343. Dymchurch to Dover

I decided to reverse the direction of travel for today’s walk because of bus times, so I drove to and parked again at the Western Heights car park. I read some signs saying that the car park had been the centre of recent anti-social behaviour, although given the shifty nature of the people I saw in parked cars that early in the morning I have my suspicions what that could be! I Again I descended down towards the Railway Station, but stopped short at a bus stop and waited for the 07:51 #102 service towards Lydd. The bus journey seemed to take an age as the driver observed strict timetable waits at a number of stops.

I was glad to get off the bus in Dymchurch and equally pleased to have used my OS App, with free Bus Wi-Fi, to know which stop to get off. A short walk saw me on the large and sweeping shoreline of East Road. The bay curved back towards Folkestone and had a large modern sea wall guarding the low lying interior of Romney Marsh. I passed by a Martello Tower that had been totally transformed into a residential property with the walls all rendered and a large conservatory on the roof. When I reached the Hythe firing ranges I could have continued along the coast because there was no firing planned for today. However, I could see a large construction site around the Dymchurch Redoubt, complete with Heras fencing. I decided to stick to the perimeter road around the firing range.

As I entered Hythe town itself I was interested to walk along the Military canal; built between 1805 and 1809 as a strategic move against a possible French invasion during the Napoleonic Wars. The canal runs for 28 miles from Hastings to near Folkestone. I followed the canal till it came very close to the promenade which ran  all the way into Folkestone. The sea front was busy with many people out walking, cycling, jogging and just chilling out at the number of beach side cafes.

Looking towards Hythe and Folkestone from Dymchurch
Transformed Martello Tower at Dymchurch
Dymchurch Redoubt
At the Military Canal in Hythe with statues of Navies who dug the canal
The Military Canal in Hythe
Heading along the seafront towards Folkestone
Sandgate Castle was the first of Henry VIII’s ‘Device Forts’, basically an Artillery Fort
Folkestone Harbour

As I reached Folkestone I passed by the old Folkestone Harbour railway station, closed to all traffic in 2009, in 2018 after a period of refurbishment it re-opened for pedestrian use and was hosting a small open-air market when I was there. I crossed over the old railway bridge and along the harbour walls with its fish sellers doing a brisk business. At Copt Point I climbed up steep steps towards the Martello Tower, which offered excellent views ahead across the expanse of wild partly forested chalk cliffs called The Warren. Here the Saxon Shore Way and England Coast Path joined the North Downs National Trail. I could have descended and walked along the base of the cliffs, but at some point I would need to climb up onto the cliff. I chose to do the climbing first as I planned to visit somewhere that was situated on the cliff-top path.

I had caught a glimpse of the Battle of Britain Memorial earlier that morning on the bus, so I was keen to take a closer look. Opened in 1993 on the site of the Capel Hill Battery (WWII), the Battle of Britain memorial contains a visitor centre, which was closed and a replica Spitfire and Hurricane. The open area contains a wall listing all those that fought in the Battle of Britain. Both yesterday and today a Spitfire flew over Dover and Folkestone performing aerial manoeuvres, I’m not sure if that was a planned thing, but it certainly brought home the message and the debt the county owes to “the few”.

I continued on across the Warren cliff top towards Abbots Cliff, here the coastal path split to a minor inland incursion avoiding the narrow path with exposed drops down to the railway line. Soon after I came to the Abbots Cliff Sound Mirror. A forerunner of radar, acoustic mirrors were built on the south and northeast coasts of England between about 1916 and the 1930s. The ‘listening ears’ were intended to provide early warning of incoming enemy aircraft.

The amazing physical features as I began the descent towards Dover were the ‘hogs-back’ chalk cliffs with grassy slopes and a narrow arête like ridge. At this point I could look down onto the Samphire Hoe Country Park, hemmed in by chalk cliffs and the sea it is an unusual site. Part of this area was created in the mid-19th century to enable the Folkestone – Dover railway to pass through. The real major construction project occurred with the building of the Channel Tunnel in 1993. Closeby the Channel Tunnel at some depth below the ground turns seaward heading out across the Channel. The spoil from the tunnel was used to create Samphire Hoe with landscaping to create a Nature Reserve. Access to the Hoe is via a tunnel from the nearby A20, with cars passing through the 200 -300m tunnel governed by traffic lights, a raised footpath allows pedestrians and cyclists to pass through to the Hoe. At the far end of the Samphire is a collection of buildings and a large cooling plant for the Tunnel itself.

I climbed up and over Round Down and descended to cross over the A20 to the small village of Aycliff on the outskirts of Dover. Here I found a shop open and stocked up on drinks for the drive home. I now had the task of climbing up from sea level to the top of Western Heights. Near to the car park I passed an early 12th century church built by Knights Templar.

A thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating walk.

