Friday July 30th 2010
Having stayed at a B&B in Folkestone overnight, we were up, fed and ready to walk just after 9 this morning. We began the day at the base of the cliff lift, having clambered down the steps we discovered the previous evening. The first part of the walk was along a concrete path in front of some very elegant houses and behind a messy tarmacked area sometimes used for markets but this morning, apparently, a perfect place to ride a mini-motorbike or two. Soon we came to the end of this path and round to the harbour.
There are no ferries in or out of Folkestone any more and the harbour is filled with small pleasure boats. Beside the harbour is a huge hotel, which was very busy with coach parties leaving after having, presumably, stayed a night on their way to or from the continent.
After a cheeky loo stop at the hotel (no-one noticed me nipping in), we followed the harbour round to the fish dock on the other side. Here there are many fish stalls and evidence of old railways, with tracks still in the docks and the viaduct leading to the old harbour station overhead.
Once past the harbour another twist in the path brought a complete surprise; a beautiful sandy beach which looked very inviting in the morning sun. The path took us behind the beach ending at a flight of steps up to a green in front of some houses and the first of many stops to catch our breath. A notice board here informed us that at this point the electricity cables to and from France leave Britain and that the steps and landscaping had been provided by the CEGB.
The way then made a gentle climb upwards past a Martello Tower and across a buried Roman Villa, whose parch marks were just visible in the grass. After a second Martello Tower we tackled a very steep climb up to the top of the cliff and were rewarded by the most amazing view over the railway line and out to sea. France was out there on the horizon but it was a bit hazy and we couldn’t quite make it out.
Very soon we arrived at the Battle of Britain Memorial on the cliff top. The site has been laid out so that it looks like a propeller from the air and contains some replica aircraft and several memorials to men killed during the Battle of Britain. We stopped briefly at the shop and had a long, thoughtful look at the information boards.
Soon we picked up the path again and followed a very easy track high up on the cliffs, stopping occasionally to watch a train make its way along the coastal line far below or look back at Folkestone becoming smaller by the minute. After a while we had to leave the cliff edge and walk along a road but fairly soon regained the cliff path again beside a café perched down the cliff with its roof at road level.
Soon we encountered the first of many remains of wartime defences in the form of pill boxes, half broken gun emplacements and concrete platforms which had once held guns. They were scattered all along the cliff top and a stern reminder of darker times. Also here are sound mirrors, which were an early form of radar and apparently very effective.
We had hoped to reach Samphire Hoe for lunch but the walk was taking longer than we expected so we found ourselves a piece of grass near the cliff edge and enjoyed our picnic. From there we could see ferries heading in and out of Dover and the haze cleared so that we could see France. It was so beautiful up there, with no-one else in sight and just birds and butterflies for company. Finally we dragged ourselves away and set off once again. After a while we realised that Samphire Hoe must be beneath us somewhere and that the reason we couldn’t see it because the path was slightly back from the edge. A careful tiptoe to look over revealed it down below as expected and we set off for the entrance reinvigorated.
We had picked up the North Downs Way by now and were rather amused by a waymarker which read 122 miles to Farnham!
Soon we could see the tunnel entrance and scrambled down to the main road at the bottom of the hill. The only way in and out of Samphire Hoe is through a tunnel which has alternate up and down convoys for cars alongside a fenced pedestrian path. We set off downwards along the path which was very dark between sets of cars but safe as the footpath was high and straight. At the bottom was the ventilation plant for the Channel Tunnel and finally, Samphire Hoe. It was after all a little disappointing. The visitor centre was tacky and the coffee wishy-washy. The whole place just seemed a little tired and uninteresting. However, it gave us a chance to have a drink and snack and use the loos. We rested there for half an hour then set off for the last leg of today’s walk into Dover.
The route into Dover began with a walk back up the tunnel, then a scramble onto the cliff path which wound slowly upwards to the top of Shakespeare Cliff. The path was on the landward side of the hill so we could no longer see the sea but quite enjoyed seeing the busy A20 traffic far below. Suddenly we came over a crest and Dover lay before us and we could see a beach, docks and ferries.
The path down from the cliff was very steep and took some careful negotiating but finally ended at a gate onto a concrete path and into the beginning of civilisation. The path wound, still downwards, over the Shakespeare Tunnel and behind some houses on the landward side of the railway line. The North Downs Way ducked underneath the A20 and up the hill on the other side at this point, but we carried on to some steps down to a footbridge over the railway and onto the beach. A few minutes of shingle walking brought us to a gate out onto the approach to the Western Docks. Here we had a strange encounter with a lost lorry driver, whose English was not up to understanding that we did not know where we were either!
A bit of busy road walking to cross railways and stretches of water finally brought us to the final turning onto Dover Esplanade, where we finished for the day.
Time: 09.05 Time: 17.00
Steps: 2820 Steps: 32286
Miles: 1.11 Miles: 12.77
Running Total 236.1 miles