formed the coastal community before the World Wars. A supportive Partnership has helped the Charity develop as a ‘community asset’ and a new Chair, Susannah Gooch, is leading the next phase. This is an exciting time and our progress can be followed on whitstablemaritime.org where you can also donate, volunteer, apply to become a Skipper or Mate, or down-load a copy of the Coastal Trail. Gordon Vincent, President Image: Morgan Lewis with Gamecock on the East Quay. Picture copyright: Shepherd Neame/Countrywide Photographic Morgan gained his skills as a Shipwright with Alan Staley of Faversham who, in turn, was apprenticed to the last boat-builder on Island Wall. The protruding block of timber is the top of the new stern post built from laminated oak and fixed to the hull by traditional trunnels (long wooden pegs) and modern glues.

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An update from our parent charity, Whitstable Maritime...

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Led by our Shipwright, Morgan Lewis, the restoration of Gamecock Oyster Yawl is moving forward at pace. The rotten timber has been stripped out by our great team of Volunteers, and each new piece of timber is then individually cut and shaped to fit the vertical and horizontal curves of the hull and marry with the original, sound timbers that remain. Because of the high standard of the restoration, a working life expectancy of 60-80 years is expected for the vessel. 🙂👍 #vesselrestoration #maritimeheritage #whitstable #localcharity #volunteerorganisation #whitstableharbour #oysteryawl #celebratingcoastalcommunities #NationalHistoricShip National Historic Ships UK

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We'll just leave these here. Isn't she beautiful? Hopefully will look even better post-restoration. 📷 of Gamecock Oyster Yawl - Seamus Masters, @glassonion68

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Less than two weeks till our fantastic, family-friendly Marine Ecology Workshops at The Horsebridge Arts Centre #whitstable (Sunday 14 August). Run in association with Plover Rovers - Talking the Coast, they offer people of all ages a great opportunity to discover the living world along our coast. They're all FREE!! But places are limited, so please book ahead... https://thehorsebridge.org.uk/.../marine-ecology-workshops

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A fantastic programme of FREE family-friendly events from our parent charity, Whitstable Maritime + Plover Rovers - Talking the Coast - Sunday 14 August @ The Horsebridge Arts Centre...

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Gamecock Progress Report - July 2022, No.3 Morgan, the shipwright is on holiday this week. Before he went, we ordered all the Oak to complete the frames and deck beams. We have been lucky to find a sympathetic sawmill in Dunkirk, who are happy to store the wood and deliver quantities as and when we require it. The pile in Image #1 was enough for about 6 frames. There is more than 12 times that in the current order, it's a big pile! We also ordered the wood for the deck beams and were fortunate to be there when it was milled in a different mill in Boughton Monchelsea. We picked our tree last year, it was felled about 2 years ago. Kent Oak. First it was chopped into 2, one half of it shown in Image #2. Image #3: Set level and secure for the saw to pass over it. Image #4: Next it is sawn into planks. Image #5: Sticks are placed between the planks to allow for air flow whilst drying. Image #6: The top slice, whilst not useable as timber is placed on top so that the bark gives protection from the sun whilst the wood dries. When we get this delivered we will bang metal plates into the ends to help stop the wood splitting as it dries. It will probably be next year before this wood is cut into the beams, but we want it well seasoned prior to installing. Wet wood can twist and bend. This is always undesirable particularly with long spans of unsupported wood, ie, deck beams. Image #7: The old deck beams pictured before being removed. The beams were originally oak. Over the years they have been replaced with different exotic hard woods. They almost all need replacing. Ironically the ones in best condition were the original oak ones. The Team, Gamecock Oyster Yawl #vesselrestoration #localcharity #celebratingcoastalcommunities #Whitstable #whitstableharbour #maritimeheritage #communityprojects #NationalHistoricShip National Historic Ships UK

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Great mentions for Whitstable Maritime and Gamecock Oyster Yawl in the current issue of The Whitstable Whistler. 🙂👍 Read the article by Whitstable Maritime's Chair, Gordon Vincent all about #Whitstable's unique maritime heritage. https://issuu.com/whitstablewhistler/docs/ww_5_spring_web To find out more, visit the 'Living Maritime Heritage' exhibition and family-friendly marine environment workshops (being run in association with Plover Rovers - Talking the Coast) from 11 to 5pm on Sunday 14 August, at the The Horsebridge Arts Centre. Read more and book your places at: https://thehorsebridge.org.uk/whats_on/special-events/marine-ecology-workshops #communityprojects #maritimeheritage #volunteerorganisation #localcharity #2022events #celebratingcoastalcommunities