The old renovated Folkestone Harbour Rail station
Crossing the old Harbour rail bridge
Looking back at Folkestone Harbour
Heading towards The Warren
Looking back over Folkestone from the top of The Warren
Looking across The Warren with the Folkestone – Dover rail line emerging from a tunnel
Hawker Hurricanne replica at The Battle of Britain Memorial
The wall of names of those that fought in The Battle of Britain
Statue of airman at The Battle of Britain Memorial
Looking back along The Warren towards Folkestone
Precipitous path above Abbots Cliff
Looking back from Abbots Cliff
Sound Mirror above Abbots Cliff
Ventilation shaft for the Folkestone – Dover railway
Looking down on Samphire Hoe
Looking towards Dover along the hog’s back chalk cliffs on Round Down
Chalk cliffs above Samphire Hoe
Looking down on Samphire Hoe at the Folkestone – Dover railway and the buildings and cooling plant for the Channel Tunnel
Zoomed shot across the Channel to Calais – just visible
Heading down towards the A20 and Aycliff
Fields are easy visible in this zoomed shot across the Channel
Dropping down off Round Down, a line of 3 shafts can be seen supplying ventilation to the Folkestone – Dover railway
The access tunnel to Samphire Hoe
The Knights Templar Church on Western Heights

Distance today = 18 miles
Total distance = 6,372 miles

 

 

342. Sandwich to Dover

 

It was the last days of July when I was last in Kent, while in the intervening time the pressing business of completing the Scottish section of my walk had kept me busy.

With rising Covid cases across the country I am convinced it is only a matter of time before I am forced into lock-down either locally or prohibited to travel to the Kent and Sussex areas. Besides the worries about the pandemic, I have also had one eye on the Brexit trade deal situation, with plans being drawn up to counter the predicted queues around the ferry ports of Dover and Folkestone. It’s an area that I want to get as far away from as possible before the inevitable turmoil starts in January.

There was good news in that I only had to travel 247 miles down to Dover and with each completed section I will move closer to home. Another good sign is that I am now travelling south along the M40 and M25 having finished with the Dartford Crossing.

The drive down from Shropshire was uneventful and by 6:45 I was parking up at the observation car park on Western Heights above Dover. The view from the car park was amazing, with the dawn light just appearing I could pick out Calais and Dunkirk across the Channel. To get to the start of today’s walk at Sandwich, I needed to descend into Dover and make my way to Dover Priory railway station.

Most of today’s walk would be mostly on the level, although towards the end there would be a few up and downs. After leaving Sandwich railway station I walked through residential streets  towards Sandwich Haven River and the River Stour. I could have made things very easy when I joined the England Coast Path by simply walking across the golf course to the sea which would have saved about 3 miles. Instead I followed the river northwards along a levee or sea bank. I did eventually turn around and start walking south when I joined the sea and began walking alongside 3 golf courses, the most famous of which was Royal St. Georges, which occasionally hosts The Open.

Early morning at Western Heights above Dover Harbour looking across the Channel to the lights of Calais and Dunkirk
The River Stour near Sandwich
Heading north along the River Stour near Sandwich
Looking across Pegwell Bay to Ramsgate
Heading south along the shoreline
Building up sea defences near Deal

I eventually made my way into the seaside town of Deal. I decided to walk through the town itself, which was really very busy, as I struggled to socially distance myself at times, picking my way through the Saturday afternoon shoppers. I passed Deal Castle which I did not think much of, until I read the castle was actually built under the orders of Henry VIII as an artillery castle, a similar fortification to the ubiquitous Martello Towers, often seen in this part of England. By the time I reached the adjacent town of Walmer, the crowds had thinned out and the White Cliffs of Dover made an appearance.

The weather so far had been very nice with a warm breeze and excellent visibility, particularly across the Channel to France, where I could see a constant stream of ferries going back and forth. After passing through St. Margaret’s at Cliffe I arrived at the South Foreland lighthouse and the arrival of more crowds of people walking out from Dover itself.
I tried to stay on a level contour over the down land terrain and after passing around Langdon Hole I emerged high above the Dover Ferry Terminal. The terminal was very noisy and extremely busy with hundreds of articulated making their way to and from the ferries. On top of the white cliffs there was a number of footpaths available, unfortunately I chose a wide path that was well trodden and dropped down towards the terminal entrance, after losing a great deal of height I was faced with a sign saying this was a dead end. Grrrr! I climbed back up the cliffs and found the correct path and dropped down to the A20 road beside the ferry terminal. I continued along the shoreline of the Outer Harbour and passed a number of statues and memorials, dedicated to the role of certain armed services during the Second World War. There was also a memorial to  Captain Matthew Web, who hailed from Dawley (now in Telford) where I was born and still live. In fact there is a pub 400m from my home called the Captain Webb.

In Dover I passed by an M&S Food Hall where I hoped to buy some food, however, there was a long queue outside so I did not bother, instead settling for a pasty and coffee from a local Greggs. I continued through Dover town centre and climbed uphill to the Drop Redoubt along the North Military Road.

This whole area of the Kent coastline is steeped in history and you would need a few days to explore it fully. All that remained for me to do was drive the 4 miles to my Premier Inn bed for the night.

