Published: 06:00, 02 September 2020
Some truly weird and wonderful things have turned up on our county's shores over the years.
From a 1,000-year-old leather slipper, to a 12st elephant tusk, there really is no telling what you might stumble upon when taking a stroll along beaches in Kent .
100 tonnes of timber
One of the more bizarre findings came in January 2009, when hundreds of tonnes of timber washed up in Broadstairs , after thousands of planks fell off a Russian cargo ship in rough seas in the English Channel.
As dawn broke, huge packs of wood, smashed timber and debris were spotted off the coast and on the foreshore at Pegwell Bay, Ramsgate , and Joss Bay.
But it wasn't there long.
The bizarre arrival soon turned into what might be Kent's biggest-ever takeaway bonanza , as droves of people turned out to scavenge what they could.
Helped by the tides and clean-up squads, the enormous expanse of planks had disappeared in just four days.
The 1,000-year-old slipper
Pulling it out, he realised it was what appeared to be a leather, moccasin-style shoe.
To his astonishment, carbon dating later found the slipper to be about 1,000 years old. Dating back to the Anglo-Saxon or Viking period , it had been so well-preserved in the clay the original toe and heel marks could still be seen.
Starfish, gapers and blubber
Myriad sea creatures also regularly turn up on our shores, delighting or saddening those who see them, depending on the state in which they are found.
These include everything from porpoises, seals and dolphins, to sharks, whales, and exotic species such as sunfish from warmer climes.
In March 2018, thousands upon thousands of dead starfish were sadly strewn across the sand at Dumpton Gap in Broadstairs - a phenomenon apparently caused by stormy weather.
In February this year, walkers were shocked to find "millions" of shell fish washed up on Littlestone beach in Romney Marsh .
They were sand gapers - small squid-like creatures that are also known as soft shell clams - and had been thrown from the sea by Storm Ciara.
There was initial speculation it could either be congealed palm oil, or ambergris - a mass produced in the digestive system of sperm whale, historically used in perfumery and often sold for great sums.
But it was soon revealed the deposits were in fact blubber from a huge, 50ft sperm whale that had recently died after becoming stranded just off the coastline .
The beachcombers of Kent
With a coastline home to two of Britain's most important historic shipping lanes, there are also a vast number of shipwrecks sitting on the seabed around Kent , and debris from these often ends up on the shore.
Unexploded wartime bombs are also regularly found and destroyed by specialist disposal teams on our county's coast , while lucky beachgoers come across real-life ocean jewels, such as amber, and jet, and sea glass.
Mother Nature is unpredictable and you never know what you might find.
For many, the beauty of beachcombing is that anyone can do it. With a bit of good luck, a casual scan of the sand or shingle could result in an exciting discovery.
But there are, of course, many seasoned experts and hobbyists who eagerly head out after the county is lashed by storms - those who devote hundreds of hours to finding, and recording, the treasures and pieces of local history thrown up by the waves.
Finding a mammoth's tooth
Frank Leppard has been combing Kent 's beaches for the best part of 50 years.
Since discovering an early knapped flint tool behind his Margate home at the age of nine, he has been passionate about finds from the past.
He has now built up an incredible collection of treasures from along the county's shoreline - including nearly 1,000 bottles, an impressive array of amber, and even part of a mammoth tooth.
"I grew up looking in the cliffs around our shores for fossilised sea urchins, finding washed up clay pipes and old bottles with local brands and addresses on from the 1880s," said Frank, 55.
"I was fascinated at the evidence people and animals had left behind for us to find all around us if you knew where to look.
"I'm still that daydreaming nine-year-old schoolboy at heart, chasing the next find."
"One of my favourite finds was a large piece of mammoth tooth," he added. "Ten thousands years old and it rolls up on the Nayland rocks at Margate !
"I've also found radio buttons and loads of pieces of fuselage from the Whitley Armstrong bomber that crash-landed when it ran out of fuel on a bombing raid coming back from Genova in Italy in 1941."
These days, Frank specialises in finding fragments from dinner services that were used by the various steam companies that once ferried holidaying Londoners down to the Kent coast.
"All the different companies had their own logos stamped on dinner plates and cups, which were often chucked overboard if broken, or for fun by naughty customers," explained Frank.
"I have a nice selection from the various shipping lines - companies like the New Palace Steamers and the General Steam Navigation Company - collected over thousands of hours scouring the beach and rocks."
Frank says the worst thing he has encountered on the beach was a 35ft fin whale he found washed up at Foreness Point in 2015 .
"It was huge," he said. "To see it washed up on the beach was very upsetting.
"What amazes me these days is the amount of plastic washed up," he added.
"Not just bottles but thousands of small pieces of every shape and colour.
"It makes me sad to see and I, and most beachcombers, take away what we can from the beach every visit.
"I ask anybody reading this piece to please do the same."
Frank used to go beachcombing every day of the year without fail, come rain or shine but over the years, he's grown more selective.
"Now I tend to go after storms and in the early summer months looking for amber," he said.
"I've built up a big collection of amber, including the largest piece found so far according to all locals.
"I'm now obsessed with finding it as each new piece offers up the chance to glance back in time almost 50 million years.
"I have pieces with flies and bugs in, just like in Jurassic Park - stuck in the tree sap from huge pine trees, just as they were the second they were trapped, back when they were surrounded by dinosaurs."
Frank says he usually searches on rocks around Margate for clay pipes, crockery and amber.
"Amber gets caught up on the seaweed as the tide goes out and sits on top waiting for some lucky person to find," he said. "Or it gets claimed back by the sea at the next high tide."
"Never stray out too far as the sea is a quick beast when your back is turned."
He takes a litter picker, to save back pain, and always keeps a phone and a drink to hand.
"Never stray out too far as the sea is a quick beast when your back is turned," he advises.
"And always take your mobile phone with you.
"Most of all, have fun looking finding and researching your finds.
"And share your photos onto a local finds page as there's mostly always someone that knows what you have found."
The 12st elephant tusk
Frank regularly shares his finds in Facebook group Thanet and Sandwich Coastal Finds , which was founded by his friend and fellow treasure hunter Tony Ovenden, from Ramsgate, four years ago.
There, beachcombers and history enthusiasts share photos of their latest discoveries and help one another identify even the most obscure objects.
Mr Ovenden, who is also a Thanet district councillor, says he has been delighted to see the group amass nearly 5,000 members.
"I thought we'd maybe get 100 or so people who were keen to chat about beach finds," he said.
"But beachcombing is popular because it's free, it's accessible and it's diverse. There's so much diversity around our coast and there's just so much information to share.
Mr Ovenden says a couple of particularly memorable recent finds include the ornate metal hilt from a 17th century sword, found around Goodwin Sands, and an elephant tusk weighing a whopping 12st that recently came ashore in Thanet.
"This part of our coast holds a great mystery," he said. "It's like a frontier of maritime archaeology, because no-one really knows what's there.
"And a lot of it is tidal - it's not a permanent fixture.
"Something can come in on the tide or on a certain storm. It will be there two or three days and then the beach will change and it will disappear as though nothing's happened."