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Gamecock Progress Report - July 2022 No.2 The first of the frames have gone in. 6 have been completed and temporarily fixed. Image 1 shows frames 1-5. Note the hessian in-between the frames. The whole inside of the boat that lies beneath the water line is covered with hessian that is regularly wetted with salt water to keep the planks from shrinking. Image 2 shows frame 6. You can see where frame 7 has been removed ready for the new one to be fitted. There are various techniques involved in removing a frame. The best bet seems to be using a chain saw, trying not to damage the planking and trying to miss any of the metal fixings. Lots of sharpening of blades if you do. It is crucial to remove all the old fixings (usually iron nails) from the planks and this is a long process. You can see the sunlight shining through the holes. The frames are currently only temporarily fixed. The reason for the temporary fixing is that many of the planks will need to be replaced. We have to fix the frames to the planking to be able to remove the planks one at a time to be able to fix the new planks to the frames. It's all a long winded process, but it is going forwards. The Team (Gamecock Oyster Yawl) #vesselrestoration #whitstable #whitstableharbour #volunteerorganisation #communityprojects #maritimeheritage #NationalHistoricShip National Historic Ships UK

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The restoration of Gamecock is just one of Whitstable Maritime's #communityprojects. Find out more by visiting shorturl.at/fptIY

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If you’re interested in finding out more about #nationalhistoricship, Gamecock - her history, her ongoing restoration, and our hopes and plans for her future, please watch our video… https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=jBGVMy1WM1U Filmed and edited by Alex Hare Photography #vesselrestoration #communityprojects #celebratingcoastalcommunities #maritimeheritage #localcharity #whitstable National Historic Ships UK

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A reminder of what's on @ Horsebridge Arts Centre #whitstable CT5 1AF (11am-5pm, Sunday 14 August). FREE ADMISSION 🙂

PLEASE NOTE, THE 'WHITSTABLE HARBOUR DAY & BOAT SHOW' ISN'T GOING AHEAD AS USUAL THIS YEAR. We apologise for any confusion arising from a previously-scheduled Facebook Event post. BUT please come along and enjoy our two days of fantastic family-friendly events (Saturday 13/8 and Sunday 14/8)! ☀️🍦

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Gamecock Restoration Update - June 2022 There have been few reports about progress on the restoration up until now as the news has been far from positive. Since arriving back in Whitstable 2 years ago in August, we have had: - Lockdowns. - A massive price increase in all building materials, especially wood. - A programme of taking the boat apart to see what work needs doing. The more we have looked, the more decay and damage we found. This has meant that we've looked further and taken more of the old girl apart. It seems pointless half doing a job. There have been skips full of wood, skips full of concrete, burning paint off, sanding, putting paint back on. This week has seen the first bit of rebuilding and it feels good. We are starting to replace the frames. The frames of a boat are like ribs and an essential part of the skeleton. There are 70 odd of them and about half need replacing. Having eventually sourced some oak the shipwright was able to start this week and the rebuild has started. Here are some photos of the process. From now on we hope to post fortnightly progress reports and photos as we slowly piece the boat back together again. It will be a long process. Thanks from the Whitstable Maritime volunteer team. #vesselrestoration #communityprojects #volunteerorganisation #whitstable #whitstableharbour #celebratingcoastalcommunities #nationalhistoricship National Historic Ships UK

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A few fantastic images from different periods in Gamecock's life - all of which show that she's quite a sizeable vessel!! 1. Whitstable Maritime volunteer, Liz, working in Faversham dry dock (2018) 2. Volunteers Mark Grinter and Peter Kalopsidiotis working at her current location, #whitstableharbour's East Quay (2020) 3. Crew members on-deck during her later sailing days 4. Whitstable Maritime's Chair, Gordon Vincent (2021) #vesselrestoration #communityprojects #localcharity #celebratingcoastalcommunities #whitstable #whitstablekent

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We've come a VERY long way since #nationalhistoricship Gamecock Oyster Yawl was lowered onto #whitstableharbour's East Quay three years ago. But there's still a long way to go. Our dedicated team of volunteers is restoring her to her former glory, and with the continued support of local businesses, organisations and the general public, we hope she'll be back on the water and looking resplendent sometime in 2023. 🤞⛵️ 📸 by Alex Hare Photography and Chris Davey #vesselrestoration #communityprojects #maritimeheritage #celebratingcoastalcommunities #whitstable #localcharity

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Restoring Gamecock, a 1907 oyster dredging boat built in Whitstable's boatyards, offers unique opportunities for all ages and backgrounds to experience and learn from #whitstable's maritime history. The restoration is currently taking place in picturesque #whitstableharbour by a team of volunteers under the watchful eye of master shipwright, Morgan Lewis. It is being managed by Whitstable Maritime, a charity formed 7 years ago to celebrate the town's connections with the sea - past, present and future. Restoring this #nationalhistoricship to working order will allow us to offer experiences to develop leadership and teamwork in youngsters including local apprentices and school children. Through the boat's restoration, volunteers are developing practical skills and knowledge that can transfer to Construction and other industries. Once restored, the Gamecock will facilitate the training of crews in collaboration with local yacht and sailing clubs and NHS physical and mental therapeutic social prescribing through unforgettable sailing experiences. 📸by Alex Hare Photography (The Whitstable Photographic Co.) #vesselrestoration #volunteerorganisation #communityprojects #maritimeheritage #localcharity National Historic Ships UK