A very busy Deal High Street
Deal Castle
The appearance of the White Cliffs near Kingsdown
Looking back towards Deal
Looking back northwards near St. Margarets at Cliffe
The War Memorial at Bockell Hill
Looking down to St Margarets Bay at St. Margarets at Cliffe
Zoomed shot across the Channel to France with fields and the beach visible
A ferry departiing Dover bound for France
The harbour and ferry terminal at Dover
Looking down on the Dover ferry terminal
Approaching the end of the “dead end” path!
Dropping down into Dover
Passing under one of the main approach roads to the ferry terminal
The White Cliffs of Dover
Memorial to Captain Matthew Webb, the first person to swim the Channel
Another zoomed shot across the Channel with white cliffs now visible

Distance today = 21 miles
Total distance = 6,354 miles

 

 

Use of Ferries – Now Completed

I have had a serious re-think of my use of ferries to cross rivers and estauries on my walking route around the coast of Great Britain. When I was walking the South West Coast Path, the official path route advised on the use of ferries to cross over rivers and estauries. At the time I had no intention to walk around the whole of the coastline of Great Britain and thus made use of these ferries. Now that I have set myself the challenge of walking the entire coastline, I have had serious concerns about the ethos of using these ferries in my challenge. To this end I have decided that the sections of coastline in Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, Merseyside and Lancashire where I have taken ferries will become VOID. I will therefore walk around all rivers and estauries to their nearest bridging point to ensure I have walked a complete and full section of my walking record.

This will involve some additional 300+ additional miles which I will do as one-day walks over the next 12 month period.

The Ferries in question relate to :

Dorset: Sandbanks (Poole) to South Haven Point (26 miles COMPLETED)

Devon: Starcross – Exmouth (15 miles COMPLETED)

Devon: Teignmouth – Shaldon Beach (2 miles COMPLETED)

Devon: Kingswear to Dartmouth (24 miles COMPLETED)

Devon: East Portlemouth – Salcombe (13 miles COMPLETED)

Devon: Bantham – Bigbury-on-Sea (9 miles COMPLETED)

Devon: Wembury to Noss Mayo (11 miles COMPLETED)

Cornwall: Plymouth  – Cremyll (24 miles COMPLETED)

Cornwall: Fowey – Polruan (16 miles COMPLETED)

Cornwall: St. Anthony – St. Mawrs – Falmouth (29 miles COMPLETED)

Cornwall: Helford Passage – Helford Village (12 miles COMPLETED)

Cornwall: Rock- Padstow (15 miles COMPLETED)

Merseyside: Birkenhead – Liverpool (48 miles COMPLETED)

Lancashire: Fleetwood to Knott End (15 miles COMPLETED)

35b. Truro to Falmouth

My final days walking in Cornwall and the completion of the missing sections of walking around the estuaries that I had previously used ferries.

I had already done the first section of my walk around the Fal Estuary a few weeks before from Place to Truro. Today’s walk would be from Truro onto Falmouth. However…………………………yesterday after completing the walk around the Helford River, I saw the time was around midday. So I thought, “why not do some of tomorrows walk today?” In actual fact because the total mileage for the two days was only 24 miles, I could have done this quite easily in the single day, the feet may have complained a bit but it was doable. However, this section of the walk contained some very busy roads and a sunny Saturday afternoon was not the ideal time to walk along them.I therefore opted to drive to Truro rail station and park there. I then caught the train towards Falmouth getting off at the small station of Perranwell. The 5 mile walk back to Truro rail station would be along quiet lanes and roads, even on a Saturday afternoon. The Falmouth branch is only a single track, but it runs through some lovely Cornish scenery. I had chosen Perranwell Station because I could park my car there tomorrow when I would complete this section.

I set off from Perranwell station on a lovely sunny Saturday afternoon. I showed no signs of the exertions from the mornings walk around the Helford River. The road I would be on for most of the walk back to Truro was very quiet, although there was the odd ‘nutter’ who did not slow down. The route for this particular walk was planned using Plotaroute, a free online piece of software that plans routes for walking, horse riding and cars. Obviously I had checked the route myself and found it to be ok. I stayed on the road and followed the route of the railway most of the way back to Truro.

Perranwell Station
Heading back to Truro along leafy lanes
Typical Cornish minor lanes
Crossing underneath the Falmouth railway line
Looking towards Truro, the railway bridge in the distance has the main Penzance line running along it

After arriving back in Truro I made my way to my B&B for the night, it was only half a mile away. I contemplated the final section of the walk from Perranwell Station to Falmouth. This part of the route contained the busy A39 and I was apprehensive about walking along it even on a Sunday morning.

I arrived at Perranwell station at 06:30 and parked the car. It was still pitch black. I waited about 10 minutes before setting off in hi-vis jacket, head torch flashing and another head torch facing the rear flashing red. The first mile from the station was along quiet roads through the village of Perranwell. By the time I reached the A39, it was getting light and I did find a sort of footpath along the verge. Fortunately, I did not have to stay on the road long, before turning off down a minor road. There was very little traffic about, which meant I could relax and enjoy my stroll.

