The Lower Leas Coastal Park
The Lower Leas Coastal Park has something for everyone. In 1784 a landslip changed the landscape of the West End of Folkestone. A new area of land was created between the beach and the new cliff edge. It was first used as pasture for cattle, but it soon became a recreational site for holidaying Victorians. Over the next 200 years, the area has been developed into myriad of walks through wooded and planted areas.
The site has 3 zones which means that anyone can find a favourite route up or across the cliffs. After the area was initially landscaped, in the early 1800s, the Leas Water Lifts were put in. There were 3, and another in Sandgate. You can still see some of the structural furniture of the lift that was in front of the Metropole Hotel. The last remaining water lift is currently being renovated at sits at the eastern end of the Coastal Park.
It’s possible to walk from Sandgate through to the Harbour Arm, taking in many routes within the Coastal Park on your journey. It’s certainly a place you will find worth revisiting, with dogs, little people or just to be immersed in one of the most beautiful parks in Kent. Folkelife finds out more…
The Zig-Zag path which takes you from the Bandstand on the Leas down through to the Ampitheatre below was installed in 1921. The rocks you see and grottoes you walk through are entirely man-made. The architect, James Pulham created these structures from waste and cement, and named it Pulhamite. This is now a listed structure and an artwork for the 2021 Creative Folkestone Triennial recreated Pulhamite boulders called Mellowing The Corners by Dutch artist Mariko Hori. Look out for the little rat having a rest and a snack in one of the seats on your route.
Into the wild
There is a wild zone which has many different local plants and attracts lots of wildlife. Migrating birds thrive here. There are pathways leading from the Lower Sandgate Road up to the Leas at the top of the cliff. These are suitable for pushchairs but are steep, and there are steps on some routes.
Have some fun!
The fun zone is a massive play area with equipment for toddlers up to adults. The main climbing area spans the path. There are tubular slides, wobbly steps, climbing walks, tunnels and nets to aid your way from one side to the other. Sit on a sand diggers, climb the shipwreck and discover the climbing walls in the alcoves around the zone. Near the Warden’s Hut there are loos. There are plenty of seats, picnic tables and a 350-seat amphitheatre where activities happen throughout the year.
Onto the Formalities
The Lower Leas Coastal Park area of Folkestone has been known for its landscaping and horticultural excellence. This continues in the Formal Zone where paths take you through to the Leas Lift and onto the beach and Harbour area.
You can park on the Lower Sandgate Road to reach the Lower Leas Coastal Park. You can also walk down the Zig-Zag path, or other paths leading from The Leas at the top of the cliff. National Cycle Route 2 runs along the Lower Sandgate Road, but cyclists should dismount when the park is busy.
If you fancy an ice cream, or something else, then there’s the Mermaids Café at the bottom of the path near the Warden’s Hut. You can sit, eat and admire the stunning sea view.