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‘QUARTER SAWN' is not some medieval execution method, but the term for the ideal cut of a tree trunk to produce decking on a sea-going vessel. The Volunteers restoring Gamecock Oyster Yawl have found a timber merchant in the Weald who is prepared to quarter saw. For most building requirements the tree trunk is laid on the saw bed just once and the saw slices the log. The grain in the planks run length-wise which makes them less stable than quarter sawn planks, in that they are more likely to shrink, swell and split. When quarter sawing the tree trunk is laid on the saw bench, cut in half length-wise, and then rotated to quarter the half-logs. This results in wedges with a right angle. These are then tipped on end and each cut separately. This produces a plank that is more stable as the grain now runs across the cut. Because this is a longer process and more wasteful of wood, it is more expensive, but it's really important because the deck on a sailing vessel can be soaked and dried several times in a day! 💧 #vesselrestoration #volunteerorganisation #communityprojects #whitstable #whitstableharbour #maritimeheritage #nationalhistoricship National Historic Ships UK

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Another blast from Gamecock's past. Known for her speed in light winds, she was a fierce competitor in regattas and matches. Currently being restored by Whitstable Maritime's team of volunteers on #whitstableharbour's East Quay, we hope she'll soon be back on the water and holding her own in races! 👍🤞 #nationalhistoricship #vesselrestoration #whitstable #volunteerorganisation #charity #communityprojects

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If you haven't diarised this great Whitstable Maritime event yet, do it today 🙂👍⛵️

We're getting excited about the 'Our Living Maritime Heritage' event - 14/8 in partnership with Whitstable Yacht Club. A key part of this year's two-day Whitstable Boat Show, the event will celebrate Whitstable's unique #maritimeheritage by meeting descendants of the local boatbuilding community, displaying fascinating memorabilia, and talking to modern day shipwrights about their craft, materials and tools. Hopefully see you all there! #celebratingcoastalcommunities #whitstable #boatbuilding Whitstable Maritime Whitstable Harbour Day #2022event

Dear Mother Nature...please bring back the nice Spring weather. Our dedicated team of volunteers would like to get back to work - restoring #nationalhistoricship Gamecock Oyster Yawl 🙂⛵️ 📷 by Alex Hare Photography #vesselrestoriation #communityprojects #localcharity #maritimeheritage #celebratingcoastalcommunities National Historic Ships UK

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One of our followers, Steve Arnold, used the image on our last post (by Seamus Masters) to check the colours on his scale model of #nationalhistoricship Gamecock Oyster Yawl. It looks pretty good to us! Keep up the great work, Steve. 🙂👍 #vesselrestoration #whitstable #maritimeheritage #communityprojects #celebratingcoastalcommunities National Historic Ships UK

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Thanks to @kentishsailassociation for mentioning us in their latest Instagram post... The Whitstable oyster smack, Gamecock, once a familiar sight on her mooring in Faversham Creek. She’s now owned by Whitstable Maritime Gamecock Oyster Yawl and is undergoing restoration on the quayside at Whitstable harbour. Photo by Seamus Masters @glassonion68 #oystersmack #whitstablesmack #gamecock #f76gamecock #woodenboat #classicboat #workingboat #boatbuilding #picoftheday #photooftheday #coast #kentcoast #kentlife #boatlife

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Q&A Part 2 with Whitstable Maritime's Chair, Gordon Vincent 👍

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This should be a great couple of days out for the whole family!!

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Other coastal towns have their Sailing Club, but #Whitstable has a Yacht Club. Why??... because the local boat-builders enjoyed building and racing their own yachts so much that they decided to form a Club and have a few rules. The Club was established in 1902 by two local boat owners, Fred Goldfinch and Alf Bates, who formed the first Race Committee. In 1906 - the year Whitstable Maritime's oyster yawl, The Gamecock was built - they took the name Whitstable Yacht Club (WYC) and had thirty-five yachts competing in the races. Then, in 1912 the Club moved to its present premises. After World War 1, sailing rapidly developed as a leisure activity and by 1932 the club had grown to 182 members with local racing matches against other clubs, sailing mainly 18ft Nationals, Essex One Designs and other clinker-built dinghies. To discover more about how WYC became a national centre for sailing, even having an entry in the 1960 Rome Olympics(!), visit the 'Our Living Maritime Heritage' exhibition at the Club on Sunday 14 August. Part of 2022's Whitstable Boat Show, the #maritimeheritage exhibition is a joint venture between Whitstable Maritime and Whitstable Yacht Club. 👍 #celebratingcoastalcommunities #whitstableharbour #events