I was not hurrying because I planned to catch the first train of the day back from Falmouth to Perranwell, which was in a couple of hours’ time. While only encountering the odd car I dropped down into Penryn. The streets were almost deserted as I followed the Penryn River into Falmouth. The streets in Falmouth are quite strung out along the Fal estuary and seem to go on forever. I did manage to find a bakery that was just opening and what better way to celebrate my completion of the ‘missing gaps’ than a traditional Cornish pasty, expensive, but nice. Falmouth actually has three stations Falmouth Docks, Falmouth Town and Penmere, although to call them stations would be stretching it, more likely railway halts. Because I had time to kill I decided to walk to the furthest station at Falmouth Docks, the start of the line. None the stations have any ticket purchasing machines, so I spent the next 20 minutes working how I could purchase an online ticket through the Great Western App. The train arrived and departed on time, picking quite a number of people from the stations back to Perranwell.

So that is it. I have a single gap left to complete between Sandwich in Kent and Poole in Dorset. I have done a crude estimate that I would need about 20 days of walking to complete this. However, a large cloud looms over us all at the moment and there is no guarantee that the area I live in or the area where I intend to walk in will not be subject to future travel restrictions.

The Following Day: Old milestone near Penryn
The old National School in Penryn, National Schools were founded by the National Society for Promoting Religious Education.
Following the Penryn River
Looking across the Falmouth waterfront towards the docks
Deserted streets in Falmouth
The railway terminus at Falmouth Docks

Distance today = 12 miles
Total distance = 6,333 miles

 

 

37a. Helford Passage to Helford

My last two remaining days in Cornwall while ‘tidying up’ my previous omissions of not walking around the estuaries of the Fal and Helford Rivers. Today was a simple affair which involved driving through the night to Helford Passage, just south of Falmouth. Here I would park just above the Ferry Inn at the local Parish Trust car park at a cost of just £1 for the whole day! Fantastic value given the cost of other car parks in the area.

I had deliberately slowed down on the drive down as my Satnav had given my arrival time a lot earlier than expected and I would have to wait until it got reasonably light to start walking. The sun was due to rise at 07:15 and I set off at 06:45 with hi-vis jacket and head torch on.

Most of today’s walk would along quiet roads, green lanes and a few footpaths. My route would follow a broad sweep around the Helford River and its many creeks and tributaries including Porthavas Creek, Polwheveral Creek, Polpenrith Creek, Mawgan Creek and Frenchman’s Creek. Because my route took a wide track it was difficult to actually see many of these creeks, in the absence of footpaths it would see me walking predominantly on roads which I hoped would be largely devoid of traffic.

One of the worst things about walking in Cornwall is that many of the quiet roads and lanes are sunken and are enclosed by high hedgerows or embankments with no path or verge, thus making any encounter with a car or tractor an experience! Fortunately, the roads I passed along were clear of traffic at this early time on a Saturday morning. Besides being hemmed in by the steep hedgerows, these minor roads rose and fell as I entered each new creek tributary. The bottom of these small valleys were also quite cold, with early Autumnal frosts not far away. Needless to say it was cold walking until the sun finally rose and heated everything up.

By the time I got to the first bridging point at Gweek, the temperature had risen quite sharply. Here I popped into a small convenience store to buy a Cornish pasty, which was not bad. After passing through Gweek, I was now walking on the southern side of the Helford River. I occasionally got a view of the river and its Creeks, but any good views were masked by the trees and high hedgerows.

At Mudgeon Farm I came to my first obstacle of the day; as I left the minor road to take a footpath across fields my heart sank as the intended footpath was in a field of maize 7 to 8 foot tall. Normally, you simply cannot walk through a crop such as this, but I decided to check to see if a path had been trampled by previous walkers, it had! I followed the path through the maize to the next field. At the stile my heart sank again as it was full of young Friesian cattle and they were very curious towards me. I could see that I would have to get through the next two fields with them in tow. However, I could see all the border hedgerows of the filed were very tight and there were no bail-out options. Normally, I don’t mind cattle, but inquisitive cattle can get up a head of steam and plough into the back of each other maybe taking you out. I retreated back through the field of maize in search of another route. Two miles up the road near Tregithew I was about to follow another footpath through a field until I noticed a freshly painted sign of a bull in the field. Normally I ignore these signs as they are rarely taken down and remain forever, even though the bull had since paid a visit to MacDonald’s! However, I saw the bull and stayed on the road.

When I reached the village of Kestle I dropped down to a wooded path which led into the village of Helford. I headed for Helford Point where the ferry across to Helford Passage landed. To summon the ferry I simply opened a board to form a large yellow circle which could be seen across the river. After about 10 minutes the ferry appeared. I caught the ferry with an elderly lady who was crossing over to visit the National Trust gardens at Trebah. All that remained was to walk up the steep hill to the car park.

