Victoria train station
Today’s week-long festival, a colourful celebration packed with food & drink, music, parades, competitions, and many many other great events, is actually a modern revival of an ancient holy festival dating way back to Norman times.
Back then Whitstable had already established itself as a fishing port and the local fishermen and dredgers held annual ceremonies of thanksgiving, not just for the success of the harvest, but also as thanksgiving for their survival at sea. Being practical, and so as not to interrupt their busy seasons, the Whitstable fishers held these celebrations during the slack period for oyster harvesting. This explains why even today, you’ll find the festival is held in the summer, outside of the season for eating the Whitstable native oysters.
The native or flat oyster (Ostrea edulis) is the oyster that made Whitstable famous. When the Romans arrived, the shores off Whitstable were abundant in these bivalves due to Whitstable’s favoured position on the Thames Estuary. Here, the nutrient-rich waters that flow down the river when mixed with the saltwater of the North Sea in the shallow warm water off Whitstable provide the perfect growing environment for the microscopic algae which form the oysters’ diet. As their name suggests, these native oysters are indigenous to our shore with a reproduction cycle adapted to our waters. During their breeding season in the summer months, the native oysters are unpalatable. They are only fished in the winter months (those months with an ‘r’ in them) September to April. The more common rock oyster (Crassostrea gigas) was introduced from the Pacific specifically for farming as it is more resilient than the native oyster. Rock oysters are available all year round and it is these that are consumed in abundance at the Whitstable Oyster Festival every July.
Train ride: You will be taking 10:45 train, arriving in Whitstable at 12:06. Just in time for lunch! 🙂 It is a direct train.
Plan of the day
10:15 meeting at Victoria station
10:35 leaving the meeting point and going to the platform
10:45 train to Whitstable
12:06 arrival in Whitstable just in time for lunch!
12:06-12:20 walking to the harbour from the station
Lunch at The Harbour Food Fair
You can dine around the world with the best Kent ingredients, enjoy our local craft beer or cider, sample the freshest seafood in the harbour with hand-picked stalls selling only the very best street food, craft and local produce. With musical performances all day and free access to the Festival venue, The Shuck, it`s a great way to kick back for the afternoon and take in the views across the harbour.
The Oyster Trail – optional £2.5
Along the beach, across the original sea wall and down through the alleyways. Brian Baker guides you as he paints the picture of the trades, boats and lives of the Whitstable Natives – both the oysters and the families who lived in this area over a century ago.
A colourful array of arts and crafts, join us for this event where you can show off your craftsmanship in time for the big event The Parade. Make it as exciting as you can and then lets all march with pride through the town in the festival Parade!
16:00 – 16:15 walking back to the station
16:15 meeting at the train station to travel back
16:28 – 17:51 Train to Victoria
The plan above has been created for your convenience and to highlight the main events of the day, however, if at any point you want to separate from the group and explore on your own, that’s ok. Just make sure you are at the train station at 16:15 or they will leave without you. Please see the list of other events available on the day below.
The Harbour Food Fair (10am – 6pm) is one of Oyster Festival’s biggest attractions. Handpicked stalls line the harbour selling only the very best street food, craft and local produce. You can dine around the world with the best Kent ingredients, enjoy our local craft beer or cider, sample the freshest seafood in the harbour and shop until you drop. Start from the East Quay, grab a coffee and take a pew – there will plenty of music on the Buskers Stage to while away the morning. Then it’s time for a slow meander along the stalls lining the quay, browse the Harbour Village, a melting pot of colour from the harbour’s permanent traders, then follow the stalls via the fish market to Whitstable Farmers Market. It’s probably time for another spot of refreshment here as you hit the street food stalls and the festival bar overlooking the beach. Rest your legs and laden arms in the dining area and watch some great performances on the Beach Stage. From here its just a stones throw to The Shuck so take a walk along the West Quay and at the end you will find our very own showcase restaurant and bar. With musical performance all day here its a great way to kick back for the rest of the afternoon and take in the views across the harbour.
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