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Phenomenally excited about our collaboration with @foundrybrewpub - making a special edition #rum to celebrate Whitstable Maritime’s work - preserving local #maritimeheritage, and in particular the restoration of @gamecockoysteryawl 👍🥃 #localcollaboration #whitstable #canterbury #vesselrestoration #volunteerorganisation

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Whitstable Maritime is fortunate in having Alan Staley as its Technical Adviser. Alan served his apprenticeship with Anderson, Rigden and Perkins when they were boat-builders on Island Wall. Alan went on to develop his own boat-building business, first at The Oare, and then in Faversham where he still has a yard full of wooden boats awaiting repairs or restoration. Morgan Lewis served his apprenticeship with Alan and is now leading the team of Volunteers restoring the Gamecock on the East Quay of Whitstable Harbour. So the skills of a Shipwright are not being lost. While Alan is prepared to use modern materials, such as resin, earlier running repairs often have to be removed and replaced by materials and fixtures requiring greater skill because it is a restoration rather than a reconstruction. If you'd like to meet our Shipwrights and handle their tools, come along to the 'Our Living Maritime Heritage' exhibition on 14 August at Whitstable Yacht Club. The exhibition forms part of Whitstable Boat Show which starts on the previous day. You will also be able to visit the Gamecock Oyster Yawl and a sister vessel called The Thistle by walking through the Harbour. Both vessels are registered as National Historic Ships UK and by supporting Whitstable Maritime you can help ensure that future generations have the skills to build and sail these historic craft. #maritimeheritage #celebratingcoastalcommunities #whitstable #whitstableharbour #volunteerorganisation #communityprojects

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THE BOAT IN THE GARDEN The Favourite (F69), was built in 1890 by the Whitstable Shipping Company on Island Wall and will feature in Whitstable Maritime's 'Living Maritime Heritage' exhibition on 14 August, although she'll never again feel the water under her hull. 🙁 Like many other Oyster Yawls, she was contracted to the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company and the Seasalter and Ham Oyster Fishery Company, to dredge the native oysters from the controlled beds at Whitstable and Seasalter. So how did she end up in a #Whitstable garden?? 🤔 During the 1939-45 war, the Favourite was machine-gunned by enemy aircraft and began to sink before being beached. After the War, she was left on the beach until 1952 when Harry Hurford-Janes, of Favourite Cottage, purchased what was left of her and had her pulled into his garden as a romantic wreck. In 1978, The Favourite Trust was established, and the organisation is now responsible for displaying and maintaining Favourite at 30 Island Wall, Whitstable, CT5 1EP. #maritimeheritage #celebratingcoastalcommunities #kent

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What do Emmeline, Thistle, Rosa & Ada, Stormy Petrel, and Gamecock have in common?? 🤔 They are all Oyster Yawls built on Island Wall by Whitstable folk. Which folk? What were their trades? Where were the boatyards? Why were the boats built? Where are they now? What are the plans for their future? Although over a hundred years old, these once frisky craft are still afloat and being lovingly cared for today by a new generation that values our maritime heritage and the environmental advantages of working by sail. Hence the title of Whitstable Maritime and Whitstable Yacht Club's unique exhibition on Sunday 14 August: 'Our Living Maritime Heritage'. Save the date and watch for the advance booking system - to be announced in June as part of the Whitstable Boat Show. ⛵️👍 #maritimeheritage #whitstable #whitstableharbour #celebratingcoastalcommunities #volunteerorganisation

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Hasn't the weather been lovely recently?!☀ And bright chilly days are perfect for exploring another of Whitstable Maritime's projects - the Whitstable Coastal Trail. 👍 The trail, launched in Summer 2020, aims to highlight the diverse coastal environment from Long Rock, Swalecliffe in the east, to the WW2 Tank Traps in the west - a distance of about 5km (3 miles), and relies on knowledge from local enthusiasts and experts in geology, flora and fauna, history and archaeology. Whether you're interested in the coastal environment and how it has changed over time, the local wildlife, or to the way the coast has been used economically, there's something for everyone. And to accommodate a wide range of users, the trail map highlights the nearest public car parks, accessible toilet facilities, and areas where access may be restricted. And as a bonus, Whitstable Harbour - Gamecock's location during her ongoing restoration - appears half way along it too!! 🙂 Visit www.whitstablecoastaltrail.org.uk for more information. Trail #photography by The Whitstable Photographic Co. #graphicdesign and #websitedesign by Howell & Hicks #volunteerorganisation #communityprojects #whitstableharbour #celebratingcoastalcommunities #maritimeheritage #vesselrestoration #coastalliving