Photo: Danny Burrows


Tom Morris

The first recorded cricket match took place on the Sands in August 1813 but it was in 1824 that Captain K Martin, then the harbourmaster at Ramsgate, organised a match on the Goodwin Sands at low water between local mariners.  It became an annual tradition that lasted for several years.

These lovely photos below were taken by Deal’s well-known photographer Basil Kidd in 1973 for the Mercury newspaper.  The players are  from the Royal Navy Hydrographic Squadron, taking some well-earned time out from surveying the Goodwins for the UK Hydrographic Office.  It had become a tradition to play a cricket match in fancy dress – these top hats were apparently made from old Admiralty charts died black.  The survey ships in the background are HMS Echo, Egeria and Enterprise.

21 year old Mercury reporter Peter Frater getting ready for the game
Royal Navy surveyors in home-made top hats. Photo Basil Kidd/Deal Museum
Cutting from The Daily Telegraph July 1973

The UK Hydrographic Office survey the whole of the Goodwin Sands area every 12 years and the next one will be done between July and September 2021.  The results of the surveys are then updated on the Admiralty chart 1828.  It is now more cost efficient to contract out the surveying to commercial companies rather than have it done by the Royal Navy.  No more fancy dress games of cricket!

In 1985, a Kent County 1st XII played a match on the Sands.  A team consisting of illustrious players such as Mark Benson (now an international umpire), Chris and Graham Cowdrey, Graham Johnson, Richard Ellison, Chris Penn and Derek Underwood was beaten by a Select XI by 3 runs.  The official photographer of the day, Tom Morris, has kindly let us share some of his photographs with you.

The tradition came to an end in 2006 when a BBC film crew had to be rescued by the RNLI after discovering their boats had become stuck in the glutinous sand.

Today, more informal games take place and are enjoyed just as much.

Day Trips

Dave Chamberlain
Dave Herriott
Tom Morris
Jeremy Blackman

Despite their fearsome reputation (or perhaps because of it) the Goodwins still attract many day-trippers.  Locals make the four miles journey in kayaks or small fishing boats to have a fun day kite surfing amongst the lagoons.

Boat excursions from Dover take visitors on a thrilling ride out to the Sands where one can spend an hour wandering about in the middle of the English Channel surrounded by sea and seals, enjoying the emptiness and reflecting on the memory of all those who perished there.

In the late 1980’s the British Hovercraft Museum and Goodwin Sands Potholing Club took visitors out to the Goodwins in the Princess Anne and Princess Margaret hovercraft.  These rubber-skirted craft sped right up on to the Sands and transported a letterbox for visitors to send home those all-important postcards.

In 2019 members of Downs Sailing Club celebrated the club’s 70th anniversary with Bubbles and Breakfast on the Sands.

In August 2018 the first official run took place on the Goodwins.  The 5K Rat Race was run by a company offering adventure sports for small numbers of the physically fit, usually taking place in ‘way out’ places -the Goodwins fit that bill perfectly!

The Big Swim

Danny Burrows

On 1st September 2019, an intrepid team of experienced open water and cross Channel swimmers undertook the first ever swim to the Goodwin Sands.  Led by teacher Patrick Papougnot, a team of 6 left Ramsgate harbour before dawn to swim in ½ hour relays to North Goodwin Knoll.  Arriving at the Sands 3 hours later, the team spent an hour exploring and appreciating the beauty and wilderness of the Goodwins before heading back to Deal to be greeted by the Mayoress of Deal and a crowd of well-wishers.

The team completed the 15km swim in just over 7 hours, including the hour’s stop, by taking advantage of the spring tide and south streaming currents. 

They were advised on their route by William Thomson, author of The Book of Tides and a support boat with pilot was chartered from Top Cat Charters of Ramsgate.