Typical Cornish lane early on a saturday morning
Passing around Porthnavas Creek
Looking down on Porthnavas Creek
Looking southwards down Polwheveral Creek
Crossing over the Helford River at Gweek
The Mawgan Cross an early Christian memorial stone to a man called Cnegumus
Heading through a field of maize
Frisky Friesians blocking my way
I was certainly not going to risk it with this bad boy!
Entering the village of Helford
Helford
Looking across the Helford River to Helford Passage
Looking down river towards the open sea
Summoning the ferry
On the ferry across the Helford river to Helford Passage

Distance today = 12 miles
Total distance = 6,321 miles

 

 

35a. Place to Truro

It’s been a while since I did any of my Use of Ferries walks. These are basically walks to fill in the ‘gaps’ left when I did the South West Coastal Path over 6 years ago and used local ferries to cross rivers and estuaries. Over the years I have been busy ‘filling’ in these ‘gaps’ to achieve a full walking record around the coast of Great Britain. As it stands I have two remaining rivers to complete, the Helford River and Falmouth River. I hope to get both of these walks done before the ferries stop in late September/October, as I still utilise the ferries to link the two walking points around the estuaries to the first bridging point.

The largest estuary walk would be the walk around the huge Falmouth Estuary, the third deepest harbour in the world and composed of a myriad of tributary rivers, creeks, inlets and pools. It would take two days to walk around.

Today I would do the first days walk around the estuary, although for logistical reasons, I would have to return for the second walk another time. The logistical reason being the unavailability of affordable accommodation in the area, £130 per night is not affordable in my book. This also meant a long day out from Shropshire, as the mileage to this part of Cornwall was 280 miles – one way!

The plan was to complete a very broad sweep around the numerous rivers and creeks avoiding the small peninsulas and promontories which had very few footpaths or right of way around them. I decided to make Truro, the County town of Cornwall, my end point for this walk, so that’s the place I headed for on the overnight drive down. I parked at Truro railway station, where parking was only £2.70 all day on a Saturday/Sunday; compared to a Council Car Park at £8.20 any day!

Another consideration for today’s walk was the route. Cornwall’s roads are notorious for their lack of footpaths and verges to safely walk along, in fact some of the roads have almost vertical high banks either side, with no escape or refuge from any traffic. As you can imagine, there are many tourists around at this time of the year, so avoiding the traffic was a key priority.

I decided to get the 07:22 #U1 bus to Falmouth and then pick up the water ferry to St. Mawes and then a smaller ferry onto Place, a small jetty on the end of the Roseland Peninsular. Both ferries were very busy, particularly the smaller Place ferry, where the number was restricted to 12 passengers at a time. Because this ferry was only 5 minutes either way, the ferry made a couple of trips to get the other walkers across.

After all the travel and planning I finally set off at 09:15 on a beautiful sunny morning from Place. I climbed up a well-trodden path up the hill towards the small village of Bohortha, here I joined public road. I continued undisturbed along the empty road to Porth farm. To my right, just 200m away, was the South West Coastal Path and of course the sea. From Porth farm I continued along a green lane which was also a bridle way. I met no one until I descended into the small village of Portscatho, which I walked through some 6 years ago. I retraced my steps along the SWCP a short distance through the village, but as the coastal path continued along the coast I took a minor road with only the odd car. By the time I reached the village of Curgurrell I had to turn inland away from the coast.

I continued along a series of twisting lanes through the hamlets of Treluggan, Treworthal, Trenestrall, Trelonk and Trethella before descending to the village of Ruan Lanihorne. Although I did not walk through the village but instead took a lower road alongside the River Ruan. The Ruan joined up with the River Fal, which I crossed over at the Sett Bridge. The Fal at this point was just a small river and emptied into an upper tidal estuary surrounded by wooded hills. The area was very secluded and quiet, apart from the odd walker and car; the whole area was a delight to walk through. I left the road again and took a bridle path that led to the hamlet of Gare, from there it was back to the twisty turning roads, albeit without cars.
I passed through the small hamlets of Little Tregerrick, Tregerrick and Carharthen before I started to hear the traffic coming from the A390 at Tresillian, where I was heading next. The traffic on the A390 was very heavy, but it was reassuring to have a footpath to walk along before I turned off the main road. The next mile along a minor road into Truro was horrible, as an accident on the A39 near to Truro had cars being diverted down to this small road I was trying to walk along. It was actually chaotic with cars unable to get past each other and me being unable to pass them either! At times I was actually standing in the road waiting to pass cars! I was glad to descend into Truro itself and head back to the railway station. I did not explore the City of Truro, perhaps I may do that on my next trip.

Apart from the chaos of the final bit of road into Truro, the walk had been wonderful, few people and even fewer cars made it a truly enjoyable walk and place to be.

