Sunday August 7th 2011
Our long promised few days in Dover had arrived and we travelled down on Saturday calling in on all the interesting sights we had missed in previous walks. We caught the train to Hastings, where we finally saw the fisherman’s huts and museum.
Then we bussed on to Lydd where we stopped for lunch at The George again, before continuing to Folkestone to ride on the cliff lift at last. The final leg of the 100 bus route took us to Dover and out B&B nestling at the bottom of Castle Hill.
So we started the day early having not only breakfasted well in our B & B but also having sought out the beginning of the route the previous evening.
We began at the start/finish point for cross channel swimmers on the seafront at Dover and walked along the seafront, crossed the A20 with it thundering lorries heading for the ferry terminal (thank goodness for a pelican crossing) and began to climb. The path wound behind a row of houses, under the A2 then up a flight of steps, then a slope, then more steps. All the while there were glimpse of the docks down below but the noise from them receded as we climbed. When we reached a flat area with a telescope we decided we were probably at the top. The temptation to stay and watch the fascinating view far below was very sore. It looked like a child’s playmat with lines of cars, lorries, coaches and bikes winding around. We tried to pick one vehicle and track it but it proved impossible as the layout was far too complicated.
Eventually we tore ourselves away and very soon arrived at the White Cliffs Visitor Centre with its National Trust shop café and exhibition. The café was just opening and not busy and the staff were very helpful in making us sandwiches to take with us. We also bought fruit and cakes to help us on our journey. The path was easy to follow as there was only one, although it came scarily close to the cliff edge in places. It wound up and down and soon we could see the top of the South Foreland Lighthouse on the horizon. We passed a cliff rescue team who were setting up a demonstration rescue of a volunteer who was, apparently, already hanging over the cliff.
On we tramped, completely unaware of what was developing behind us. Suddenly the sun went in, then we felt a drop or two of rain and turned round to see a totally black sky. We hurriedly donned waterproofs and looked in vain for any shelter. We were probably in the worst place we could possibly have been at this moment; out on an exposed cliff top with nowhere to go. The only option was to keep onwards and hope to reach the lighthouse before the storm hit. No way –it was moving too fast and we tramped on through rain then hail, then horizontal hail. By the time we reached the lighthouse and some shelter it had almost finished but we were soaked and covered in mud and very cold.
We sheltered for a while there, but really didn’t want to pay to visit as it was rather expensive so we took the decision to move on. The rain had stopped and there was no sign of any more black clouds so off we went.
Very soon we had dried off and, to our relief, the sun came out again as we slowly descended into St Margaret’s Bay. There were a row of very lovely houses on the cliff top and us mere walkers had to pass on the inland side of them along a track which changed into a road. As we descended first Jen’s phone then mine beeped with a text message which we both ignored.
The seafront at St Margaret’s Bay was very small, just a car park with a coffee stall and loos (useful) with cliffs on each side. But it had a comfortable bench and we decided the cakes we had bought would travel better inside us, so we had a break. We also checked our phones and discovered that the text messages were our respective mobile networks welcoming us to France and telling us how much our calls would cost from here!
The route out the other side began with a long set of steps which took us very quickly up onto the cliffs again. The sky had cleared completely and a brisk wind finished the clothes drying process as we climbed towards a tall obelisk in the distance. We stopped to have a look at this memorial to the men of the Dover Patrol who kept the shipping lanes open during World War 1. The base of the memorial was covered in poppy wreathes and it struck me as a very inhospitable place to attend a Remembrance Day service on a cold November morning. There is a matching obelisk on the other side of the channel and one in New York as well.
At this point, the coastline visibly turns left and we congratulated ourselves at having reached the end of the south coast of England!
A lovely and very easy stretch of cliff top walking ensued with France well in view and soft grass under our feet.
As we walked we slowly descended until we reached ground level and the village of Kingsdown, which has a golf course and a pub by the sea. We were forced on the shingle for a short time but soon reached a concrete prom and a path in front of a row of houses. The houses were an interesting mix of styles, the first having obviously been built in Victorian times and the gaps filled in over the years from then. There were one or two beautiful Art Deco houses, several 1960s concrete blocks and a few modern ones. The last house in the path was a mansion now used as a nursing home and after that a good shared cycle and pedestrian path appeared. On one side was the shingle beach and on the other a wide greensward dotted with benches. At the end of the path was our next goal – Walmer Castle. We had planned to stop here and have a look round and a cup of tea. But when we got close it became obvious that this is not a small castle to visit in half an hour; in fact it is more like a stately home. We were unable to persuade the lady on the cash desk to let us use the café without paying the entrance fee so we retreated to the car park and bought an ice cream from the van instead.
Soon we were back into seaside resort territory as Walmer was quickly followed by Deal. We passed the Walmer lifeboat, out on display and collecting money, various amenities like toilets, beach shops and car parks and could see Deal Pier in the distance. We stopped at a small café for the longed for coffee then tackled the last lap into Deal. There was a large crowd enjoying a Sunday afternoon concert at the bandstand which is the memorial to the bandsmen killed in an IRA attack on their barracks here in 1989. Later research found that The Old Comrades Band has been playing that afternoon.
As we approached Deal, we passed Deal Castle, the time-ball tower and various shops before our final stop and photo at the rather odd sculpture at the front of the pier.
Before we left, we walked along the pier and back to the time-ball museum, which was just closing and hunted out a postcard shop. Finally we ended up at the railway station where we discovered engineering work was in progress and there were no trains so we travelled back to Dover on a yellow double decker bus instead.
Running total 256.8