Monday, 15 October 2012

Folkestone to Dover - 29 September 2012 - 8 Miles on foot

I had previously cycled between Folkestone and Dover in 2009 but felt I could gain more by repeating the the journey on foot by tracing the Saxon Shore Way which ran close to the cliff edge offering views of the sea and the prospect of visiting defensive sites from WW2.  Virgin Trains were offering return tickets for £16 so I needed no more persuasion to embark on this, my latest adventure.
The Leas

The journey to Folkestone was swift and efficient.  I left Birmingham International at 6:40 in the morning, dashed from Euston to St Pancras and caught the high speed "Javelin" train, arriving in Folkestone at 9:15.  From the station, I made straight for the broad stretch of green at the top of the cliff known as "The Leas".  It was cool, but the sun was shining, as it did throughout my walk.
Railway arch to the harbour

A short meander around the old streets of the upper town, listening to the sound of the bells of St Mary and St Eanswythe and I passed under the low railway bridge that once served the boat-train service, now long gone.  I passed under the bridge to the Quay (0945 - 1 mile), lined with attractive buildings but not at all commercialised.  The only concession to the tourists was a seafood stall.  The large harbour itself was empty except for a few leisure craft riding at anchor.
Copt Point
Moving along the Quay, the headland of Copt Point came into view which was the target of the next part of the walk - or rather the Martello tower that stands above the point.  A pleasant walk along the sunny promenade, up a few flights of steps, a walk along a green expanse and I reached the aforesaid tower, white painted with some signs of graffiti.  Near the tower was a sign informing me that I was standing on the remains of a Roman villa, much of which has now been lost to the sea.
Villa below!
As I climbed, I gained extensive views of both Folkestone to the west and the coastline towards Abbot's Cliff on my intended route.  At the top of Dover Hill, a footpath diversion took me away from the edge of the cliff and along the Old Dover Road until I came to the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel le Ferne (1050 - 3 miles).  I took a few minutes to admire and photograph the Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft and the memorial itself, before moving on along the cliff top path.
Hurricane at Capel Ferne
After a few yards, a steep downward slope followed by an equally steep climb took me past some houses and back onto the "Old Dover Road" - a quieter section, this time.  The road soon gave way to hill top path again and I climbed my way up to the top of Abbots Cliff (1130 - 4.4 Miles).  Here the remains of World War 2 were much in evidence - gun emplacements, an acoustic mirror, a shooting range and various other emplacements.
Acoustic Mirror
A feature of this walk was the presence of a number of natural "tunnels" over the path formed from gorse and forms of undergowths.  They were dome shaped and blocked out much of the light as one progressed through them.  Below me now was the expanse of Samphire Hoe which appeared to be an unhappy compromise between a nature reserve and a BMX track.  It was constructed from the rock dug from the Channel Tunnel - I suppose they had to put the stuff somewhere!
Samphire Hoe
I was now climbing Shakespeare Cliff and gaining better and better views of both Dover and France as I neared the top (1230 - 6.4 miles).  I could see the coast of France in the distance, slightly blurred by haze and ahead of me, the Channel ferries were busily moving in and out of the harbour.  The descent from Shakespeare Cliff was a little slippery and I had to assemble my walking pole for this part.  The originally planned route was to walk into Dover across the A20 and by Drop Redoubt Fort, but I was surprised to see a path unmarked on the map leading more directly towards Dover Harbour.
The Grand Shaft
Despite missing one fort, I did pass another (Archcliffe Fort) and The Grand Shaft designed to expedite the movement of soldiers to the harbour during the Napoleonic Wars, should they be needed.  Almost in no time, I found myself at journeys end at the waterfront (1315 - 8.2 Miles).  I had time to rest and photograph the harbour before walking into the town.
Dover Harbour
It quickly became obvious, as I explored the town, that Charles Dickens had stayed in Dover and that scenes from David Copperfield and Bleak House were set in the town.  Finally, a meal and a pint at the Eight Bells fortified me for the journey home and I boarded the 1544 train at Dover, arriving home soon after seven.  All in all, an excellent day out for £25!

Next TripSaturday 27 October - Seaburn to South Shields

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