Waiting for the St Mawes Ferry at Falmouth
Leaving Falmouth
Arriving St. Mawes
Leaving St. Mawes
Looking northwards along the coast at Porth Farm
Looking back at Portscatho
Porthcurnick Beach
Looking back at Porthcurnick Beach
Heavy going near the Tuckingmill Creek
Almost hidden from view descending into Ruan Lanihorne
The Sett Bridge over the River Fal
A Wheatear near Gare
Walking alongside the Tresillian River
Crossing the River Truro in Truro

Distance today = 17 miles
Total distance = 6,257 miles

 

 

329. Birchington-on-Sea to Sandwich

At my B&B I gave some thought to how I would tackle today’s walk. The forecast was to be quite a hot day, however, the first public transport of the morning to Sandwich was 6:46. So I decided I would simply drive to yesterday’s finishing point in Birchington-on-Sea and start walking from there. Normally, I always like to get the public transport out of the way first, as the delays of the morning start to stack up as you move through the day. Much better to walk to your own transport i.e. car. This meant I could start my walk whenever I liked, given the constraints around daylight. I knew the sun rose around 5:15, but I also knew that it was light just after 04:00. So I decided to start my walk then, just needed to get about 7 hours sleep. Unfortunately, a newly arrived couple returned to the B&B at 22:00 and started talking and playing music in the adjacent kitchen and living room. I heard her relating her complete life-story through the paper thin bedroom door. At 23:00 I had had enough and went out and told her to keep the noise down. She said sorry and didn’t realise anyone else was in, I drew her attention to the numbers on the bedroom doors and this was a B&B. It did not take long for her to start up again and she continued almost none stop until just after midnight. I got up at 04:00 and remembered to give the front door an extra strong slam as I departed the B&B.

I parked up in Birchington and set off along the coast. The sun had almost 50 minutes before it rose, but the glow from the east meant it was quite light. I must admit I like walking very early in the morning, it’s generally cooler, quieter, still and very little traffic around. I dropped down onto the sea wall that ran below the chalk cliffs which had just made a dramatic appearance. After a mile the sea wall stopped and I had to transfer back up onto the cliff top. At 05:26 I got an unobstructed view of the sun rising across the North Sea, it was something had I had not seen for many years.
It was very easy walking as I headed through residential streets and cliff top paths towards Margate. After passing through Westgate-on-Sea I arrived in Margate. The council workers were busy preparing the town for another set of visitors, sweeping the streets, cleaning-up the litter and combing the beach. It was not long before I had passed through all the typical seaside attractions and moved into more residential areas. I passed by the road where my noisy B&B had been the previous night. The dry short-cropped grass was really easy and comfortable to walk along.

Pre-dawn light looking towards Margate
One of the many access points off/onto the sea wall and path
Looking towards ships anchored off the Kent Coast
The sun finally makes an appearance over the North Sea
The beach and Margate seafront
The ‘Spoons’ in Margate – The Mechanical Elephant
The old Parade Cinema in Margate
One of the access cuttings down to the beach

Gradually, I began to slowly turn south which meant I was leaving the east coast behind and making my way onto the south coast of England. I passed by the rather ugly looking Neptune’s tower and the nearby Kingsgate Castle built for Lord Holland back in 1760 out of black flint nodules. Suddenly the landscape and architecture began to change, with private residential estates with security barriers and grand houses. I continued around North Foreland which was basically the ‘heel’ of England. I passed North Foreland lighthouse, of great importance in warning off shipping from the treacherous Goodwin Sands.

I followed the road into Broadstairs. By this time the sun was well up and the day was just beggining for many now out and about. The cliffs were quite dramatic here and fortunately I could continue along the top of them. I did see a couple of references to Charles Dickens who used to frequent Broadstairs regularly and wrote some of his famous books here.

As I emerged onto the grassy cliff top path at Dumpton Point I saw my second fantastic sight of the morning. Way to the south I could easily see a large land mass, “no, it could not be could it?” I asked a passing chap if that was France in the distance? He said yes, it was the Pas-de-Calais area. I was thrilled and amazed, as I thought the French coast was only visible from Dover/Folkestone, but being on the cliff top on such a fine clear morning I could look across the 32 miles towards France. This meant I had seen 6 countries on my coastal walk, England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland and France.

I arrived in Ramsgate and had great views southwards across Sandwich Bay towards Deal and the Straits of Dover. I did not see much of Ramsgate, other than the large harbour and Port, which still runs ferries across to Ostend. I soon left Ramsgate behind as followed the Viking Trail and England Coast Path into Pegwell Bay. At Cliffsend I came upon the Hugin, a Viking replica ship that arrived from Denmark in 1949 to commemorate the 1500th anniversary of the landing of Saxon chiefs Hengist and Horsa, although the boat actually landed at Viking Bay in Broadstairs.

I entered Pegwell Bay Country Park and soon passed a refreshment cabin where I was able to buy a lovely cold soft drink. Part of my chosen route was blocked off due to some construction work, so I followed the alternative England Coast Path route along the busy A256. I turned off the main road after a mile and walked through the large Bio Mass Power station at North Stonar. I crossed over Sandwich haven and into the small historic market town. I headed towards the rail station for the journey back to Birchington….I finished the walk at 10:30. I wish I could do all my walks this early in the morning.

