Walk 39 Sandwich-Ramsgate

­Walk 39
Saturday July 14th 2012

The summer holidays had come round again and a number of factors led to us heading for the coast again to pick up the walk. Late last year I consulted a podiatrist about my painful feet and as a result had acquired orthopaedic insoles to support what he called my collapsed trusses. We had completed several challenging walks over the winter and I now felt confident that I could cope with longer distances once again. Money had also been a problem as I had not worked this summer due to Glyn’s illness but an unexpected small legacy from a great aunt meant that we could afford to have a couple of days away.

So we set off for Sandwich via Waterloo early on Saturday morning, arriving in the town just before lunch. We had barely stopped to look at Sandwich on the way through the previous year so we took the opportunity to walk through the tiny streets, buy a sandwich (because you just have to) and admire the river with its ancient bridge.

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On the way we enjoyed several sets of Morris dancers who were performing as part of a folk festival.

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We knew that the first part of today’s walk would be fairly miserable as the coast is inaccessible here and the nearest route is on a foot and cycle way alongside the A256. It was dead straight and led through a recently closed chemical works, so was completely deserted as well. As we crossed the old bridge and resigned ourselves to a trudge northwards it began to rain.

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Then it began to rain harder so we stopped fished out umbrellas and carried on. It rained harder again, so we stopped under a tree and pulled out the waterproof covers on our rucksacks. At least the clothes for tomorrow would be dry if nothing else. We walked on. It rained harder, beating, unrelenting rain and black skies in all directions.

We came across a shed shop. Well we thought it was a shed shop, but it appeared to be a yard where a shed shop somewhere else stored their excess stock. And not one summerhouse, shed or gazebo was open. We looked.

We paused for a drink under a large tree which at least filtered the rain a little. We tramped on, glasses swimming, trousers flapping, spirits low. A bus shelter provided a stop with a seat and we ate a cereal bar each and dried off a little. The chemical works gave a very bizarre backdrop to the walk as this huge complex had obviously been fairly recently updated. Shiny office blocks and factory buildings connected by walkways over the road just stood deserted. The bus stop had no services passing by it any more and enormous car parks were empty.

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Finally the end of the road came into sight and beside the roundabout was a Subway restaurant. We looked at each other. It would be dry and warm and maybe have a loo. With a dryer. So we went in, stopped just inside the door to drip on the doormat and wait for our glasses to clear. We bought a drink each then took it in turns to go to the loo, use the dryer on our hair and change into our spare clothes. By then the sky was clearing to grey rather than black so we decided to buy lunch before we set off again in the hope that the weather might improve.

An hour later, it was drizzling rather than raining torrentially so we decided to keep going. Very soon our route took us off the road at last and into Pegwell Bay Country Park. Pegwell Bay is full of mudflats, which is why we had been forced onto the road, but it is home to many species of seabirds and is a site of special scientific interest because of the birds and the variety of wild flowers here.

Also here is the remains of Richborough Port, long silted up but which has a long a fascinating history. It was last used in earnest during WW1 when it was run by the Royal Engineers and it was from here that much of the heavy equipment used by the troops was despatched to France. It had a railway line running to it and operated a train ferry to despatch tanks, railway track, locomotives; all the support items needed at the front. This freed up Dover and Folkestone to deal with the people. There is so little left that it is hard to imagine this quiet corner was ever this busy and played such an important part in the conflict.

As the path wound on and we splashed through the muddy puddles a strange object materialized up ahead. It appeared to be a shipping container but what was it doing here all alone in a nature reserve? We approached it tentatively. It definitely was a container and it had a door on the side and a sign – Pegwell Bay Bird Hide! We had to have a look and maybe shelter from the rain for a while but to our amazement there were two people inside. Watching birds! We stayed for a while and sat quietly at the back to have a drink, but really did feel we were intruding so took to the path again.

The track ended behind a garage and we were back on the road again but now in the village of Cliffs End. We knew our next landmark was not far away and sure enough out of the gloom on the cliff top loomed a Viking ship.

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It is rather incongruous sitting there inside its fence on a grassy cliff top opposite suburban houses, and we would have lingered longer to look at it had the rain not been trickling down inside our socks again. The ship is a replica of the Viking ship Hugin, which sailed from Denmark to Thanet in 1949 to celebrate the 1500th anniversary of the invasion of Britain, the traditional landing of the two men, and the betrothal of Hengist’s daughter, Rowena, to King Vortigen of Kent.

A path led off beyond the ship along the cliff top and on a clear sunny day, it would have been lovely. But it was running with muddy water so we just picked our way carefully along, still admiring the view but rather cautiously. At the end of the path, we emerged into Ramsgate.

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Our way led along the seafront on a good cliff top promenade with several rain shelters. We stopped for a proper break in one and assessed the situation. We were booked into a hotel in Margate for the night and it was now past checking in time. We had planned to walk as far as Broadstairs but we were soaked and the prospect of having a hot bath and changing into some dry clothes in a warm hotel room was rather appealing. We knew that we could get a bus to Margate from the   marina so we walked briskly down the hill, past the ferry terminal and the harbour to the marina. Sure enough a bus for Margate was in and due to leave in about ten minutes time. So we took the final photos and hopped aboard.

The journey to Margate took about half an hour which was fine as we were out of the rain. The bus stopped at the top of the town and we called into Peacocks on the way for a new set of clothing each to replace the wet ones. An hour later, we were showered, warm and dry and feeling so much better.

Later we went out to eat and have a wander around Margate during a dry evening. We bought a couple of newspapers to stuff into our boots overnight before heading back inside for an early night.

Miles 7.25
Running Total 269.5