High speed train: New cultural trail will boost the South Coast’s delights

Couple stand in front of their new homeRussell Harper

Natalie and Drew Greenall at their Woodlands View home in Hastings

It has improved access to London for commuter towns as well as to previously shunned seaside resorts that are fast becoming desirable cultural hotspots thanks to artists and creative types quietly colonising them, attracted by the relatively cheap property prices. 

Now a new cultural trail will connect arts facilities on what is being called the Creative Coast. 

And while it has been set up to boost tourism it will also add to the facilities on the doorsteps of new property developments. 

Culture Coasting was launched late last year to create an arts “treasure hunt” using GPS geocaching technology on a trail from Southend-on-Sea in Essex through Whitstable, Margate and Folkestone in Kent to Hastings, Bexhill and Eastbourne in East Sussex – all towns with important regeneration plans.

One of the driving forces behind Culture Coasting is Turner Contemporary, the art gallery opened in 2011 on Margate seafront. 

It has led the regeneration of the town, contributing £58million to the local economy through tourism and inward investment. 

And in Folkestone, the Creative Foundation arts charity is dedicated to helping the town’s regeneration through creative activity to make it a better place to live, work, study in and visit. 

Since it was formed in 2002 it has helped transform the old town around the harbour into a Creative Quarter bringing more than 500 jobs thanks to workshops for artists, a sixth form and university outpost, plus the Quarterhouse performance venue, Folkestone Artworks collection and annual book festival.

New build houseRosewood

Rosewood Park is in its first phase of development just outside Bexhill

New housing developments in Kent include Victory Pier in Gillingham, which is part of a 20-year regeneration programme for Medway that aims to create up to 16,000 new homes and more than 20,000 new jobs. 

Victory Pier is a waterfront development of one, two and three-bedroom apartments on the River Medway, with access to a gym and wifi lounge. 

Prices range from £210,000 to £430,000 (01634 776979; berkeleygroup.co.uk).

Jonathan Cashford, 66, rented a flat in the first phase of the development five years ago and within two months had put a deposit down on a two-bedroom apartment in the second phase, where he now lives. 

“The views are fantastic, all I can see is the river and marina, you can’t beat it,” he says. 

“The sunrises are stunning, they get me out of bed every morning.” Just outside Hythe, near Folkestone, there is another long-term development, Martello Lakes, with New England-style two and three-bedroom homes from £204,995 to £264,995 (0844 854 9936; barratthomes.co.uk).

An extension of the high speed rail link in Kent is expected to reduce the current 90-minute rail journey to London but new residents Natalie and Drew Greenall, both 31, bought their three-bedroom semi-detached house on the site because they wanted a new-build home. 

“It has been lovely that nothing needs repairing or bringing up to standard,” says Natalie. 

Man buys flat in GillinghamSWINSON

Jonathan Cashford bought a flat at Victory Pier, Gillingham, after renting there

The sunrises are stunning, they get me out of bed every morning

Jonathan Cashford

“Also, Millwood let us choose some of the interior features in our home including the worktops and flooring for the kitchen and bathrooms.” 

Bexhill has a new luxury development of three, four and five-bedroom houses at Rosewood Park on the edge of farmland. 

This first phase of the project has four and five bedroom houses for sale from £417,995 to £504,995 (0844 501 0768; dwh.co.uk) but it will also have three-bedroom houses and flats. 

It’s an exciting time if you want to live near the coast in Kent and East Sussex as these outdated kiss-me-quick seaside towns finally emerge from economic doldrums and reinvent themselves as cultural beacons.