Neptune’s Tower
Kingsgate Castle – now apartments
Kingsgate Bay
North Foreland lighthouse
Looking down on Viking Bay and the beach at Broadstairs
Looking back at Broadstairs
The coast of France 32 miles distant
Zoomed shot of the Pas-de-Calais
Heading towards Ramsgate with Deal in the far distance
Lift down to Ramsgate beach
Ramsgate’s busy harbour
Viking replica ship The Hugin at Cliffend
Crossing Sandwich Haven into Sandwich

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance =6,044 miles

 

 

 

328. Faversham to Birchington-on-Sea

I decided to get two days walking in along the Kent coast before the month end. There’s no way I am going to catch-up with all the lost time over the lockdown period, but a few extra days here and there will help. I decided on a single night stop-over and chose a B&B in Margate, at a reasonable rate of £40. After booking online I later noticed that they wanted a £200 deposit for breakages – I would certainly never agree to that given I was only in the room for 10 hours and the furniture value in the room was less than £50, should I go on a wild drunken wrecking spree!

I left Shropshire very early, eager to beat the early morning commuter traffic on the M1 and M25. With speed restrictions on motorway roadworks raised from 50mph to 60 mph I made swift progress. I even got over the Dartford Crossing before 06:00, saving the toll fare, although I still have about £14 credit on my Gov.Uk Dartford crossing account. Having an account saves the hassle of remembering to pay and you save 50p on the normal £2.50 crossing toll.

I drove to and parked in the small seaside resort of Birchington-on-Sea. It was as far I would have liked to walk for the day, while saving myself for the following day’s walk. I parked in the Parade which had free all day parking. I made my way along the coast a little before heading inland through residential streets to the train station at Birchington. The train was virtually empty, mind you it was 06:30!

I walked through the empty streets of Faversham calling in at a cafe to buy a latte ‘to-go’. Like a few weeks ago I was very impressed with Faversham and its buildings. I headed out along Faversham Creek, on the opposite bank to my last walk. I passed through boatyards and past a large sewage works. When I reached the hamlet of Nagden I followed a footpath across Graveney Marshes, although it was actually through a field of barley. I noticed signs against a plan for a large solar farm on the Marshes. Most of the ‘marsh’ appeared to contain crops, so was agricultural land, not natural marsh.

I eventually re-joined the Saxon Shore way on the sea bank which formed the southern shore of the River Swale. The Isle of Sheppey was still visible a short distance across the Swale. The morning was glorious sunshine, with just a sprinkling of clouds being driven by a stiff breeze, which was at my back for most of the walk. As I made my way along the sea bank, the Swale widened and Sheppey began to be left behind and views back across the Thames Estuary revealed a distant Southend-on-Sea.

I passed into the residential area of Seasalter and then into the town of Whitstable. The town was very busy with people outside cafes and bars. I did not linger and passed the historic harbour onto Tankerton Beach on the eastern side of Whitstable. The promenade was very busy with many families cycling along the sea front or paddling/swimming from the shingle shore. It was not long before I arrived at another seaside resort, that of Herne Bay. For some miles a rather isolated structure situated about a kilometre offshore had caught my eye. Looking at my map is was soon apparent that the offshore structure was once part of a long pier. In fact this was the third pier at Herne Bay. Back in 1978 after large storms the central part of the pier collapsed into the sea, weakened it has been claimed, by the WW2 intentional destruction to prevent a landing stage for any German invasion.

The wharf at Faversham
Heading across Graveney Marshes
On the sea wall heading east
Obviously locals who know that walking below mean high water is permissable
Arriving in Whitstable
The Pier, whats left of it at Herne Bay
Bronze statue of Amy Johnson, whose plane went missing off Herne Bay in 1941
The Clock Tower – built in 1837 and believed to be one of the earliest purpose-built, free-standing clock towers in the United Kingdom
Heading towards Bishopstone below Beltinge Cliff

I continued out of the town towards Bishopstone where the sea wall promenade stopped and I followed a rising path up onto the cliff-top and emerged into Reculver Country Park. The path along the top of the cliff was a lovely springy grass turf, which made for very easy walking. I was heading for two large towers, the remnants of St. Mary’s church, which was actually part of a monastery built on the site of a Roman fort – Regulbium,  abandoned around 400AD. I read an info board describing what would have been seen from this elevated position 1800 years ago. The shoreline would have been very close to the eastern side of the fort with the Wantsum Channel creating an island called Thanet. Still known today as the Isle of Thanet it was the area I was heading for and the towns of Birchington, Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate.

I dropped down to the sea wall which ran for over 3 miles as the Thanet Coast Path into Birchington. The resort of Birchington was quite busy with holiday makers on the shingle beach and the play areas surrounding the beach. I reached my car, my feet were hurting and I’m glad to have finished this long stretch.

The towers of St Mary’s at Reculver
The ruins of St. Marys, the towers were retained for navigation aids
Original Roman wall near the East gate guardhouse, currently under excavation
Heading towards Birchington-on-Sea
A bicycle made for five!?
Approaching Birchington-on-Sea

Distance today = 21 miles
Total distance =6,024 miles

 

 

53a. Rock to Padstow

This was to be a single day’s walk around one of the estuaries that I used a ferry for while walking the South West Coastal Path back in 2015. I have been slowly ‘plugging’ away at these ‘gaps’ to ensure that I have a continuous record of walking around the coastline of Great Britain. As I have mentioned before it’s about joining up the footprints! Because I have three of these ‘gaps’ to finish, all in Cornwall, I decided that I would do a single trip today and complete the remaing ‘gaps’ over two days in a months’ time.

