Day 381 The White Cliffs of Dover

Saturday 20 August 2016

Folkestone to Deal

19 miles

Chandos Premier Guest House, Folkestone

It was incredibly windy during the night, rattling the windows. I was glad I hadn’t camped. I feasted on biscuits and left early. 

looking down on Folkestone Harbour
I followed in the footsteps of thousands of soldiers and walked down the Road of Remembrance, the railings decorated with knitted poppies. 

a poignant memorial
The tide was out at Folkestone Harbour and Sunny Sands Beach looked pristine as I gazed across it at the Coronation Parade at the base of the tall cliffs. 

Folkestone Harbour at low tide, an enormous hotel in the background
The Folkestone Mermaid looking out to sea from Sunny Sands Beach (sculpted in 2011 to rival Copenhagen’s Mermaid and inspired by HG Wells’ novel ‘The Sea Lady’, as he was a resident of Folkestone)
The Parade was undergoing refurbishment and so was inaccessible. I had to back track and climb up lots of steps to reach the top of the cliff. The views back across Folkestone were excellent, and really showed how it commands a low-lying promontary protruding from the base of the North Downs. 

the huge cliffs leading away from Folkestone and towering over East Wear Bay
looking back down on Folkestone, the edge of East Wear and Warren Country Park and Martello Tower number 3, an old lookout station
Boy was it windy! The forecast had predicted 50mph winds and I was glad they were onshore because I was struggling to stand upright at times. Aside from the battle with the wind, it was a nice sunny day and a beautiful cliff walk, following the North Downs Way, to Dover. 

the shear cliffs of The Warren
the view along The Warren cliff top, looking down on the seaside train line between Dover and Folkestone
The path took me straight past the Battle of Britain Memorial, sat high on the cliff top facing the English Channel. It was rather impressive and I stopped to wander around it. 

The impressive Battle of Britain Memorial
A bit further on I cut off the cliff top for a break from the relentless wind (I didn’t get one but it was easier to fight the wind when not on the cliff top). I spied the Varne Ridge Channel Swimming Holiday Park so went to take a look. The reception buildings were covered in plaques naming all the channel swimmers who have stayed at the park and their various records. It was quite an uplifting sight. 

the entrance to the Varne Ridge Channel Swimming Holiday Park; so many plaques (this is just a few)
The approach to Dover is via the Shakespeare Cliff, a huge chalk ridge. Peering over the edge I had a great view of Samphire Hoe. 

peering down on Samphire Hoe
looking at Shakespeare Cliff and the A20 heading into Dover
walking the precarious top edge of Shakespeare Cliff
I could see down onto Dover docks, in front of me was the Western Heights, and beyond that another hill with Dover Castle on top. I never knew just how hilly Dover is. 

approaching Dover
Dover marinas, the Eastern docks and the castle on the hill
a closer view of Dover Castle
It seemed like I went up and down and round and round the Western Heights in order to skirt around one of the largest and strongest forts in the country, the Drop Redoubt Fort. It was rather similar to the fort on Portland, built into the hillside. 

Dover’s Drop Redoubt Fort on the Western Heights
I stopped at a cafe in Dover town as I needed a break. Once I’d re-gathered my strength I could take on the White Cliffs around South Foreland. 

heading over the White Cliffs of Dover to South Foreland
looking back along the beautiful white cliffs to Dover
The National Trust owns a section of the White Cliffs so naturally there is a visitor centre and there were lots of people about. I could just about make out The coast of France through the haze. 

Dover’s docks and breakwater
All along the cliffs here there is plenty of military history: not only the castles, forts and Martello Towers, but also St Martin’s Gun Battery and Fan Bay Deep Shelter. The views from the gun battery were extensive. It was originally built in 1779, during the American War of Independence, and was added-to in the Napoleonic era and again in WW2. 

relics of a military history embedded in the white cliffs
Unfortunately I needed to have booked and paid to go in the deep shelter and have a tour of the interconnecting tunnels built to house the soldiers operating the gun battery. 

