Remodelling an old house by the sea gave this family the chance to shape their future – and meet the community
Marine Parade is a dead-straight road that faces the cliff-top lawns of Tankerton Slopes just outside Whitstable on the north coast of Kent. The grassy slopes, popular with cyclists, dog walkers and joggers, lead down to a row of wooden beach huts and a quiet, shingle beach divided by wooden groynes. At low tide, a natural causeway known as the Street appears, making it possible to walk along the shingle spit with the estuary’s waters on either side. Six miles out to sea, the turbines of the Kentish Flats wind farm are just about visible. This is the view from Mel Payne’s first floor.
“We were looking for something that was a bit life-changing,” she explains. “We’d lived on an island for quite a long time. Autism and twins will do that to a family, I think. You can be accidentally isolated, and this house takes us off that island.” Mel lives with her husband, Steve, a project manager for the NHS, their 11-year-old son Gus, who is autistic, and their seven-year-old twins, Tess and Elsa.