New Recruits Tackle Triennial Crowds

New volunteers at the Mole Cafe 2017

Three of our new volunteers were thrown in at the deep end on Sunday 3 September, offering refreshments at the Mole Cafe during the opening weekend of the Folkestone Triennial 2017.

With the Harbour Arm buzzing with visitors, Bobby Reader, Sandra Carpenter and Rosa Hewer got stuck in with the Harbour Canteen regulars serving up tea, coffee and cake.

Folkestone’s fourth Triennial exhibition (Double Edge) features 20 pieces of art located in public spaces around the town from artists including Antony Gormley, Sinta Tantra and Richard Woods.

As with each previous Triennial, many of these pieces will remain in Folkestone as permanent installations. There are a number of exhibits, past and present, in the Tontine Street and Harbour area close to the Step Short Visitor Centre and the Mole Cafe.

The Folkestone Triennial runs until 5 November 2017.

Photo: Diane Cronin

If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer with Step Short, email [email protected] or phone Heather-Gail de Souza (01303 269181) or Ann Berry (01303 278644) for the Mole Cafe and Carl Plummer (07766 796006) for the Visitor Centre.

Mole Cafe Welcomes Canadian & French WW1 Tour

Walking in the footsteps of John Arsenault 2017

A group of Canadian and French visitors will settle down to tea and cake at the Mole Cafe, Folkestone Harbour Arm on Wednesday 29 March 2017 as part of a 20-day First World War centenary trek marking the anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Marching across Canada, England and France in the footsteps of Canadian Private John Arsenault, the event has been organised to honour all Canadian veterans of the Great War, and the enduring relationship between Canada and France.

The tour began on 19 March in Chéticamp, Arsenault’s hometown on the island of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, and will end in Givenchy-en-Gohelle, Pas-de-Calais (site of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial) on 8 April.

On arrival in Folkestone on Tuesday 28 March 2017, the group will attend a reception at the Town Hall (1.30pm). They will take a walking tour of Folkestone the following day to include the Memorial Arch on the Leas and the Harbour Arm.

The Mole Cafe is being opened especially for the occasion at 10.30am, ahead of its official opening for the summer season on Saturday 1 April.

John Arsenault was a coal miner who enlisted in the 85th Canadian Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) on 5 October 1915. He passed through Folkestone on 10 February 1917 on his way to Boulogne and on to Artois. Arsenault fought in the landmark Battle of Vimy Ridge (an opener to the British-led Battle of Arras) in April 1917 in which all four Canadian divisions fought together for the first time.

The Canadians successfully achieved their objective of taking the German-held ridge, though John Arsenault died on 9 April 1917 during consolidation work after the battle.

Step Down To The Harbour This Spring

Step Short Mole Cafe volunteers Folkestone Harbour Arm 2016

Our trusty volunteers are busy preparing for the 2017 opening of the Mole Cafe and Visitor Centre at Folkestone Harbour.

Folkestone Harbour Arm reopens on Friday 31 March, with the Mole Cafe welcoming its first visitors of the season on Saturday 1 April.

Located on the old railway pier, the First World War cafe (or Harbour Canteen as it was also known) will serve up tea, coffee and cake between 10am and 4.30pm every weekend and bank holiday until the end of October.

Step Short volunteers in period dress recreate the canteen, which was the last stop for British servicemen and nurses before they sailed across the Channel to the Western Front during WW1.

More than 40,000 men and women enjoyed free refreshments and signed their names in visitors’ books provided by the Folkestone women who established the cafe. Today visitors can still sign a guest book.

In 2014 Step Short digitised the Mole Cafe visitor books to make this unique piece of local history available to an international audience. View or search the Harbour Canteen visitor books now!

Our Visitor Centre at the bottom of Tontine Street reopens on Wednesday 12 April at 9am. Here visitors can read about life in Folkestone during WW1; view wartime artefacts and memorabilia; and become supporters of Step Short for just £10 a year. Check with our volunteers for specific opening times throughout the season.

Mayors Enjoy A Cuppa At The Mole Cafe

Two of Step Short’s projects featured on a recent local history tour of Folkestone organised by The Mayor, Councillor Martin Salmon.

