Saturday 20 August 2016
Folkestone to Deal
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.
I followed in the footsteps of thousands of soldiers and walked down the Road of Remembrance, the railings decorated with knitted poppies.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 approach to Dover is via the Shakespeare Cliff, a huge chalk ridge. Peering over the edge I had a great view of Samphire Hoe.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
I arrived in Deal with almost an hour to wait for the next train back to Folkestone.
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.