South Foreland lighthouse
St Margaret’s at Cliffe seemed a rather smart settlement, nothing like its nickname of Hellfire Corner. It has created its own ‘Frontline Britain’ trail around the various historical military points. This small town was once the frontline of our defence, being officially the closest point to France and endowed with several gun batteries to shell enemy shipping. 

the Dover Patrol Memorial at St Margaret’s at Cliffe
The White Cliffs carried on to just before Kingsdown. Then they gave way to a long shingle shoreline protected by King Henry VIII’s Castles in the Downs. I walked past ones at Walmer, Deal and Sandown. 

kingsdown and Deal, at the end of the chalk cliffs
Deal Castle artillery fort
I arrived in Deal with almost an hour to wait for the next train back to Folkestone. 

Deal’s Timeball Tower, a Victorian maritime GMT signal
I noticed a few craft beer places so I thought I’d check one out. I sat in the Taphouse Beer Cafe and sampled a few of the craft beers on offer (along with a pint of water). Not a bad way to end a very windy walk. 

the Channel Swimmer sculpture at Dover

Day 380 Following the Sea Wall to Folkestone

Friday 19 August 2016

New Romney to Folkestone

14 miles (+ bus)

Best Western Clifton Hotel

I set off along the sea front to Dymchurch and then on to Hythe. It was another grey day and the sea front seemed to go on forever just with changes to the type of promenade; concrete or Tarmac, raised or beach level, wide or thin. 

grass promenade at Littlestone-on-Sea
Tarmac promenade on the way to St Mary’s
I passed a lot of Martello Towers today, all looking slightly different depending upon their current usage or decoration. 

one Martello Tower…

…and another one (in disguise!)
I passed along the fronts of St Mary’s Bay and Dymchurch, neither places looked particularly appealing. 

another promenade, another Martello Tower, it must be Dymchurch!
Halfway between Dymchurch and Hythe is the Dymchurch Redoubt, which was originally a depot built in the early 1800s to service the 21 Martello Towers in the short stretch between Rye and Hythe. 

Dymchurch Redoubt, on Hythe Ranges
It was a very grey day and heavy rain and winds were forecast, hence I had started early. I caught a bus for 2 miles along the main road from Dymchurch Redoubt to Hythe as the footpath was pushed off the sea front by Hythe Ranges and followed the main road. 

the Royal Military Canal in Hythe
In Hythe I found the Royal Military Canal again, as it cut out the the sea. The town centre was quite nice, with lots of independent shops, and I stopped at a lovely French Patisserie for coffee and a fancy cake as it had just started to rain. 

always a sucker for great coffee and cake
Hythe labels itself as “the jewel of SE Kent, where the countryside meets the sea”.

Hythe’s fisherman’s beach (more Martello Towers in the background)
Like Hastings, Hythe also had a fisherman’s beach. It had stopped raining when I set off along the promenade to Folkestone, but it was very cloudy and only a matter of time before more rain fell. Fortunately, by the time it did, I would be ensconced in my hotel room for an evening of relative comfort watching the Olympics on television. 

walking from Hythe to Folkestone
Folkestone has been a popular seaside resort since the 1800s (presumably after everyone stopped worrying about Napoleon invading). It has the requisite beach huts and promenade but sadly no pier. Its pier was opened in 1888 and demolished in 1954. In the meantime it was the host for Britain’s first ever recorded beauty contest, in 1907, that was one by Netty Bainbridge. 

beach huts on the promenade, including one that was artwork in the style of a lighthouse)
Folkestone is built on a cliff and so I found myself walking along the promenade at the base of the cliff. I didn’t need to walk up the cliff road as I could get the Leas Lift, a water balance cliff lift, up to the top. 

the Leas Lift
I walked past a few big hotels and through the main, soulless, shopping centre to get to the post office where I should collect my next set of maps. Yet again I was let down by the Post Office (for the 3rd out of 5 times) as their staff don’t even know what services they provide (despite previous phone calls and assurances). It was incredibly frustrating and I struggled to retain composure. The smallest things can seem soul-destroying on this sort of trip, and an extra 2 mile walk to be so frustrated was not a good end to my day. Fortunately there was a Waterstones in the town centre so I had to walk there and buy some more maps. 

Welcome to Folkestone
I arrived at my hotel feeling miserable and lonely, and definitely not in the mood to be messed around with a sub-standard room (my wifi didn’t work so I had to move rooms after I had carefully strewn all of my wet kit and tent all over the place). It was just not my best afternoon. Roll on tomorrow!
a folly tower built on the edge of Littlestone-on-Sea