A town guide to Deal
- Credit: Archant
Often overlooked in favour of some of our more glamourous coastal resorts, a trip to Deal – with its long pebble beach and relaxed way of life – is like discovering your very own secret seaside retreat
Deal has been discovered over recent years by the DFL set (regular visitors ‘down from London’) and as such the little seaside town has had to adapt to provide for the needs of both locals and trendy Londoners.
It’s a hard task but if anywhere can pull it off, it’s unique and quirky Deal.
The town itself feels a million miles from our hectic capital city – and in fact it is technically closer to France than it is to London – but the distance is easily covered with a train journey of less than 90 minutes from St Pancras.
It’s more the change in the pace of life. Deal is a place for long dog walks along the beach, for lazy lunches and for browsing through friendly shops.
Venture beyond the delightfully old-fashioned seafront and the historic conservation area of Middle Street is well worth exploring. It was the first conservation area in Kent to be designated and is a pristine example of the unique character of Deal.
From its importance as a sea port in the 13th century, to its reputation for dangerous smugglers in the 18th; its naval links to its role in the Kent coal industry, this charming town is proud of its rich history.
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And modern Deal boasts all the amenities you could hope for, including good schools, a leisure centre and a popular community theatre.
It also has a friendly and active community, and two hard-fought recent campaigns – one to stop dredging of the Goodwin Sands to prevent coastal erosion and another to demand the derelict old Regent cinema is reopened – prove how passionately Deal residents feel about their hometown.
Eating and shopping
Having won the coveted Telegraph High Street of the Year Award in 2013, it’s no surprise that Deal’s selection of shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants is excellent. A small and friendly town where shopkeepers know their regular customers by name, it is bursting with quality independents.
#A few shops to look out for include clothes boutiques Tamarisk and Castaways, fabulous vintage stores Taylor-Jones & Son and Mileage, trendy homewares shop Hoxton Store and handmade bath treat boutique BonneBomb. But the town features big name brands too, including branches of M&S and New Look.
When it comes to eating out, there are some treats in store too. Top picks include Victuals & Co, 81 Beach Street, The Dining Club and the new Frog & Scot.
Deal isn’t the cheapest place in east Kent to buy property as it is highly desirable, but it remains reasonable compared to commuter towns close to London. Expect a one-bedroom flat to start at around £140,000, with two-bed terraced properties anywhere between £150,000 and £400,000. Three-bed semis are being offered between £230,000 and £450,000 and larger properties were available at the time of writing up to £900,000.
Deal is on the coast between Sandwich and Dover, accessible via the A2 and M2. A central train station has regular trains to London, taking around one and a half hours. Sat nav: CT14 6BB
Greener & cleaner
Deal With It is a community group trying to make Deal a greener, cleaner place to live. This group of committed local people shares common values and aims with the ‘Transition Towns’ movement, which was created to address the challenges of climate change and peak oil.
Coordinator Steve Wakeford says: “We run eight beach cleans a year - two of which are part of the Marine Conservation Society’s survey on the impact of rubbish on our coastline.
“As well as the beach cleans we have two community gardens - one at the Landmark Community Centre on Deal High Street where we have native, medicinal and edible planting, and one on the platform at Deal Rail Station which grows fruit, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. We also have a number of small guerrilla meadows on waste land around the town.
“This year we are launching a patchwork Hop Farm in the town using people’s back and community gardens. This is part of the Grow Beer initiative working with a local micro brewer. We are also looking at Repairs Café to encourage people to fix and share rather than throw away broken stuff.
“We are fuelled by Deal’s inherent energy, creativeness and community spirit to make the town a more sustainable and even more wonderful place to live.”
Beach cleans take place at Deal beach and at nearby beaches including Walmer and Sandown. Anyone can join in and equipment is provided. Search ‘Deal With It – Transition Deal’ on Facebook for dates and details.
5 things to do in Deal
1. Relax on the beach
Deal’s own beach is a great place for a walk, with a long pebble beach and a 1950s pier with a café and fishing decks at the end. The coast of France is only around 25 miles from the town and is visible on clear days. Further along, towards Deal Castle and Walmer, take time to watch the traditional fishing boats get pulled up onto the beach.
Other great nearby beaches to explore include Kingsdown, Sandwich Bay and St Margaret’s Bay.
2. Visit the new country park
Set between Deal and Sandwich, Betteshanger Country Park was once an enormous slag heap for the local colliery, which closed in 1989. Thanks to a programme to redevelop the brownfield sites left by former collieries, it was opened as Fowlmead Country Park in 2007 and was renamed by new owners the Hadlow Group in 2015. A unique and ambitious project, the park has now become a popular family attraction with plenty of outdoor sporting and adventure activities. Cyclists in particular will love it here and the children’s play area is excellent.
3. Take in a show
The Astor Community Theatre, named after local MP John Jacob Astor, who gave the theatre to the people of Deal for their “courage and fortitude” during the Second World War, was refurbished and reopened in 2010 and is now a unique multi-purpose arts centre offering an eclectic mix of music, theatre, literary events, art exhibitions, films and a range of classes and clubs for all ages and tastes.
Shows in March are set to include An Evening with Hazel O’Connor (2 March), Murder at Gaddabout Manor (9 March, dinner included) and Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri (25 March). Visit www.theastor.org for tickets.
4. Explore the past
Deal Maritime and Local History Museum is packed with artefacts from the area’s past, with everything from displays about local smugglers and lifeboat rescues to local industries and the impact of the Royal Marines in the town. There’s a collection of model boats but that’s not all; there’s a boatyard with several examples of the real thing.
Opening times change throughout the year so check the website (www.dealmuseum.co.uk) before planning a visit.
5. Step inside a Tudor fort
In the shape of a Tudor rose and built on the orders of King Henry VIII, Deal Castle is an artillery fort built as part of his scheme to defend an important anchorage site from French invasion. By the 18th century it had become more of a private house for the castle’s captain, which was by now an honorary position. In the 1950s it was restored to form a tourist attraction and is now managed by English Heritage. Visitors can explore the captain’s residence, the store rooms and walk around the defences of this small but fascinating castle.
Visit www.english-heritage.org.uk for opening times.
Postcard from Deal
I’m Myles Corley, from Linden Hall Studio, a contemporary art gallery which recently celebrated its second anniversary in Deal. Previously a Christian chapel dating back to 1775, the gallery opened in November 2014 after a four-year restoration.
Each month brings a brand new show, across a variety of mediums - painting, drawing, ceramics, photography, sculpture. With a new exhibition and new artists exploring fresh, exciting themes each month, there is always something to come and enjoy.
Deal attracts artists of all kinds, as do many of the seaside towns along the Kent coast. It has an incredible sense of the arts, Linden Hall Studio being recently described as the flagship creative space for revitalising this art scene. The gallery is lucky that we are surrounded by many great artists in the local area.
Deal is a town like no other. It moves at its own pace, and allows one time to enjoy being a part of a real community. With its coastline running along the English Channel, it is impossible to not be moved by the inspiring view of the sea as it batters our famous pebble beach and washes around the striking pier.
The unique beauty of this special town brings people back time and time again - often to experience the independent shops, restaurant and bars which set our town aside from many others dominated by megastores and chains.
Wish you were here!