Friday, 22 October 2010

Head in the Clouds in the Harbour

Number 13 might be unlucky for some but that doesn’t apply to Lynn Bolton, the founder of Head in the Clouds, who is busier than ever with a new range of posh puddings as the winter approaches down at Whitstable Harbour.

Lynn has been trading from her fisherman’s hut (Number 13) in the harbour village since July 2009 and her award winning boutique meringue business has grown from strength to strength since then. Lynn now supplies some of the top retailers in the country including Selfridges.

If your childhood memory of a meringue is a rather brittle and dusty white container for tinned fruit, then think again. Lynn’s meringues are all hand made with free range egg whites from Monkshill Farm between Whitstable and Faversham using a secret family recipe.

No wonder they have been sampled by the Royal Household but Lynn is sworn to secrecy about the details.

The first thing to say about Lynn’s meringues is that they look sensational. They are beautifully presented with stylish packaging but the taste is even better. The meringues are sweet and crusty with a soft sticky interior which is just yummy.

There are some brilliant new ranges being lined up for Christmas including a fat vanilla snowman with a fondant icing scarf, peppermint flavoured Christmas trees and my personal favourite; the reindeer cup-cake meringue.

The fisherman’s hut in Whitstable Harbour Village gives Lynn a chance to meet local people and get customer feedback every week-end. She has also managed to win long term customers from the people she has met in the harbour.

“I am now supplying a wonderful cafe and bakery in Leighton Buzzard run by South African Chris and his French wife Leatitia who I met in the harbour” explains Lynn.

Head in the Clouds is open 10am-4pm every week-end at the Whitstable Harbour Village until Christmas and you can also see their new winter range at

Friday, 1 October 2010

Whitstable not a Clone Town...yet

Great news last month when Whitstable made the pages of the national press for being featured in the New Economic Foundation (nef) Report into so called Clone Towns. The nef report found that Whitstable was the most diverse town in its entire survey with an impressive 92.1 on the diversity scale.

The nef report, Re-imagining the High Street: Escape from Clone Town Britain, also brands the multiple chain outlets as “fair weather friends” who have either abandoned the high streets entirely or given up so-called secondary locations.

The report is a remarkable achievement for Whitstable and offers a fabulous opportunity for the town. Whitstable could establish an international reputation as a vibrant local business champion with encouragement for local independent retailers, restaurants and other businesses in the town.

The nef survey also offered welcome encouragement for those who try and help Whitstable be a diverse and locally owned business environment. The local business clubs, Whitstable and District Chamber of Commerce, Made in Whitstable, the local farmers market, the folks from Transition Town Whitstable and the Keep Whitstable Different Campaign. Not to mention the actual business owners themselves who struggle against government interference, red tape and increasing costs on a daily basis to keep their businesses going and keep Whitstable different.

Ironically, the report came out just a few days after it was reported that the Bingo Hall in Oxford Street is to be turned into another one of Wetherspoon’s 780 cheap boozing venues across the UK. The “Yob and Vomit” as it has already been tagged by some locals will be one of the first businesses seen by visitors to Whitstable. Visitors eager to enjoy the town’s diversity and the locally owned independents shops and businesses will be sorely disappointed.

Whitstable Harbour could be ideally placed to be the driving force of Whitstable’s international reputation as a diverse and locally owned shopping, eating and leisure destination. The businesses in the harbour are all locally owned and the harbour itself represents the town’s rich maritime heritage based on a reputation for unique locally sourced food - Oysters. Isn’t this a unique and gold plated opportunity for the harbour to benefit the whole community?

Just imagine the national headlines: Whitstable vows never to be a clone town. In a bold new strategy announced today Whitstable became the first town in the UK to commit itself to supporting locally owned business and local produce and saying” no” to multiple retail chains. The town’s famous harbour is to be the centre of a new local business hub and independent local retailers in the town and those offering local produce will be offered business rates holidays to allow them to flourish.

Unfortunately, the Harbour Board is too busy tearing itself to pieces in an internal feud about how best to run the harbour, to do anything constructive or pro-active. Not that constructive or pro-active were terms readily associated with the Board at the best of times but here was an opportunity to put a modern and coherent management system in place for the Harbour just when it was needed. Instead Canterbury City Council seems to have succeeded to taking something recognised as pretty ineffective and actually make it worse.

Its critics may accuse the Harbour Board of producing little more than hot air or only offering a talking shop for retired people but you can’t help thinking that a great opportunity to put a modern coherent system in place and do something really constructive for Whitstable has been lost.

In a few years time when Whitstable eventually becomes another depressing clone town full of empty shops, charity outlets and the odd multiple chain of estate agents, we may look back and remember those national headlines and wish we had done something constructive rather than let such opportunity slip past.