The guided history ramble was led by local historian and Step Short director Eamonn Rooney on Tuesday 4 October 2016, and raised funds for the Mayor’s three nominated local charities: Folkestone Rainbow Centre, Folkestone Division Guides and For Young People (FYP Charity).

Ramblers walked from the Town Hall on Guildhall Street to various sites of historical interest in the town, including the Memorial Arch on the Leas and the Mole Cafe on the Harbour Arm. Here participants, including visiting mayors from the local area, enjoyed a refreshing cup of tea and slice of cake from our volunteers in WW1 period dress.

The event also included lunch at Blooms in the Creative Quarter. Tickets were available to the public with all proceeds going to the charities.

Folkestone History Ramble, visiting mayors at Mole Cafe, Harbour Arm 2016
Mayors from the local area gather at Step Short’s Mole Cafe on the Harbour Arm, Folkestone.
Martin Salmon mayor at Mole Cafe, Folkestone History Ramble 2016
Folkestone’s Mayor Martin Salmon at the Mole Cafe with Step Short’s Vice Chairman Ann Berry (right) and Debra Jones.
Mole Cafe, Harbour Arm, Folkestone History Ramble 2016
Ramblers enjoying a cuppa at the Mole Cafe, Folkestone Harbour Arm.

Mole Cafe Hosts Damian Collins’ Book Signing

Damian Collins' book signing Mole Cafe, Folkestone


On Sunday 10th July 2016, Step Short’s Chairman, Damian Collins MP, signed copies of his first book at the Mole Cafe on the Harbour Arm in Folkestone.

‘Charmed Life: The Phenomenal World of Philip Sassoon’ charts the eventful life and career of the glamorous British politician, socialite and art collector. Sassoon was born in Kent, into the Sassoon and Rothschild dynasties, and used his impressive political and social connections to great effect during the early part of the 20th century.

He was Hythe MP from 1912 until his early death in 1939, and became a second lieutenant in the East Kent Yeomanry during the First World War. Sassoon served as private secretary to Field Marshal Haig between 1915 and 1918 and passed through the original Mole Cafe on 29th October 1915. Take a look at Sassoon’s signature in the Mole Cafe visitor books, available to view and search on our website.

He was renowned as a fantastic, Great Gatsby-style host, holding legendary gatherings at his country houses, Port Lympne near Hythe and Trent Park in North London.

Damian Collins signing books, Mole Cafe Folkestone


Read more about Damian Collins’ biography of Sir Philip Sassoon in Kent Life magazine.

Step Short Volunteer Appeal


Volunteers enrolment poster

Do you want to help raise awareness of the vital role that Folkestone played in World War I? Would you like to help others discover more about the millions of soldiers, sailors and Red Cross nurses who passed through our seaside town between 1914 and 1918? Then becoming a volunteer for local charity Step Short may be perfect for you!

We are looking for willing volunteers to help out at our small visitor centre on Tram Road and/or to serve tea and cakes at the Mole Cafe on the Harbour Arm. Just a few hours a week would make a big difference and help us to raise the funds needed for our ongoing projects.

If you are interested in working as a volunteer with Step Short, please contact us by emailing: [email protected]

Historic Mole Cafe Opens For Summer 2016

Step Short Mole Cafe volunteers Folkestone Harbour Arm 2016

The Mole Cafe has reopened for the 2016 summer season, welcoming visitors to Folkestone’s revamped Harbour Arm with lashings of tea and cake every weekend.

Volunteers in First World War period dress man the eatery, housed in its original location on the old railway pier. It first opened to the public last summer when the first stage of the Harbour Arm restoration was completed, both proving a runaway success.

This year the Harbour Arm is open for food, drink and entertainment from Friday to Sunday every week and on weekdays during school holidays. The cafe starts serving from 10.00am and closes around 4.30pm at the weekends.

Established by local women in World War I, the Mole Cafe (also known as the Harbour Canteen) was the last stop for servicemen and nurses from across the British Empire, and their final taste of Blighty, before sailing across the Channel to the front line.

Of the millions who passed through the port during the Great War, more than 40,000 men and women tucked into the free refreshments and signed their names in poignant visitors’ books.

The Mole Cafe books are now available to view and search online on the Step Short website.