This really was a long way to drive (534 miles) for just 15 miles of walking! But it needed to be done. The walk would be very straight forward, I would  park in Wadebridge, which is the first walkable bridging point over the River Camel, I would  then walk towards Rock to use the ferry to cross over The Camel to Padstow. I would then follow the Camel Trail back to Wadebridge. The trouble was the first few miles of the walk from Wadebridge to Rock was along the B3314, which had no verge in many places and subject regular and high speed traffic. There was no way I was walking along that road – at any time of the day! I opted instead to take a wider route out towards the village of Chapel Amber using footpaths, green lanes and minor lanes.

I had driven through the night from Shropshire and set off at 06:15. It was a lovely summer Sunday morning when I set off from a small industrial park in Wadebridge. The amount of dew on the grass ensured that I would have very wet feet after a few miles of walking. I continued through the small farm at Tregorden following a green lane. As I approached Chapel Amble I was confronted by a small herd of cows. They appeared very curious with me and started following me. I managed to cross a small bridge and soon realised that the path I had been following had disappeared – I would have to walk back through the cattle who had gathered at the bridge. There was no way around these animals so I decided to walk straight at them! They gave way, but were still very frisky! I managed to find a gap in the hedge and jumped through. The footpath here was really overgrown, so I suspect that the cattle did not see many walkers.

I continued through the small village of Chapel Amble, then taking a narrow lane out to Middle and Lower Amble. I arrived on the B3314 at Gutt Bridge, where I would try and find a footpath which was marked on my OS map. My suspicions about the road where confirmed by the volume and speed of the vehicles using this road. I found a hole in the hedge and climbed a small stile. I emerged into a field full of cattle…again! They were also very curious and made towards me. I ensured I stayed to the side of the field enabling a place to bolt to – if needed. Seeing that they were getting too close to me, I told them to “bugger off” which they did!

I was now close to the River Camel, but now had to climb onto higher ground. I emerged on another quiet lane and passed through the farms at Tregenna, Trevelver and Carlyon. I could now see down onto the Camel and ahead to Padstow. From Carlyon I tried to follow another footpath. Like many of the footpaths in this part of Cornwall, the paths have a start point but once you are on them tend to disappear. I set off across a field of waist-high barley. I did not have a clue where the path would emerge on the road whic I was aiming for. I stumbled through a hedge onto a lane and should have left it at that, but I could see a footpath marked which would take me into Rock. I set off along a footpath, which dumped into …………another field of cattle, who were enclosed by an electric fence. The cattle appeared not interested in me, but the footpath signs had disappeared. I wandered around a couple of fields and pushed through onto what appeared to be a well-used footpath. I walked into the small hamlet of Porthilly, on the banks of the Camel. The tide was out so I could walk across Porthilly Cove towards the main road into Rock.

Rock was busy when I arrived at the ferry point. A few people were already waiting for the ferry, which I could I see was still tied up across the river at Padstow. I donned my gloves and mask, as did the other passengers when the ferry arrived. I could see that the ferry was selling face masks at 50p each. I paid the £3 charge using a contactless card. I spoke to another walker who was walking the SWCP, he was hoping to reach Newquay that night.

Leaving Wadebridge early in the morning
Passing through the village of Chapel Amble
Looking down on the Camel from near Trevelver
Heading towards Rock on a footpath[?] through waist-high Barley
Looking across the Camel towards Pasdstow from near Rock
On the beach at Porthilly
Preparing to board the ferry across to Padstow

I set off through Padstow, which was not as busy the last time I walked through it – certainly different times and a different world! I would now follow the Camel Trail back to Wadebridge. This Trail was constructed on the route of the old London and South Western railway line which last carried passengers back in 1967. Today, it is mostly used by walkers and cyclists and continues on past Wadebridge towards Bodmin. Because the route is very flat and wide, it is heavily used by bicycles and a flourishing range of bicycle hire shops have sprung up in Wadebridge. I only counted a couple of other walkers along the route but hundreds of cyclists. The walk along the trail became a bit tedious, with its constant flow of cyclists and linear route, but the occasional glimpse of the Camel Estuary was very enjoyable. As I neared Wadebridge I could look across The Camel and see the opposite bank. It confirmed what I indeed suspected – that, although no path was marked on the map, I could have walked along the high water mark of the Camel for just 2km and bypassed the B3314 and the fields of many cows.

Padstow harbour
Rick Steins Cookery School HQ
Old railway Bridge crossing Little Petherick Creek
Looking down the Camel towards the sea
Looking back towards Padstow
People out on the river enjoying themselves
Approaching Wadebridge and about to pass under the A39
One of the many bicyle hire shops in Wadebridge
The Old Bridge across The Camel in Wadebridge

Distance today = 15 miles
Total distance = 5,945 miles