In late 2013 a call went out to local artisans requesting submissions for a design for a seating bench.  The brief was that the bench should feature a strong local connection with the foreshore and Herne Bay in general.  A large number of designs were submitted but after much deliberation six were chosen and built.  We hope you enjoy our Artists' benches and why not see if you can rest a while on each?  The walk between the West-most and East-most benches is around 4.5 miles and, apart from a short slope towards Bishopstone, is remarkably flat and easy-going and especially good for cycling.

You can download a pdf map of the Artists' Bench trail from here.

Click on a marker on the map below to read about each bench.

Amy Johnson biplane bench | Bookcase bench | Sea-life bench | Flocking bench | Love seat | The Groyne wood bench

The Amy Johnson Biplane

When the call went out to local artists to design a unique picnic bench, I immediately saw how I could adapt the design of a biplane. The bottom wing would be seating and the top wing a table. The fuselage would contain a cockpit with pilot’s seat for a child, plus joystick and pedals for effect and a bit of fun.

Amy Johnson Bench Herne Bay

Apart from seeing the possibilities in terms of design, I was interested in exploring an aviation theme to link in with another project I am working on about British record-breaking pilot and icon of her era, Amy Johnson, who died off the shores of Herne Bay in 1941.

As a ceramic artist my work is highly detailed and precise. This project meant a complete change in scale and medium. A great concept was one thing, but having never worked with wood, building the bench was another matter.

Here I turned to family friend Stephen Whiting of Firwood Fencing. I seem to remember the conversation went something like this: Jane - “Is it possible to build a picnic bench in the design of a biplane?” Steve - “Anything is possible…” Jane - “You interested?” Steve - “Of course!”

So the summer of 2014 took shape as Steve embraced the challenge of building his first ever plane, while I took up and mastered the art of freehand routing to carve Amy’s details onto the wing and fuselage. With the help of John Simmons of Upland Engineering who constructed the metal work, the Amy Johnson Biplane Bench was made.

Amy once said, “believe nothing to be impossible”. We took inspiration from her words, set to work and built a plane!

I would like to give special thanks to Steve and John who worked on this project in their own time and for nothing but the cost of materials.

Jane Priston

Read more about Amy Johnson

The Bookcase Bench

Herne Bay has a lot to say through its architecture, history and people. The bench I made was built on this idea of creating an installation where I tell all about the treasures I have discovered as I learn about this town.

I thought about doing something with books. Books represent knowledge and culture. Nowadays, people are using books less; they use I-pads, laptops or other machines instead. In a few years time books or paper may be obsolete.   Although it is made of wood, the bench is the shape of multiple piles of books.  It is my recreation of a library. Marcel Duchamp, who spent time in Herne Bay over 100 years ago, inspired me with his ready-made pieces of work.Herne Bay Bench | Bookcase

I want people to know how the town developed during the last few hundred years. I decided to illustrate stories and the history of Herne Bay on the ‘bookcase’ I have done.   If you have the time to visit it, you will be able to see famous monuments built around the town, such as the Clock Tower, the Pier, The Memorial Park, Herne Bay Market and much more. The drawings include people at play.

I would like the audience, who will sit on the bench, to be reminded of all the little details, made by real facts that happened in Herne Bay but also mixed in with some fantasy drawings that add poetry and humour.

The bench is made of wood, paper, ink, and vanish.

Margot Laureau

Third year student at University of Kent

Sea-life Bench

I work almost exclusively with driftwood which I collect along the coast of North Kent. My designs are inspired by and evolve from the timber that the tides bring in. The obvious starting point for the design of this bench was the seat itself and this is made from two heavy lengths of Greenheart which I fished out from a waterway in a local woodland during routine conservation work.Sea-life Bench

The next step in the process was to design a sturdy framework to support the heavy seat. The inspiration at this stage was provided by the Oak cleat which forms the backrest. I found this piece several years ago on one of my regular driftwood hunts and have been waiting for the opportunity to use its sculptural quality to best effect. The cleat is visibly worn from its years of duty in mooring a barge to quay-sides.

The rest of the structural design was based upon my stock of chunky lengths of oak. The carved decorations on the bench reflect my personal associations with this stretch of coast: childhood memories of looking for crabs amongst the rocks; mackerel fishing from Hampton Pier; finding starfish with my children at Reculver and, of course, swimming in the sea.

Nick Stewart

The Flocking Bench

I have been photographing, drawing and making prints of the birds on the seafront since I moved to Herne Bay. I find them endlessly captivating.

My first thoughts about designing a bench were to try to produce something simple and hopefully elegant to complement but not mimic the wonderful features on the seafront.

Flocking Bench

When thinking about how a bench was used I decided upon a curved shape to reflect both the buildings and enable conversation, both to include a feeling of intimacy and increase visibility of the shoreline. It was also important to me that the bench should be placed in an open space, where its shadows could cast and people could meet. I thought about the population of the shoreline and how it was dominated by people only part of the time and how consistently present the sea birds were.

It was considering these simple criteria that I realised that the light interacting with these transient features was what was interesting me and became my idea for “Flocking”. The idea of using the word “flocking”, relates both to the visitors at the seaside during warm weather and the birds searching for food.

I wanted to make a bench, gently curved that would exist as a sculpture when not sat upon.  A bench to throw shadows: directed by the shifting light, of the shapes of seabirds flocking over the bay. A bench made of teak wood and metal reflecting the surroundings and welcoming as a place to rest and observe the passing boats, birds and the shifting tides and skies.

I have enjoyed visiting the bench at different times of the day, in different weather conditions and seeing how the light from the cut out birds moves around the space.  I hope that the visitors and residents of Herne Bay will enjoy it too.

Catherine Francis-Yeats

Love seat

The Love BenchThis bench is in memory of a family friend, story teller and bird enthusiast, Bert Addley of Herne Bay.  It is also dedicated to the many customers, couples and friends - including Bert - who enjoyed the original Macari's ice cream parlour 1931-2008.

This bench was designed by Jason Charles Onion, an original member of the Macari family.  The bench is made from reclaimed hardwood that was once part of the original Victorian sea defences.

Jason Onion

The Groyne Wood Bench

Reculver towers benchMy bench is about the things seen on a dog walk from Bishopstone Glen to Reculver and back.  It celebrates local themes, landmarks and highlights the natural history of the area.  It uses personal motifs to represent things seen on many dog walks along this stretch of the coast.  The suggestion by Canterbury City Council to make the bench using groyne timbers from obsolete coastal defences adds another layer of local relevance and interest.  This type of very hard wood did influence the way the bench was made becuase of the sizes it is prepared in and the tools needed to work with it.

Rob Turner

Top | Amy Johnson biplane bench | Bookcase bench | Sea-life bench | Flocking bench | Love seat | The Groyne wood bench